this and that

Hello, Fall! Hello, blog!

For the past few months I’ve been meaning to finish a blog post about how we kept cool during the record-breaking summer we had. And well, I should have known better – anytime I go about a lengthy and somewhat technical post it always involves more time than I have to spare. But alas, now it’s October so maybe we’ll save that blog post for next spring? Ok? Cool. (If you want a little teaser I’ll leave you with some keywords: exterior solar shades, skylight shades, portable a/c and giant attic fan. And for the most part, it worked! And we didn’t have to shell out $$$$ to have a standard a/c unit installed! I give Kyle all the credit for masterminding this one!)

Moving on.

We actually have quite a few specific Studio Zerbey updates to share, but we thought it might be best to first dust off the cobwebs and share some quick general updates.

+ studio zerbey: our firm continues to keep us busy and 2015 has been exciting in that many of our first projects are now wrapping up construction. Although we’ve been making periodic updates to our Studio Zerbey website, we plan on also posting some photos of completed work (both new houses and remodels) on the blog in the weeks and months to come. We recently invested in a new digital camera set-up and Kyle spent some time earlier this month traveling to California, Alaska and the Olympic Peninsula to photograph projects and then to Montana to photograph our mixed-use project and help coordinate a photoshoot for our Montana Creekside Residence.

A few teaser shots…

Studio Zerbey - Alaska Surf Shack -2
Alaska Surf Shack – photo credit: Kyle Zerbey

Montana Creekside Residence (collaboration between Studio Zerbey and Balance Associates) – photo credit: Steve Keating

Missoula Mixed-Use Remodel – photo credit: Kyle Zerbey

+ chezerbey remodel: remember in this post when I said someone needed to stage an intervention if we weren’t done with the basement by the time our permit expired (again) in November of 2015? Haha. Ha. Yeah, we’re still working on that. If we could wave our magic wand and hire a contractor to come in and finish it we probably would – but that seems unrealistic and a coordination headache since we’ve already purchased almost everything (Oh, you’re looking for what? It’s around here…somewhere.) We just need to get it done and honestly I think it seems more overwhelming than it really is. Although it will be great to have those spaces finished, the project just isn’t exciting as say…our backyard office/shop space.


Speaking of which, we haven’t done anything with that yet either. Kyle put together some preliminary pricing earlier this year and the cost of running new plumbing alone (plus a lovely usage surcharge that the city tacks on) made it cost prohibitive. It’s also pretty clear that we don’t have the time to DIY it like we could have before we had two kids and our own business so we’re trying to figure out a design solution where we could offer some sweat equity but afford to hire out a bulk of the work. So, we’re now looking at options that don’t include a second story. Although it would be amazing to have the studio apartment component we’re just not sure the payback period would make sense for us. What we do know is that we’re anxious to get our office out of the house in the not-too-distant future. Truth be told, it is starting to feel a wee bit cramped in here but that freeing up our two office spaces for other uses will give everyone a bit more breathing room. So, we’ll keep you updated on that.

+ birthdays and anniversaries: In our family, we like to cram all the celebrations into a two-month span. Avery and Kyle had birthdays in late July and early August and in the last few weeks we celebrated my 35th birthday, Lillian’s 1st birthday and our 10-year anniversary! I know, how did that happen?



lillian 1st birthday-3

I realize we don’t post much here about Lillian like we did with Avery (sorry, Lil!) but she really is such a sweet kid. And although she’s not the super sleeper that her sister was (and still is!), she’s so easy-going and happy 95% of the time that it’s hard to complain. These days, she’s close to walking and is getting into all of Avery’s toys. Watching those two together (and with Bailey) is a significant source of entertainment for us.

+ work-life balance: starting this month we have a new childcare/preschool schedule that has both girls out of the house four mornings a week. It’s only been a few weeks but we really like the new arrangement. We’ve had a series of nannies in the past and although I was often surprised how well we were able to all coexist in our small space, having a quiet house is reallllly nice. Getting out of the house to do pick-ups also provides a nice mid-day break and keeps us from getting too stir crazy. In the afternoons, we’re back in our offices during nap time but we try to keep our schedules a bit more flexible than so one parent can take over if someone (ahem, Lillian) wakes up early. She’s transitioning down to one nap and although it feels a bit early, I’m also looking forward to getting into a groove with our schedules that will stay consistent for the next year (years? I hope they both nap till kindergarten!).


And that, in a nutshell, is what we’ve been up to. Although we had a good (and LONG!) summer, we’re both looking forward to a new season and a new schedule. And I don’t want to jinx it, but maybe more blogging too? I don’t mind being an optimist.

small space living // the shared bedroom

Oh hi there! Well, it’s been nearly three months since we blogged about toddler bed options and we’re finally getting around to sharing. Behold, the shared bedroom.


Your comments made us feel confident in moving forward with a toddler sized bed and although it wasn’t included in our original lineup, we decided to buy the Perch toddler bed from Oeuf. Originally I was turned off by the price and for awhile we considered DIYing something similar (a plywood box on hairpin legs instead). But then a few weeks went by and we realized that it was never going to happen. Or at least in the next several months. For Kyle, the purchase was a no-brainer, but I needed to rationalize it a bit more in my head. I felt better knowing that Lillian could use it down the road and then we could convert it to a daybed/sofa and maybe even put it up in the loft (a space I’m sure the girls will take over at some point). Or y’know, Craigslist.


Overall, we’re very pleased with the quality. One of the side panels had a slight void in the plywood, which wouldn’t have been a big deal but it was on the top and I was worried that Avery would pick at it. I contacted Oeuf directly and they sent a replacement and were super easy to work with.

There isn’t a great solution to get both beds to fit in what is effectively a three-sided room. At first I was hesitant to have the bed overhang the door opening but now that we’ve lived with it for a month it’s really no big deal. Sometimes we just don’t open the doors all the way but most of the time it just doesn’t bother us.


After the new bed was constructed (a task Avery and I did together – she was so proud!) we converted the IKEA Gulliver back to a crib and purchased a second mattress. I haven’t put bumpers on the crib yet (we have simple IKEA ones that we retrofitted for the mini-crib), mostly because they make it a pain to change the sheets. For now, we put her in a lightweight cotton sleep sack and that keeps her from sticking arms and legs between the bars of the crib.


We also reconfigured the storage boxes to fit in front of the window. One of the boxes covers the heat register, so we’ll have to come up with something different (or figure out a way to elevate everything slightly) once the temps drop. Given the summer heat we’ve had, it’s hard to imagine when that will happen.

We also bought two new felt boxes from Land of Nod. One holds baby board books (I’m so over trying to line them up on a shelf) and the other holds Duplos.


I should note that I took these photos this morning. We tidied up a bit first but as you can see it does not take long for things to unravel. We’re keeping it real. Kids are messy, but limiting the amount of stuff and having “homes” for everything makes cleaning up pretty painless.


Lillian is close to crawling, so I’m trying to savor this fleeting time of happy immobility. I will also need to temporarily hide some of Avery’s smaller toys before then.


Not much has changed with the dresser and wardrobe since our update in January. In the living room, we have a bin of baby books, a bin of Avery’s toys (Playmobil and trains) and a basket of baby toys. We converted one of the cabinets in the fauxdenza to hold art supplies, puzzles and games. Other than that, everything fits in their room. (Besides outdoor stuff obviously, which is a whole other topic.) I also recently bought this coat rack from Crate&Barrel. It’s simple, functional and inexpensive. It’s ridiculously hot here now, but most of the year we’re in jackets so I needed something more than the squirrel hook (which will be relocated eventually).


As for the sleep situation – it’s been a little over a month since we moved both girls into the same room and it’s going better than we anticipated. Before, Lillian was still sleeping in the mini-crib, but with the long summer days (sunset after 10:00 and sunrise around 4:30) we had to move her back into our room where it’s much darker. And yeah, that wasn’t great either.

We’re not on a strict schedule, but Lillian generally goes to bed between 7:30-8:00 (it depends more on what time she wakes up in the morning which sets the nap schedule somewhat). Avery’s bedtime is usually 8:00 but that’s been pushed back a bit for summer. We’ve found that it’s easier to put Lillian down first, then read books on the couch (or in our bed) with Avery. Once Lillian is asleep, she rarely wakes up because of Avery. And Avery almost never wakes up because of Lillian (who is often the first one up in the morning), not even in the middle of the night. I’d heard this from other people and it seems to be true for us as well. Lillian also seems to be sleeping better in her new bed. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think she finally, finally might be sleeping through the night now (no night feedings). YAY!

The last few nights, Avery and I have laid in her bed together, opening the curtains just a hair and reading books while Lillian snoozes nearby. I don’t think I imagined that we’d be able to do this so to other parents in a similar situation – I’d say just go for it. You might be surprised what your kids are capable of. Try it for a few weeks and if it doesn’t work figure something else out. I’m sure we’ll hit some road blocks, but it feels good knowing that not only can they sleep in the same room but that they actually seem to enjoy it. I don’t know, they might even like each other. :)


The nap situation is getting better too. Both girls take afternoon naps around 2:00, so they nap together in their room. I was mostly concerned with how Lillian would take a morning nap on the weekends (without kicking Avery out of her room), but because that nap is usually only an hour or so it’s almost easier to plan an activity where she can nap on the go. We also still have the mini crib setup outside my office and can roll that in and shut the door in a pinch.


Tucking her animals in for a nap and then asking me to take a photo. (Avery’s toddler bedding is from Land of Nod. They have such cute stuff!)


The nursery (can we even call it that anymore?) has gotten a bit cozier since it’s original reveal – but for the better I think! I love that we’ve been able to modify the space as Avery got older and then adding Lillian. We also realize that it’s still very much a space of our design, but that that will evolve as the girls get older and start adding their own personal touches. Just as long as they’re approved by us first. :)

“Composition girls, COMPOSITION!”

the work-life balance, revisited

Thanks so much for all of your feedback and ideas about toddler beds! We’ve definitely given the subject some more thought and think we have a good solution in the works…

I’ve written about our work-live balance before, but now that we have two kids it seems timely to bring up the subject again. I reread our original post and think the main talking points are still relevant, so I’m including them again here.


+ Flexibility

Having a second kid is anticlimactic in many ways – we’ve already made the big life change, we already have most of the stuff, we’re already used to spending a Saturday night in the company of Netflix. In a way, a second baby feels very comfortable and makes me wonder what all the fuss was about the first time around. (I have a group of girlfriends who all have a toddler and an infant and we joke about how relaxing it is to go somewhere with just the baby – like a vacation almost!) And while the baby phase seems easier this time around, I absolutely believe that the biggest challenge is not one child or the other but the combination of the two, namely – the sleep-deprivation of the infant plus the mental exhaustion of the toddler. It’s a potent mix, let me tell you.

Therefore, flexibility remains critical. Two kids means more unknowns and less predictability, especially during those first months. We seem to have settled into a schedule that works fairly well now, but we also know that at best, it will stay this way for a few months before we’re recalibrating again. And then there are days like last Monday, when you realize you have a client meeting that afternoon and someone has just used the last of the toilet paper. And although both kids had just gone down for a nap (i.e. – I should have been working) I jumped at the chance to run to the grocery store sans children and pick up some essentials. When I stopped for an iced coffee first, the barista asked what I was doing this afternoon and I told him, “oh, y’know…buying toilet paper – we work from home”.


+ Schedule vs. Non-Schedule

The work part of the balance is somewhat of a moving target but we feel like we’re in a pretty good groove at the moment. The biggest challenge has been finding a childcare solution that works for two different kids with two different needs. Avery is an adventurous toddler who benefits from social interaction and lots of active play, while Lillian is a baby who naps twice a day and is relatively immobile. We’ve had a mix of childcare since Lillian was born (our previous and much-loved nanny moved out-of-state shortly before) and while finding childcare is a whole other topic (one which should probably include a bottle of wine), we’ve learned to accept that there is probably not a perfect situation and that yes, that might mean committing to different arrangements for each kid. For now, we have awesome childcare for 4-5 hours most mornings and then our girls nap in the afternoon. (Avery still naps 2-3 hours and I sincerely hope she never stops!) This gives us around 8 hours each day, but we’ve made a practice of at least one parent being “on call” in the afternoons in the event that one or both naps end early. We used to also do more evening meetings after bedtime, but have really scaled back on that.

And because our profession is project-based, we’ve accepted that some weeks are crazy busy with deadlines and site visits and meetings and other weeks are a slow simmer. Instead of relying on a solid 8 hours a day, we each have monthly goals that we try to hit and after nearly three years in business we’ve been able to figure out a healthy number that is reasonable and realistic. That said, we’re still vulnerable to the downsides of working from home – including working nights and weekends. It’s tempting when y’know, our offices are a few feet away and it’s work we’re excited to be doing but lately we’ve been really focusing on unplugging more. When Avery was a baby I did a bulk of my work after she went to bed but these days I’m lucky to make it to 9:30.

Part of our reason for the DADU project is to create an even healthier divide between home and work. We love the convenience of working from home and not having to commute, but having a dedicated space for our business will be a huge plus and affords us the flexibility to grow our business when the timing is right (see “Let it Go” section at the bottom).

+ Divide and Delegate

We’re officially pros at this now. Aside from childcare and housecleaning, we’ve hired out a number of other tasks, including dog-walking, landscaping care and a myriad of business-related consultants. We also order a lot of things online, reducing the need to run errands. (My one exception is the grocery store because it’s something I actually enjoy!) They are small (or infrequent) expenses that have a big psychological impact and free up time to focus more on our family.


+ Make Time for Yourself and Each Other

This one is still tough. I think we’ve gone on two date nights in the past seven months. I know some people have a standing weekly or bi-weekly date night and I applaud you for that. At this point in our lives, we’re aiming for a weekly or bi-weekly date lunch – an opportunity to sneak out just the two of us without it being a full-blown date night. This September we’ll celebrate our ten year anniversary and we are optimistic about a whole weekend away. (Mom, I hope you’re reading this. Hint, hint.)

That said, it’s much easier and equally important for us to make time for ourselves. Now that Lillian has a regular bedtime, it’s easier to meet up with friends in the evenings. I also make a point to work out at least once a week (hey, it’s something!) and have allowed myself to indulge in the occasional pedicure or shopping trip while we’re paying for childcare. Kyle has carved out his own hobbies that allow him some guy time (probably much-needed in a house full of ladies) and we try to be sensitive to letting each other take that time when we need it.


+ Get Out of the House!

Before kids, Kyle and I were always working on something. When not at work, we were doing projects on the house, taking exams or in some way being productive. I think we are just the personality types where it’s hard to truly relax and do nothing. With one kid in the mix, we were able to maintain that lifestyle to some extent. With two, not so much. Having kids has forced us to actually get out on the weekends and do things just for the sake of doing them, even though my brain is telling me to organize the pantry or vacuum out the car. In a sense, our kids have forced us to add more “life” to the balance. Avery is also at an age where it’s fun to go out and do things with her, to explore a part of the city that we’ve never seen or go to a new park. (Seriously, I had no idea how many parks where in Seattle till we had kids.) The novelty of a 4:30 happy hour happens less these days, but we’ve been pretty good about rallying a few times a month or at least getting out for an early dinner.

+ Focus on the Awesome

This one is still a challenge. We have two healthy kids, an awesome dog, a house we love, a thriving business and yet – it is still so easy to become focused on what could be better, what we don’t like, what’s dragging us down. To some extent I think it’s important to always question things and push towards improvement, but not if it becomes overly consuming. We’ve found it’s helpful to remind each other that we’re in the thick of it right now – two small children, our own business, probably not enough sleep. It’s not easy and it’s not supposed to be. And yet, it is awesome. And exhausting. And exciting. And crazy.


+ Let it Go

Ah, a bonus section!

These last few months have been exceptionally busy for our business, fueling our need (or so we thought) to and make the DADU happen so we could continue to grow our practice. A few months ago, we made an intake appointment for the building permit but a couple of weeks ago we resigned ourselves to the reality that we just don’t have the time to dedicate to it right now. We also started to rethink the design for the DADU (which has already changed some since our last post, based on some discussions with the City). Financially, it will be a significant project (one that will include major sewer and plumbing work) and unfortunately not something we can hire out completely. We think we could make it pencil if Kyle does the concrete and framing but that would mean he’s spending his weekends all summer working on it.

So, we let it go (let it gooooooo!). For now. The risk with putting our plans on the internet is that you inevitably feel some guilt and disappointment if they don’t come to fruition in the way you hope. But we also try to use this blog as a means of transparency and “realness” so there you go. We still want to do the project and feel that doing a multipurpose design is the right solution, it’s just a timing issue. Instead of canceling our intake appointment, we rescheduled for early July (it was the first date available!). Maybe we’ll be ready by then and maybe not. One thought is to just get it “weathered in” this year (framing, siding, roof, windows, etc.) and then finish the interior next year. Of course, this means delaying hiring employees and moving our offices out of our house (and possibly turning down some projects that we would have otherwise taken) but we can manage that. And if delaying construction means spending more time with our girls this summer, focusing on our current workload and feeling more balanced in general, we think it’s the right decision.

small space living // the toddler bed dilemma

At the beginning of the year we wrote about living small with two kids and for the most part, not much has changed. Lillian in still sleeping in the mini crib (in the dining area!) but lately it’s been more evident that she’s ready to move to a regular crib. She now prefers to roll onto her tummy (and sleeps much better that way!) but is limited on space to do that in the smaller crib. (We also had issues awhile back with her legs getting stuck between the slats, but adding a bumper helped significantly with that.)


Moving Lillian to Avery’s crib (which has been converted to a toddler bed) is the easy part – the decision that has us stumped is what to transition Avery to. And yes, that brings up the toddler bed dilemma. It has always seemed silly and a waste of money to buy a separate toddler bed + mattress, but I now find myself leaning in that direction.

Here’s why:

+ Yes, it would be better for the long-term to get in her a twin bed but really we don’t have space. (If we did, I would definitely get her this one…sigh, maybe I’ll bookmark it for a future house.) When you’re used to a crib, a twin all of a sudden feels HUGE. We also need to keep both girls in the nursery until we can move our offices out of the house (and yeah, we’re at least 6-9 months out from that) which means space is limited as it is. For a few days I was excited about the possibility of doing our own hack on the IKEA Kura bed (you should really Google “IKEA Kura hack”, it’s ridiculous), thinking that some of the toys could go under the bed and that would free up space for the crib. But, after measuring it out we were worried that the bed would overwhelm the space (it pretty much has to go in the same spot as the crib) and that really, it would take longer than we think to implement our own modifications. (Which in my mind, involved painting the frame a blue-gray and adding maple plywood “rails” to the three exposed sides of the bed.)

twin options

+ I also considered just getting another IKEA Gulliver crib, but that seems like taking a step backward at this point.

+ So, toddler bed? A few weeks ago I came back around to the Gulliver toddler bed, which seemed perfect since it’s in-between a crib and twin mattress size and would match the crib. When I went to check the stock online, they were sold out of the birch version. So I checked again a few days later and same story. And that’s when I realized that every store was out of stock so maybe they’re not making it anymore? At any rate, after seeing the white version in person I was less excited and didn’t like being limited to IKEA sheets (although I suppose you could just use a twin sized duvet). ANYWAY. Back to the drawing board. Or rather, the internet.

toddler options2

There are a handful of modern toddler beds out there but I don’t know, nothing that I could get too excited about or justify spending a lot of money on. (For reference, I found other affordable options from KidKraft, P’kolino and Babyletto). And yes, I love right angles as much as the next modernist, but on a kid’s bed it seems a little silly (and potentially dangerous). I even considered the much-loved Jenny Lind toddler bed. It’s not exactly modern, but I could see pairing it with some fun bedding to balance out all those curves. Well, it’s a moot point now because Kyle completely and passionately vetoed it. (I can’t blame him, it would feel out of place in our house.) For the same price, I also like this bed from Land of Nod, but the in-store floor models I’ve seen haven’t taken abuse very well (chipped paint, etc.) and I’m concerned about long-term durability. Obviously some of these wouldn’t match the Gulliver crib but maybe it doesn’t matter that much (we could always tie the two together with complimentary bedding).

So why don’t we just build something ourselves? I know, that totally would have been our solution a few years ago but don’t forget we still have a half-finished bathroom and laundry room in our basement (going on three years now!). And really, I think if we did it ourselves it would be a very simple platform style bed and I’d prefer something with a bit of head board and foot board. I know, we could just do a mattress on the floor but I think it’s going to be a struggle giving up her crib as it is (especially if it’s going to Lillian) and want to do something she can be excited about, something that’s very “big girl”.

Eventually, we’ll probably go the bunk bed route (because who doesn’t have fond memories of their sibling kicking the top bunk mattress from below?) but we’re probably two years away from that. The long-term plan is to put both girls in the basement bedroom, but there isn’t enough space for two twin beds down there.

So here’s a question, how long can the average sized kiddo sleep in a toddler bed? I read 6 but that seems overly optimistic. I think I could justify the purchase if I knew she could use it for the next year or two (before passing it along to her sister). Has anyone else been in a similar situation and come up with a good solution? Are there other simple and well-made beds out there that I’ve missed? I’m crowdsourcing here.

studio zerbey / under construction

We currently have a number of projects finishing up or in the middle of construction so we thought it would be fun to do a few posts during the next several months that highlight that work.

+ Alaska Surf Shack

The Surf Shack just wrapped up construction and the owner moved in last week. We’re hoping to make it out this summer to see it in person and take photos (I’ve never been to Alaska!)



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Due to the remote location, we had more limited involvement during construction. Kyle only made it the site once (before design started) and therefore any coordination was handled via email and phone. The contractor, Harmon Construction, did a fantastic job and we’re so pleased how it turned out. More importantly, the homeowner loves it and that’s really the best compliment you can get.

+ Missoula Mixed-Use Remodel

The remodel of this existing brick building in Missoula, Montana is nearing completion, with work on the tenant improvements to begin soon. The building, located on the “hip strip” of Missoula will include a popcorn store, sandwich shop and a third tenant that has yet to be finalized.





The roof was replaced, a new lower roof was added, the brick was sandblasted, primed and painted, steel panel siding was added and all the windows and doors are new. We can’t wait to get out and take final “after” photos and compare with where things started! Another remote project for us, it makes a huge difference working with a skilled team (McMahon Construction) to get the job done.

+ Issaquah Highlands House

Framing for the Issaquah Highlands house (a new single-family residence east of Seattle) is almost complete and it’s so exciting to see the form take shape. The neighborhood is actually an eclectic mix of architectural styles and even though it’s in a development, we think this design does a good job of integrating with the site and respecting its neighbors.






It’s a little hard to tell in this photo but the view is spectacular, even from the lower levels. This project is being built in collaboration with YS BUILT and is slated to wrap up by December of this year.