hello, september!

Hello! I meant to write this post a week or so ago and now we’re halfway through September!

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This month has been (and will continue to be!) one of transitions. It started with saying goodbye to our long-time nanny, who is getting married and moved out-of-state to be closer to her fiancé. It was harder on me than I expected – she had such a positive influence on Avery and was an important part of our work-life balance.

And just last week, Avery started a new preschool. It’s a big step, but one that we feel she is completely ready for. (And an excuse to finally use that backpack? Heck yeah!) It’s a different daily routine than we’re used to but so far, so good!

Oh, and we’re having a baby this month! I’m due next week! (Right between my birthday and our 9-year wedding anniversary!)

Speaking of births, when Avery was born our firm, Studio Zerbey, was just starting out. Two years later, we’re the busiest we’ve been and finding ourselves in another type of transition, one where most of our projects are either under construction or getting ready to break ground and we have a handful of new ones in the beginning phases of design. It’s not uncommon for even residential projects to take a couple of years from the first meeting through construction so we knew there’d be some lag time till we could start counting our built projects. Well, that time is now arriving and it’s exciting to see things take shape! (Updating our website is also on my list of things to do.)

And finally, with all of these transitions, it’s nice to know there are things that haven’t changed – like our basement. Yeah, I know. We intended to finish the bathroom and laundry room by now but work got too busy. Kyle’s been chipping away on it here and there and we’re almost ready to get our plumbing and electrical inspections but it just can’t be a priority right now. And that’s ok. The washer and dryer are functional, we have another bathroom, we’ll survive (sorry, Mom).

But we have to get it done soon, because we’re starting to seriously scheme about the garage/carport.

a new rug for the nursery

We made a small update in the nursery several months ago, but I just realized we never shared it here on the blog!

Anyhow, new rug!

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The old rug was an off-white chevron rug from West Elm. There was a lot to love about it, but over time Bailey’s nails would snag the knotted design and it started looking pretty worn and dingy. I suppose I could have had it cleaned but decided to swap it out for something more functional instead.

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It’s no secret that we have a special place in our hearts for Flor carpet tiles (we now have them in Kyle’s office, my office, our bedroom and our mudroom). I started my hunt for a new rug by looking at various single-piece area rugs but couldn’t find anything that was quite the right color, size or price. Plus, I didn’t like the idea of having to have it professionally cleaned in the event of a major spill or accident. So, back to Flor. Since this is a kid’s space we wanted something a bit playful but not too “busy” as it would be highly visible from the rest of our house. I’d seen a couple of examples in their catalog of custom designs using triangular tiles (cut along the diagonal from full squares) and thought this might have some potential. (I know, triangles! We’re crazy!)

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We ordered several samples and ended up with the Made You Look line as it was a good balance between price, color options and texture. We sketched out a loose design (enough to order the right amount of tiles) and had Flor custom cut the colored tiles (totally worth the added $3/cut to get it precise) but didn’t decide on the final design till we put everything together. In theory, we could rearrange the tiles if we got bored with the current pattern, but so far so good.

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Best of all, the surface is much more conducive to playing on so we feel like we instantly gained a new play space for Avery.

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In our frenzy to finish the bedroom a few months ago, Kyle also made a valence for the smaller window in the nursery. (In the bedroom we used maple, but decided to stick with fir here.) It’s a small detail but hides the exposed hardware of the IKEA roller shade.

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We’re about a month away (+/-) from welcoming baby #2 and since we’re expecting another girl there hasn’t been much that we need to do to prep for her arrival. I’ve been making space in both the wardrobe and dresser for itty bitty baby clothes and diapers but the overall look and layout of the room will stay as-is for now. We still have plans to eventually set-up a makeshift nursery in my office downstairs (which will involve moving the glider down there and setting up the mini-crib that we purchased awhile back) but aren’t in a hurry since the space will first be used as a guest room by visiting family (and baby will sleep in our room).

Small space multitasking for the win!

summer day

Before Instagram, I used to do more random posts about what we were up to when we weren’t working on our house or Studio Zerbey projects. I thought about putting together something for Avery’s 2nd birthday (which was last week) but in all honesty I only took a handful of photos and half of them landed on Instagram so it seemed redundant to do a recap here. Unlike her first birthday, we kept it pretty low-key this year. We had a small party in our backyard with doughnuts and leftover party supplies from a year ago. (I’ve decided that 2nd birthdays are great because you don’t have the pressure of the big first birthday bash and yet they’re still too young to have any expectations of what their birthday or party should be.)

Although we’ve had a really beautiful Seattle summer so far, we haven’t done a lot of travelling or playing. Work-wise, this has been our busiest time since starting Studio Zerbey. We’re also scrambling to wrap up other projects and to-do items before baby #2 arrives next month(!). That said, we do try to take advantage of little opportunities here and there and sometimes we even embrace a little spontaneity. A quick trip to Shilshole beach last weekend turned into a three-hour adventure around our neighborhood and that’s kinda what summer is all about, right? I snapped a bunch of iPhone photos and thought instead of over-saturating my other feeds, I’d do a quick post here.

Happy summer, everyone!

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I think Bailey is happiest at the beach (and the weird perspective in the photo makes him look gigantic!).

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I swear this kid could spot a strawberry plant from a mile away. We’re still working on “look, don’t touch” but at least she didn’t eat any. Oooh….stahbrees!

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We stopped at Skillet for brunch, which is in a mixed-use building that I worked on a bit at my previous firm. (I distinctly remember drawing those bent steel rods in CAD!) Now that it’s had time to establish, the landscaping looks really amazing. (Fun fact: the lead landscape architect for the job was Mark Garff, our friend who also did the landscape design for our house.)

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This was the first time we’ve been when the doors were all opened up. Not a regular occurrence in Seattle, but dang it was nice! (Of course I had to get the castellated beam in the shot!)

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I’m usually underwhelmed by the options for kid’s meals, but Skillet did it right with this grilled PB&J and fruit (in a baby skillet no less!).

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I think Avery felt the same way. (I hear some kids are “neat” and don’t like to get “dirty”. Huh.)

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After brunch we were heading back to the car when we decided to stop at the park nearby for some post-PB&J spray-down. And what do you know – there was a piano just parked right there (it’s part of the Pianos in the Park campaign)! So Kyle and Avery tried it out and I couldn’t help but capture the moment. (Remember when we used to have a piano? But then we had to sell it to make way for the baby crib? Yeah, Kyle has not forgotten.)

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It took a few minutes to get used to the idea, but she was soon running through the water. Soaked and towel-less we decided to head home. I put Avery in some dry clothes and then she took the most glorious 4-hr nap.

Summer, let’s hold on for another month or so, ok?

Oh, I decided to make my Instagram feed private – it doesn’t affect you if you’re already a follower I just wanted to be a bit more selective about privacy. My username is laurenzerbey (one word) if you want to follow! Disclaimer: it’s mostly photos of Avery and Bailey.

sunset magazine

I started reading Sunset several years ago, usually during my lunch break at work. With its focus on the western U.S., each issue left me thinking I want to try that / I want to eat that / I want to go there! Now, I don’t usually gravitate towards “lifestyle” magazines, but for me this one has always been different, covering topics that I found both interesting and attainable. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest ten years ago, we’ve had several moments (usually in a beautiful setting, hanging out with friends and eating delicious food) where I had to pause and take-in the life that we’ve made for ourselves out here. Maybe it’s cheesy, but for me reading Sunset is like a little reminder to do more of that, to appreciate what’s right around us while also seeking out new adventures. And sometimes, it’s a chance to live vicariously through others while you’re spending weekends at the hardware store.

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So, you can imagine our excitement when Kyle and I learned that they wanted to feature our home (and specifically, kitchen) in an upcoming issue! It was also just the motivation we needed to wrap up some projects around the house (like ahem, our bedroom).

It definitely didn’t all happen overnight, but before we knew it a small crew showed up bright and early to shoot our house. Although it can be nerve-wracking to have your own home photographed by a big-time magazine, it ended up being such a fun day and everyone was really great to work with. It was also fascinating to look behind the lens of a professional (in our case, Sunset photographer Tom Story) and see how the same angles I’ve shot so many times could look 10x better when done by a pro. By the end of the day, we were exhausted (though I’m not sure why seeing as how we mostly let other people do all the work) and spent awhile just hanging out in the backyard, soaking it all up and having our own we live here! we did this! moment. Eight years (and counting!) of remodeling is a loooong time, but days like that make us really glad we did it.

To see more, look for us in the August issue (in print or the tablet version) or checkout an online slideshow here!

And finally, a big thanks to Jess Chamberlain and the Sunset crew for making it happen!

studio zerbey / seattle house lift

We first met Paige and Evan last fall when we did a consultation for their small 1918 house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. (They found us through our blog – yay!) They hadn’t lived in the house long, but knew they wanted to make some changes that would create more usable spaces and take advantage of an unfinished basement. The footprint of the house was approximately 783 SF, with a single bedroom and bathroom. A full basement below meant a lot of potential, but sadly the ceiling height was only 6′ or so.

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Above, the official “before” photo of the front of the house.

We discussed a few different options and ultimately decided that lifting the house made the most sense. So many houses in Seattle (whose housing stock is largely from the early 20th century) have this same short-basement dilemma, including ours. (We considered lifting but because we only have a half basement decided it wasn’t worth the effort.) Paige and Evan also planned on doing much of the construction themselves, so that’s something we took into consideration during the design process.

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Here are a few exterior photos from when we did the as-built measurements last January. (It has been HOT here the last week and looking at these photos made me a little jealous. I must be a true Seattleite now.)

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Aside from lifting the house about 30″, the design also included filling in the recessed portions at the front and back of the house (which provided a spot for the new interior stair) and adding a new covered front porch.

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Here are some side-by-side floor plans to give you an idea of what will be involved. (Click to enlarge.)

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The goal was to keep all the “public” spaces on the main floor and use the basement for bedrooms, bathrooms and a laundry space. To simplify the existing framing, we kept the location of the interior load-bearing wall and added several larger windows to bring more natural light into the rooms. Under the future front porch will be a large storage area accessed from the outside. (There is a small shed in the backyard, but no real garage.)

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The existing bedroom on the main floor will become a more casual living space (with a larger opening and sliding door) while the front of the house will serve as dining area (something that didn’t really exist before). The kitchen will be reconfigured a bit to create a more functional space with better flow, as it will continue to be the “hallway” of the house. A small office nook will be added adjacent to the new stair. The small recessed porch will be enclosed to create a mudroom entry and a new covered front porch will be added to the front of the house.

Now, fast-forward to late spring when the building permit was issued and construction started! One of the first tasks was to demo the existing masonry chimney and patch the roof.

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As you can tell, it was a fun and clean task for Evan.

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To make way for the machinery needed to lift the house, they also had some clearing that needed to happen first.

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The general contractor is actually Paige’s dad, Michael, and she left her old job to be his right-hand man (err, woman) during construction. I love remodels, but even more so when they have an interesting side story like this one!

Before the house could be lifted, they had to move everything out of the basement, demolish the interior framing and remove the existing siding and sheathing at the basement level.

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Paige and Evan worked with Kunkel Moving & Raising, a local company that has been lifting, leveling and moving houses in the Seattle area for over 100 years! Without getting into too much technical jargon, the main gist of raising a house is to first build heavy timber structures (called cribbing) that will support the steel beams that the house will temporarily rest on while new walls are constructed.

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Next, a boom crane delivered the steel beams through openings cut in the temporary plywood sheathing. Those are the couple’s two dogs – Uki and Odo peering out from the temporary doggie gate above. (In most situations, it’s possible to live in the house after it’s raised which is what Paige and Evan are doing.)

Crazy side story: after visiting the house for the first time we realized that we actually used to live across the street, in a small house that we rented for a year before buying chezerbey in 2006! Even crazier, although Paige and Evan didn’t live there at the time, their two dogs did. The previous owner remarried someone with severe dog allergies and so the new homeowners adopted the dogs. Bailey was a puppy when we lived across the street, so very likely that they had met (or at least sniffed each other out) on a few occasions!

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With the cribbing and support beams in place it was time to LIFT! (Anything else tying the house to the basement – like plumbing and electrical, were also temporarily unattached.) A series of hydraulic jacks (four in this case) were used to do the actual lifting.

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The house was lifted about 12″ higher than its final location, but this allows for the new foundation and framing to be added more easily. Once that’s in place, the house will be lowered back down again.

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(After the house lift was done, a temporary stair extension was added to the existing front steps.)

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Oh hey there, spacious basement!

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Todd Schlemmer (@theschlem on Twitter), a friend of Paige and Evan’s captured the entire 2 1/2 hour process. Using a Swann freestyle HD sports camera and OpenShot for Gnu/Linux, a picture was taken every 5 seconds and then assembled into this 3 minute video. Check it out!

On the left, a nerve-racking way to access the back door. On the right, the crew’s construction dog keeping an eye on things. (I don’t know what it is about contractors and small dogs but I love it.)

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After the house was up in the air, work got underway on demolishing the existing foundation.

It can be possible to work with a house’s existing foundation (just building a taller stud wall on top) but for this project the owners wanted to tear out and pour a proper foundation. The new footings were also designed to accommodate a second story if they decide to expand again in the future. We had originally planned to pour on top of the existing concrete slab, but it wasn’t very thick and mostly crumbled under the weight of the excavator.

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There’s Michael rocking the excavator above and the happy (although probably pretty tired) homeowners below.

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Formwork for the new concrete footings went in last week and next up is pouring the new foundation!

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During our own remodel, we used to always hope that we’d find some gold bars or just something interesting or unique. Paige and Evan didn’t stumble across any fortunes, but they did find these cool glass bottles, one of which was from the Keystone Liquor Company, a Seattle-based outfit that was in business from 1902-1914!

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We’re so excited to continue watching the progress on this remodel and see the interior spaces start to take shape (and sharing updates here). The usable space will more than double in size (going from a 1 bedroom/1 bath to a 3 bedroom/3 bath!), all while working within the footprint of the existing house (minus the new open-air front porch). As architects, it’s so rewarding to help breathe new life into an old house and even more so when the family behind it are energetic, smart and design-minded.

Kyle and I stopped by the house a few weeks ago to check out the progress and I may have had a tiny bit of remodel envy. Although we still have plenty of work to do here at chezerbey, I clearly remember the excitement (and sometimes fear!) that came with those big, game-changer projects. Paige and Evan – it’s going to be so great – hang in there!

Want to see more? Follow Paige’s Instagram account!