I didn’t really intend to take this little break from blogging, but these last few months have been busy. I know, that word is almost trite these days, but it’s true. Busy (really busy) with work, busy with life. Although we have a few post ideas in the hopper, the blog has been like that stack of magazines on my nightstand that I just can’t seem to get around to.
My thoughts on blogging have also changed a bit since I got back from the Alt conference and I’ve been trying to process what that means for chezerbey. Expecting to come back re-energized about the direction of the blog, I instead felt a bit underwhelmed and unmotivated. The conference itself was great – very well organized and orchestrated, especially considering how many people (I heard somewhere between 600-700) were there. I also finally got to meet Jaime, Nicole and Dana! Dana and I shared a room and stayed up way too late each night, mostly talking about things outside of our blogs.
That said, I was a little disappointed by the seminars and presentations. Perhaps it’s because ours is somewhat of a niche blog (in the greater “design blog” sphere at least) or because it’s one that isn’t monetized, but I felt like most of the topics didn’t really apply. It also made me realize how much blogging has changed in the last several years and maybe that wasn’t a direction I wanted to go. (I went to a seminar about how to monetize your Pinterest account and it left me so overwhelmed that I had a Pinterest nightmare a few days later and haven’t logged on since. Seriously, I had no idea what a juggernaut it had become for some people.)
So, here we are. Our blog has been personally and professionally valuable to us and we have no intention of stopping. But moving forward, we are going to reevaluate a few things. In the beginning, I mostly blogged about what I wanted to, when I wanted to. The last few years brought more of an agenda though, with intentions to blog twice a week, to do more quick posts, to go outside our normal focus…to do more. But here’s the thing, once a week is challenging as it is and even my “quick” posts take at least 2 hours to write. So I’m going to abandon my previous ideas of what I think I should be doing and instead focus on what I want to do (realizing that this is what got people reading in the first place). Without the pressure to make money off the blog (something I’d been considering off and on for a few years), I want to instead focus on the opportunities it can afford and the relationships we’ve made and can continue to make. Since we started our architectural firm, Studio Zerbey, almost every single remodel project (we do about 50% remodels, 50% new construction) or consultation has come to us through the blog. People have hired us not just for our design aesthetic but because we’ve gone through (and documented!) the experience first-hand. This has made us more relatable and approachable and guys, that feels pretty good. That’s where we want to be, the kind of architects we want to be.
So we’re going to keep pushing in that direction and maybe we won’t post as often as we’d like, but we hope each post is interesting and well-done. Also, we are still not done with this house! Although our DIY accomplishments this year have consisted of 1) fixing the bathtub drain, 2) lubing the door locks and 3) repairing the screen on our return grill, our to-do list is more ambitious. In fact, we have a few deadlines in the next several months (including a photo shoot and an expiring construction permit) that will mean some serious PROGRESS on the home front!
Finally, thank you to those who have stuck with us through the years, offering your continued support and encouragement. Even if the blogosphere feels a bit different these days, I continue to be inspired by so many of you – whether it’s the comments you leave or the posts you write.
One of my goals with this blog is to include more design-focused posts about products or materials – things that are original and interesting but don’t take hours to write and assemble. So, a few weeks ago when I came across some new lighting while flipping through the Crate&Barrel catalog I thought, “this would make a perfect short post!”. Well, a version of that post has sat on my laptop since then, routinely getting pushed to the “I’ll finish it tomorrow” list. But hey, it’s Saturday night and Kyle is slowly working his way through the entire X-Files series on Netflix so let’s do this, ok? (Ha! It’s Sunday now…see how that happens?)
As architects, we’re always on the lookout for new options in lighting. Historically, it’s one of those categories that has about five bazillion choices yet 97% of them are pretty bad. And the ones that are good – $$$$. So, I was pleasantly surprised to come across some well-designed and affordable fixtures from Crate&Barrel of all places. Which led me to check out what was new at a few other big retailers. And then I made these collages.
(Note: most of these are wall or ceiling mounted fixtures since those are typically the types we help select, but I threw in a few playful floor lamps for good measure. Also, this is not sponsored in any way and all opinions are my own.)
Has anyone had first-hand experience with these fixtures? It’s always difficult to get a feel for the quality of construction from an online photo, so I’d be interested in any feedback. I also noticed that most of the wall-mounted fixtures come with a cord and plug (vs. being hard-wired). Not ideal, but I suppose it provides more flexibility and ease of installation.
And hey, while we’re on the subject – bathroom lighting. Why is it all so bad? There are some good sconces out there, but I’ve found very few options for modern linear lights that can go above a mirror/vanity. Maybe you’ve found some? Maybe you’ll share?
Finally, I’m heading to the Alt Summit conference this week! It will be my first time to go and I’m excited. It will also be the longest time I’ve spent away from Avery since she was born. But I know she’ll be fine and I’ll be fine. In fact, I’m looking forward to stepping outside my normal routine (and comfort zone!) for a few days to fly to SLC (without a toddler on my lap!), meet awesome people, learn new things and hopefully come home with fresh ideas for the future of our blog and business. Now, time to start packing.
I know we don’t often veer from the design/DIY related posts here, but I wanted to write this post because it is such a huge part of chezerbey and our first several years of homeownership.
Deb was our neighbor from the day we bought our house till she moved in the summer of 2010. She was a vibrant and fun-loving person who did hair from the salon in her home. (That’s Deb on the left and Kyle’s mom on the right. Kyle’s mom is a stylist so they bonded instantly during her first trip to Seattle several years ago.) She was always the person that had time to stop and chat – in fact, you hoped to run into her because she just had a way of making you feel better about everything…that life was going to be ok and maybe you just needed to chill out a little bit?
We actually met Deb for the first time when we came to look at the house. Days later, our offer was accepted and we guessed she might have had something to do with it (the seller lived out-of-state and we were competing against developers with cash who wanted to tear the house down). When we tackled the roof that first summer, she took photos from her second story window to document the process and provide encouragement. As we moved inside the house, she lent us her nail gun and compressor and generously refused to take them back when she moved. In 2009, as summer turned to fall and we still hadn’t painted our house, she actually came over (while we were at work!) and helped us out. (Like, literally climbed up on our porch roof with a brush and paint can.) We didn’t ask and she didn’t ask, she just wanted to help and so that’s what she did.
Three and a half years ago Deb left Seattle for her native Austin but ended up in Florida instead to take care of her ailing mother. The photo above was taken the day she drove out of town. A group of 15-20 people gathered in the rain to see her off, which gives you an idea of the impact she had on those around her. Not long after she moved, she was diagnosed with breast cancer which ended up taking her life last week.
I didn’t think too much about New Year’s resolutions this year, but on the first day of January I sat down and started compiling a list that quickly grew to 6-7 rather broad goals. But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about Deb. I think it’s easy to become self-absorbed with making improvements to one’s own self/house/career, but maybe that doesn’t really matter as much. Maybe the real resolution is to be a better person, to take more time for other people and enjoy life to its fullest. To be more like Deb.
We are looking forward to this coming year; to growing and learning and connecting. Here’s to 2014!
A few weeks ago, we went with some friends to the National Forest to cut down our own Christmas tree (after obtaining a permit of course). Usually we just buy one at the small lot near our house, but we were up for the challenge.
Or so we thought.
I guess I thought we’d drive in, spot a tree, cut in down and then be on our way. Instead, it ended up being a drive and a hike. Since I was wearing Avery in the Ergo, I opted not to climb the steep hillside (where the better trees were, naturally) and instead stood in the snow/rain with our friend’s tarp draped over me and an increasingly fussy toddler. (Making family memories!)
But my mood lifted when I saw this guy come down the hill.
I’m not sure why, but we always tend to go for a Charlie Brown tree and this one is no exception. Also, one strand of lights, gotta love that. To make it fit we had to push the couch over and put it on a small side table, which I think also helped as a toddler deterrent (although she’s been really great about not touching the tree). Growing up, we always had an eclectically decorated tree and I’m carrying the tradition on. We try to buy a new ornament each year and I have a few that my mom passed on during a purge a few years ago (and they’re 80′s fabulous, which is the best).
Other than the tree, we did a little decorating here and there. The moose are new this year and were bought at Crate&Barrel.
My mom gave me this little craft store advent calendar last year and it’s been fun to count down the days with Avery. Although really, she has no idea what’s going on and often reacts with a blank stare.
Finally, Mr. Bails – still not a fan of the reindeer antlers.
Merry Christmas and happiest holidays to all of you! We’re certainly looking forward to it. Even though Avery doesn’t really get Christmas yet, she has a few surprises sitting in my office that I’m pretty excited about.
As the third post in our series celebrating Studio Zerbey’s first full year in business, we decided to talk more about the actual work. (See the first post here and second post here.) On our website and blog, we’ve featured a handful of the projects we’ve been working on, but the truth is we have so many more that we haven’t shown yet. Just like it’s hard to determine when a space is done “enough” to show the reveal, we find ourselves doing the same thing with Studio Zerbey projects – waiting for finished photos or taking the time to put together sexy graphics. So, consider this post a sampling of what we’ve been up to this past year, including some of the lesser known services we provide.
+ Consultations – although it’s not a very bloggable topic, we’ve been doing consultations from the very beginning. Simply put, consultations are on-site visits where we give off-the-cuff advice and suggestions (following up with a written summary). We charge a flat fee that varies depending on the scope of the job and due to travel constraints, they are mostly in the Seattle area. Sometimes it’s someone looking to buy a particular house and wondering about its remodel potential. Other times it’s a homeowner that’s interested in remodeling all or part of their home (whether they’ll be hiring a contractor or taking it on as a DIY). For many of the consultations, it also serves as an informal meet and greet where we can learn more about the owners and their home and they learn more about us and the way we work. Although this is a service that some architects offer for free in hopes of getting the job, we learned early on that in most cases that just wasn’t a feasible strategy for a two-person firm (it also helps filter out those who aren’t very serious in the first place). As a solution, we decided to credit the cost of the consultation for clients that end up hiring Studio Zerbey for their project.
+ Schematic Design – Over the last year we’ve taken on a number of small schematic-only projects, including everything from a condo remodel in DC and an Eichler house in Palo Alto to remodels in Seattle, San Francisco, Boulder and Vancouver, B.C. Essentially, “schematic-only” is a pared down design process where we put together sketches (or idea palettes, such as the one above) in lieu of a construction set that’s ready to be handed off to a contractor. Although it places more responsibility on the owner, it’s been an effective strategy for small remodel projects that are remote or where the budget or scope doesn’t warrant a site visit or technical drawings. We haven’t featured as many of these projects because either they aren’t finished yet (often times the homeowner is DIYing it) or the end product is a floor plan sketch and not a pretty 3D rendering. (We have plans to remedy this though, soon!) Nonetheless, these projects are just as important to us, especially since most of the clients are blog readers as well. And so we thought it was important to highlight this particular service, recognizing that not every design project ends with a thick drawing set (a common misconception about architects, perhaps).
Above, options for different kitchen layouts in a small row house (click to enlarge). And below, a schematic floor plan for a super tiny 1937 fishing cottage in Seattle.
+ Remodels and New Construction – This is the bulk of our work and includes projects that are taken from pre-design through permit and/or construction documents. It includes remodels to early 20th century homes (which make up a large part of Seattle’s housing stock), new single-family residences and a few commercial jobs. Although much of our work is in Washington state, we also have active projects in California, Montana and Alaska.
Above, schematic plan for a rooftop deck addition to a single-family house in Seattle.
Above, a new custom residence in the Hilltop neighborhood near Bellevue, WA. Below, a new custom residence in Pacific Grove, CA.
Above, a remodel of an existing Animal Hospital east of Seattle. Below, an extensive remodel of an old brick building into a commercial building in Missoula, Montana.
Above, a new custom residence (blogged about recently) east of Seattle. Below, a prefab residence on the Olympic Peninsula.
And there it is, a snapshot of what’s in the hopper at Studio Zerbey. 2013 has been a good year and 2014 is shaping up to be even better with a handful of new projects already, including at least four different remodels in Seattle and a new house in Alaska!
Originally, my post for this week was going to be about our bedroom progress, but we’ve been so swamped that there has been no progress (and we realize that’s not a bad problem to have). So we’re just going to pretend like those four paint swatches are artwork and live with it just a little bit longer (although we have decided on a color!). In the midst of this holiday season, we are feeling quite thankful. This little blog that started out as a glorified Flickr account for our family has transformed into a means for growing our firm and working with some pretty awesome people on a variety of interesting projects. And for that, we want to say a big thank YOU!
2014, bring it!