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!

studio zerbey / montana residence

As architects, the most exciting aspect of our job is seeing a project physically come to life. We continue to be knee-deep in Studio Zerbey design work right now (hence the lack of home-related blog posts) – early summer is always a hectic time with many of our current projects being submitted for building permits or starting construction. So over the next few months, we thought we’d share a few that have recently been completed or are under construction as we write.

First up, a new custom home in Missoula, Montana that recently wrapped up construction. Thanks to Joe McMahon of McMahon Construction and his entire team for executing the design so well. Kyle started this project in 2008 while working with his previous employer, Balance Associates. It took almost three years and many trips to Missoula to work through the design with the City and acquire the necessary building and land use permits – as the site was a designated steep slope, flood plain and partial wildlife habitat area. Kyle worked with city environmentalists to restore the wildlife area and address their remaining concerns. (When Kyle joined Studio Zerbey the project had already started construction so Balance Associates and Studio Zerbey agreed to complete the project as a joint project.) Kyle was up in MT a few weeks ago and took these photographs of the exterior and main living spaces. More photos to come in the future, but here’s a glimpse for now:

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A view of the backyard grassy play area and outdoor kitchen with cantilevered deck and outdoor fireplace beyond. The cantilever was actually a design solution to the topography in this area, spanning across the slope rather than anchoring into it (which wouldn’t have been allowed anyway).

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The living room opens up to the outdoor area with a large sliding door. The door has 2 operable panels that slide to the right for an opening that’s about 14′ wide!

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You can barely see it in this photo, but beyond the trees there is a large creek that runs through the backyard of the property. Not only does it create a pleasant soothing sound when the doors are open, but the homeowners can also just walk out their back door and do some fly-fishing!

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Kyle worked with the homeowners and Melissa Leadbeater at Seattle’s Design Within Reach to select all the furniture for the home. (Obviously, our clients have excellent taste.) They’re now working together again to pick outdoor furniture for summertime.

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This view is from the creek looking back towards the house. Originally the yard had a steep slope area that was redesigned into a terraced walkway with Corten steel retaining walls.

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The entry side of the home is designed to have a low profile and hug the earth.

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Kudos to Andy Lennox of The Lennox Craftsmen for the well-crafted sapele cabinetry with integral lighting that can be seen throughout the home.

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Stay tuned for upcoming posts highlighting construction progress on the Olympic Forest Cabin, Alaska Surf Shack and Missoula Mixed-Use Remodel. In addition to two new custom homes, we also have several residential remodel projects that will begin construction this year – a few of which will include good ol’ sweat equity from the homeowners themselves! We can’t wait to share the transformations with you (because if we can’t work on our own homes we might as well live vicariously through others, right?).

the (mostly) finished bedroom!

We’ve been making progress on one area of our house and surprise – it’s not the basement! Which can only mean one thing of course – yep, we were able to get another extension on our building permit. When I submitted the request I asked for a couple extra months and was excited to see that instead they gave us till October. A few days later, I realized it was October 2015. Guys, if we have not closed out this permit by October 2015, someone please stage an intervention!

Anyway. The bedroom! You may recall this post from October when we first talked about our grand plans to re-remodel the space (we first tackled it in 2008) and then there was this post from November about choosing paint colors. Well, those paint swatches lived on the wall until about 3 weeks ago when we finally decided to commit to finishing the room.

I managed to snap a few crappy photos on my phone of the progress, but we didn’t feel it was super important to document the process. Spackle, sand, mask, paint…ho hum. (We also completed most of the work in a single weekend, so it was very go-go-go.)

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There was no good reason for the delay other than it just wasn’t a necessity project. Kyle had already fabricated and installed the new headboard (which we uninstalled to paint as seen in the photo above) and we’d purchased the Flor tiles, decided on a paint color and bought the curtain track hardware for the wardrobe. Honestly, I think it was all the prep work that had us dragging our heels (that and the fact that Kyle and I both generally hate to paint).

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We decided to leave the bed in the room and cover it (along with the wardrobe). This worked fine although painting between the wall and the wardrobe was a little challenging.

I should also mention that Kyle was awesome and did 95% of the work in here while I kept a curious toddler at bay and maintained my long-held role of “finder of things” and “extra pair of hands”. I painted Avery’s nursery while pregnant and could have kept up the tradition but underestimated how difficult it would be to paint during nap time and after bedtime only (especially when my bedtime seems to be about 30 minutes after Avery’s these days!).

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One more progress photo before we get to the big reveal. We got a new (bigger) bed last year and had to get rid of our old headboard and frame. The new bed came with a simple metal frame so we opted to add a custom DIY maple plywood skirt around the three exposed sides (after painting and installing new carpet tiles). The joints are biscuited and glued at the corners and for now the assembly is just sitting on the floor. Eventually, we’ll attach it to the metal frame at the head.

Although most of the wood in our house is fir, we opted for maple in the bedroom to change things up and better match the existing IKEA PAX wardrobe.

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A few accessories later and here we are! We still need new night stands – these are actually the discontinued Offi TV stands that we bought in 2008. We like them but had to turn them 90 degrees to fit which is a little awkward. Sadly, we haven’t been able to find any that we liked and could also afford (ahem, like these Blu Dot ones in “smoke”). There’s always the DIY option but again, too many other projects taking priority at the moment.

We’d also like to do something above the headboard. A single piece of art doesn’t seem like the right solution so we’ve been thinking of a narrow ledge for smaller art and objects (that can be changed out similar to what we have in the dining room) or maybe something more three-dimensional like a textile or sculptural piece that stands off the wall. I’m also ok with maybe doing nothing – I kinda like keeping the color on the bed and pulling the eye down towards that. I think it helps maintain the horizontality of the headboard.

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We never really loved the curtain and track solution of the previous remodel (an IKEA tension wire and two brown curtains). We considered adding custom doors instead (either DIY or Semihandmade) but this would have been a more expensive solution and we would have had to move the fan/light to accommodate a door swing. After installing the ceiling-mounted KVARTAL track in Avery’s room, we decided to give it a go in our room. We were even willing to go with custom drapes (with a color! or a pattern!) but could never find something that we both liked. So in the end, back to IKEA. This time we used three panels instead of two which works so much better. (The middle unit mostly houses dirty laundry, jeans and other odds and ends so we were ok with this solution.) I think the lighter gray compliments the darkness of the walls while feeling airy and bringing some lightness to the space. I was worried that the linen material would be too transparent but that hasn’t been an issue at all. (Yeah, they could be hemmed a little bit. I washed them in hot water and was excited to see that they shrunk the perfect amount…until I ironed them. I’ll get to it.)

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The paint color is Benjamin Moore’s “Ashland Slate”. It’s not quite as dark as Avery’s room (where we used BM’s “Baby Seal Black”) but we really like it. Kyle did two coats using BM’s Aura line and finished the whole room in just under a gallon.

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The plywood skirt hides the bed frame and box springs but is still short enough that we’re not hitting our legs on it when we get in and out of bed. Although we’re all about using every inch of space in our house, the bed frame is low enough that we couldn’t get much usable space under there anyway (it had mostly become home to dog hair and errant tennis balls). This detail also allowed us to run the carpet tiles only partially under the bed (like a reverse area rug), saving us a few bucks.

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The duvet is from IKEA (already owned) and I picked up the pillow and blanket from West Elm. We’re not big into accessorizing but I think these two additions really help tie everything together. The overall color palette doesn’t stray from the rest of our house, but what can we say – we like it! Besides, when you live in a small and fairly open house there’s a good argument for keeping things simple.

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Another project we took on was building a custom valence to go over the window. Last year we swapped out the ugly brown curtain for a blackout roller shade from IKEA. It works great but having the shade face-mounted above the window (we have a translucent roller shade mounted within the window frame) always bothered us. So, Kyle built this valence out of maple trim boards (with a few coats of polyurethane for good measure). We also switched the positions of the roller shades so when the blackout shade was down there would be less light leakage at the sides.

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The bedside sconces are from the Artemide Tolomeo line and the same ones we splurged on six years ago. Fortunately, the distance between the wall and shade was enough to accommodate the new headboard and we like how the two overlap each other.

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Now, if you have a keen eye you may have noticed in that first photo that the new headboard covers the switches for the sconces. Fortunately, we found a solution in a Pico product line from Lutron. It’s a wireless remote that uses RF technology to operate the light. It has an “on” and “off” option and also a button that goes to a presetting of your choice. While at a lighting conference a while back, one of our friends dubbed this the “sexy time” button. Naturally, it’s the one button Avery always presses first.

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Since we have about 5″-6″ of extra space between the wardrobe and the wall on each side, we decided to use the corner piece from the KVARTAL system and extend the track back into the recess. That way, if we wanted we could push the curtains back fully into the recessed niche. When they’re in the extended mode (as pictured above) there’s enough extra curtain that they can partially recess which helps to make the system feel more built in. For the money, I like the system a lot but it’s not perfect. Although we installed everything with as much precision as we could, the curtains don’t glide seamlessly over the seams between tracks.

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Here’s a close up look of how the track is installed.

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I regret not taking a photo of how the headboard is installed, but this shows how it does in fact stand off the wall by a few inches, creating a nice little shadow line and working with a room where the walls are not perfectly plumb and square. The detail is actually pretty simple – we made a French cleat out of tapered 2x’s with one attached to the back of the headboard and the other attached to the wall. The headboard cleat sits on top of the wall one (basically like this), ensuring a snug fit.

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Like the nursery, we opted to leave the ceiling white. In this room, that meant repainting in “Super White” over the really bad yellow “white” paint that we used years ago.

A few more detail shots:

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At the base of the IKEA wardrobe, Kyle installed a new piece of maple trim (glued in place to avoid exposed fasteners). This helps hide the edge of the carpet and the wardrobe toekicks that we installed backwards on all three units. (Until now, we had a piece of scrap masonite cut to size and glued to the raw MDF face.)

This room was the only space that had fir floors and during the first go-around we tried to salvage them as best we could. Over time, Bailey did a pretty good job gouging them out again and because they were never really great floors we decided to cover them with Flor carpet tiles (we used tiles from the “Suit Yourself” line in Pumice). We love it! The install was fairly easy – Kyle just removed the base shoe at the other three walls and then re-installed it a bit higher (before we repainted) to allow the tiles to slip underneath. (The shoe was originally installed because after we replaced all the lath and plaster with the thinner drywall, there was a small gap between the base trim and finish floor in some spots.)

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Here are a few more detail shots of the valence. Kyle glued and biscuited the joints in his shop and then attached it to the wall using long screws that go through the top of the end pieces at an angle. We left the top open to simplify construction and keep it from becoming a dust shelf.

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In the end, we didn’t really pick one of the three schemes that we originally blogged about but I think it’s a hybrid between a few of them. Although I’d been crushing on that West Elm chair, I finally decided it wasn’t all that practical (having one kept me from being able to open my drawers all the way) and that maybe, just maybe, not having one would force me to actually hang up my clothes. So far, so good!

All in all, we’re really happy with the space. It’s cozier and more peaceful than it was before (and way less frightening than when we moved in!). We’re finding that we spend more time as a family in there too – mostly on weekend mornings or in that hour before bedtime when everyone is winding down. Working our way through a stack of children’s books (a few of which have been read so many times that I had to hide them to save my sanity) is a nightly ritual and our bed has become a welcome alternative as both Avery and my belly get bigger and it’s been more of a challenge to fit on the glider in her room.

Most importantly though, the room is golden-approved. A light breeze through the window and Bailey will gladly nap for hours on end in there.

making room for #2

As soon as we found out we were expecting baby #2, I started thinking about exactly how we were going to fit another small human in our house. There’s not an obvious solution (like an extra room!), but people live in much tighter living situations with two kiddos so I feel confident we can come up with something that will work for us.

Last week, we learned that we are having another girl(!), so we thought we’d go ahead and post about our current ideas. Gender doesn’t really make a difference for our immediate spatial needs, but it is fun to scheme about long-term plans for growing in our house. In fact, the ultrasound technician may have been a little perplexed as Kyle and I excitedly chatted about doing a “someday” addition with a sleeping loft for the girls. (Girls!) But for now, the focus is making it work without adding on. Like we did with Avery, the new baby will sleep in our room for the first few months. Avery actually slept better in her crib (meaning we slept better!) so we might try making the transition even sooner this time depending on what feels right.

As for where the baby will go – the options really come down to Avery’s room or the downstairs bedroom/office.

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As a reminder, here’s the current layout of Avery’s room (above). It’s a decent size room, but with the two big sliding doors we really only have three walls to work with. This limits layout options and makes it largely impossible to add a second full-size crib (and I’m not sure that’s the best solution anyway). Spatial logistics aside, I think our biggest goal will be to encourage sleep which will translate to being flexible. Since we don’t know how their schedules will mesh (I’ve heard some kids sleep better apart and some together) we don’t want to back ourselves into a single solution. (Also, the distance from our room to either space is about the same, so that isn’t really a factor for us.)

So, two options:

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Share a room – We’re big fans of room-sharing (we both shared with our younger siblings until we were teenagers) and I think this will definitely be the plan once the girls are a bit older. But until then, we will go with the setup that is best for sleep. This layout is cozy to say the least but I think it could work. The changes would actually be pretty minor and include:

Storage: the existing IKEA wardrobe and dresser have enough room to accommodate another kiddo for a while so I’m not too worried about that. There is some purging that can happen and we can replace the laundry basket (that currently sits on a shelf in the wardrobe) with a narrow hamper that sits between the dresser and wardrobe. I’ll probably remove another shelf and add two more drawers above the ones we already have. (I recently saw that IKEA no longer carries the plastic Pax drawers – I was bummed until I saw the replacement. Pretty!) The plywood toy/book storage boxes would still fit in this scenario but it would be tight.

Second crib: There’s really not enough room for a second full-size crib and I don’t think Avery will be ready to transition from hers anytime soon. (She has made no attempts to escape, so we’re not pushing it!) I tried rearranging to see if Avery’s crib could go somewhere else and free up more space, but it is in a good spot now as she can’t reach any switches or window shades/curtains. As a temporary solution, a mini crib makes sense. I think I would be completely sold on this idea if the one I wanted wasn’t so dang expensive. From what I’ve read, the reviews are mostly positive with the exception of just how long the crib can be used for (some babies outgrow it by 12 months and others can last until two). I think if we got at least a year out of it then Avery would be ready to transition to a “big girl” bed and baby #2 could move into the regular crib. I also feel confident that we could easily resell it on Craigslist and recoup some of the costs. Of course, the more pragmatic and logical side of me says to just use the Pack ‘n Play that we already own. It is bigger in size (somewhere between a mini crib and regular crib) but could probably fit. (It would be more cumbersome to move up and down the stairs, but I’ve done it before.) That said, it just feels too temporary to be a 12-month+ solution. #2 is already getting all the hand-me-downs from Avery so my less frugal and design-focused side says that we can afford to splurge on a few new items.

But I digress…

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Set up a satellite nursery in my office – If we find that it works better to have the girls in separate rooms, then the downstairs bedroom will become a guest bedroom/office/nursery. I’d have to do some purging and organizing (it still looks more or less like this, just messier), but I think we could make this work too. Because the space is already serving dual purposes, we keep all of our shared resources in Kyle’s office so I don’t actually have that much stuff. The desk and sofa bed would stay, leaving us enough room for a mini crib (or Pack ‘n Play, I guess…), the glider and the IKEA cart that’s already in the space. We would still keep most of the baby clothes and supplies in Avery’s room, but store extra diapers/wipes/clothes/etc. in the cart. We could also set-up a makeshift changing station on the chaise portion of the couch. Although we expect to use this room for visiting family after baby arrives, she would be in our room at the time so I think the overlap could work. And if we had guests later, we could just move the mini crib to our room or another part of the house. (I’m building a good argument for the mini crib, right?)

I admit that having a PC in a nursery is not very soothing (for baby or me!) but I think there are strategies to reduce the techy vibe. This setup could also work well during my “maternity leave”. As of now, I’m planning on working a reduced schedule after baby comes and as I get into the groove of having a newborn again. We would still have our regular nanny come to watch Avery during those first three months, leaving me more time to focus on #2 and work. With Avery, although my schedule was a little sporadic I was able to do quite a bit while she slept so maybe there’s something to be said about the two of us being holed up together in the downstairs room.

The good thing about these two options is that really, we can do both. We’ll probably start with the satellite nursery and go with that until we’re ready for the girls to share. Once Avery’s in a bigger bed and #2 is in a full-size crib, we’ll have to readjust again. At that point though, I think we’ll have a better idea of our long-term office plans (we’re still toying with the idea of remodeling the garage into a shop/office space). If we end up doing that, then the downstairs room could become a dedicated second bedroom or we convert that to a sleeping room for both girls and use the upstairs nursery as a play area. And if we eventually outgrow that, then we’ll do a small addition off the back of the house – a large family room of sorts with a third bathroom and sleeping loft above.

Anyone else out there making it work in a small house with two kiddos? Anyone used the Bloom Alma crib? We’d love to know what has worked (and what hasn’t!). I realize that the success of either scenario will depend on the kiddo and that one week may be completely different from another, so another reason we’re trying to stay as nimble as possible.