blogiversary q&a

Oh, hey there. Remember that blogiversary post from over a month ago? The one where we proposed a Q&A and then promptly slacked off on answering the questions?

Yeah. Woops. To compensate, we bring you the answers – novella style!

Q. Anything that you would do differently if you had the chance? Favorite spot in the house? Do you know the name of your bed? I have the same one and for the life of me can’t remember it. [from Monica]


KZ – We knew the living room was going to be tight, but decided it wasn’t in the budget to expand it at the time. Now we want a bigger living room, so we’re thinking about doing a bump-out with a fireplace nook.

LZ – Oh yes, the bump-out. I rolled my eyes at first, but then started to get pretty excited about the idea. It’s low on the priority list right now and who knows, we’ll probably change our minds again. Favorite spot in the house? It actually tends to change – right now we’re loving our 2nd bedroom (aka “the flex room”) as a cozy TV room, but the kitchen is probably the space we spend the most time in. We bought our bed frame from IKEA about 7 years ago – I can’t remember the name either (I knew I shouldn’t have thrown out those old IKEA catalogs!).

Q. My question would be about what kind of architecture you guys do for daily life — schools, malls, prisons? Are you workaholics like all the other architects in my office? It seems like for those of us with creative careers where hours are billed, there can be a tendency to work longer and longer hours. How do you come home from a day of work and have the energy to do all this planning, design and hard work on your own house? It’s kind of the shoemaker’s children have no shoes kind of conundrum. I’d love to hear your take on it. [from CT]


KZ – I have always specialized in custom residential homes, everything from kitchen remodels to multi-million dollar homes. (I might be doing a remodel to a veterinary clinic soon though!) I used to work at a firm that required a lot of overtime without pay, so I moved on! I sought out a new firm whose office culture is not to overwork their employees and still did respectable work. (I know that’s hard to find, especially in this market.) I do think that in general, most firm owners tend to devalue their work which eventually trickles down to the bottom where someone ultimately has to take up the slack. It’s a problem that occurs throughout our profession.

LZ – I do mostly single-family, but also some multi-family and small public or non-profit projects like libraries and community centers. I rarely put in extra hours at work, but I wouldn’t totally reject the workaholic label (it just manifests itself in different ways, like working on the house, blogging, etc.). =) After five years of architecture school (and countless all-nighters), we made it a priority to have a better life-work balance. As far as how we sustain the motivation, I think it helps that there’s a lot of overlap between what we do at work and what we do on our house. Often times, our home has been a test lab of sorts to try out products, design ideas, etc. But that’s not to say that we don’t get burned out or tired of remodeling. We definitely do. Over time, you just figure out when it’s worth it to push through and when you should stop and take a break. (And having the blog is serious motivation as well.)

Q. I’ve been *dying* to know more about the art work (wall hanging?) in your bathroom! I love it but can’t find any information about it on your blog. [from vee dub]


LZ – I regret not documenting the process of making our bathroom art. I think I was just in a hurry to get the bathroom done so we could start a new project.  The good news – it’s really easy to make. Basically we just saved a bunch of toilet paper rolls, cut them into varying widths, creased the edges to get the leaf shape, then arranged them in a pattern on our dining room table before gluing them together. The yellow is just acrylic paint that I picked up from a craft store and we sprayed all the pieces with a clear acrylic finish to protect them from moisture.

Q. Here’s my question… what’s the project that you most want to do but suspect you never will? (cost prohibitive, etc) [from Kevin]


KZ- Hmm, believe it or not but at some point I had really tried to convince Lauren that we should do a pimped out remodel of the garage/workshop before we did the house…you know, so I could have an efficient space to work out of 😉 The garage is still a p.o.s. but it works. It will probably never be a luxury garage but I would like that very much. Instead we will probably add a second story and make it a guest house.

LZ – Yes, I am glad that we did not pimp out our garage first – we’d probably still be living with our old kitchen if that were the case. But yes, the garage/shop is still a big question mark. We’ve got tons of ideas, but who knows what we’ll end up doing. At one point we also talked about a small addition off the back of the house – so before we built the deck we revisited the idea and decided it probably wasn’t going to happen (which meant we could do a bigger deck!).

Q. How did you choose your house when house-shopping? Was it neighborhood first, then house? Which neighborhood did you choose? What were your criteria in choosing a house/neighborhood? Basically, what was the before-remodel process like? [from John]


KZ – Neighborhood and simplicity for remodeling. We knew we would be on a budget so we tried to find a house that was relatively simple in plan. We also tried to find a house with good “prospect-refuge” – by that I mean a house up off the street with a place for a stoop.

LZ – First of all, our house-hunting process was nuts. We were looking during the height of the housing market, trying to find an entry-level home in a highly desirable city. Our house was the 6th offer we made and each house was in a different neighborhood. We did keep our search to within Seattle city limits, since it was important to us to live in the city and not have a ridiculous commute. We started out with a list of things we wanted and didn’t want, but I’d say that list evolved during the process. Obviously, any house we made an offer on had to be livable and something that wasn’t a tear down. Beyond that, we were looking for something that had good bones and hadn’t been botched too bad over the years. The thing we liked about our house (despite all of its flaws) was that it had a simple shape and good proportions and was in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

Q. You’ve made such great progress on your house. What big projects are next on the list? [from Kit]


LZ – In our minds, we have three major projects left: 1. landscaping and misc. outdoor projects, 2. finishing the basement (adding a 3rd bedroom and 2nd bath), and 3. the garage/carport (probably in that order). We’ve also talked about changing up our bedroom (because y’know…it’s been 3 whole years since we gutted it!).

Q. We recently took your Seattle food suggestions while on vacation up there 2 weeks ago.. Bastille was fantastic! Do y’all have any other city-guides? [from M]


KZ – I would check out the Seattle Restauraunt Week that is about to happen. Most of the ones I would name are on there!

LZ – In terms of non-food guides – you know all we do is remodel!  =) Actually, we’ve done a lot in and around the city, but there is so much to see and do that it can be overwhelming. If I was going to recommend things to someone visiting, the list might include: Lake Union ice cream tour, Theo Chocolates factory tour, one of our awesome parks (like Discovery, Shilshole or Carkeek), one of the nearby islands (like Bainbridge or Whidbey) and the Ballard Farmer’s Market on Sundays.

Q. I’ve been following (and enjoying) your blog for quite a while, but my question is Pinterest-related. I’ve noticed that you’ve “pinned” clothing. I guess that surprised me, because that’s a subject I haven’t seen on your blog. But I like your fashion “pins”! I’m just curious if you are interested in fashion from a pragmatic, “what should I wear,” perspective, from a design perspective, or both? [from Kim]


KZ – I need to start pinning.

LZ – We try to keep the blog content house (or animal) related, but like most people in the design world, we’re both into fashion, art, industrial design, etc. But don’t think we have a closet full of black turtlenecks! (In fact, maybe it’s the Pacific Northwest culture, but neither of us wear much black. We don’t have funny glasses either. Huh.) I’m going to speak for Kyle here, but I’d say we’re both pragmatic when it comes to clothes, but like architecture, we look for things that are well-made, aesthetically pleasing and have good proportions. Hmm – I was kinda joking with that last sentence but it actually is what I look for in clothes. [Side story: when we were first-year architecture students (and before we knew each other), I remember Kyle color-coordinating his outfit to match his presentation board.  Future husband qualities? Check!]

We’re also both pretty picky so even though we like clothes, shopping can be a frustrating experience. We also don’t shop for each other and we both prefer to shop by ourselves (although Kyle’s been known to text me dressing room photos from time to time).  

Q. So this might be a long silly question but here it goes….
[Im a senior in highschool and trying to figure out my future. x)] Did you enjoy studying architecture? Was it everything you expected it to be? I’ve been really looking into it lately because I LOVE art and design, and I love math. So I though architecture would be the best way to combine it!
Would there be any pointers you would give someone looking to go into architecture? [from Tracy Ann]


KZ – I could probably write a book about this. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to downgrade the importance of math but since I hear the reference to math a lot I’ll address that first. Basic geometry, algebra, and trig all come in handy when designing, but I’ve never actually used the calculus I tried so desperately to wrap my head around in college. I see higher math as being important for the sole reason that it helps you think more abstractly, maybe all that calculus helps your brain to develop new neuron pathways or something? You will need math to get through all your structural classes, but once you start practicing you’ll be hiring a structural engineering consultant. My structural engineering consultant went to M.I.T. and I’m pretty sure she does math for fun sometimes.

Art and design will mostly likely be a larger part of your architectural education. If you’re serious about getting a feel before diving in, I would ask for a tour of the architecture school that you are considering and try to talk to some upperclassmen. Also maybe taking a tour of some local architecture firms. Feel free to e-mail us for more specific questions.

LZ – This is definitely a subject that any architect has strong feelings about. First of all, I don’t think there’s anyway you can go into architecture school knowing what to expect. I too went into architecture because I liked math and art and it’s a profession that continues to fulfill those two interests (especially if you think of math more in the realm of complex problem solving). Did I enjoy school? Yes and no. Did I take it too seriously? Maybe. Architecture school requires an incredible amount of dedication and it’s easy (and often encouraged) to spend every waking moment in studio. Looking back, I wish I would have taken the time to have more college experiences and travel, but I also believe that I received a solid education that prepared me well for the real world of architecture (which is usually very different from school).

Like Kyle said, I would encourage you to visit schools (if you don’t have one  picked out) and find the best fit for you. School is certainly the time to embrace theory and design principles, but a school that has some basis of practical teaching is important. Beyond that, your education is really what you make of it. Self-discipline and passion are two things that you’ll need from day one through the rest of your career. If architecture is the right fit, it can be a gratifying career path. If it’s not, you’ll know.

Q. 1. I am curious about your design process and values. Care to share how you guys hash it out amongst the two of you and maybe some of your inspirations, heroes, etc? 2. Since your current blog doesn’t go all the way back to the beginning, how much time did you spend in planning and research before your first projects? Did you develop a master plan that you have pretty much followed (with minor adjustments as necessary or desired), taking breaks after projects to plan the next one in detail before tackling it, or did you have general goals that you only planned as each was completed? [from Nate]


KZ – Fortunately, we work really well together and usually make each others designs better! We collaborated on projects in school and in professional practice and still consult with each other on our own projects. I can’t recall us ever having a fight over a design decision…there was a period when we had a hard time selecting furniture so we just didn’t buy any;) We’ve settled on getting some Eames chairs which frankly isn’t a hard choice. If we don’t agree on a design direction we’ll just think about it longer and one of us will see the light and come around to the other persons idea.

Inspirations: my first job was working for the office of Bohlin Cywinksi Jackson. Peter Bohlin is the most inspiring architect I’ve met to date. If you haven’t seen their work, check it out. We don’t have a set of defined core values that guide us, but I would say a few key ideas are: being sensitive to the site, use of natural modern materials, designing from the inside out. (I think it’s a rookie mistake to start designing from the exterior!) Design in perspective. Listen to your clients even if you think they’re wrong. Sometimes the architect is wrong too, but not often. As young architects I think it’s also important to hang out and make friends with people that aren’t architects. It’s nice to talk about other things besides architecture!

We had a pretty good master plan before diving in. Remodels by nature evolve and you adapt. For instance after we did our big demo party, we decided to finish out the loft space. Most of the details get figured out on the fly unless I know it’s going to impact something else then it get’s figured out. This can only happen with experience so to those without experience I would suggest more planning up front.

LZ – Maybe it’s because we have similar backgrounds, but we generally tend be on the same page, design wise. If anything, we disagree about the way something should be done more so than the design itself. We’ve spent a lot of time planning for projects, work that doesn’t always make it onto the blog. In fact, we spent the first year in our home getting to know the house and figuring out the master plan. We went through so many design iterations, a process that was complicated by the fact that we’d have to phase the work and live in the house while doing it. We definitely take breaks after finishing projects, but it’s usually only a month or so before we start thinking about what’s next. Fortunately, design is free so we’ll spend several months trying out ideas, sketching, researching, etc. while we save up money for the next project.  

Q. I would be interested in learning more about your design background as well as where the DIY skills come from. I’m a new reader so apologies if you’ve discussed this. My shortcoming is not a lack of great ideas but more lack of execution. Always interested in where and how folks learn to cut a straight line, mix and pour concrete, tape and mud drywall, etc. [from Zane]


KZ – Both trained as architects. My grandpa was a master woodworker and I inherited his wood shop when he passed away. That was a great start for me to work with his tools. I did some framing with my dad when I was younger but that’s about it. Mostly self-taught. Craftsmanship can really only be learned by making mistakes. Regarding execution, it always takes more time and money than you would optimistically hope for. I’ve learned to just slow down and if it takes another week then so be it, better to do it right then rush and want to re-do it later because it’s ugly. We bought lots of self-help books. Also I guess we’ve picked up a lot of knowledge from our previous apprenticeships as architects. It’s one thing to draw a construction detail, but then to see it built is even better. Of course the best is when you build it yourself. 😉

LZ – Kyle and I both went to Oklahoma State University. We graduated with a 5-year b.arch in 2004 and have been practicing in Seattle since then. One of the main reasons we came to Seattle is because we loved the residential vernacular style of the design firms here and our professional experience has been focused primarily on this type of work. In terms of DIY skills, I believe that some is natural talent and the rest is learned. In school, Kyle built the most beautiful and well-crafted basswood models, so it’s no surprise that he could translate that to “full scale”. While I don’t mind a little manual labor, I get more satisfaction out of the designing, planning and organizing side of things. Over time, we learned where each of our interests and strengths were, and came up with a strategy that made the most sense for us. As Kyle mentioned, even though we went to architecture school and have been practicing for 7 years, no one teaches you how to pour concrete or hang drywall. So yes, we own many of the Taunton Press how-to books and even Google can be a valuable resource. The best advice is to take it slow and don’t get frustrated. Also – start small. I remember one of the first projects we did was to install a fan in our old bathroom. It took an entire day to install and was so frustrating, but we learned some valuable lessons that helped us out as we took on larger projects.

Phew! Are you still reading? If anyone has any other questions just shoot us an email: info(at)chezerbey(dot)com.


15 Responses to “blogiversary q&a”

  1. Isabelle from Zurich says:

    THANKS for answering all these wonderful questions in so much detail. It’s fun to get yet another “look behind the curtains”. Regarding the IKEA bed: It’s called EKEBERG, another town in Sweden, like many other of their furniture. ;-)))

    • chezerbey says:

      Aha! Thanks Isabelle!

    • Monica says:

      EKEBERG! Yes! I was going to make it my life mission to find out. Guess I will have to find something else to do now. 😀 Thanks Isabelle.
      Thanks for answering my questions. A fireplace would be an awesome addition to your home. I love ours to death and only wish that we would have forked over the extra money to have it to supplement our hot water and heating system.

  2. CT says:

    Thanks for the great answers to all our prying questions Lauren and Kyle. Your blog has such an open, simple and straight-forward appeal to it that it’s always great to hear more.

  3. HL says:

    Just thought of another question – are you both licensed architects or do you find that it’s not necessary at this point in your careers?

    • chezerbey says:

      Yes, we are both licensed architects. We took all 18 exams (between the two of us) a few years ago, back before we were blogging regularly. (Home remodel + exams, now that was a crazy year!) Licensure isn’t for everyone, but it was important to us so we took our exams as soon as we had completed IDP (intern development program).

    • Kyle Z says:

      Best to just get the licensing done as soon as you can. If I had it do to over again, I would have just taken the tests cold and then if I didn’t pass any of them, study for those, Of course it would cost more money buy we studied and took tests for over a year and it was a drain;( that time has to be worth something. I think Lauren would disagree with me on this.

  4. Suzanne says:

    Love it!!! I always try to convince my students that higher level math will make them better reasoners in any profession even if they don’t use math, but they seem very suspicious… How much would you guys charge for a nursery consult? 🙂

    • chezerbey says:

      Haha, we would totally give you the family discount. 😉

      (No really, e-mail me – we’d be happy to help!)

    • Kyle Z says:

      Math is important, just not in the way most people think it is to architects;) I still wish I had taken some even higher math classes. Math is a puzzle, architects need mad puzzle solving skills;)

  5. Jennifer says:


  6. Zero34 says:

    one question… i found this was the case for me when we were renovating our house in Vegas (prior to the economic crash mind you) But do you find it’s motivating the neighbors to renovate/update their properties as well? This is something I noticed as well with my brother back in Montreal, the month after he re-did his whole balcony, two of his neighbors decided to redo theirs too.

    Are you seeing your efforts trickle out?

    • chezerbey says:

      That’s a good question…it’s hard to say. Our house was definitely the eyesore of the street so I think the other neighbors are mostly happy to see improvement! We have noticed several houses being repainted, but mostly those that were getting ready to go onto the market anyway.

  7. Colleen says:

    Since Isabelle knew the name of the bed too I’m guessing I’m not the only one holding on to IKEA catalogs dating back ten years =)

    Thanks for the great posts guys! I’m an interior designer and my husband is a landscape architect, so it’s nice to see other designer couples work through designing and executing home projects together. We just bought a mid-century single family home after years of condo living so this is very inspirational.


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