Filed under: design

small space style

Hello! Just stopping in to share that our house is featured in the new Sunset Small Space Style magazine! (This is different from the article that was in the August issue.)

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The magazine profiles ten small spaces, the first of which is an 8-page spread of our home! (The photos were taken last May, when I was about 5 months pregnant with Lillian!)

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This special issue in on newsstands until mid-May and although Sunset’s focus in on the west, it is available nationwide. (Our family in Oklahoma found it without too much hunting.)

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So go! Check it out! (And while you’re at it, fan all the copies out in front of other magazines! Kidding! Sort of.)

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A big thanks to the Sunset team for featuring our house and family again (and for giving my mom bragging rights at her book club).

Also, even though we’ve had a mild winter (sorry, east coast) this image has me daydreaming of late summer evenings and cold beverages. Cheers to that!

a modern dadu

1 Seattle DADU Detached accesory dwelling unit Studio Zerbey Architects

Happy Sunday! Let’s get this week started off with a little garage talk, shall we?

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Oh, don’t let that rendering above fool you – she’s still there – our little 1910/1965 hybrid of embarrassment.

Nearly a year and a half ago(!) we wrote this post about our plans to remodel while working with the existing structure, keeping it mostly as a shop space. Well, that obviously never happened and maybe it’s for the best.

Because we’ve been thinking – what if we did something like that first image instead?

Since the arrival of our second kiddo, we’ve given more thought to the future of our business and how we could continue to grow and work (effectively) from our little house. And although there are a lot of perks that come with working from home, it’s become pretty clear that we’re going to eventually need more space and separation. So, we considered leasing or buying a space and even looked at a few potential properties. But nothing felt quite right and ultimately we decided that because we have to do SOMETHING with the garage/carport we might as well make it our office. (If there was an easy fix to make it less hideous, we’d probably consider that but…well, there’s really not.)

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But not just an office. That’s not how we roll y’know – it would be an office and a shop space and an apartment. Shazam! Ok, technically speaking – it would be a Detached Accessory Dwelling Structure. In other words, a DADU! Attached dwelling units (think basement apartment) have been allowed in Seattle for a long time but the detached versions are still fairly new. There are specific Land Use guidelines that govern the development of these structures but Kyle has read the code inside and out and came up with a new solution that we’re both pretty excited about.

Originally we were hesitant about investing in a more significant remodel (i.e. second story) when we weren’t sure we’d actually rent it out. (Still seems kinda weird for someone to live in our backyard, right?) But when we started thinking more about the primary use being our office space it made more sense.

So this is how it would play out – most of the time the structure would be used as our office (with the capacity to add 2-3 employees). The existing garage would stay as shop/storage space and the carport would become our studio space (and include a modest kitchen). The upstairs would have a bathroom, conference area and materials library. If we had family in town or weekend guests, they could stay upstairs (the conference table slides out to the deck and a murphy bed folds down in its place) and be up and out before the work day started. Later, if we were to sell the house then the structure could be used as a stand alone rental unit, office or guest cottage. (The lower level would become kitchen/dining/living and the upper level bedroom and bath.)

The goal is to maximize the efficiency not just for our current needs but for future use as well.

Lower Floor Plan Seattle DADU Detached accesory dwelling unit Studio Zerbey Architects

Upper Floor Plan Seattle DADU Detached accesory dwelling unit Studio Zerbey Architects

Click on floor plans to enlarge.

From a design standpoint, the biggest challenge was how to work with the existing structure to create a two-story solution that was not overbearing in scale or costs. The current garage is non-conforming in that it is too close to the north and east property lines. We don’t have to change what’s already there, but a second story would have to comply with current setback requirements (minimum of 5′). DADUs are also limited to 800 SF, so doing a full second story wasn’t really an option anyway. Other challenges included where to put the stair, providing privacy and minimizing the structural complexity with only a partial second story.

The solution we came up with limits the addition to over the carport only, allowing us to work with the existing bearing walls and footings. (Kyle already completed some exploratory digging and got the ok from our structural engineer that the existing footing could accommodate the additional load.) A new stair would be added to the front of the carport, where we’re not limited to setback requirements. A deck on the north side (over the existing garage) would provide some private outdoor space for the apartment. The existing concrete slab, footings, wall framing (including that sweet garage door!) and some roof framing would remain, saving on costs and preserving the original structure’s grandfathered status. We also gave careful thought to window placement, realizing that we didn’t want the windows in our kitchen to look directly into the building and vice versa. This solution places the windows mostly on the south side and northwest corner, letting in plenty of natural light but limiting direct views.

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These moves help break the overall massing into two forms, with proportions that now feel appropriate for our backyard. The material palette would consist of vertical stained cedar siding, economical exterior grade plywood, wood windows and a corrugated metal roof. Aesthetically, we don’t think that this structure needs to match the main house, but that they do compliment each other. The proposed palette achieves this while still giving us the freedom to explore new ideas and materials. I think it goes without saying these days, but we’d also like to implement as many sustainable strategies as possible. Obviously the big ones include creating more density on our lot and reusing an existing structure. Other features would include a south-facing vegetated trellis (to grow edibles), a cistern to collect roof run-off (and then use for irrigation) and pre-wiring for solar on the south-facing roof.

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Now that we have a design that we’re happy with, we’ve been looking into financing options and talking to different contractors. Ideally, we’d hire out the job this time around but we might also consider acting as our own General Contractor or adding some sweat equity if we need to reduce the overall budget. That said, we’re also trying to approach this as a case study project – achieving a creative design solution on a reasonable budget. The DADU was legalized largely as a means to deal with increased urban density (everyone wants to move to Seattle!) and we’re excited to explore what this could mean not only for our family but for all the other potential DADU projects out there.

Finally, what would this project mean for our house? Well, moving our Studio Zerbey headquarters to this new structure would free up space and (hopefully) give us back some breathing room. (Our baby sleeps in the dining room, remember?) While the girls are still little, we’ll likely keep the attic loft as a satellite office space (I’m sure they’ll totally claim it later). My office (aka our basement guest bedroom) would probably be used as a shared sleeping space for Avery and Lillian, keeping the current nursery as a play area. (With the DADU, we’d no longer need a guest room.)

We’re hoping to move forward with construction this year. Our projected workload is such that we need to seriously consider hiring 1-2 employees in 2015 and we just don’t have space right now. It’s an exciting project for us, not just because it will be the last big thing to cross off our remodel to-do list (plus the basement bathroom and laundry room, ugh!) but it will also be a big step in the growth of our business. Unlike our home, where we had less carte blanche and were working within tight budget and phasing constraints, this will also be an opportunity to do something that is a bit more reflective of our design sensibility.

So, onward!

small space living with two kids

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Back in May, I wrote about our ideas on how we planned to incorporate two kiddos in our small house. Now that we’re 3+ months into this dual kid routine, I thought it would be fun to stop by and update everyone on how we’re faring.

For the most part, we’re all cohabitating surprisingly well. I took these photos this weekend (and apologies on the quality, our DSLR died while we were in the hospital with Lillian (of course!) and it has not been replaced yet) and hopefully they have that “sorta cleaned up but definitely didn’t stage anything” quality to them.

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We didn’t want to make any major changes to Avery’s room right before or after her sister arrived, so we waited till last week to convert her crib to a toddler bed and move the glider and ottoman downstairs. Although she’s been able to easily climb in and out of her crib for a while now, she’s been such a solid sleeper that we didn’t want to rock the boat. But then Christmas came and went and quite frankly – we needed more space for her toys (she had four different Christmases this year!). So by moving the glider out and converting the crib, we were able to keep a spot to read books together while also freeing up more play space. After her first nap in the new bed, I found about five books and a dozen more stuffed animals with her but hey – she slept! We keep her room pretty dark so maybe that’s helped but overall we were pleasantly surprised that the transition went as smoothly as it did.

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One thing that we also started doing in the past year is rotating out books. Each month I’d buy a few more and pretty soon it was out of control and too overwhelming for Avery. So I moved all the baby board books to storage and put the remaining half (mostly the books that I just needed a break from!) in the fauxdenza. Although we don’t have any checked out at the moment, we usually also have 10-12 library books in the rotation too. (Pro tip – I used to impulse buy popular children’s books but instead I now check them out from the library first. If the book is still a top pick when it is time to be returned, then we go ahead and buy it.)

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Before Lillian came, we added the two top drawers to the wardrobe and tried to purge as much as possible. We use the bottom three drawers for toys and the top two for pajamas (for both girls), blankets, sheets, sleep sacks, swaddles, burp clothes, etc. The hanging rod is getting a bit cramped for both girls, but there are some things that could get folded if needed. (Each girl also has two drawers a piece in the dresser.)

Also, my sisters got Avery and Lillian dolls from Hazel Village for Christmas. I hadn’t heard of the company before but am totally in love.

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For the first month or so after we brought Lillian home, we had a stack of swaddles, burp cloths, diapers and wipes in the living room with a makeshift changing pad on the dining room table. Now that we’re in more of a schedule and not constantly feeding and changing diapers, we were able to return the living space to what it looked like before. Well, except for that damn swing. But I don’t care because that thing is MAGICAL. Both Avery and Lillian have napped for hours at a time in it so therefore it stays. For a few more months at least. :)

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When we bought this coffee table, we raved about its hidden storage but little did we know it would one day be filled with art supplies! The coffee table actually spent some time in the carport (when Avery was learning to walk and for a while afterwards) but is now used mostly as a base for Duplo villages and a vessel for crayons, playdoh, paper and stickers. The unanticipated design feature is that the pop up “lids” are just tricky enough that Avery can’t open them by herself, making it the perfect spot to store things that you don’t want your toddler to have free reign over. :) (The dark blue part also opens up and is where we stash old 24″x36″ drawing sheets that Avery uses to draw or paint on.)

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Avery still uses the Stokke Tripp Trapp (it had a harness that we’ve since removed). I’m not sure yet what we’ll do once Lillian starts eating solids – we still have and love our Inglesina clip-on chair (in fact, Avery used it up till she was about 2!) and I just recently saw that they sell a snap-on tray which I WISH I WOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT before. So maybe we’ll just use that or maybe we’ll get another Tripp Trapp? We could transition Avery to a regular chair with a booster but I have yet to see an option that would fit well on the Eames fiberglass chairs. :) Although, if Lillian is as messy of an eater as her sister, I could also see myself getting the small IKEA highchair with detachable tray. Apparently they’re easy to hose off in the shower.

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For the first month or so, Lillian slept in a bassinet next to our bed. It was nice to have her close to me, but our bedroom is so compact that it also meant I didn’t have a nightstand during that time. And although I was feeling pretty positive about the bassinet the first go around, it’s not been as durable as I would have liked and even though it can be used as a lounger for older babies, neither girl seemed to love it so it’s back in the crawl space and will probably be sold at some point. Or maybe my feelings for it were just clouded by my COMPLETE LOVE of our mini crib. (Yes, that’s probably it.) We bought a used Bloom Alma mini crib from Craiglist and it has been fantastic. (In an interesting turn of events, the people we bought it from later became clients!) Even used it was still an investment, but I can say that we’ve been super pleased with the design and quality of construction so far. We haven’t had a need to fold and store it yet, but we do push it all around the house on a daily basis and the thing is solid.

Although I originally thought that we’d put the mini crib in my office/satellite nursery, we’ve found that it’s more convenient to keep it on the main floor. During the day we keep it at the foot of our bed (and she occasionally naps in there) and at night we roll it out into the dining room. Yeah, our 3-month old has been sleeping in the dining room for the last few months. And folks, it works. She’s far enough away that I don’t wake up to every little squeak, but close enough that I definitely hear the “I’m hungry!” cry. (And really, I’d hear that cry no matter where she was. It’s humorous to think that we actually used a monitor with Avery.) Eventually we’d like for both girls to share a room but it’s not going to happen until Lillian is consistently sleeping through the night. Even though Avery doesn’t wake up from small baby cries in the middle of the night, I think she would wake up if I was coming in and out of her room.

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The mini crib is also just a great place to put her down if say…I need to take a shower. My only hesitation with going the mini crib route was that it was a big investment for something that may not be used that long. Based on the reviews I’ve read, most kids tend to outgrow it by the time they’re 12 months and since she’s been in the 75th percentile thus far for length, we’ll be lucky to make it that far. So what’s our solution once that happens? Not sure yet – we have a few ideas, some of which would be the result of a complete reshuffling of spaces (more on that soon!) but bottom line is that I’m sure there is a solution that will work just fine. After all, we didn’t expect that her nursery would be that spot between the table and the pantry but it is and it works.

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The bathroom – not a lot of changes besides the addition of a step stool and tiny potty. We are not actively potty training yet, but started the propaganda several months ago. (The potty was purchased shortly after we found out we were having another girl. It was that purchase where I caved on the color pink.) And confession time – we hide the potty in the shower when we have client meetings at our house.

After searching for a aesthetically pleasing option, I found this step stool which is locally made in the Seattle area. Initially we wanted something that could fold up and be stored, but it really hasn’t been a big deal so far. Avery is still about a half-inch too short to fully reach the faucet handles, but I think it will serve us well for a long time (and it’s better than her using the toilet as a step stool!).

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The one thing I underestimated when designing our kitchen was the amount of space we’d need for baby/toddler paraphernalia. We now have an entire drawer in our island dedicated to plate, bowls, sippy cups, straw cups, bibs, place-mats, snack cups and who knows what else. Actually, I’m convinced that The Cup Conspiracy is the real problem here and if you’re a parent you know what I mean. Most cups are ok, but each one lacks in some department so you keep trying new cups hoping to find that perfect one (that doesn’t leak, mostly) but in actuality it DOES NOT EXIST. So then, you’re left with a drawer full of cups and broken dreams. Or something like that. The moral – I try hard to do my research and make smart decisions to limit the amount of STUFF we have but this one got away from me. (Fortunately, I’ve been a lazy pumper (for better or worse) this time around and so we’ve been able to avoid a lot of bottles.)

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Finally, here’s a few low-light photos of my office that I took today. Having the glider and a few other baby things down there definitely makes it feel cozy and is more practical since I typically have Lillian with me in the mornings. On the ledge is our surplus stash of baby board books that were recently retrieved from the crawl space. I know, I think I might have a problem. But with your first kid you just kinda acquire stuff over time and it isn’t until you bring it all back for #2 that you realize how ridiculous the situation is. I’ll probably go through and purge a lot of these books and then put half away until we grow bored with the others. I bought that Skip Hop activity gym to replace the more obnoxious Fisher-Price one we got for Avery but of course(?) babies have strong preferences and Lillian loves the Fisher-Price one. Sigh.

Miscellaneous gear: not pictured, but there are few other items that are worth the space they take up. We received a Boppy lounger and used it often during the first few months. She’s starting to roll and outgrow it now but I’d say still worth it. (I’ve also heard you can just throw a blanket over a Boppy nursing pillow but maybe not as effective?) We also own the ubiquitous Bumbo and it’s small and light enough that it gets moved from room to room. The jumper that we bought for Avery just came out for the first time last week and is easily stored under the couch or in the coffee table when not in use. There’s really no great space in our house for the carseat, so we just keep it on the bench next to the TV. It’s only a matter of time before it stops coming inside so we’re ok with the temporary solution. The stroller situation, however, is less ideal. We bought a double tandem stroller which I really like but it is kind of a beast and the only place it seems to fit is in the car. That works fine most of the time unless we need the extra space and then it just goes in the house. We also still own our Chicco umbrella stroller (it’s great for travelling) but use it so infrequently that it lives in the basement. (Fun fact: I bought that particular stroller because it reclines all the way back and thought Avery could nap it in while we were out and about or traveling. Well, that didn’t happen so much but we did find that it was AWESOME to put Lillian in (fully reclined) during airport layovers.)

So that’s how we’re managing with two little ones. It’s usually a little chaotic (I snapped the photo below while trying to write this blog post, Avery managed to turn my office upside down in approximately 2.5 seconds), but in a good way. We know that Lillian is still a baby and that the true test is yet to come but we’re staying optimistic. Although there are certainly challenges with living small with little people (such as acoustical privacy and isolating messy activities), I’d say one major advantage is that Avery can have a lot of independence without us worrying that she’s getting into trouble (since we can always at least hear her). I remember having a conversation with other moms expecting their second about what their toddler would do while they breastfed and it’s been a total non-issue with us. Avery simply plays like she would if I was unloading the dishwasher or doing something else. And even though she can create a ridiculous mess in no time at all, limiting what we own in the first place makes it pretty easy to return things to order at the end of the day.

Phew, ok – what are your strategies for living small with kiddos? I want to know!

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Want to read our past posts on living small with a baby? Here’s one from when Avery was a newborn, when Avery was six months, and then a more thorough round-up right before she turned one.

Psst…we’re wrapping up schematic design on the garage/carport remodel and plan on sharing it here soon!

hello and happy holidays!

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We tried to get a decent family photo, but with two little ones and a dog, well…let’s just say it’s a good thing I know my way around Photoshop.

Well, hello! I wasn’t planning on this little hiatus from blogging but that’s life. And life is good right now. Juggling two kids and a business keeps us plenty busy and we have done absolutely nothing on the house (basement laundry and bathroom, still incomplete), so there hasn’t been much to report here. And if I’m being honest, after 8 years of remodeling it’s been really nice to just live in our house for once, without constantly feeling like we should be working on something. I’ve also just had less motivation to blog these days. Eventually I realized it wasn’t worth the stress of trying to meet weekly or monthly goals or write about something that wasn’t really worth writing about. Or maybe I should just blame Instagram, which has taken the place of some of the more random/personal posts we used to share (my username is laurenzerbey and Kyle’s is kzerbey if you want to follow us there). Blogging is funny because it often feels like I’m just talking to myself, not knowing who or how many people are actually reading. I miss the days when there was more back-and-forth dialogue on blogs, but I get it – of the blogs I do follow I mostly read them on my phone (in 10-minute increments while nursing or attempting to sleep) and rarely comment.

So, moving forward we will continue to blog but it will be at a pace that works for us. We’d like to continue to write about what we’re doing with our house (that garage isn’t going to remodel itself!), Studio Zerbey (so many projects under construction right now!) and other topics that I think might be relevant (like how to live in a small house with TWO kids!). This blog has been an important part of our business (hello clients!) and we want it to continue to be a unique forum for sharing and discussing residential design, even if things are sporadic for awhile.

So with that, we hope you have a happy holiday and new year and thank you for sticking with us! Kyle’s been tinkering with ideas to remodel the garage into a two-story shop/office/studio apartment so you just never know what 2015 will bring. Cheers!

studio zerbey / alaska surf shack

Earlier this year, we started design work on a new custom home in Alaska. Located near Seward, Alaska, this 1,725 SF “surf shack” will be home to our client, Kari – an outdoor enthusiast, local mariner and all-around awesome person.

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The home is designed with a 24×30 footprint to maximize efficiency of the form and is built-up off the ground due to local flood and tsunami hazards. It’s also located in a high-level earthquake zone. The lower floor has concrete walls that house a one-car garage and water storage system that captures roof water run-off before being filtered into large cisterns. Given the cold climate, we’ll be using extra insulation and high-performance black fiberglass windows and doors. (Click on floor plans to enlarge.)

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The main floor consists of a bathroom and storage area behind a living and kitchen area with panoramic views of the bay.

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A cozy loft above serves as a workout space and sleeping area (the bed will be placed under the vaulted ceiling of the bump-out).

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Due to a short building season, construction on the home started in April and framing is now mostly complete! (The house is being built by local contractor, Harmon Construction.) Here are a few “real life vs. rendering” comparisons to show you how it’s shaping up.

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The exterior will be clad in clear cedar siding (with stained vertical cedar siding at the bump-out) and a high-performance standing seam metal roof. A wood soffit at the underside of the roof enforces the inside-outside relationship and a steel and wood deck provides an elevated outdoor space during the winter months.

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A steel awning structure with a standing seam metal roof will help shed snow away from the garage door.

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Hefty glulam beams span the length of the house, supporting the roof structure and additional snow loads while deep overhangs protect the house from the elements.

And finally – hello, view!

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Looking forward to sharing more progress photos as construction continues! (And to see more renderings of what the interior will look like, check out the project page on our website!)