Filed under: design

small space living // the toddler bed dilemma

At the beginning of the year we wrote about living small with two kids and for the most part, not much has changed. Lillian in still sleeping in the mini crib (in the dining area!) but lately it’s been more evident that she’s ready to move to a regular crib. She now prefers to roll onto her tummy (and sleeps much better that way!) but is limited on space to do that in the smaller crib. (We also had issues awhile back with her legs getting stuck between the slats, but adding a bumper helped significantly with that.)

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Moving Lillian to Avery’s crib (which has been converted to a toddler bed) is the easy part – the decision that has us stumped is what to transition Avery to. And yes, that brings up the toddler bed dilemma. It has always seemed silly and a waste of money to buy a separate toddler bed + mattress, but I now find myself leaning in that direction.

Here’s why:

+ Yes, it would be better for the long-term to get in her a twin bed but really we don’t have space. (If we did, I would definitely get her this one…sigh, maybe I’ll bookmark it for a future house.) When you’re used to a crib, a twin all of a sudden feels HUGE. We also need to keep both girls in the nursery until we can move our offices out of the house (and yeah, we’re at least 6-9 months out from that) which means space is limited as it is. For a few days I was excited about the possibility of doing our own hack on the IKEA Kura bed (you should really Google “IKEA Kura hack”, it’s ridiculous), thinking that some of the toys could go under the bed and that would free up space for the crib. But, after measuring it out we were worried that the bed would overwhelm the space (it pretty much has to go in the same spot as the crib) and that really, it would take longer than we think to implement our own modifications. (Which in my mind, involved painting the frame a blue-gray and adding maple plywood “rails” to the three exposed sides of the bed.)

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+ I also considered just getting another IKEA Gulliver crib, but that seems like taking a step backward at this point.

+ So, toddler bed? A few weeks ago I came back around to the Gulliver toddler bed, which seemed perfect since it’s in-between a crib and twin mattress size and would match the crib. When I went to check the stock online, they were sold out of the birch version. So I checked again a few days later and same story. And that’s when I realized that every store was out of stock so maybe they’re not making it anymore? At any rate, after seeing the white version in person I was less excited and didn’t like being limited to IKEA sheets (although I suppose you could just use a twin sized duvet). ANYWAY. Back to the drawing board. Or rather, the internet.

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There are a handful of modern toddler beds out there but I don’t know, nothing that I could get too excited about or justify spending a lot of money on. (For reference, I found other affordable options from KidKraft, P’kolino and Babyletto). And yes, I love right angles as much as the next modernist, but on a kid’s bed it seems a little silly (and potentially dangerous). I even considered the much-loved Jenny Lind toddler bed. It’s not exactly modern, but I could see pairing it with some fun bedding to balance out all those curves. Well, it’s a moot point now because Kyle completely and passionately vetoed it. (I can’t blame him, it would feel out of place in our house.) For the same price, I also like this bed from Land of Nod, but the in-store floor models I’ve seen haven’t taken abuse very well (chipped paint, etc.) and I’m concerned about long-term durability. Obviously some of these wouldn’t match the Gulliver crib but maybe it doesn’t matter that much (we could always tie the two together with complimentary bedding).

So why don’t we just build something ourselves? I know, that totally would have been our solution a few years ago but don’t forget we still have a half-finished bathroom and laundry room in our basement (going on three years now!). And really, I think if we did it ourselves it would be a very simple platform style bed and I’d prefer something with a bit of head board and foot board. I know, we could just do a mattress on the floor but I think it’s going to be a struggle giving up her crib as it is (especially if it’s going to Lillian) and want to do something she can be excited about, something that’s very “big girl”.

Eventually, we’ll probably go the bunk bed route (because who doesn’t have fond memories of their sibling kicking the top bunk mattress from below?) but we’re probably two years away from that. The long-term plan is to put both girls in the basement bedroom, but there isn’t enough space for two twin beds down there.

So here’s a question, how long can the average sized kiddo sleep in a toddler bed? I read 6 but that seems overly optimistic. I think I could justify the purchase if I knew she could use it for the next year or two (before passing it along to her sister). Has anyone else been in a similar situation and come up with a good solution? Are there other simple and well-made beds out there that I’ve missed? I’m crowdsourcing here.

studio zerbey / under construction

We currently have a number of projects finishing up or in the middle of construction so we thought it would be fun to do a few posts during the next several months that highlight that work.

+ Alaska Surf Shack

The Surf Shack just wrapped up construction and the owner moved in last week. We’re hoping to make it out this summer to see it in person and take photos (I’ve never been to Alaska!)

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Due to the remote location, we had more limited involvement during construction. Kyle only made it the site once (before design started) and therefore any coordination was handled via email and phone. The contractor, Harmon Construction, did a fantastic job and we’re so pleased how it turned out. More importantly, the homeowner loves it and that’s really the best compliment you can get.

+ Missoula Mixed-Use Remodel

The remodel of this existing brick building in Missoula, Montana is nearing completion, with work on the tenant improvements to begin soon. The building, located on the “hip strip” of Missoula will include a popcorn store, sandwich shop and a third tenant that has yet to be finalized.

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The roof was replaced, a new lower roof was added, the brick was sandblasted, primed and painted, steel panel siding was added and all the windows and doors are new. We can’t wait to get out and take final “after” photos and compare with where things started! Another remote project for us, it makes a huge difference working with a skilled team (McMahon Construction) to get the job done.

+ Issaquah Highlands House

Framing for the Issaquah Highlands house (a new single-family residence east of Seattle) is almost complete and it’s so exciting to see the form take shape. The neighborhood is actually an eclectic mix of architectural styles and even though it’s in a development, we think this design does a good job of integrating with the site and respecting its neighbors.

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It’s a little hard to tell in this photo but the view is spectacular, even from the lower levels. This project is being built in collaboration with YS BUILT and is slated to wrap up by December of this year.

Dwell + the Future of Architecture

Ok, I promise that the focus of this blog has not devolved into self-promotion, but (BUT!) we have another bit of exciting news to share and it’s that our house (our house!) is featured in the special issue of Dwell called Your Rooms We Love (on newsstands now!).

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Since it’s a special issue, it’s not part of a regular subscription but there are so many great homes and spaces to drool over that it’s definitely worth making a special trip or ordering online. (Page 62, yo!)

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Hey Bails, you’re looking a little scrappy here – your stylist is fired!

Second, Studio Zerbey is participating in the Future of Architecture showcase, sponsored by Houzz and the American Institute of Architects. The contest is open to students and emerging architects and includes categories such as Social Impact, Small Spaces, Innovation, Universal Design and Student Work. We’ve entered our house in the Small Spaces category and our proposed remodel of the garage in the Social Impact category. (Aside from work and the kids, the DADU project is taking up some of our attention right now as well – more on that soon!)

Here’s the interesting part – winners are selected based on how many Houzz users add the project to an ideabook. So, the more ideabooks our submissions get added to, the better our odds. If you’d like to check out the showcase and boost our chances of winning a cool $5k and a trip to this year’s AIA convention in Atlanta, click on the links below and add individual images to ideabooks. (Voting ends next Tuesday, April 7th!)

We’ll be back soon to share a handful of Studio Zerbey projects that are just wrapping up or under construction. Architecture is a profession of patience and it’s always so gratifying to see a project all the way from conceptual sketches to move-in day.

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

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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!