Filed under: house

small space living // the shared bedroom

Oh hi there! Well, it’s been nearly three months since we blogged about toddler bed options and we’re finally getting around to sharing. Behold, the shared bedroom.


Your comments made us feel confident in moving forward with a toddler sized bed and although it wasn’t included in our original lineup, we decided to buy the Perch toddler bed from Oeuf. Originally I was turned off by the price and for awhile we considered DIYing something similar (a plywood box on hairpin legs instead). But then a few weeks went by and we realized that it was never going to happen. Or at least in the next several months. For Kyle, the purchase was a no-brainer, but I needed to rationalize it a bit more in my head. I felt better knowing that Lillian could use it down the road and then we could convert it to a daybed/sofa and maybe even put it up in the loft (a space I’m sure the girls will take over at some point). Or y’know, Craigslist.


Overall, we’re very pleased with the quality. One of the side panels had a slight void in the plywood, which wouldn’t have been a big deal but it was on the top and I was worried that Avery would pick at it. I contacted Oeuf directly and they sent a replacement and were super easy to work with.

There isn’t a great solution to get both beds to fit in what is effectively a three-sided room. At first I was hesitant to have the bed overhang the door opening but now that we’ve lived with it for a month it’s really no big deal. Sometimes we just don’t open the doors all the way but most of the time it just doesn’t bother us.


After the new bed was constructed (a task Avery and I did together – she was so proud!) we converted the IKEA Gulliver back to a crib and purchased a second mattress. I haven’t put bumpers on the crib yet (we have simple IKEA ones that we retrofitted for the mini-crib), mostly because they make it a pain to change the sheets. For now, we put her in a lightweight cotton sleep sack and that keeps her from sticking arms and legs between the bars of the crib.


We also reconfigured the storage boxes to fit in front of the window. One of the boxes covers the heat register, so we’ll have to come up with something different (or figure out a way to elevate everything slightly) once the temps drop. Given the summer heat we’ve had, it’s hard to imagine when that will happen.

We also bought two new felt boxes from Land of Nod. One holds baby board books (I’m so over trying to line them up on a shelf) and the other holds Duplos.


I should note that I took these photos this morning. We tidied up a bit first but as you can see it does not take long for things to unravel. We’re keeping it real. Kids are messy, but limiting the amount of stuff and having “homes” for everything makes cleaning up pretty painless.


Lillian is close to crawling, so I’m trying to savor this fleeting time of happy immobility. I will also need to temporarily hide some of Avery’s smaller toys before then.


Not much has changed with the dresser and wardrobe since our update in January. In the living room, we have a bin of baby books, a bin of Avery’s toys (Playmobil and trains) and a basket of baby toys. We converted one of the cabinets in the fauxdenza to hold art supplies, puzzles and games. Other than that, everything fits in their room. (Besides outdoor stuff obviously, which is a whole other topic.) I also recently bought this coat rack from Crate&Barrel. It’s simple, functional and inexpensive. It’s ridiculously hot here now, but most of the year we’re in jackets so I needed something more than the squirrel hook (which will be relocated eventually).


As for the sleep situation – it’s been a little over a month since we moved both girls into the same room and it’s going better than we anticipated. Before, Lillian was still sleeping in the mini-crib, but with the long summer days (sunset after 10:00 and sunrise around 4:30) we had to move her back into our room where it’s much darker. And yeah, that wasn’t great either.

We’re not on a strict schedule, but Lillian generally goes to bed between 7:30-8:00 (it depends more on what time she wakes up in the morning which sets the nap schedule somewhat). Avery’s bedtime is usually 8:00 but that’s been pushed back a bit for summer. We’ve found that it’s easier to put Lillian down first, then read books on the couch (or in our bed) with Avery. Once Lillian is asleep, she rarely wakes up because of Avery. And Avery almost never wakes up because of Lillian (who is often the first one up in the morning), not even in the middle of the night. I’d heard this from other people and it seems to be true for us as well. Lillian also seems to be sleeping better in her new bed. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think she finally, finally might be sleeping through the night now (no night feedings). YAY!

The last few nights, Avery and I have laid in her bed together, opening the curtains just a hair and reading books while Lillian snoozes nearby. I don’t think I imagined that we’d be able to do this so to other parents in a similar situation – I’d say just go for it. You might be surprised what your kids are capable of. Try it for a few weeks and if it doesn’t work figure something else out. I’m sure we’ll hit some road blocks, but it feels good knowing that not only can they sleep in the same room but that they actually seem to enjoy it. I don’t know, they might even like each other. :)


The nap situation is getting better too. Both girls take afternoon naps around 2:00, so they nap together in their room. I was mostly concerned with how Lillian would take a morning nap on the weekends (without kicking Avery out of her room), but because that nap is usually only an hour or so it’s almost easier to plan an activity where she can nap on the go. We also still have the mini crib setup outside my office and can roll that in and shut the door in a pinch.


Tucking her animals in for a nap and then asking me to take a photo. (Avery’s toddler bedding is from Land of Nod. They have such cute stuff!)


The nursery (can we even call it that anymore?) has gotten a bit cozier since it’s original reveal – but for the better I think! I love that we’ve been able to modify the space as Avery got older and then adding Lillian. We also realize that it’s still very much a space of our design, but that that will evolve as the girls get older and start adding their own personal touches. Just as long as they’re approved by us first. :)

“Composition girls, COMPOSITION!”

the work-life balance, revisited

Thanks so much for all of your feedback and ideas about toddler beds! We’ve definitely given the subject some more thought and think we have a good solution in the works…

I’ve written about our work-live balance before, but now that we have two kids it seems timely to bring up the subject again. I reread our original post and think the main talking points are still relevant, so I’m including them again here.


+ Flexibility

Having a second kid is anticlimactic in many ways – we’ve already made the big life change, we already have most of the stuff, we’re already used to spending a Saturday night in the company of Netflix. In a way, a second baby feels very comfortable and makes me wonder what all the fuss was about the first time around. (I have a group of girlfriends who all have a toddler and an infant and we joke about how relaxing it is to go somewhere with just the baby – like a vacation almost!) And while the baby phase seems easier this time around, I absolutely believe that the biggest challenge is not one child or the other but the combination of the two, namely – the sleep-deprivation of the infant plus the mental exhaustion of the toddler. It’s a potent mix, let me tell you.

Therefore, flexibility remains critical. Two kids means more unknowns and less predictability, especially during those first months. We seem to have settled into a schedule that works fairly well now, but we also know that at best, it will stay this way for a few months before we’re recalibrating again. And then there are days like last Monday, when you realize you have a client meeting that afternoon and someone has just used the last of the toilet paper. And although both kids had just gone down for a nap (i.e. – I should have been working) I jumped at the chance to run to the grocery store sans children and pick up some essentials. When I stopped for an iced coffee first, the barista asked what I was doing this afternoon and I told him, “oh, y’know…buying toilet paper – we work from home”.


+ Schedule vs. Non-Schedule

The work part of the balance is somewhat of a moving target but we feel like we’re in a pretty good groove at the moment. The biggest challenge has been finding a childcare solution that works for two different kids with two different needs. Avery is an adventurous toddler who benefits from social interaction and lots of active play, while Lillian is a baby who naps twice a day and is relatively immobile. We’ve had a mix of childcare since Lillian was born (our previous and much-loved nanny moved out-of-state shortly before) and while finding childcare is a whole other topic (one which should probably include a bottle of wine), we’ve learned to accept that there is probably not a perfect situation and that yes, that might mean committing to different arrangements for each kid. For now, we have awesome childcare for 4-5 hours most mornings and then our girls nap in the afternoon. (Avery still naps 2-3 hours and I sincerely hope she never stops!) This gives us around 8 hours each day, but we’ve made a practice of at least one parent being “on call” in the afternoons in the event that one or both naps end early. We used to also do more evening meetings after bedtime, but have really scaled back on that.

And because our profession is project-based, we’ve accepted that some weeks are crazy busy with deadlines and site visits and meetings and other weeks are a slow simmer. Instead of relying on a solid 8 hours a day, we each have monthly goals that we try to hit and after nearly three years in business we’ve been able to figure out a healthy number that is reasonable and realistic. That said, we’re still vulnerable to the downsides of working from home – including working nights and weekends. It’s tempting when y’know, our offices are a few feet away and it’s work we’re excited to be doing but lately we’ve been really focusing on unplugging more. When Avery was a baby I did a bulk of my work after she went to bed but these days I’m lucky to make it to 9:30.

Part of our reason for the DADU project is to create an even healthier divide between home and work. We love the convenience of working from home and not having to commute, but having a dedicated space for our business will be a huge plus and affords us the flexibility to grow our business when the timing is right (see “Let it Go” section at the bottom).

+ Divide and Delegate

We’re officially pros at this now. Aside from childcare and housecleaning, we’ve hired out a number of other tasks, including dog-walking, landscaping care and a myriad of business-related consultants. We also order a lot of things online, reducing the need to run errands. (My one exception is the grocery store because it’s something I actually enjoy!) They are small (or infrequent) expenses that have a big psychological impact and free up time to focus more on our family.


+ Make Time for Yourself and Each Other

This one is still tough. I think we’ve gone on two date nights in the past seven months. I know some people have a standing weekly or bi-weekly date night and I applaud you for that. At this point in our lives, we’re aiming for a weekly or bi-weekly date lunch – an opportunity to sneak out just the two of us without it being a full-blown date night. This September we’ll celebrate our ten year anniversary and we are optimistic about a whole weekend away. (Mom, I hope you’re reading this. Hint, hint.)

That said, it’s much easier and equally important for us to make time for ourselves. Now that Lillian has a regular bedtime, it’s easier to meet up with friends in the evenings. I also make a point to work out at least once a week (hey, it’s something!) and have allowed myself to indulge in the occasional pedicure or shopping trip while we’re paying for childcare. Kyle has carved out his own hobbies that allow him some guy time (probably much-needed in a house full of ladies) and we try to be sensitive to letting each other take that time when we need it.


+ Get Out of the House!

Before kids, Kyle and I were always working on something. When not at work, we were doing projects on the house, taking exams or in some way being productive. I think we are just the personality types where it’s hard to truly relax and do nothing. With one kid in the mix, we were able to maintain that lifestyle to some extent. With two, not so much. Having kids has forced us to actually get out on the weekends and do things just for the sake of doing them, even though my brain is telling me to organize the pantry or vacuum out the car. In a sense, our kids have forced us to add more “life” to the balance. Avery is also at an age where it’s fun to go out and do things with her, to explore a part of the city that we’ve never seen or go to a new park. (Seriously, I had no idea how many parks where in Seattle till we had kids.) The novelty of a 4:30 happy hour happens less these days, but we’ve been pretty good about rallying a few times a month or at least getting out for an early dinner.

+ Focus on the Awesome

This one is still a challenge. We have two healthy kids, an awesome dog, a house we love, a thriving business and yet – it is still so easy to become focused on what could be better, what we don’t like, what’s dragging us down. To some extent I think it’s important to always question things and push towards improvement, but not if it becomes overly consuming. We’ve found it’s helpful to remind each other that we’re in the thick of it right now – two small children, our own business, probably not enough sleep. It’s not easy and it’s not supposed to be. And yet, it is awesome. And exhausting. And exciting. And crazy.


+ Let it Go

Ah, a bonus section!

These last few months have been exceptionally busy for our business, fueling our need (or so we thought) to and make the DADU happen so we could continue to grow our practice. A few months ago, we made an intake appointment for the building permit but a couple of weeks ago we resigned ourselves to the reality that we just don’t have the time to dedicate to it right now. We also started to rethink the design for the DADU (which has already changed some since our last post, based on some discussions with the City). Financially, it will be a significant project (one that will include major sewer and plumbing work) and unfortunately not something we can hire out completely. We think we could make it pencil if Kyle does the concrete and framing but that would mean he’s spending his weekends all summer working on it.

So, we let it go (let it gooooooo!). For now. The risk with putting our plans on the internet is that you inevitably feel some guilt and disappointment if they don’t come to fruition in the way you hope. But we also try to use this blog as a means of transparency and “realness” so there you go. We still want to do the project and feel that doing a multipurpose design is the right solution, it’s just a timing issue. Instead of canceling our intake appointment, we rescheduled for early July (it was the first date available!). Maybe we’ll be ready by then and maybe not. One thought is to just get it “weathered in” this year (framing, siding, roof, windows, etc.) and then finish the interior next year. Of course, this means delaying hiring employees and moving our offices out of our house (and possibly turning down some projects that we would have otherwise taken) but we can manage that. And if delaying construction means spending more time with our girls this summer, focusing on our current workload and feeling more balanced in general, we think it’s the right decision.

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.)


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.)

twin options

+ 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.

toddler options2

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.

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.)


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!)


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.)


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


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?


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.)

4 Seattle DADU Detached accesory dwelling unit Studio Zerbey Architects

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.

3 Seattle DADU Detached accesory dwelling unit Studio Zerbey Architects

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.

6 Seattle DADU Detached accesory dwelling unit Studio Zerbey Architects

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!