Filed under: studio zerbey

this and that

Hello, Fall! Hello, blog!

For the past few months I’ve been meaning to finish a blog post about how we kept cool during the record-breaking summer we had. And well, I should have known better – anytime I go about a lengthy and somewhat technical post it always involves more time than I have to spare. But alas, now it’s October so maybe we’ll save that blog post for next spring? Ok? Cool. (If you want a little teaser I’ll leave you with some keywords: exterior solar shades, skylight shades, portable a/c and giant attic fan. And for the most part, it worked! And we didn’t have to shell out $$$$ to have a standard a/c unit installed! I give Kyle all the credit for masterminding this one!)

Moving on.

We actually have quite a few specific Studio Zerbey updates to share, but we thought it might be best to first dust off the cobwebs and share some quick general updates.

+ studio zerbey: our firm continues to keep us busy and 2015 has been exciting in that many of our first projects are now wrapping up construction. Although we’ve been making periodic updates to our Studio Zerbey website, we plan on also posting some photos of completed work (both new houses and remodels) on the blog in the weeks and months to come. We recently invested in a new digital camera set-up and Kyle spent some time earlier this month traveling to California, Alaska and the Olympic Peninsula to photograph projects and then to Montana to photograph our mixed-use project and help coordinate a photoshoot for our Montana Creekside Residence.

A few teaser shots…

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Alaska Surf Shack – photo credit: Kyle Zerbey

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Montana Creekside Residence (collaboration between Studio Zerbey and Balance Associates) – photo credit: Steve Keating

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Missoula Mixed-Use Remodel – photo credit: Kyle Zerbey

+ chezerbey remodel: remember in this post when I said someone needed to stage an intervention if we weren’t done with the basement by the time our permit expired (again) in November of 2015? Haha. Ha. Yeah, we’re still working on that. If we could wave our magic wand and hire a contractor to come in and finish it we probably would – but that seems unrealistic and a coordination headache since we’ve already purchased almost everything (Oh, you’re looking for what? It’s around here…somewhere.) We just need to get it done and honestly I think it seems more overwhelming than it really is. Although it will be great to have those spaces finished, the project just isn’t exciting as say…our backyard office/shop space.

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Speaking of which, we haven’t done anything with that yet either. Kyle put together some preliminary pricing earlier this year and the cost of running new plumbing alone (plus a lovely usage surcharge that the city tacks on) made it cost prohibitive. It’s also pretty clear that we don’t have the time to DIY it like we could have before we had two kids and our own business so we’re trying to figure out a design solution where we could offer some sweat equity but afford to hire out a bulk of the work. So, we’re now looking at options that don’t include a second story. Although it would be amazing to have the studio apartment component we’re just not sure the payback period would make sense for us. What we do know is that we’re anxious to get our office out of the house in the not-too-distant future. Truth be told, it is starting to feel a wee bit cramped in here but that freeing up our two office spaces for other uses will give everyone a bit more breathing room. So, we’ll keep you updated on that.

+ birthdays and anniversaries: In our family, we like to cram all the celebrations into a two-month span. Avery and Kyle had birthdays in late July and early August and in the last few weeks we celebrated my 35th birthday, Lillian’s 1st birthday and our 10-year anniversary! I know, how did that happen?

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I realize we don’t post much here about Lillian like we did with Avery (sorry, Lil!) but she really is such a sweet kid. And although she’s not the super sleeper that her sister was (and still is!), she’s so easy-going and happy 95% of the time that it’s hard to complain. These days, she’s close to walking and is getting into all of Avery’s toys. Watching those two together (and with Bailey) is a significant source of entertainment for us.

+ work-life balance: starting this month we have a new childcare/preschool schedule that has both girls out of the house four mornings a week. It’s only been a few weeks but we really like the new arrangement. We’ve had a series of nannies in the past and although I was often surprised how well we were able to all coexist in our small space, having a quiet house is reallllly nice. Getting out of the house to do pick-ups also provides a nice mid-day break and keeps us from getting too stir crazy. In the afternoons, we’re back in our offices during nap time but we try to keep our schedules a bit more flexible than so one parent can take over if someone (ahem, Lillian) wakes up early. She’s transitioning down to one nap and although it feels a bit early, I’m also looking forward to getting into a groove with our schedules that will stay consistent for the next year (years? I hope they both nap till kindergarten!).

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And that, in a nutshell, is what we’ve been up to. Although we had a good (and LONG!) summer, we’re both looking forward to a new season and a new schedule. And I don’t want to jinx it, but maybe more blogging too? I don’t mind being an optimist.

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.

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+ 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”.

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+ 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.

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+ 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.

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+ 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.

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+ 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 get.on.it 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.

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.

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!