Filed under: studio zerbey

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.

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!

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!)

studio zerbey / seattle house lift

We first met Paige and Evan last fall when we did a consultation for their small 1918 house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. (They found us through our blog – yay!) They hadn’t lived in the house long, but knew they wanted to make some changes that would create more usable spaces and take advantage of an unfinished basement. The footprint of the house was approximately 783 SF, with a single bedroom and bathroom. A full basement below meant a lot of potential, but sadly the ceiling height was only 6′ or so.

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Above, the official “before” photo of the front of the house.

We discussed a few different options and ultimately decided that lifting the house made the most sense. So many houses in Seattle (whose housing stock is largely from the early 20th century) have this same short-basement dilemma, including ours. (We considered lifting but because we only have a half basement decided it wasn’t worth the effort.) Paige and Evan also planned on doing much of the construction themselves, so that’s something we took into consideration during the design process.

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Here are a few exterior photos from when we did the as-built measurements last January. (It has been HOT here the last week and looking at these photos made me a little jealous. I must be a true Seattleite now.)

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Aside from lifting the house about 30″, the design also included filling in the recessed portions at the front and back of the house (which provided a spot for the new interior stair) and adding a new covered front porch.

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Here are some side-by-side floor plans to give you an idea of what will be involved. (Click to enlarge.)

basement plan

The goal was to keep all the “public” spaces on the main floor and use the basement for bedrooms, bathrooms and a laundry space. To simplify the existing framing, we kept the location of the interior load-bearing wall and added several larger windows to bring more natural light into the rooms. Under the future front porch will be a large storage area accessed from the outside. (There is a small shed in the backyard, but no real garage.)

main floor plan

The existing bedroom on the main floor will become a more casual living space (with a larger opening and sliding door) while the front of the house will serve as dining area (something that didn’t really exist before). The kitchen will be reconfigured a bit to create a more functional space with better flow, as it will continue to be the “hallway” of the house. A small office nook will be added adjacent to the new stair. The small recessed porch will be enclosed to create a mudroom entry and a new covered front porch will be added to the front of the house.

Now, fast-forward to late spring when the building permit was issued and construction started! One of the first tasks was to demo the existing masonry chimney and patch the roof.

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As you can tell, it was a fun and clean task for Evan.

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To make way for the machinery needed to lift the house, they also had some clearing that needed to happen first.

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The general contractor is actually Paige’s dad, Michael, and she left her old job to be his right-hand man (err, woman) during construction. I love remodels, but even more so when they have an interesting side story like this one!

Before the house could be lifted, they had to move everything out of the basement, demolish the interior framing and remove the existing siding and sheathing at the basement level.

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Paige and Evan worked with Kunkel Moving & Raising, a local company that has been lifting, leveling and moving houses in the Seattle area for over 100 years! Without getting into too much technical jargon, the main gist of raising a house is to first build heavy timber structures (called cribbing) that will support the steel beams that the house will temporarily rest on while new walls are constructed.

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Next, a boom crane delivered the steel beams through openings cut in the temporary plywood sheathing. Those are the couple’s two dogs – Uki and Odo peering out from the temporary doggie gate above. (In most situations, it’s possible to live in the house after it’s raised which is what Paige and Evan are doing.)

Crazy side story: after visiting the house for the first time we realized that we actually used to live across the street, in a small house that we rented for a year before buying chezerbey in 2006! Even crazier, although Paige and Evan didn’t live there at the time, their two dogs did. The previous owner remarried someone with severe dog allergies and so the new homeowners adopted the dogs. Bailey was a puppy when we lived across the street, so very likely that they had met (or at least sniffed each other out) on a few occasions!

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With the cribbing and support beams in place it was time to LIFT! (Anything else tying the house to the basement – like plumbing and electrical, were also temporarily unattached.) A series of hydraulic jacks (four in this case) were used to do the actual lifting.

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The house was lifted about 12″ higher than its final location, but this allows for the new foundation and framing to be added more easily. Once that’s in place, the house will be lowered back down again.

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(After the house lift was done, a temporary stair extension was added to the existing front steps.)

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Oh hey there, spacious basement!

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Todd Schlemmer (@theschlem on Twitter), a friend of Paige and Evan’s captured the entire 2 1/2 hour process. Using a Swann freestyle HD sports camera and OpenShot for Gnu/Linux, a picture was taken every 5 seconds and then assembled into this 3 minute video. Check it out!

On the left, a nerve-racking way to access the back door. On the right, the crew’s construction dog keeping an eye on things. (I don’t know what it is about contractors and small dogs but I love it.)

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After the house was up in the air, work got underway on demolishing the existing foundation.

It can be possible to work with a house’s existing foundation (just building a taller stud wall on top) but for this project the owners wanted to tear out and pour a proper foundation. The new footings were also designed to accommodate a second story if they decide to expand again in the future. We had originally planned to pour on top of the existing concrete slab, but it wasn’t very thick and mostly crumbled under the weight of the excavator.

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There’s Michael rocking the excavator above and the happy (although probably pretty tired) homeowners below.

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Formwork for the new concrete footings went in last week and next up is pouring the new foundation!

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During our own remodel, we used to always hope that we’d find some gold bars or just something interesting or unique. Paige and Evan didn’t stumble across any fortunes, but they did find these cool glass bottles, one of which was from the Keystone Liquor Company, a Seattle-based outfit that was in business from 1902-1914!

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We’re so excited to continue watching the progress on this remodel and see the interior spaces start to take shape (and sharing updates here). The usable space will more than double in size (going from a 1 bedroom/1 bath to a 3 bedroom/3 bath!), all while working within the footprint of the existing house (minus the new open-air front porch). As architects, it’s so rewarding to help breathe new life into an old house and even more so when the family behind it are energetic, smart and design-minded.

Kyle and I stopped by the house a few weeks ago to check out the progress and I may have had a tiny bit of remodel envy. Although we still have plenty of work to do here at chezerbey, I clearly remember the excitement (and sometimes fear!) that came with those big, game-changer projects. Paige and Evan – it’s going to be so great – hang in there!

Want to see more? Follow Paige’s Instagram account!

studio zerbey / montana residence

As architects, the most exciting aspect of our job is seeing a project physically come to life. We continue to be knee-deep in Studio Zerbey design work right now (hence the lack of home-related blog posts) – early summer is always a hectic time with many of our current projects being submitted for building permits or starting construction. So over the next few months, we thought we’d share a few that have recently been completed or are under construction as we write.

First up, a new custom home in Missoula, Montana that recently wrapped up construction. Thanks to Joe McMahon of McMahon Construction and his entire team for executing the design so well. Kyle started this project in 2008 while working with his previous employer, Balance Associates. It took almost three years and many trips to Missoula to work through the design with the City and acquire the necessary building and land use permits – as the site was a designated steep slope, flood plain and partial wildlife habitat area. Kyle worked with city environmentalists to restore the wildlife area and address their remaining concerns. (When Kyle joined Studio Zerbey the project had already started construction so Balance Associates and Studio Zerbey agreed to complete the project as a joint project.) Kyle was up in MT a few weeks ago and took these photographs of the exterior and main living spaces. More photos to come in the future, but here’s a glimpse for now:

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A view of the backyard grassy play area and outdoor kitchen with cantilevered deck and outdoor fireplace beyond. The cantilever was actually a design solution to the topography in this area, spanning across the slope rather than anchoring into it (which wouldn’t have been allowed anyway).

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The living room opens up to the outdoor area with a large sliding door. The door has 2 operable panels that slide to the right for an opening that’s about 14′ wide!

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You can barely see it in this photo, but beyond the trees there is a large creek that runs through the backyard of the property. Not only does it create a pleasant soothing sound when the doors are open, but the homeowners can also just walk out their back door and do some fly-fishing!

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Kyle worked with the homeowners and Melissa Leadbeater at Seattle’s Design Within Reach to select all the furniture for the home. (Obviously, our clients have excellent taste.) They’re now working together again to pick outdoor furniture for summertime.

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This view is from the creek looking back towards the house. Originally the yard had a steep slope area that was redesigned into a terraced walkway with Corten steel retaining walls.

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The entry side of the home is designed to have a low profile and hug the earth.

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Kudos to Andy Lennox of The Lennox Craftsmen for the well-crafted sapele cabinetry with integral lighting that can be seen throughout the home.

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Stay tuned for upcoming posts highlighting construction progress on the Olympic Forest Cabin, Alaska Surf Shack and Missoula Mixed-Use Remodel. In addition to two new custom homes, we also have several residential remodel projects that will begin construction this year – a few of which will include good ol’ sweat equity from the homeowners themselves! We can’t wait to share the transformations with you (because if we can’t work on our own homes we might as well live vicariously through others, right?).