the office + workshop

First of all, thank you for the encouraging comments from our last post. It’s nice to know there are still people reading the blog (though apparently no one in our families…ha!). As we continue to brainstorm new ways to use the blog as a platform for sharing about Studio Zerbey, it seemed appropriate for our next post to be something that blended our home and work lives.

So, I present to you – everything you maybe didn’t realize you needed to know about our new office and workshop! What normally would have been a series of blog posts, we compressed into one. (So pour yourself a cup of coffee and settle in!) I think we’d forgotten how long we’ve been mulling over what to do with the garage and then once we finally made a decision – just how long it took to complete construction!

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A bit of backstory first – when we bought our house in 2006, one of the major selling points was that it had a 2-car detached garage. (Ok, technically a garage and carport, but two covered parking spaces.) For Seattle, this is huge. If you have a driveway, let alone an actual garage, it’s considered a luxury. Although we had no actual plans to park a car in the garage, we were looking for a house with some sort of space to store the woodworking tools that Kyle inherited from his grandfather. The garage portion was built in 1910 (same year as the house) and the carport was added in 1965. At some point (presumably the same year), a foot or so was added to the garage length and the whole thing was covered in white aluminum siding and teal trim.

As you can see, things really didn’t change much between 1965 and 2017. We continued to use the garage as shop space and the carport quickly became a protected area for materials, lawn tools, miscellaneous crap, etc. (But daaang, look how nice that grass was!)



Although the house always seemed to be the priority, we knew we’d eventually need to do something with the garage. In 2013, we blogged about changing the roof form and converting the carport into a multipurpose space. Then, in 2015, we changed course and decided what we really wanted to do was convert the structure to a DADU (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit). This scenario would have crossed a lot of “wants” off our list, but ultimately, it was too expensive. We often advise our clients that although a DADU can be a great solution, you are still building a small house in your backyard. And with new construction costs starting at around $300/SF in this area, it adds up quickly. And we weren’t even planning on renting it out. So, we hit the pause button again.

In 2016, we took the baby step of consolidating our offices within the house. Although it was nice having our own spaces, we soon realized that we weren’t collaborating as much as we would have liked. So I moved up to the loft and we shared that area for awhile. It was cozy and workable, but we knew it was time to get serious about our next step. The growth of our business was starting to feel constrained by our space. We needed somewhere for eventual employees, we needed a space to meet with clients that wasn’t our dining room table and most importantly, we needed better physical boundaries between work and home.

We looked at rental properties in our area, but a lease would be expensive and we knew we wouldn’t have the same creative control over the space and it wouldn’t necessarily be a long-term solution. Around this same time, we also briefly considered selling the house and doing something different, but it felt like it would have been a financial and psychological setback to do so without first improving the garage. We also considered just bulldozing that whole structure, but recognized that the building – as ugly as it was – was still valuable. And with current codes, we couldn’t just build something new in the exact same spot. So we went back to the idea of converting the carport into an office space and set about coming up with a design that was as simple, flexible and as cost-effective as possible.

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From a land use standpoint, the garage is what you would call an “existing non-conforming structure”. We could keep what was there, but we’d be limited to how we could expand the structure. There are rules about locating structures within certain distances from your property lines as well as how much of your rear yard a detached structure like this can occupy. I could dive into a lengthy land use code analysis, but here it is in a nutshell – the only way we could expand the footprint was to add on to the front of the carport. So that’s what we did. We kept a reasonable walking path between the deck and the new office wall, but we needed that extra square footage to create a functional office and conference room. In the garage, we re-framed the roof and raised the height to the maximum allowed for accessory structures. (If we were building this as a DADU, the height restrictions would be different.)

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The layout itself is fairly simple. The office has desks on each side, with space for up to 4 workstations. The conference room beyond can be closed off a with a pair of pocket doors. The shop space is utilitarian with a storage loft above (making up for some of the displaced space in the carport). The rooms are also designed in a way where the structure could be converted to a DADU in the future. Basically, the office would become a living/dining area and the conference room a bedroom. We’d install a door from the office into the shop, which would become a small kitchen and bathroom. Although we have no plans to do this conversion anytime soon (if at all), we wanted there to be the option if our needs change down the road. We’ve found that people are surprised we didn’t include a small bathroom in the initial scope but extending our sewer line and running water would have been costly and our main bathroom is just inside the house. We also toyed with the idea of doing a mini fridge or small kitchenette and the need just wasn’t there when we’re literally a 5 second walk away from our kitchen.

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Even though we moved away from the DADU concept, we still feel strongly that this type of space would be valuable to future owners as well – whether used as an office or simply a bonus space for hobbies, crafts or reclusive teenagers. (Wait, that might BE US one day!)

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In the winter/spring of 2017 we finished the drawings, got the permit (thankfully it qualified for the over-the-counter kind!) and that summer demo began! I was about 6 months pregnant at this time. We thought the bulk of construction would be complete by my due date. It was not.




To save on costs, we took a hybrid approach to construction. We hired a contractor to do the shell of the building and then coordinated the HVAC installer, electrician, drywall company, floor finisher and painters ourselves. Kyle installed the hemlock ceiling, wainscot, doors and windows, interior trim, drawers and counters, work stations and shelving. Essentially, if it involved wood, Kyle did it. Did I mention we also had a newborn during this time?



The concrete slab in the carport wasn’t in great shape and replacing it was the best option. This also allowed us to properly waterproof underneath and install an electric radiant floor system. A majority of the wall framing remained intact, but proved challenging in that it required a lot of extra work to get level and plumb.


Can you spot Bailey?

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The photo above shows how the original garage was extended to the left at one point. This wall took a lot of nail pounding and many, MANY shims before we could drywall over it.



Our framing inspectors were pretty ruthless. 🙂




The baby came, Fall came, but we kept at it.


We even recruited some helpers!

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On the outside, we used hardipanel for the workshop siding. This was a cost-effective choice, especially since three of the four sides are barely visible and we were required to provide a 1-hour fire rated wall on the sides against the property lines. Although hardi gets a lot of flack for being ubiquitous, we were able to use it in a modern and limited way. The panels were then painted to match the house (Benjamin Moore “Iron Ore”). The roof on the shop is a corrugated polycarbonate product with a translucent version over the middle section to act as a homemade skylight. We kept the old garage door and applied a few coats of the same stain used for the wood siding. On the office side, we went with 1×2 clear cedar siding, stained a dark brown-gray and installed over a rainscreen system. The door and wood windows are clear fir and we did a membrane roof with gray metal fascia, gutters and downspout.

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On the inside of the office, we did a concrete overlay for the floor, with a maple plywood wainscot for added wall protection. The cabinets in the conference room are IKEA kitchen cabinets. The smaller drawers hold our half size drawing sets while the larger ones hold office supplies and samples. The counters are maple plywood with Forbo furniture linoelum on top. The floating shelves are maple plywood and Rakks brackets. In the office space, we used an ELFA shelving system with maple plywood shelves. We used Forbo bulletin board in the conference room and behind the workstations for extra pin-up space and added acoustical properties.

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The desks and conference table are a temporary solution. We did maple plywood (with the same OSMO finish as everything else) over simple folding tables. We’ll eventually make upgrades but the reality is that we needed to get it done. We’re also using our vintage Eames chairs in the conference room and those will eventually get replaced or we might just get new dining chairs. Instead of a projector and screen, we opted for a wall-mounted TV to use during meetings. (Coincidentally, it also gets used a lot by our older kids during pockets of time when they’re out in the office before or after school.) When the pocket doors are in the closed position, the space is acoustically separate but still gets plenty of natural light through the frosted glass doors and clear transom glass above.

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Before moving out into the space, we did a LOT of purging. We took a close look at exactly what we needed to keep and what could go (mostly old books, samples and office supplies). We’re still experimenting with how to fill all these glorious shelves, but I’m sure that will come with time. It just feels so much better to have more elbow room, head room(!) and room to grow.

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Can we pause for a moment to appreciate that acoustically sealed transom glass? Kyle even matched the hemlock ceiling boards around it for a seamless look.

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The shallow shelves in the conference room serve as display space for samples. Rather than having everything tucked away in drawers, we can now display our favorite materials in a way that is more conducive to sharing with our clients.

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And that brings us to where we’re at today. Although we’ve been working out of this space for awhile now, we finally took the few remaining steps (and photos!) to get it done (enough…for now…y’know). This space truly is the best of both worlds in that we still work from home but our work is a separate building away rather then just a loft ladder. I think the biggest surprise has been just how QUIET it is. We’ve even used the office as an impromptu (kid-free!) gathering space on nights and weekends!

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Architecturally, we like that the office + workshop relates to the house without mimicking it. Although we were constrained by the land use code and our budget, we were able to come up with a clever solution that meets our needs while also providing flexibility for future use. In Seattle, there is a real concern about the increasing population and what can be done to meet those needs while creating better density. Even though we decided not to do a rental unit at this time, providing useful work space on one’s property can be part of the solution. (Note: there are specific rules and regulations about what kind of work homeowners can conduct from their residential property.) In a similar vein to small space living, we’ve created a work space that requires no commute, reuses an existing structure, relies heavily on natural light and employs an efficient heating and cooling system. It may not work for everyone, but in an age where many people work from home at least part-time, we think there’s a real need for creating a nurturing space that isn’t the spare bedroom or the left side of the living room couch. True, most of us need little more than our laptops to work remotely, but having a dedicated space that’s not an afterthought can do wonders to create healthy boundaries between work and home. Society’s needs have clearly changed since our house and garage were built 109 years ago, but there’s excitement in re-imagining how these old houses can continue to thrive – not just in the energy efficiency upgrades and new paint, but in the very way we function in our day-to-day lives.


Well, hello. It’s been nearly 3.5 years since we wrote a blog post but hey…we’ve basically been snowed in for the last two weeks so why not?

The hiatus wasn’t exactly intentional. It just sort of happened. We were doing less work on the house, I had less time to blog and, like many others, I was starting to lament how the blogosphere (is that even still a real term?) was changing. We also started to feel differently about privacy and how we included our kids in the posts. (Although I still post regularly to Instagram, I opted to make my account private a few years ago.) Finally, it was starting to get to a point where we needed to get creative about content and that didn’t feel very genuine either.

But we didn’t shut things down. We just accidentally ghosted?

So, what’s changed since 2015?

For starters, we now have three kids! The girls are now 6 and 4 and we had a baby boy in September 2017!


A few months after Arlo was born, we also lost Bailey to cancer. It was unexpected and devastating, as he’d been such an important part of lives for those 12 years. It has taken a long time to grieve his loss, although we feel that we are getting closer to adding a new dog back into our lives.

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In 2017/2018, we remodeled our old garage/carport into the Studio Zerbey workshop + office! We’ve been working out of the new space since last year which has been a welcome change from the loft! The interiors are 99% done so we hope to do a little photo shoot soon and share how the space turned out.


We’ve made minor changes to our house, including painting it an ever darker and moodier color in 2017 (goodbye white trim!). And yes, we have three kids in our small house. (But where do you put them??) True, it often feels cozy…but it has also forced us to continuously evaluate and rethink the stuff we own and how we use our space. Is this our forever home? Probably not, but we are focused on making the most of it right now.


Things that haven’t changed?

Well, we’re still not quite done with the house remodel. The basement bathroom and laundry room has been back-burnered in order to finish the office space (which naturally took longer than anticipated) but now that that’s done we plan on directing our efforts for that one last push. Or maybe last push? We also have (eventual) plans to add a small addition off the back that would include a powder room and mudroom space. We would then convert the existing bathroom on the main floor into a “master” bath, accessible only from our room. And then after that I suppose we start redoing the first projects we did? I had a realization the other day that our dishwasher is almost 13 years old (love that Bosch workhorse!), which means that’s how long we’ve lived in our house. WHAT?


We’ve continued to grow Studio Zerbey as well. Our website was redesigned last year and we’ve completed many new projects. We also have an Instagram account for SZ (studiozerbeyarchitects) but it doesn’t get updated super often. Projects typically take years to complete from the initial meeting through construction, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to regular social media content. That said, we’re brainstorming ways to contribute more to our feed while still being interesting and authentic.

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We’ll be celebrating 7 years of self-employment this summer! It’s still just Kyle and me although we have space in our new digs for a couple of employees once the timing makes sense. Our focus continues to be custom homes and remodels in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The Seattle housing market has continued to thrive the last few years as more people move into the city. Some of our clients have been newcomers to Seattle, others have been families who have been here for awhile but are trying to make their house grow with them, seeking creative solutions in a market that can make “buying up” challenging. A few of our recent remodels include a whole house renovation in Ballard, a new kitchen in the Madrona neighborhood and several others that are still in the works. Our custom homes are spread across the region. In addition to our Alaska Surf Shack, we have a project beginning construction in Hawaii and one that recently finished up in Northern CA. We’ve also continued to do work in the Suncadia development east of Seattle. Our Wing House project is also under construction and our Nelson Preserve Family Retreat wrapped up last year. In 2018 we also saw the completion of our Kingston Beach House, which had a completely different set of design challenges being on a shoreline property.


So where do we go from here with the ol’ blog? I’m not actually sure. But it does feel good to write again. We’ve debated creating a separate blog for Studio Zerbey – a space where we can delve deeper into certain areas or simply talk more about what it’s like to work with an architect and go through the process of remodeling or building a house. This also feels like one more thing to manage. So maybe we do both here? Maybe this tiny little pocket of the internet could be a place to speak authentically and openly about everything we care about – our house, design, the business of architecture, dogs (SOON!?) and how our kids are fairing with two architect parents. (I mean, did you see that hot cocoa stand??)

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What do you think? The motivation to keep a blog is certainly greater when you know there’s a community that’s interested in what you have to say. I’m guilty of leaning more on microblogging (aka Instagram) these last few years but maybe things are starting to swing back in the other direction?

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

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

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.


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!).


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.

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.