march's featured project by Claire Grotz

Our clients have lived on a 1,500 square foot houseboat for years. The houseboat is where they raised their children but they are now ready for an upgrade. Designing a houseboat for them presented some unique challenges since new houseboats aren't allowed. Therefore, this was designed to take the place of the existing houseboat where it matches the exact size, footprint, and height of the pre-existing home. 

Space is utilized with lots of built ins to fit a living space, office, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms comfortably. Niches between the float framing act as storage for kayaks and other items. Because construction was done on a float, builders were not able to use a level and precise fabrication was done off site and installed on the boat as a unit. 

Plenty of skylights and windows take advantage of the surrounding natural light and views. Cedar screens were installed at the perimeter of the float to create private outdoor spaces while radiant heated flooring keeps the inside cozy. The houseboat is being built in Ballard and will then be brought to it's final home of Lake Union this month. The previous houseboat has been donated and will sit on land in its next life. 

pacific northwest contemporary home construction by Claire Grotz

In Phinney Ridge, we can see our Pacific Northwest contemporary home slowly coming to life. The project is currently in the construction phase and each month the house inches closer to completion with help from STS Construction. With a 9 month completion target, the Pacific Northwest contemporary home will be finished in August 2017!




mitigating your rainwater on site by Claire Grotz

Seattle is leading the charge when it comes to handling a lot of issues, but especially when it comes to how we manage and mitigate our rainwater.  With increased construction in the area (and therefore increased impervious surfaces), the city is grappling with how best to manage these effects on our aging infrastructure.  Currently the city manages 100 million gallons of polluted runoff each year through on-site stormwater management practices, but their goal is to increase that amount to 700 million gallons by 2025.

There are a lot of ways we can help reduce runoff: 
  • Plant trees (Seattle LOVES trees)
  • Improve your soil with compost/mulch
  • Collect water in a cistern and reuse it for irrigation
  • Reduce paved areas
  • Use alternative paving options (think porous)
  • Work with an existing building to try to minimize your site disruption (we can help with that!) 

Perhaps the easiest, most visually attractive, and homeowner friendly option available to us is by implementing a rain garden on your site.  A raingarden is a shallow depression that can hold and soak up runoff from roofs or driveways.  They are typically composed of compost amended soils and a mix of plants suited to the location in your yard.  You can dress them up with river rocks or more sculptural landscape boulders as accents.

So what does this rain garden do and why is it important?  It performs several key functions.  1)  It collects water from roofs and paved surfaces on site during periods of rainfall; 2) It slows down the infiltration of water into the ground which in turn reduces the amount of water that gets directed to city storm systems; 3) It helps filter the water and reduce contamination that enters our storm system and ultimately our public waters; 4) It makes you feel good about doing your part to keep Puget Sound clean and our wildlife healthy!

You may even be eligible for a city rebate if you meet specific criteria.  To check your eligibility, enter your address here:

If you are interested in installing a rain garden of your own, you can find additional information on how to do so here:

roofs : unsung heroes of architecture by Claire Grotz

We recently began design on a renovation project for a house above Cle Elum Lake, near Ellensburg, WA. Since the house is east of Snoqualmie Pass and about 2,500' above sea level, the climate is much different than the damp climate of the Puget Sound region.  Instead of droopy cedars and moss, Ponderosa pine and sagebrush abound. Unlike Seattle, which receives little snow each year, the project site receives about 12 feet of snow each year. This becomes really important when considering the design of the roof.

Roofs can be designed to shed snow or hold it on the roof.  While snow can actually be a great insulator, extra care has to be taken to ensure that the roof does not leak if holding snow.  It also tends to pile up in valleys.  An avalanche of snow and ice from a roof can be dangerous, so particular care has to be paid to the location of elements such as windows and entrances.  FEMA, an agency who's opinions I generally try to pay attention to, recommends a minimum slope of 8:12

 for a roof to shed snow.  Metal roofing encourages snow to slide off, while textured materials encourage it to stick around.  

In an urban environment, we are often more aware of facades and interior space than we are of roofs, despite the fact that they are up there (usually) keeping the wet out!  In more remote locations, where a building is seen within its landscape, the roof is often more visible.  I found the article 

"Martin's Ten Rules of Roof Design"

 to be an interesting read, definitely written from a roofer's perspective.  Although he finds things like dormers problematic, he makes a good point that the simplest roof design is often the best roof design.  Besides, wouldn't you rather spend money adding something awesome to your house than repairing a leak?

Beginning this project got me thinking about architecture in more extreme climates.  While we can really do a flat or low-sloped roof to achieve a modern look, even in snowy climates, there are centuries of wisdom around how to build in blizzard-prone regions.  

See the images below for some inspiring images of snowbound architecture!

the modern tree house by Claire Grotz

Tree houses bring about the childhood nostalgia of summers spent in the backyard.  Not only do tree houses encourage people to be more connected with the outdoors, but they also bring a sense of youthful whimsy. Luckily, with modern architectural design, tree houses are no longer just for the kids. Take a look at these tree houses that give traditional designs a playful twist.