Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 - A Busy Year!

 2014 - a Busy Year!

One thing stays the same, no two projects are alike. This year alone;  3 Bathrooms, 2 kitchens, 3 exterior renovation projects (all made necessary by our beautiful Seattle weather), several smaller custom built cabinet projects, and two large commercial job, Seattle Cutlery on Pike Place Market and Blink Atelier on Broadway. See previous post on Seattle Cutlery.

I look forward to the coming year. Working with customers to assess needs, design projects, and then bringing those plans to life is a rewarding way to make a living.  Every job is a chance to gain experience, develop skills, and build on relationships established with customers and collaborators. If anything, recent events have taught us to appreciate the homes that we have, preserve what we can, and build to last.

Pike Place Market, Seattle

Blink Atelier
Broadway East, Seattle

Shelf/Bed on Capitol Hill

Bunk beds on Bainbridge Island


Monday, June 16, 2014

Capitol Hill-Creating a distinctive and functional space.

Sliding doors (reclaimed fir) with distinctive hardware are the functional elements around which the rest of the remodel was designed. The large sliding door in the bedroom covers both a walk-in closet and washer/dryer room, and slides either way to expose one or the other openings. 

This large project included a full bathroom renovation custom built cabinetry. The drawer above is built to slide around plumbing, with the top tray sliding back into the cabinet to allow access to the deeper sections of the drawer.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


This is a picture of one of the most notorious contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, the contractor's pickup truck;

Every builder has one (I do too), and every day we drive it to buy materials, to and from our homes, and between worksites.  Unfortunately, this is one transportation problem that cannot be solved with buses for bicycles. Ideally contractors would work only in their own neighborhoods, and only with their neighbors as employees. This is not always an option, but hiring locally is, when possible, a great way to minimize the impact of building projects.

There is a lot of interest in sustainability today. And justifiably so, as we begin to recognize the limits of our natural world, as well as the speed at which be approaching them. It is also a reaction the corruption of other terms like "green" that appear too vague, or too easily manipulated, to be useful as a response to environmental challenges.  Whereas "green" building is largely concerned with materials used in the process of construction, and a buildings energy use during operation, sustainability has a much broader mandate. It seeks to make judgements about a structures future usefulness, its needfulness, and the fundamental value it returns on a given environmental cost.

But in spite of being vulnerable to the "greenwashing" of existing business and business practices, sustainability  remains a concept that must be defined and protected. In practical terms (and what is more practical than homebuilding?) this requires the establishment of commonplace and intuitively simple benchmarks for assessing the sustainability of a given construction project.

The First (and arguably highest) benchmark is also the simplest; does it need to be built?  Technically, the only project that is truly carbon neutral is the one that never gets built. For example;  a 1,000 sq. ft deck (unless its the observation platform at the base of a national monument) is not a green project no matter what materials you use. A 3,000 sq.ft single family home in the wilderness incurs enormous environmental costs regardless of whether or not it is passively heated.

The Second question to ask of any project is; will it endure? My blog post on Heirloom Projects goes into this in more depth. Sustainable designs are intended to last 50 years, and not just because of the quality of building materials, but because they nicest part of the home. Through good design they should be the last place future remodelers look to begin their work.

And Third, and most relevant to the tradesman, are the environmental effects associated with the construction process. One constantly overlooked aspect of sustainability construction is the enormous contribution to greenhouse gas emissions that the process of construction represents. This is why I actively seek jobs close to my shop and home. My shop is on Capitol Hill, my home is in Wallingford, and in between is Dunn Lumber. Most of my work is done within a couple miles of these locations. Most of my supplies are ordered in bulk on the Internet. My subcontractors are skilled, experienced and (whenever possible) local as well. It doesn't solve the sustainability issues inherent in the transportation component of residential remodels, but combined with other sustainable practices it can go a long way to reducing the carbon footprint, over the long term, of construction activities.

To build sustainability into a project requires a keen eye for value,  a knowledge of materials, and a willingness to compromise in favor of sustainable options. Sustainability does not rely on expensive and proprietary 'green' materials. It is an important and realistic goal for every project, regardless of budget.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heirloom Projects

If you live on Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Fremont or Wallingford, it is likely that you live in a structure which would benefit from a long term approach to remodeling projects. Modern materials and construction techniques, as well as the steady appreciation of area homes, make custom projects a source of good return on investment.Heirloom renovations consist of projects designed to at last 30 to 50 years, use quality materials, and hardware, as well as design that takes into account both the style of the home and history of the neighborhood. The project should be a focus point of the home without standing apart, so that it is the last place future remodelers look to begin their work. Even better, it is what they build around, and take their design cues from.
In many cases the first step in a successful, long lasting project is identifying those existing elements of a house that either work already, or are most amenable to refurbishment and extension. Most houses undergo an organic (and inevitable) process of change, and each remodel should be looked at in the context of this larger unfolding story. These heirloom renovations are increasingly called for in houses whose value have now made them irreplaceable objects.
Builders are increasingly recognizing that their responsibility extends beyond the completion of a project. Some are taking on the role of advocates for a projects focusing on sustainability over pure profit, on appropriate scale over maximizing space, and the on the long term impact of all aspects of their building activities.