Project Updates


It's been a busy week for the Woodinville project.  The foundation has been poured, and the family can now really get a sense of the size and flow of the addition.  

This project has been designed with features that will support the medical needs of the household, including an indoor swim-in-place pool and lots of automation and wheelchair-friendly features.  

The area in the foreground is where the indoor pool will be located.

The area in the foreground is where the indoor pool will be located.


Framing is complete and the roofing is being installed on the second story addition.

The new master suite is now framed above the existing main floor kitchen and porch.

The new master suite is now framed above the existing main floor kitchen and porch.

Built in 1915, this is one of the oldest homes in Seattle that I have had the opportunity to work on. While we've been busy preserving it's charm and optimizing it for modern living, this is what has been going on across the street...

Munch-n-crunch demolition underway

Munch-n-crunch demolition underway

This makes me feel both sad and proud at the same time. Sad, because I have lost count of how many of my projects have required a special order to match that tall cedar siding. Here went an entire house of it, along with other goods that could have been salvaged, into the dumpster. 

About one house like this is being demolished on this block per month. What goes up in its place will probably be a multi-family building due to the zoning in this area. That part doesn't make me sad. There is a logical need for housing density in Seattle, and right now I am hopeful that it will be a really well-designed building. (Sadness may set in on that point later -- so many of the new multi-family buildings fall short of good design... very, very short.)

Meanwhile, I'm proud because my clients are good stewards of a unique home that will someday be one of the few that remain, and they trusted me to help them make the right decisions for both the house and their family.

I carefully designed the addition so that it would appear original to the house when we are done, including matching details on the trim and siding which you will see in later photos.  The new rooms are modest in size, in proportion to the original rooms.  Many original elements are being reused or restored -- including the brass and crystal interior doorknobs, the front door, and the original twist-to-ring doorbell that is being repaired thanks to a friend with a 3D printer.  

Historic photo showing the original front door

Historic photo showing the original front door

The 1915 front door - still there and will be restored

The 1915 front door - still there and will be restored

Featured in SNAP magazine

Magnolia Mid-Mod continues to get noticed for its innovative design solutions, especially in the kitchen where ergonomics and workflow were carefully considered together with the different abilities of standing and seated users. Most recently, it was featured in SNAP magazine  (Sweets News and Products), published by Architectural Record.

In the pre-internet era, you would not have found an architect's office without current copies of the Sweets catalogs in their resource library. So, it's especially flattering to have been included in the Product Specs "Accessible Design Solutions" section of this publication, which serves as a "yellow pages" and inspiration source for other architects.

(The products editor, Sheila Kim, also included a handwritten note with my copy that made my day: "Your project truly demonstrates how beauty & accessibility can coexist.")


  1. Elkay Drain Fitting - This offset drain creates an additional 12-3/4" of knee clearance for sinks without garbage disposals. ($114)

  2. Elkay Gourmet (Lustertone) Stainless Steel Single Bowl Undermount Sink - The center rear drain position installed together with an offset drain provide additional knee clearance. The Perfect Drain is an edgeless drain that eliminates the accumulation of crumbs and gunk. Undermount, 23-1/2" x 18-1/4" x 5-3/8". ($662, sink only)

  3. Rachiele custom-made apron front stainless steel sink with offset drain - Similar to the ever-popular custom sink seen in my Magnolia Mid-Mod and Pioneer Square projects, Rachiele sinks are available in standard brushed or rustic matte stainless steel with the option to add a hammered texture to the apron only or to the entire sink. The sinks can also be made with "signature ledges" which allow you to set cutting boards onto the ledges for ultimate flexibility. For those who desire a garbage disposal, a custom sink will allow you to place the disposal as close to the rear wall as and far out of the knee space as possible. Apron-front, custom-sized. (Price varies.)

  4. Moen 1800 Series - The rear corner drain is helpful when a garbage disposal is desired. Undermount, 23" x 18" x 5-1/2". ($294)  

  5. Kohler Vault - Clean lines and square corners coordinate with modern architecture.  The super-slim edge can be top-mounted or under-mounted. At 6-5/16" deep, this sink basin is deeper than the Moen and Elkay options. Use in combination an offset drain for maximum knee clearance. Dual-mount, 25" x 22" x 6-5/16". ($679, sink only)  

Note:  Prices listed are estimated retail prices.  Actual purchase price varies.

Video Tour: Magnolia Mid-Mod

There is a lot more story to tell (and stuff to show) about this wonderfully livable and accessible home than photos alone can capture.  

So, when the fabulous Chibi Moku team decided to film in the Pacific Northwest for a few weeks this summer, Karen and I jumped at the opportunity.  Enjoy!

How a small splurge may become a big expense (and how to maintain control)


You probably don't realize it, but the same tricks used in grocery stores to entice you to spend more are used in showrooms for construction materials and products.  In a grocery store, the sugary cereal is placed at childrens' eye level to grab their attention (and begin the begging process).  The guilty-pleasure cereals that camouflage as healthier options are at adult eye level.  And, the really healthy stuff?  On the top or very bottom shelf, collecting dust.  

When you walk in a showroom, the most popular luxury goods will be front and center, and you will surely find yourself in "love" with some expensive (and probably trendy) goodies.  


With any construction material, the cost of labor must be included to determine the actual price difference.  Labor rates can sometimes eclipse the unit cost savings.   


When selecting the backsplash for the kitchen at our Laurelhurst project, we immediately loved the classic look of the 1x3 statuary white marble herringbone pattern mosaic tile.  But, at about $21 per square foot, the material cost was significantly more than a $4 per square foot matte white subway tile we also liked.

So, we came up with two options:

  • Option 1- All herringbone mosaic

  • Option 2 - Inexpensive white subway tile with matching trim pieces and a narrow accent band of a marble tile

We asked our general contractor to give us a total installed price for both options.  Surprisingly, the additional labor to install the less expensive tile made Option 2 MORE expensive than Option 1.  The labor to install each piece individually, plus additional time to determine the best layout in the field (to minimize small pieces), more than closed the price gap of the materials per square foot.  This would  not have been true if Option 1 also required piece-by-piece installation and fussy layout calculations in the field, but since the herringbone mosaic came mounted on a mesh in 12"x12" interlocking pieces, the labor factor was significantly less.


Some materials have an even larger price difference between the material cost and the total installed cost.  One reason is that some items must be purchased in certain increments, regardless of the amount needed -- such as certain tiles that are sold by the box and stones that are sold in whole slabs.

When fragile or difficult to fabricate materials are being handled and shaped, there will also be a liability factor in the subcontractor's pricing.  After all, if they break the slab, they will have to purchase and fabricate a replacement.  


Upgrading to manufactured quartz from plastic laminate may seem like a small splurge if you rely upon square foot costs to make your judgment (see the yellow highlighted cells in the spreadsheet, below).  However, once labor, fabrication, and mark-ups are added, the multiplier is much higher (green cells vs. yellow cells, below).  



You may also have to purchase more slabs because of the shapes of un-spliced pieces required that can be cut from a single slab.   In contrast, plastic laminate can be continuously applied to a substrate in much longer pieces, so a purchase increment is less likely to trigger a significant overall price swing.


Appointments are recommended (and required at many showrooms) so that you get individualized attention and answers to your questions, but you will have a true insider's advantage when your architect/designer is either by your side or has called to brief the salesperson regarding the design objectives and budget expectations before your appointment.  

If you find yourself captivated by a more expensive option, collect the information needed to price it, but spend time to find a less expensive option that would also work, keeping labor, purchase increments, and subcontractor liability in mind.