Our Architect

We started meeting and interviewing architects in late March. It was a tough decision to pick one architect as several are very good. We interviewed seven Seattle architects and we chose Miller-Hull.

We expect it to take a year to design it and another year or more after that to build it. So we’re just at the start of a very long process that will consume a large part of our time for a while but are excited to get into it. We wrote our “program”, which is a description of each room of the house and how the rooms should relate to each other, and, in our case, a 56-page document. We had our first meeting last week to go over it with the architect.

We picked Miller-Hull because we love their buildings, of course. They are, in our view, the inventors of the Pacific Northwest wood/concrete/steel style that we love. We also want an environmentally sustainable house and this is one of Miller-Hull’s skills (they wrote a book on it, in fact).

They have a very collaborative approach both within the firm and with the client. We knew we’d want to be very involved in the process because we appreciate design and we want to be active in the design and building of our dream house — the house our kids will grow up in and, hopefully, want to come back to when they’re older (and we’re very old). We wanted an architect that would put up with, maybe even appreciate, our meddling in the process.

As for our current house, we’ve always hated it. Not only is it ugly and not fit the surroundings at all, it’s incredibly inefficient space-wise. It has so many 45° angles that it has, by our measure, 20% wasted space. That’s space that needs to be heated and cooled yet can’t be used as living area. There’s only two small bedrooms for kids (one without a closet) and no way to add another without making significant changes to the structure. The kitchen is completely separated from the rest of the house so the kids can’t be seen from the kitchen and when we have guests over, everyone squeezes into the kitchen. The great view we have is only visible from two rooms in the house and most windows are oriented away from the view — it’s as if the house was designed for another property and then plopped here. It’s very difficult to walk through the house with all the crazy angled walls — it feels chaotic to be in it and new visitors tend to get lost. And there’s entirely too many stairs for no good reason — what idiot put a sunken living room in which puts the seating below the view?! We have a ridiculously large master bedroom, a room we only use when we’re sleeping, and a bathroom that is also too large with a big bathtub that we never use and creates an inconvenient walking path into the bathroom. The windows throughout the house are so poorly placed that the temperature can vary 20 degrees from one room to the next — the dining room is unbearable in the summer and, at the same time, the office is so cold I have to turn on the electric heaters. Argh, I could go on and on….

At first we thought we could remodel the house to fix the biggest problems but the more we thought about it, the more we realized that it’d take almost as much money to fix the major things yet, after spending lots of money, we’d still be stuck with a house we mostly don’t like.

We think we can build a much more attractive house, with a more simple and open design that fits our lifestyle, and a more efficient house — using passive heating and cooling — to keep our electric bill as low as possible. We have a south-facing property with good clearance to the sun so we should be able to get lots of effective solar glazing to heat the house passively. The current house doesn’t take advantage of this at all with poorly-placed windows and no internal thermal mass to store heat or transfer it to the rest of the house. Cooling the house should be trivial, just have some open windows to catch the breeze and passively cool the house during the warmer summer months.

10 thoughts on “Our Architect

  1. Oh, I guess that wasn’t clear. We’re replacing our existing house. We’re not sure if it’ll be on the same foundation or not, though. I’d like to place it at a different spot on the property but we don’t yet know if that’ll be possible.

  2. That’s great news! All the short comings you mentioned about the current floor plan are spot on. The kitchen is such a great gathering place, yet as you mentioned, it’s isolated from the rest of the house. I never really thought about the drawbacks to your sunken family room, but duh, you are so right about that room not capitalizing on your amazing view. Glad to hear that you decided to go all the way and replace your existing house. While I have fond memories of my visits there, I’m sure you’ll dream up a spectacular new home that will be amazing and a much better fit for your family.

    P.S. Will there be a slide in the new floor plan?

  3. Hey Kathy!

    We’re not sure what will become of the slide. It’s definitely a unique and fun part of the current house, but it’s not very practical and wastes a lot of space. We may build a playground outside for the kids and if we do, we may use it as a slide there. If not, we’ll re-use the metal in it for something.

  4. Great and exciting news!! Can’t wait to see it! We wish you the best with all the planning, etc.

    Love,
    MD,JB,GG

  5. Hi – That is exciting news – Will you enjoy tenting while the house is being built? Ho Ho Love that slide but I can see what you are saying about all the angles etc. in the house and the isolation of the kitchen I know with you two designing it the dream home will be beautiful & unique Have fun Cheers bergy

  6. Jeez – how long is this whole thing going to take?

    Can’t wait to see some renderings of the final vision.

    Niles and I are just back from a week on Cape Cod with Maya and her moms, and now we have his 25-yr-old nephew here for a couple of weeks. He’s doing yard projects for us in exchange for his plane ticket.

    Hope all is well – love to G,
    -a.

    P.S. That place on E Marginal Way we chatted about a bit ago – Hudson – got a great review in the Seattle Times. We still haven’t been. It’s officially “on our list” now tho.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s