Would have been these shoes, except that I didn’t meet with the architects (note: it’s plural now). I was busy hacking in Redmond.
So Will met with them, Campie and Steve, architects from mw/works, a small Seattle architecture firm. And with the builder, Ian. Who came to the house to provide input on what we can do with such a tight budget. And to climb on the roof and look at the views and gauge how light filters into the house.
Before the whole problem is defined, solutions can only be partial and premature. A designer who can’t wait for a complete, carefully prepared program is like the tailor who doesn’t bother to measure a customer before starting to cut the cloth. – from the 4th Edition of Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer
Afterward, I answered programming questions (posted in their entirety for posterity):
Please briefly list/adjust the different spaces that will be required (i.e. Kitchen, Mudroom, Master Bedroom, Two Guest Bedrooms, 2-car garage, etc):
If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.— Einstein
Carport/Garage (310sf per survey):
Existing Garage or rebuilt in same location depending on construction access requirements
Main House (1400-1600sf):
Front Entry (transitional space)
Master Bedroom (Ideal 14’ x 18’)
Master closets (Walk-in? Yes!)
Master Bathroom (shares with upper guest room)
Outdoor spaces: Decks/Patios
Basement Option 1 (separate exterior access for continued rental income) 625 sf
Partial Basement Option 2 (interior access for storage) 400sf
How many people are in the family? Who will be the primary occupants of the home?
comments: Two adults, full-time. A young child for frequent overnight visits.
Do you have any pets? Do they have any special requirements?
comments: Two Weimaraners + four chickens. The dogs will drive some of our material choices and door hardware. The chickens will affect the landscaping.
What would be the general pattern of guests? How many to accommodate?
comments: We don’t have guests that often. But having a comfortable, separate place for guests (two) would be good, but can be combined with an office space or other private area.
Are there any special needs that the home should accommodate now or in the future? Is wheelchair accessibility required in any areas? Is an elevator required now or in future?
comments: None at this time, although we do plan to grow old here.
What kinds of materials are you interested in for the interior/exterior?
comments: Simple, true, low maintenance ones that age well. There’s siding on a house on 2nd Ave W that we really like. Marble for kitchen countertops. Combination of concrete, wood, and tile floors. Transom windows.
Are there certain materials that you know that don’t want?
comments: Low quality, ugly crap. Also, canned lighting (unless used for task lighting in kitchen and baths). I hate canned lighting.
Many beautiful materials require some degree of maintenance on the exterior and a limited number of options exist that require almost no maintenance. How important is maintenance when considering material choices?
comments: It’s a very important consideration, but we’re okay with some maintenance.
Describe in general terms how your ideal house might look, feel, or be organized?
comments: Light, airy, simple, tall. Uncluttered, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing.
Do you have certain stylistic traits in mind for the house? Are there certain projects by Mwworks or others that seem particularly relevant as a reference?
comments: See Callie’s Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/neylano/a-house/ The house we like on 2nd Ave W. We also like the design philosophies Tom Kundig employed for the Rolling Huts.
Describe what you see as the site’s primary advantages? Disadvantages?
comments: Advantage: the view, light, alley access and location. Disadvantages, the narrow lot and neighbors behind us with money but ZERO taste.
Are certain views more important than others?
comments: The view of the Olympics to the west is most important, but we would like to build for views of the Cascades to the East and Mt Baker to the north if feasible.
Ideally, what rooms would be most important to orient to a view?
comments: Probably the kitchen, as we’re in the kitchen all the time. Then the living room. I would be okay with our bedroom highlighting the Cascade views.
Is morning sun or afternoon sun preferred for certain rooms? If so, which ones?
comments: Morning sun would be great in our bedroom. Afternoon sun (and/or morning sun) everywhere else. Currently, the way the light comes in to the living room in the evenings is absolutely beautiful. We would also like to take advantage of southern light coming into the house, even if diffused and indirect, that would be nice.
Which rooms do you see having the strongest connections with exterior spaces?
comments: The kitchen and living spaces. The mudroom.
How do you see the larger site being used – gardens, yards, pool, hot tub, BBQ/outdoor fireplace? Can you identify any activities that you would expect to occur on the property?
comments: Having a fire pit would be ideal. We would also like to plan a space for an endless pool to be added later. We are both avid swimmers. We love to entertain outside, too. And garden. And raise chickens. I would like automatic sprinklers both on the property and plumbed to the garden between the street and sidewalk. Also, bike shed built into retaining wall. We would like a fully enclosed yard to contain the dogs, but also want to be open with our neighbors. I don’t want my landscaping to scream “Go away. I don’t want to talk to you.” with ugly hedges. I want a good balance between open and private.
Do you have a preference for the primary fuel source and heating system for heating the home? Oil, natural gas, propane, electricity, wood? Forced air or hydronic radiant? Or hybrid? The vast majority of our projects use either natural gas or propane with hydronic radiant heat in the floors but older homes typically have forced air heating,
comments: Radiant heat powered by natural gas. We would like a woodburning fireplace. Mechanical systems offer an opportunity to conserve energy. Are you interested in sustainable systems like solar hot water, ground source geothermal, photovoltaics etc.?
Are there particular sustainable design practices that are important to you? Would you like to consider integrating systems/products, non-toxic finishes, recycled products, rainwater catchment, energy efficient equipment, advanced insulation systems, etc.?
comments: Yes. In fact, I was just reading about toilet/sink combos.
Should the house have both heating and cooling(AC) or would you prefer to avoid AC if possible?
comments: Avoid AC in favor of natural ventilation. We love ceiling fans.
Do you want a security system? If so, fairly basic (motion and door breaks) or something that has video and can be tied into a home automation system?
comments: Undecided. The dogs have worked very well so far, even in Baltimore (!!).
If you have any interest in a particularly high level of whole home controls or automation please describe here.
comments: Integrated stereo system, automated sprinkler systems. We’re not that excited about touchpad entry or an iris-scanning front door if that’s what you’re asking. Analog is good!
Do you have any special lighting requirements? Do you want standard light switching or a lighting control system such as Lutron Homeworks?
comments: Yes, especially if we decide not to go with a security system.
Do you want a central vacuum system?
What level of audio/visual system do you want to plan for?
comments: Integrated. Sonos and built-in projector screen somewhere.
Which spaces require window blinds/shades? Do you have a preference toward motorized vs. manual? Fabric curtains or roller blinds? Do any areas need to be black out (completely dark)?
comments: Manual is preferable. Blinds are preferable to curtains in most cases. Definitely in the bathrooms and bedroom(s). No black out necessary.
Do any rooms require window screens? If there are large sliding/folding doors in the primary living spaces, do they require screens? (A common solution is screens in the bedrooms/bathrooms only)
comments: Screens are good. P.S. Will’s dream is to have his own private screened sleeping porch like the ones common in his native Maryland, but we realize this may be out of scope.
How separated should the living room be from other activities like cooking, eating etc.?
comments: I like how you separated the living and kitchen at Ian’s house in Montlake. The push/pull of open vs private.
Would you like a fireplace? Wood or Gas? Decorative or used as heat source? Materials?
comments: Yes. As heat source. I have long had this idea of taking a mold of a marble fireplace very common in Baltimore rowhouses and then casting a replica in concrete to be used in our house here.
Can you think of any furniture, artifacts or art that would need to be planned for in this space? We have two chandeliers from the Baltimore house. We also bought a double-hung front rowhouse door complete with an originally numbered transom window. Additionally, there are a couple of doors in the Seattle house that we would like to repurpose: a pocket door and storm door.
Will you watch TV here? If so would you want to hide the screen when not in use? Approx TV size? If you will not watch TV in this space, what other spaces might accommodate this activity?
comments: We do not have a TV but would like to integrate a drop down projector screen into the living area.
Other thoughts or comments on this space?
comments: I like crown moulding for the living space. High ceilings. Tall pocket doors if feasible. We also like interior windows (the Baltimore house had transom windows for every interior door which we really loved).
How many dining areas should be provided? Do you expect you might want a casual eating space as well as a more formal dining space? Can dining be associated with the kitchen or living room rather than set apart?
comments: We like the dining area at Sitka & Spruce. A long communal table that can easily be formal or casual. We also like a dining space at a bar in the kitchen.
Would you want the dining space to open out onto an exterior terrace or deck?
comments: That would be nice.
Please describe the sorts of dining experiences you would like in the home? Large formal dinners, breakfast in the morning sun etc.
comments: Morning sun. Communal table for everyday and formal dining purposes.
When entertaining, how many guests might be typical? What would be the most you might want to accommodate?
comments: The most would be 20-ish for a non-sit down party. Typical dinner party is 6-10.
Are guests involved in food preparation and serving or would you prefer these activities are screened from guests.
comments: Guests are involved.
What size dining table would you expect to use in this house? Is it a table you already own?
comments: Long communal table. We have one, but I imagine buying a longer one than what we have.
Is outdoor dining important? Outdoor cooking?
comments: Yes. Yes.
Where/how much storage if any should be provided for formal dishes etc.?
comments: I want built in bookshelves throughout the house, which could also serve as dish storage.
Do you require a buffet type counter near the dining area for serving?
comments: That would be nice, but maybe lower priority than other things, especially if the kitchen and dining area are well-integrated.
Kitchen – general questions
Describe elements of an ideal kitchen. Is it the center of the home or more removed?
comments: Center. Marble counter tops. Simple. Industrial. Miele or Viking stove. Easy to keep clean.
Would you like to connect the kitchen to an outdoor space?
Is storage in upper and lower cabinets or would you prefer a more open kitchen with no upper cabinets but additional storage in a pantry?
comments: Open kitchen with pantry storage.
Is an office area required in the kitchen? Desk, laptop, mail, phone etc.?
comments: Not really, although I would like a place to organize mail immediately when I bring it in the house from the alley, which may or may not happen in the kitchen depending on the final design.
Should counters be higher or lower than typical? 36” high is standard.
comments: Yes, because we are both taller than average.
How important is keeping the kitchen clutter free vs the ability to display interesting objects? Open shelves? Hanging pots or display areas?
comments: Open shelves on top. We love them. Closed cabinets on bottom. Bookshelves, too. For us, clutter is books and reading materials (both me and Will), and shoes (me). We HATE knick knacks.
Kitchen – more specific (not critical information for the early design process)
For cabinets, do you prefer open shelving or solid doors or a mix?
comments: Mix. Basically, we love the look of commercial kitchens.
Are there materials you would prefer for cabinet finishes? Floor finishes?
comments: We want flooring in the kitchen that doesn’t show dirt and wears well, especially with dogs. We love the linoleum tiles in our kitchen now. They’re warm and forgiving if you drop a glass, but we wouldn’t do this in the kitchen again because they scratch and gouge very easily. We have stainless steel cabinets right now and really like them.
Do you have any special storage requirements for food or spices?
comments: Hmmm, not that I can think of, although I am planning to hire an organizer to help with planning my storage spaces, including the kitchen.
Do you have a strongly favored countertop configuration? Island, U or are you flexible?
comments: I want an island. I like the simplicity of two long, parallels counters, one also being a bar / island.
Would you like to be able to eat in or near the kitchen? How many should be accommodated?
comments: Yes. Maybe 4-6 in this space.
Would you like to have a walk-in pantry? Is this a room or perhaps built into pull-out cabinets?
comments: Yes. The pantry needs to be a lockable room that we can secure from our recalcitrant, door-opening, drawer-opening Weimaraner, Mies. He is a gray devil.
How is garbage, recycling and compost handled? To what degree if any would you expect to separate these items in the kitchen? Mud room or garage?
comments: Small receptacles in kitchen with covered disposal area in the alley.
Fixtures and appliances
What type of sink would you like? Double or single bowl, features, size?
Big. Single bowl. Stainless steel. But we would like a separate, smaller sink (for hand and vegetable washing. We are always standing in line for use of the kitchen sink).
Will you want a dishwasher? Located left or right of the sink?
Yes. Right. Although left would probably work, too.
What type of cooktop is desired? Gas, electric or induction?
Will you want a garbage disposal or trash compactor?
What type of ovens are required? Gas or electric? Wall ovens? Microwave?
Gas. Very small microwave. Yes to wall ovens! So I don’t have to bend over.
What type of refrigerator would you like? Size? Will you need a separate freezer?
Warming drawer, wine fridge or other built-in appliance? I need to research refrigerators before answering this question.
What small appliances would you expect to have on the counter typically/in an appliance garage?
comments: Vitamix, toaster oven, semi-commercial espresso machine. Kitchen-Aid mixer, food processor.
Any other thoughts or comments?
comments: We really, really like to cook. The kitchen will be the most important room in the house in terms of form following function, so we will probably have more thoughts to add as the designs progress.
Describe how you would like the experience of entry to work for guests? For your everyday use? If I could transport an exact replica of the entry hall from our Baltimore house here, I would. I loved it for its elegance and the graceful way it greeted people. It slowly revealed the beauty of the house with each step you took into the interior. We want people to get the immediate impression that they’re walking into a place that’s been thoughtfully designed.
Do you imagine the entry is more ‘clean’ with closets and coat storage presenting a more formal experience for guests? Or do you imagine the entry is more ‘functional’ with mud room functions incorporated at the door or nearby?
comments: Front entry is more formal. The Baltimore house had a double-doored vestibule that stepped up into the entry hall. Back entry from alley is the entry we will use more often and needs to be very functional, mud room, etc.
Is the entry near to the kitchen or does it bring you into a more formal room like the living space or present you with a view?
comments: This one is tricky because we’d like to orient the kitchen toward the front of the house to take advantage of the view. Unless there’s a way to have it towards the back with the view optimized? This question is TBD.
If there is a mudroom associated with entry what sorts of things happen here? Storage of coats, shoes, tools? Laundry or bathroom/shower? Dog washing?
comments: The mudroom would be near the back (or maybe side?) of the house. All of the above would happen here. Additionally, I have a lot of shoes and would like my main shoe storage to be in the mudroom so I can choose my shoes just as I leave the house. The mudroom also serves as a tack room of sorts for the dogs. We would like a floor drain and utility sink. The washer/dryer could go here, too.
Is the laundry in a room associated with a mudroom, master suite, bedroom wing, or both?
comments: Mud room is fine. With chutes from upstairs bedroom/bathroom.
Is an ironing board desired? If so, built-in or freestanding?
comments: We would die for a built-in ironing board!
What is the size and type of preferred washer and dryer? Stacking, front-load, etc?
comments: We have ours stacked now, but I would like them side-by-side instead. They’re only two years old, so we won’t be buying new ones.
How much table/counter space is required?
comments: Five or six feet.
Is an area for hanging clothes required? What size?
comments: Yes. Three feet or so.
How do you imagine this space to feel? Is it very private and dark or bright and open to the landscape?
comments: Bright and open to the landscape.
Do you imagine the bedroom to occupy a particular part of the site? Should it have a view?
comments: We’ve always pictured it facing the west, but can also imagine it on the back of the house to optimize the eastern views of the Cascades and north to Baker. But maybe integrating interior windows if the space is lofty would allow us to have both?
How much separation is required from more public spaces? Children/guest rooms?
comments: We would like the master suite pretty private.
IIs this a place you will spend time during the day? Would it be important to capture lots of morning or evening light or is a darker space preferred?
comments: Morning light is the most important.
What size of bed do you prefer? Do you watch TV here? Would you like access to outdoor space?
comments: Queen. A small balcony and French doors would be ideal.
Would you prefer a large walk in closet/dressing area or would storage be limited to closets and dressers? If lots of storage space is important can you estimate closet size?
comments: Walkin closet. 8’ x 6’. The size of our current bathroom would work.
Are bookshelves desired in the bedroom? If so, how much space?
comments: Yes. We want to integrate built-in bookshelves in every room of the house if possible. Because we love books and want them around us.
How do you envision this space? Tight and efficient or spacious and airy? Somewhere in between?
comments: Somewhere in between.
Is this a place you will go to relax or primarily functional? Soaking tub? Exterior deck?
comments: Both. We would like a big, modern shower but also a clawfoot tub. I had one of those in Baltimore and loved it on cold winter evenings.
Is it important this room has long views? Views to landscape?
comments: No. We want lots of light, but not necessarily views.
Would you like the toilet to be in a separate room? Any toilet preferences like heat, bidets or special controls?
comments: Yes. We could do the toilet/sink combo for a modern WC. This will be very practical, especially since this is likely the only full bath in the house. The WC would be accessible to guests if someone was taking a shower. I would also like the walk-in closet off the bathroom.
Would you like a shower in the master bath? Tub or whirlpool? Could the tub and shower be combined? Steam bath or sauna?
comments: Shower and tub, separate.
Do you have any preferences for specific materials in the bathroom?
comments: Last year when we were in Paris, we saw some beautiful tiles that we really liked.
Can his and her lavatory be in the same space? 1 or 2 sinks?
comments: Yes. We want double sinks.
How many extra bedrooms are required?
comments: One if we can work it into the budget.
Can you describe how you would imagine balancing privacy/adjacency for extra rooms relative to the master bedroom? Does it differ depending on use, nursery, children’s rooms or guest rooms?
comments: The bathroom could be between the rooms. In the Baltimore house, the second-floor extra bedroom was also separated by a two-step descent.
How large should the bedrooms be for children? Guests?
comments: 8’x10’. 10’x10’
Are views important for this space? Access to the outdoors?
comments: Nice to have, but not required. Good light and airiness is required, though.
How much storage is required in these rooms? Built-in furniture or beds or desks?
comments: Maybe a wall bed and built-in bookshelves. Small walkin closet arrangement. This room could double as an office.
Do you require a small powder room for guests near the living area?
Would you like a separate guest bathroom for children/overnight guests adjacent to the extra bedroom(s)?
Should the guest bath have a shower or tub or both?
Is a special space or room needed for family activities or children? How would this space work, what would be needed here? TV, games etc.? Would this activity just overlap with the living room?
Do you envision needing an exercise room? How would this relate to other spaces? Does it need access to outside, views or natural light? Can it be below grade?
Do you need a special room to retreat to like a library or study?
Do you need a wine cellar or area to store wine? Is it purely for storage or more formal display? What size? Should it be specially temperature controlled?
comments: This would be nice, but could be in the basement / crawl space. Whatever the basement ends up turning into.
Do you need an office(s) in the house? Craft room or workspace/workshop? If so, please describe desktop space required, equipment (printers, etc) and storage needs.
comments: Yes. Could be a big tall work table in the office space.
Would you prefer the garage be attached, detached or flexible? How many vehicle bays would you like in the garage?
comments: Detached. Our plans for the garage are to turn it into a studio. So the current size is good: one car.
If the garage is detached are there other rooms in the program above that may be a part of this building?
Is full weather protection required from carport/garage or can there be a short walk in the open?
comments: Short open walk is preferable.
Is the garage fully enclosed or more like a carport with enclosed and lockable storage?
comments: Fully enclosed.
What type of storage is needed in the garage?
comments: We need bike and tool storage, plus Christmas decorations, etc. But not necessarily in the garage. Perhaps a shed built into the front retaining wall?
List any other accessory structures or uses you would like to consider in the site design. Garden sheds, greenhouses, beach storage,etc.
comments: A little garden shed and greenhouse would be awesome!