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Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part II: Zoning, permitting, design and building issues; What are your options?

The City of Seattle is continuing to move forward with changing legislation and policies to meet current housing demands. We covered many of the issues and concerns in our previous post, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part I: Housing concerns; Why home additions and conversions are rising to meet demand.” Read post here.

Here, in “Seattle – Watch us Grow – Part II,” we’ll share the current status of the zoning issues that are being addressed by the Seattle City Council and staff.  In the next post in our series, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part III: ADU & DADU Requirements and Considerations,” we’ll give you a summary of requirements for obtaining a permit, and considerations for design and construction.

Mayor Murray’s 28-member HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Committee) has been meeting the past few months with direction to provide a set of recommendations to the Council for approval. They’ve been working in seven smaller, strategic ‘deep-dive’ work groups, focusing on specific areas. Recommendations were expected at the end of May, but the Mayor has extended the deadline to end of this month (June, 2015) for more fine-tuning from the committee. The discussion is continuing, with some controversy, to meet the initial demands required of HALA along with input from neighbors who don’t want “more people or more buildings.” HALA is determined to present recommendations providing increased livability to residents, meeting their live and work needs, while keeping the balance of the neighborhoods. Read about HALA here.

One of the strategy work groups is “Zoning and Housing Types,” which is examining code requirements and barriers standing in the way of increased production of a broader variety of housing.

Two areas under consideration for changes are cottages and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s). Revisions to the code are needed to make it easier for the development of cottages in single-family neighborhoods. Currently, code allows for construction of ADU’s and DADU’s (detached units) but development has been lacking and building criteria has been limiting.

As we all plan and anticipate what recommendations will be presented, and what will be implemented by the City, those of us in the A/E/C industry (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) move forward presenting opportunities and choices to our clients meeting their individual housing demands. (One example, the use of a clerestory, a windowed wall above eye level, should be given a more flexible design standard.)

No matter the reason for your need to build an ADU or DADU, (see previous blog post) we want to help in your decision process by providing the necessary information to get started.

Live-work-play continues to work with clients to meet their personal needs in this ever-growing community.  Read our blog post coming soon, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part III: ADU’s & DADU’s Requirements and Considerations.” And you can be sure when any news hits our desk from the Seattle City Council or the HALA Committee we’ll keep you informed.  In the interim, feel free to call or e-mail us for an initial consultation.

Posted in Additions & New Construction, ADU, Backyard Cottage, City of Seattle news, DADU, Remodeling Projects | Comments closed

Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part I: Housing concerns; Why home additions and conversions are rising to meet the challenge

“As the fastest growing city in America, Seattle is undergoing record growth and development.” Mayor Ed Murray

Since the nationwide housing collapse in the mid 1990’s through the 2000’s; the economy has become more stable and we’ve seen significant growth, and the construction industry and real estate and mortgage industries are recovering.

The City of Seattle and surrounding communities, as I’m sure you’ve probably heard and read about from numerous sources, sees thousands of additional residents moving into the area each year, raising demand and creating exceptionally high costs for new home purchases and barely attainable options for rental units. You may have seen the article in the Puget Sound Business Journal on the home in 1,100 square foot home in Ballard that sold for $717,000. According to a report by GeekWire this past March, Seattle ranks No. 10 when it comes to the median price of a one-bedroom apartment at $1,600.

In 2014, population was estimated by City of Seattle staff to be 640,500. (The 2010 population count of 608,660 was 8% higher than reported in 2000.) King County forecasts the county’s population will grow from about 1.9 million persons in 2010 to about 2.4 million persons in 2040. City growth targets estimate 47,000 additional households between 2005 and 2024 with 29,330 net new housing units added from 2005 to 2012 (about 62 percent of the 2005-2024 target).

What does all this mean for live-ability in the City? It means the building landscape will change significantly. Single-family dwellings in dense, populated neighborhoods will be transforming into new styles of living to meet demand. We’ve already seen a rise in multi-family housing, and can’t walk a few blocks without seeing construction cranes. There are high rise apartments and townhomes, micro-housing (or tiny) efficiency apartments, boarding house type developments. Then there’s the trend for co-housing in outlying areas (e.g. Vashon Island); communities of private homes with shared facilities. Multi-family housing is booming!

In fall of last year, to address these housing concerns, the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31546 creating The Housing Affordability and Livability Committee (HALA). Asked to identify ways to deliver housing affordability across all income levels, the Committee will look at every piece of the housing puzzle, including incentive zoning rules, the potential for linkage and impact fees, the impact of accessory dwelling units (ADU’s), new efforts to preserve existing affordable housing, opportunities to stretch our valuable Housing Levy dollars using public-private partnerships, and more. After public meetings over a period of several months, HALA has been tasked with evaluating potential strategies and delivering a set of recommendations. As of this writing the committee has presented some recommendations and solutions to the Council and action is expected soon.

Smart Growth Seattle, a local advocacy group, is also becoming prominent in their collaboration with home builders and community stakeholders to help government adopt codes that are appropriate for meeting housing demand and preserving neighborhood character and managing growth.

More and more residents are looking for housing alternatives, and renovating homes is becoming ever more popular. Millennials, young single professionals, parents with young children and boomers with aging parents are seeking new solutions for changing lifestyles, additional income, work-at-home options and intergenerational family living.  Those in the architecture, construction, engineer and contractor professions are seeing increased demand for multi-family dwellings; duplexes, triplexes, mother-in law wings; single person apartment add-ons and backyard cottages.

Live-work-play, continues to work with clients to meet their personal needs in this ever-growing community.  In my next blog post, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part II,” I’ll talk about the different options and what type of structures or additions you should consider for your property including Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU.) We’ll talk about zoning, permitting, design and building issues. And you can be sure when the news hits our desk from the Seattle City Council chambers we’ll keep you informed.

Call or e-mail live-work-play now to discuss your new design or remodeling project; 206.726.0077 or


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Making your House Your Home

Are you making some big decisions regarding your home?  Is your current space not meeting you or your family’s needs? Contemplating buying something new? Slow down, take a breath…evaluate the options so you can slowly make a decision.

Many people, due to changing lifestyles, consider purchasing a new home when their current residence doesn’t meet their daily or long term needs. Perhaps the kids have moved away; you’re spending less time commuting and need office space; or, maybe you just feel your house is not your ‘home.’

Generally, the first thought tends to go to moving to a new home to meet the changes. That’s not always the easiest decision, especially in the Seattle area.   According to Redfin (a popular, residential real estate company) in a report published by Builder in March of this year, Seattle is one of three cities in the country that has the nation’s tightest supply of home inventory available for sale. This leads to buyer bidding wars and higher than ever offers above asking prices. Read more.

With these current home sale statistics, many homeowners are deciding to “stay put.” They’re considering how to renovate their existing structure, and what choices are the best for them.  They may be thinking about larger spaces for growing families, planning for a home-based business, or just having more room for a fun, new hobby.

When making these major decisions,  look for an architect that understands your lifestyle and changing needs. An architect can help you decide which direction to go; perhaps adding a second story; renovating a lower level or basement; or adding on at the main level.  It could also be just the right moment to remodel an older structure enhancing it’s personality and allowing for greater usability. The decision becomes up, down or out?  At live-work-play, we talk to clients every day to help determine the best direction.

You may want to consider some of these trends for your renovation:

  • Bringing a decades old home to contemporary design and use
  • Adding flexible spaces – with multi-use guest room, office, storage,  exercise, play/hobby rooms
  • Creating a common space or hub – for gatherings with family and friends
  • Integrating indoor and outdoor rooms –  a space expansion, to relax and entertain
  • Energy efficient elements – incorporating personal values to reduce energy consumption.

With  personal,  professional customer service, at live-work-play we will get to know YOU and will discuss one-on-one the options for your project.  We are intuitive, creative and think outside the box when analyzing a home, making recommendations and customizing to your needs.   Learning and exploring a client’s goals are at the forefront of our process allowing us to create the right design to make your home more functional and beautiful.

Call us at live-work-play today, and we can help you make your house your home.







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