Here’s what’s going on in the world of  live-work-play. To stay updated, you may also sign up for our email newsletter.

From the Ground Up – Starting your Remodeling Project with Site Design

In our second installment of the live-work-play series, From the Ground Up, we’ll discuss starting your project with site design and how your home is situated on your property. (Read the first in the series here, From the Ground Up – Financing a Project.)

What are some of the issues you’ll need to talk about with your architect? Sheri, and the staff of live-work-play will review and discuss what opportunities you can take advantage of and what the challenges might be. Here are several:

Sun and shade: Where is the sun at different times of day, and different times of year. How does it enter and flow through the house. Is there enough daylight in the appropriate parts of the home? And, don’t forget the exterior spaces!

Privacy:  Are your neighbors overlooking you, or vice versa?  It’s especially important to separate private spaces like the bedrooms and bathrooms. At the exterior, do you feel like you or your neighbors are on display?  Is there enough separation to feel private yet enough openness to feel neighborly?  (This applies to all kinds of housing: single family homes, multi-family and detached accessory dwelling units (DADU’s).

Flow of spaces: How do you want the home to function? What are your needs for your family and looking toward the future? Are you considering indoor/outdoor rooms? How does your garden and/or landscape plans fit into your vision?

Materials and textures: Will you be incorporating elements of ‘green design,’ environmentally friendly systems and products? Will your addition and/or remodel integrate with the original home design and materials? What is the aesthetic you’re looking for?

Storm drainage: You may require review by the City of Seattle if there is over 750 square feet of site disturbance. Each city and/or jurisdiction is different but have commonalities. This means that both roof water, and foundation drain water, need to stay on site and flow into a rain garden (read more here about Seattle’s 12,00 Rain Gardens program,) an infiltration trench, or combination thereof.  (These are best practices, if possible, in all instances whether required or not!)

All of these considerations need to be addressed before your architect can create a design for your new space. Working together ‘from the ground up’ from financing to site design, every stage of the work to completion, will culminate in a well thought out project, with minimal surprises, bringing your dream home to reality.

Next up in our series: From the Ground Up–Foundations and Sub-Flooring.

Remember it’s not too early to plan for next summer and fall construction. Site design can particularly take a bit of extra time! Call or e-mail the professionals at live-work-play now to discuss your new design or remodeling project. 206.726.0077













Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

From the Ground Up – Financing a Project

You’re inspired. You’ve done your research, you’ve saved your favorite magazine articles and photos, and you’re starting to envision what your dream house will look like in reality. You’ve made the decision to remodel your home or build a new one and you’ve selected your architect. You’ve taken big steps as you’re making these monumental family and financial decisions.

So, what’s the first thing you need to talk about in your initial conversations with your architect? Sheri, and the staff of live-work-play, will want to start the discussion from the ground up; from financial options, to site design, to decisions on building systems and materials, from foundations to the roof.

Our “From the Ground Up” series will focus on all of the above, starting here with how to finance your project.  When it comes to financial issues, we don’t consider ourselves experts, but we would like to get you started with some pertinent information and valuable resources. There are different considerations depending on your project. Are you adding on or altering a current home? Are you building a detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU)? Are you contemplating completely new custom home? Below are some possibilities to consider.

For additions and home alterations:

  • Cash: Where does it come from:  savings, sale of stock, inheritance, family gift?
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): There is a maximum amount of credit established by the bank, but you will only pay interest on what you actually spend.  A HELOC often has a variable interest rate and a balloon of 15 years. HELOC’s can be converted to a home equity loan (HELOAN) with a fixed interest rate when you’re all done spending.
  • Home equity loan HELOAN:  This is a fixed amount, disbursed all at once at a fixed rate, with a pay back term which you have to start paying back when the money is disbursed.
  • Construction loan:  This is based on appraised value when construction is complete.  Typically, a bank pays the contractor when invoices are submitted, and then bank personnel visit the site before paying the contractors invoices to see that the work was actually completed.  There is consequently a lag time until the contractor is paid.

For detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU), options here include:

  • Cash
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC)
  • Home equity loan (HELOAN)
  • Construction loan:  Fannie Mae does not underwrite second units on single family property (as of this writing) so a construction loan is more likely to be a “portfolio” loan NOT underwritten by Fannie Mae. Washington Federal is a good place to start. In general, you’ll want to stick to a more local or “local” bank such as credit unions, Homestreet, Umpqua, Salmon Bay and Washington Federal. (All banks have their own nuances to the rules, so it is important to ask a lot of questions and find out what each bank does, and does not do, that applies to your particular situation. Some, for example, may include potential DADU rental income in the income calculation and some won’t.

For new house construction options are:

  • Cash
  • More typically a construction loan (see above) or a conventional construction to permanent loan product
  • FHA construction to perm products are available at times for a lower down payment, but they incur mortgage insurance costs both up front and ongoing and may be more challenging to locate.

With all of the above ideas, you can refinance into one mortgage when construction is complete, potentially making more sense long term.

We hope this information is helpful in your planning and securing financing for your project. Remember to ask lots of questions and do your research. This is most important in avoiding any disappointments, setbacks or lapses as you move through the construction process.

Next up in our series:  From the Ground Up–Site Design.

Call or e-mail the professionals at live-work-play now to discuss your new design or remodeling project. 206.726.0077









Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part III: ADU’s & DADU’s Considerations and Requirements

Mayor Murray, the City of Seattle, and the controversial HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) committee has been all over the news this summer as all entities move forward with changing legislation and policies to meet current housing demands. (We covered some of the issues in our previous posts: Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part I: Housing concerns; Why home additions and conversions are rising to meet demand.” And, “Seattle – Watch Us Grow – Part II: Zoning, permitting, design and building issues; What are your options?”)

There were many items presented and addressed in Mayor Murray’s recent Action Plan, and  September 1, Mayor Murray and Councilmember O’Brien introduced legislation to build new affordable housing. Read about it here. This will be an on-going discussion for legislative consideration. While this will change the fabric of new development and  increase affordable housing opportunities,  the discussion has increased the demand for additional housing in the form of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) and Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit’s (DADU’s.)

Mayor Murray’s ‘roadmap’ calls for increased “Diversity and Flexibility of Single Family Areas.” It states,”Single Family areas can welcome more housing options within the scale of the existing neighborhood, such as cottage housing, small duplexes and backyard cottages.” The professionals at live-work-play are often asked about the possibilities and potential considerations for a property owner to initiate new construction or renovate an existing structure.  Here are some things to consider:*

  • Even if your lot is 4,000 square fee or greater, do you have extra space to share?
  • How will your neighborhood look with an ADU or DADU?
  • Will the design maintain your privacy and that of your neighbors?
  • Will you rent the unit? Who is your potential renter and can you build to meet the demands of the rental market?
  • Will you have time to care for and maintain an additional unit?
  • Can you convert an existing detached garage?
  • Will you consider “Green” design components? Universal Design components?
  • Besides the exterior and interior work, are you prepared for the disruption of extending the sewer, water, and electrical connections?
  • Will you want to have separate meters installed?
  • How will tenants access the unit? Side yard? Alley?
  • What professionals will you need to hire to design and build the unit?

While we’re focus on City of Seattle requirements here, keep in mind every city and county jurisdiction has its own code requirements and permitting process. (Many will be very similar to Seattle and we’d be happy to help  you  investigate those areas!)

The current requirements in the City of Seattle for permits include that you, as property owner, or your property co-owner, must occupy either the main house or the attached or detached ADU for more than six months of each calendar year; you or your property co-owner who live on the property have a 50 percent or greater interest in the property; and that you meet the required standards and codes.*

More specific current requirements for ADU’s (attached):

  • An ADU is limited to 1,000 square feet in a single-family structure and up to 650 square feet in a rowhouse or townhouse in a lowrise zone
  • The ADU must meet current standards of the Seattle residential, building, mechanical, electrical and energy codes
  • One off-street parking space is required for the ADU except for a rowhouse or townhouse in designated urban villages and urban centers and in lowrise zones.

And for DADU’s (detached):

  • The minimum lot size required for a DADU is 4,000 square feet in single-family zones
  • A DADU is limited to 800 square feet of gross floor area, including garage and storage areas, in single-family zones and 650 square feet in a lowrise zone
  • The DADU must meet current standards of the Seattle residential, building, mechanical, electrical, energy, and environmentally critical areas codes
  • One off-street parking space is required for the DADU, except in designated urban villages and urban centers and in lowrise zones.

Before you move forward, you might want to speak with your neighbors, think about the issues they could be concerned with, e.g. parking, construction disruption, window light, access to the sun, noise and views. What could hinder their livability?

Then of course you need to consider costs.**

Hard Costs:

  • Demolition
  • Site preparation
  • Utilities
  • Construction (materials and labor)
  • Landscaping

Soft Costs:

  • Financing (second mortgage or construction loan)
  • Professional design and engineering services
  • Planning
  • Building permits
  • Development fees
  • Utility hook up fees

(Read the live-work-play post here for answers to the question “How much will it cost?”)


Check out past, current and future live-work-play ADU and DADU projects for ideas and inspiration.  The professional architects of live-work-play will help you determine the steps necessary to complete a project; from site plan to best positioning and location, to privacy and parking access. We’ll help you design your project with all components and specifications that a contractor would require to build. Through our professional relationships and partnerships in the community we can connect you to a general contractor or sub-contractor, a landscape architect, an interior designer, specialty professionals for green building systems, top engineers and salvage experts.


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

Article references content from City of Seattle:
**“A GUIDE TO BUILDING A BACKYARD COTTAGE,” June, 2010; City of Seattle; Seattle Planning Commission; Department of Planning and Development.




















Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed