Materials of Interest: Porcelain Tile

Sheri and the architects at live-work-play are seeing an increased interest from their clients in trend-setting porcelain tile. They are incorporating this material into many of their home and remodel designs.

Porcelain is denser, more porous and a sturdier option that offers greater stain and water resistance than ceramic tile. It’s strong, durable, and resists scratches and chips; a great option for families with young kids and pets. Designs are endless and can take on the look of granite, wood, leather and even fabric. Clients are using it in kitchens, bathrooms, entryways, laundry rooms and counter tops with unanimous success.

Porcelain is easy to care for, AND a big plus, it is well-suited for radiant in-floor heating. Who doesn’t want a warm, toasty bathroom floor when you get up in the morning?

Call the professionals at live-work-play and find out how a beautiful porcelain design could add comfort, functionality and an artistic touch to your addition or remodel.

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Come by the Phinney Center Home Design and Remodel Fair


The Phinney Home Design & Remodel Fair will be held Sunday, January 31.   Please stop by Room 6 to say hello!!

This year’s theme, “Smaller Living, Larger Life,” will focus on ideas for living in a smaller footprint, simplifying, expanding outdoor living space or converting part of a home for a multi-generational household. Sheri Newbold, owner of live-work-play, will be a featured speaker. Her presentation, Creating a Backyard Cottage, begins at 12:50 p.m. Topics include:

– What to think about: goals and values for your Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU) (Read live-work-play’s informative blog post on Backyard Cottages here.)
– What to do to get started: does your property meet initial requirements (such as area) and talking about your project with architects and contractors.
– Plus, a brief discussion on potential code changes that may make it easier to create your backyard cottage.

The Fair runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m and showcases a selection of over 70 local exhibitors including general and specialty contractors, suppliers, designers, landscape professionals, nonprofit groups and permitting agencies. Check the Fair website for a full schedule of presentations.

Tickets are just $4 for PNA Members and $6 for General Public. Children under 12 are free and tickets are only available at the door. The Phinney Center is located at 6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103.

Looking forward to seeing you at Sheri’s presentation, or stop by room 6 to chat with us at live-work-play.

The proceeds from the Home Fair benefit PNA’s Well Home Program, which provides extensive resources for homeowners and do-it-yourselfers, including a Tool Library, education classes and hand-on workshops, a resource library, referrals, and a monthly Fixers Collective.

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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













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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









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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.




















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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.


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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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live-work-play wins “Best Of Houzz 2015”

In an analysis of over 25 million monthly users, Houzz recently announced Seattle’s live-work-play was picked for top honors in its annual survey.

Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design, announced the community’s picks for “Best Of Houzz 2015”, a homeowner-to-homeowner guide to the top home builders, architects, interior designers, landscape pros and other residential remodeling professionals.

live-work-play received Customer Service honors in the Architect and Building Designers category, determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014.

Houzz connects people with the best home professional for their project by providing the only 360-degree view of a professional, from their portfolio, client reviews, awards and accreditations to their work style and expertise based on their participation in the Houzz community,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of Industry Marketing for Houzz. “We’re delighted to join our community in recognizing the talented professionals on Houzz who are delivering incredible designs and delightful customer experiences.”

Architect and designer Sheri Newbold, founder of live-work-play, is honored to be featured as a Top Rated Remodeling Professional. “We focus on a personal, collaborative connection with our clients, along with a playful and artful approach to architecture and interior design,” says Newbold. “We enjoy weaving projects into the fabric of an existing neighborhood while providing unique designs.”

To meet Sheri, and learn more about live-work-play, attend the upcoming class, Up, Down, Out, or New?, at the Phinney Center in Seattle on February 28, 2015.


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Up, Down, Out or New? – Class presented by live-work-play Feb. 28

Learn how to analyze your home for additions, remodels or building a new structure.  You may have lived in your home for a long time or recently purchased it. You love the neighborhood but your home could function better for you and could better reflect your lifestyle. How do you go about changing it? What should you consider?

In this class we will discuss some of the decision parameters for adding on, remodeling within the existing structure, considering both, and building a new structure. Architect Sheri Newbold, owner of live-work-play, brings twenty years of design experience to this interactive seminar. Bring information with you: age and size of your home; how long you have lived there; what you love about it; what is not working; and what you think you need.

Up, Down, Out or New? – Saturday, Feb 28, 10 a.m. to noon;  Room 6, Phinney Center, 6532 Phinney Avenue North in Seattle. $20 for PNA members; public $25. Click here for details and to register.

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