Windermere Foundation’s Banner Year



The Windermere Foundation had another banner year in 2017, raising even more than it did the prior year thanks to the continued support of Windermere franchise owners, agents, staff, and the community. Over $2.4 million was raised in 2017, which is an increase of eight percent over the previous year. This brings our total to over $35.5 million raised since the start of the Windermere Foundation in 1989.

A portion of the money raised last year is thanks to our agents who each make a donation to the Windermere Foundation from every commission they earn. Additional donations from Windermere agents, the community, and fundraisers made up 66% of the money collected in 2017. These funds enable our offices to support local non-profits that provide much-needed services to low-income and homeless families in their communities.


Organizations served: 472
Number of individual grants fulfilled: 644
Average grant amount: $2,964.04
Average donation to the Windermere Foundation: $116.08


Total amount disbursed in 2017: $2,249,357.14
Total disbursed through grants: $1,908,843.54

Scholarships: 5%
Youth/Child Programs: 33%
Emergency Assistance: 24%
Shelter: 11%
School Assistance: 5%
Education/Counseling: 12%
Administrative Expenses: 2%
Fundraising Expenses: 8%

So how are Windermere Foundation funds used? Windermere offices decide for themselves how to distribute the money in their local community. Our offices have helped support school lunch and afterschool programs, housing assistance for homeless families, food banks, homeless shelters, and non-profits that provide basic necessities, such as shoes, clothing, toiletries, and blankets to families in need.

A very notable day in 2017 for the Windermere Foundation was November 15, when a record-breaking $253,782 was given in a single day. A total of 35 non-profit organizations benefitted from that day’s donations, including Attain Housing in Kirkland, WA, which received $56,000 from the Windermere Real Estate East, Inc. group of offices. Other organizations that received donations were Boys and Girls Club of Contra Costa in Walnut Creek, CA, and the Shady Cove School in Shady Cove, Oregon.

2017 also marked the second year of our #tacklehomelessness campaign with the Seattle Seahawks, in which Windermere committed to donating $100 for every Seahawks home game defensive tackle to YouthCare, a non-profit organization that provides critical services to homeless youth. While the Seahawks didn’t make it to the playoffs this year, they did help us raise $31,800. When added to last year’s $35,000, that’s a total donation of $66,800. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide additional support to homeless youth thanks to the Seahawks, YouthCare, and the #tacklehomelessness campaign.

Marilyn Smith Real Estate donates to the Windermere Foundation for every transaction closed. Thanks to our agents, offices, and everyone who supports the Windermere Foundation, we are able to continue to make a difference in the lives of many families in our local communities. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click the Donate button.

Learn more about the Windermere Foundation by visiting its website.

April 15th, 2018


Seattle Arts


Art Museums are always a labor of love by those who create them for their communities – especially when they are created, curated and then opened to the public free of charge. Charles and Emma Frye were avid art collectors and patrons of the arts, and following Charles Frye’s death in 1940, their extensive collection was gifted in perpetuity to the people of Seattle via the opening of the Frye Art Museum.

In addition to the Frye’s Founding Collection, they host a rolling calendar of exhibitions from many varieties of art, children’s storytelling hours that are augmented with art, musical concerts, classes, workshops and many other events – all free of charge. To discover what wonderful things they have scheduled this month – their 65th Anniversary – take a look at their Calendar of Events.

For a really lovely afternoon, grab lunch at the Gallery Café, tour the exhibitions and then visit the Frye Store for something gorgeous and unique to add to your own collection.

January 20th, 2018


Architecture // Renovation


A 2013 design by Seattle’s Evoke

As sophisticated as homes are today, experts predict they’ll be far more so in the not-too-distant future— especially when it comes to their use of technology. Included are seven evolutionary trends that many expect to define the home of the future.


Today, it takes somewhere between 18 months and two years to design and build your custom dream home. In the foreseeable future, experts predict that timeline will be slashed to six to nine months.

Architects will use immersion technology to not only develop plans faster, but also enable you to “walk” through a three-dimensional representation of the house and experience what it will be like to live there. Changes to the layout could be incorporated with a few clicks of the keyboard and mouse.

And, instead of delivering raw materials to the construction site and having workers cut and assemble them to match the plans, about 70 percent of the cutting and assembling work will take place in a precision-controlled factory environment. Once the foundation is ready, the pre-constructed walls, floors and roof will be delivered in “folded” sections, complete with windows, doors, fixtures, and even appliances, already installed.


One of the big breakthroughs in home construction coming in the near future will be the use of steel framing in place of lumber.

Steel is not only stronger (able to withstand a 100-pound snow load, 110 mile per hour winds and significant earthquakes), it’s also far more eco-friendly than most people think (manufactured from up to 77 percent recycled materials) and much less wasteful (typical lumber framing generates 20 percent waste, while steel framing generates just two percent).

Other innovative home-building materials moving towards the mainstream include:

• Wall insulation made of mushroom roots (it grows inside the air cavity, forming an air-tight seal).
• Panels made of hemp and lime.
• Windows made from recycled wood fiber and glass.
• Recycled-glass floor and counter tiles.
• Reclaimed wood (beams and flooring re-milled and repurposed).


The optimum home size for many Americans has been shrinking, and experts predict it will shrink more in the future. But it will feel bigger than it is because the layout will be so practical.

The driving forces behind the small-house movement (millennials purchasing their first home and baby boomers looking to downsize) aren’t interested in formal dining rooms, home offices, guest quarters and other spaces that have only one use and are only occasionally occupied. And they certainly aren’t interested in formal entries, high ceilings and three-car garages. They want an informal house layout, with flexible, adaptable spaces that can be used every day in one way or another.

Many of these homes will also feature a second master bedroom, so parents, children and grandparents can all comfortably live under one roof.


Even today, homebuyers are willing to give up some of their wants for a new house in order to get a location that’s within walking distance to stores, restaurants and other amenities. In the future, that trend is expected to only grow stronger.


For some time now, homeowners and homebuilders have both been striving to make the structures where we live more energy-efficient (green housing projects accounted for 20% of all newly built homes in 2012). But in the future, the new goal with be a net-zero home: A home that uses between 60 to 70 percent less energy than a conventional home, with the balance of its energy needs supplied by renewable technologies (solar, wind, etc.).

Essentially, these are homes that sustain themselves. While they do consume energy produced by the local utility, they also produce energy of their own, which can be sold back to the utility through a “net metering” program, offsetting the energy purchased.


The technology revolution that’s transformed our phones, computers and TVs is going to push further into our homes in the not-too-distant future.

Examples include:

• Compact robots (similar to the Roomba vacuum) that will clean windows and more.
• Video feeds inside the oven that will allow you to use your phone to check on what’s cooking.
• Faucet sensors that detect bacteria in food.
• Blinds that will automatically open and close depending on the time of day, your habits and the amount of sun streaming through the windows.
• Refrigerators that will monitor quantities, track expiration dates, provide recipes, display family photos, access the Web, play music, and more.
• Washers and dryers that can be operated remotely.
• Appliances that will recognize your spoken commands.
• Heating and cooling systems that automatically adapt to your movements and can predict your wants.


In the future, home will continue to be a place where we want to feel safe and secure. To accomplish that, you can expect:

• Sensors that can alert you to water and gas leaks.
• Facial recognition technology that can automatically determine whether someone on your property is a friend or foe.
• A smart recognition system that will open the garage door, turn off the security system, unlock the doors and turn on the interior lights when it senses your car approaching.
• The capability to create the illusion that you’re home and moving about the property when you’re actually someplace else.


Many of these products, processes and strategies are already in use. Some are still being tested. And others are only in the incubator stage. But in the not-too-distant future, experts believe they’ll all be available to homeowners across the country.

January 20th, 2018


Seattle Arts


Just because the Christmas decor is put away and the festive mood of the holidays is over doesn’t mean we have to stop creating a snug and cozy home. It’s a good time to embrace winter Hygge! If you aren’t familiar with Hygge, it’s a Danish word for feeling content and cozy.

Here are seven ways to bring Hygge style comfort to your home, even during the dreariest winter month of the year!


Even if you feel like you’re lacking in the cozy department, simply addressing your lighting will make a huge difference. Layers of lighting make every room feel more welcoming. In the daytime, natural light is ideal. But for evenings, it’s nice to add a cozy glow. A good rule of thumb is to try to have a least three light sources in every room. Use a mix of table lamps, floor lamps, task lamps, and overhead lighting. Consider using warmer light bulbs for the coziest ambiance.


Your home will offer a sense of comfort when you incorporate some favorite photos of loved ones, treasured hand-me-downs, antiques or flea-market finds, eye-catching conversation starters, art that inspires you, special mementos, or simply things that make you smile.


What aroma feels ‘cozy’ to you? Set the tone for your home by filling it up with winter scents that inspire you.


The coziest homes contain a variety different textures that delight the eye. Incorporate different touch-worthy materials through pillows, drapery, throw blankets, rugs, lamps, and furniture. The fabric possibilities are endless: velvet, woven, knit, embroidered, grain sack, faux fur, tweed, etc. You can also consider creating contrast with varying materials like metal, wood, glass, rattan, mirrored, painted, and more.


Make yourself a special cozy place to relax. A reading chair will be extra cozy with some good books nearby in a basket, a lamp, a footstool, a side table to set a cup of tea, and a soft blanket you can curl up in.


Every home can benefit from warmth. No matter what your color scheme, you can add warmth through natural tones like wood, leather, jute, warm metals, etc.


A room comes to life when an organic element is incorporated into the decor. Every room can benefit from having at least one plant, bouquet of flowers, or even a sprig of greenery like eucalyptus to remind us that spring is on its way.

January 20th, 2018


Architecture // Seattle Arts


Kubota Gardens

Hidden in South Seattle, Kubota Garden is a stunning 20 acre landscape that blends Japanese garden concepts with native Northwest plants. Master landscaper Fujitaro Kubota was a horticultural pioneer when he began merging Japanese design techniques with North American materials in his display garden in 1927. His vision has undeniably permeated the horticulture culture of the Puget Sound area and remains as one of the most enduring and beloved landscaping designs in countless home gardens.

Parson’s Garden

It’s the most romantic park in the city, and still one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets. Stroll among the flowers, picnic on the lawn, or just climb up a tree for a private moment. The intimate and natural setting makes this a lovely spot for small gatherings, so don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a wedding during your visit.

A Sound Garden

Located on a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Northeast Seattle, giant pipe-like structures murmur, whistle, and howl when the wind blows through them at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration center on Sand Point Way.

Designed and built by sculptor Douglas Hollis, it is one of several art installations to be enjoyed on the NOAA campus. And if you’re wondering, the answer is yes: the Seattle band Soundgarden was named after this inspiring piece.

Visiting the NOAA campus is free, but security is tight. Make sure to bring a photo ID with you in order to get a day pass, and be prepared to have your bags searched. You also have to park your car and hike about a half mile to get to the art installations, but the walk is well worth it.

Thomas C. Wales Park

Once the site of a gravel pit, the Thomas C. Wales Park is an urban wildlife habitat and public art installation on Queen Anne. Adam Kuby’s five “Quarry Rings” that punctuate the site not only allude to the landscape’s history but create bird and nesting habitats within the park, as well. Walk the path through the park to get the best view of each of them.

Lowman Beach Park

Located a few blocks north of the more popular Lincoln Park in West Seattle, this little gem will not disappoint you. It is a waterfront park with about 300 feet of beach area, plus an acre of land above it with tennis courts and swings. Take a picnic lunch or launch a kayak from the water’s edge.

August 11th, 2017


Market Updates

How will the 2016 Election Impact the Housing Market?

by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

The 2016 presidential election will absolutely have an impact on the housing market and the U.S. Economy. What those impacts will be are dependent on who occupies the White House in 2017. Here what Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, has to say about the influence each presidential candidate may have on the market.

July 21st, 2016


Market Updates

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices is a monthly report that analyzes housing data in major metropolitan areas across the U.S. In this short video, Windermere Chief Real Estate Economist Matthew Gardner explains how the Case-Schiller Home Price Report got started, the value it provides, and why we use it to assess the strength of the housing market.

May 30th, 2016


Market Updates

Windermere Chief Real Estate Economist Matthew Gardner analyzes
the past year’s data for an optimistic first quarter 2016 report

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Washington State has seen very robust growth over the past 12 months with the addition of 102,600 new jobs, which is 224,000 more jobs than seen at the previous peak in 2008. With this robust growth, it is unsurprising to see the unemployment rate trend down to 5.8%—well below the long-term average of 6.4%. As pleasing as it is to see the unemployment rate drop, it is equally pleasing to see that the decrease comes in concert with growth in the civilian labor force, which continues to grow at a very solid pace. I continue to believe that there is no risk that we will see a statewide decline in the employment picture in 2016.


There were 13,841 home sales during the first quarter of 2016, up by 3.8% from the same period in 2015. Sales activity continues to slow as a function of inventory constraints. Any spring “bounce” in listings has, thus far, failed to materialize.

The growth in sales was most pronounced in Grays Harbor County, which increased by 35% (but represented a real increase of just 63 units). Robust increases were also seen in Kittitas, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish and Island Counties. Sales declines were seen in San Juan, Jefferson, Cowlitz and King Counties.

Overall listing activity was down by 30.1% compared to the first quarter of 2015, and this continues to put upward pressure on home prices (discussed below).

Economic vitality in the region, combined with interest rates that continue to retest historic lows, is driving buyer demand that simply cannot be met. I hope that we will see more inventory come online as we move through the year, but believe that any reasonable growth in inventory will still be insufficient for the demand in the market.


Given the demand factors mentioned above, I am not surprised that prices are up by an average of 10.1% year-over-year. This is up from the 9.3% average growth in prices that was reported in the fourth quarter 2015 report.

When compared to the first quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Jefferson County, and all but three counties saw prices increase by double digits from the previous year.

Interestingly, there were eight counties that actually saw a drop in average sale prices between the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. I believe this was caused by seasonal factors, but will keep an eye on it.

Very straightforward supply and demand factors are pushing prices higher. While this certainly favors sellers, I believe that there are some buyers who are starting to suffer from “buyers’ fatigue”. Rampant growth in inventory would sort this out but it is unlikely to occur this year.


The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by sixteen days when compared to the first quarter of 2015.

As was seen in the Q4 2015 report, there were just two markets where the length of time it took to sell a home did rise, but again the increases were minimal. Skagit County saw an increase of three days while San Juan County rose by nine days.

It took an average of 86 days to sell a home in the first quarter of this year—up from the 78 days it took to sell a home in the last quarter but this is simply due to seasonality.

Sales activity remains most brisk in the Central Puget Sound counties. Given their proximity to the major job centers, this is not a surprise.


This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the first quarter of 2016, I have moved the needle slightly more in favor of sellers. Inventory constraints persist and this is now starting to affect sales activity, with growth in pending as well as closed sales starting to trend down. However, price growth remains well above average and interest rates are still close to historic lows.

April 21st, 2016


Architecture // Home Buying // Renovation


A before-and-after gallery shows an amazing renewal

Real estate agents care about the people they represent. But we also care about the homes we sell. In March 2015, Marilyn Smith Real Estate listed and sold a 1928 single family home in North Beach’s Ballard area. The buyer was Michael Pearce.

Michael is president of RE-VOLVE, an investment company that also designs and develops properties. He has an extensive background in architecture and believes strongly that good design can contribute to a better end product and better overall returns.

BEFORE-8517_28_NW_1“This was a challenge,” he said, “because we wanted to keep the charm of an old house while tearing into and rebuilding just about every part of it. We also hoped to achieve a modern aesthetic and openness – especially in kitchen and bathroom – without disturbing the old world charm.

“We had three crews reframe the house to a state that we were satisfied with and knew would pass inspections. We had to level the interior floors, which were as much as eight inches out of level, while not disturbing the existing brick facade, yet re-support the entire structure. We also opened up the exterior to a new deck and rebuilt a good portion of the back wall with matching brick. Many existing rich wood features needed to be reconstructed and refinished multiple times until they were to our liking.”

The following series of before and after photos show what can be done with these old charmers that are ready to be re-energized for the 21st Century

The living room above, before, and after, below.

BEFORE-8517_28_NW_6Dining room and kitchen above, before, and after, below.

A bedroom above, before, and after, below.

BEFORE-8517_28_NW_9The basement above was transformed into several beautiful rooms, after (next three photos)

The backyard above, before, and after, below.

April 21st, 2016


Architecture // Profiles // Seattle Arts

The interactive studio is adding dimension to architectural rendering

Frank Woll / FWD3D Design contact info panelLike the buildings and boats that architects design, the way they share their design renderings with clients is constantly evolving.

Frank Woll has remained at the forefront of technological innovation since he began offering industrial design services in 1994 as Frank Woll Design. Recently, the company updated its name to FWD3D to reflect the latest advances. It has also been increasing its focus on projects here in the Puget Sound region.

“Our long-term immersion in technology as well as our decades working on complex projects allows us to produce, design and visualize in a unique way,” Woll told Seattle Arts & Architecture.

FWD3D is an interactive design studio for architects, real estate developers, yacht builders, and product manufacturers. The company has used drones for HD video and photography to capture landscape imagery that is then integrated in 3D renderings for commercial real estate projects. It also has several in-house 3D printers to provide rapid prototyping and modeling for client presentations.

A boon for real estate sales

The company’s latest endeavor is to combine Woll’s 3D design skills with virtual reality (VR) software to develop virtual walkthroughs that assist architects with project planning and design.

“The VR capability is really useful for commercial real estate developers who want to start pre-selling or pre-leasing even before ground is broken on the full-sized model unit,” Woll said.

The company’s design work covers a wide range of real estate projects, from townhouses to single-family residences to industrial projects like the SODO Honda/Toyota dealership.
In the early days of the company, Woll’s love of “blue water cruising” across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans was complemented by his expertise in boatbuilding and design. Advancing technology now let him provide yacht designers with 3D visualizations for presentations, whether the project was a small family sailboat or Paul Allen’s “superyacht.”

Taking direction from Francis Coppola
guest_houseOne memorable project was redesigning the Niebaum-Coppola Winery’s main house, which belongs to Francis Ford Coppola and his family. Among the changes was moving and widening the main stairway to improve traffic flow through the building, which is heavily used for events and visiting VIPs. While Woll would spend a week at a time on site, he would be treated to Francis’ Italian cooking and fine wines.

“During one meal,” Woll said, “Francis shared an interesting tidbit about the opening scene of Apocalypse Now, in which helicopters are firebombing a palm forest. He said the editor didn’t think the helicopter footage fit anywhere. Luckily, Francis found the footage in the garbage can and decided to overlay it with scenes of Martin Sheen and score it with The Doors’ ‘The End.’ That scene is now one of the most legendary opening scenes in cinematic history.”

Moving forward in three dimensions

Mike Bratter, who joined the company last year, has helped rebrand the studio as FWD3D and give its website better emphasis on the company’s capabilities.

“We’re now working to clarify that is more than an industrial design studio offering architectural and technical design services,” he said. “We are also a marketing arm for real estate professionals, capable of integrating and promoting leading-edge technologies in their work.”

Gish Project 2The company can also provide a distinct look and feel for real estate developments that the developer wants to distinguish from competing projects.

“Because of the building boom in the Seattle area it’s really important that each project is presented in the most compelling and innovative light,” Bratter said.

The company is currently working with Seattle architect John Gish on a high-profile mixed-use commercial project in Asia for a commercial real estate developer in the Philippines.

Whatever, and wherever, the project is built, for Frank Woll and FWD3D the mission is always “to leave a trail of satisfied clients we have helped save time and money while building better projects.”

For more information visit or call 206-427-8061

Photos: Top, Mike Bratter and Frank Woll; center, Paul Allen’s ‘superyachts’ MV Octopus and MV Tatoosh and the 3D rendering of the Niebaum-Coppola Winery’s main house; bottom, the design for the Gish mixed-use commercial project in the Philippines.

March 17th, 2016

A Look at the local market

Market Updates

Windermere’s economists chart the real estate trends with a forecast for March 2016

A severe lack of inventory has led home prices to reach an all-time high. With the supply of properties at its lowest level since 2003, the market is in dire need of more homes to meet buyer demand. That is excellent news for those thinking about selling their home. Sellers can expect a quick sale, favorable terms and a historically high sale price. Buyers will need patience and a strategy for competing with multiple offers.

King County

The median price of a single-family home sold in February hit an all-time high of $514,975, a whopping 20 percent increase over the same time last year. The number of homes sold exceeded the number that were listed, depleting inventory at a rate that is unsustainable. For the market to remain healthy, more people need to make the decision to list their homes.


The continued boom in tech company hiring helped propel home prices to peak levels in Seattle. The median price of a single-family home jumped 24 percent over a year ago to $644,950, a new high. Inventory is at critical levels. In the hot Ballard neighborhood there are currently only 17 homes on the market.


The Eastside, already the most expensive area in King County, saw home prices set a new record in February. The median price soared 20 percent over last year to $739,975. Inventory here is particularly tight, and the area remains a very strong market for sellers. Homes are selling quickly, even at the higher end. A $3.2 million home in Yarrow Point sold last month in just 14 days.
This blog was originally posted on the Windermere Eastside.

March 17th, 2016

The WIndermere Cup


Seattle Arts // Special Events


One of Seattle’s unique outdoor spectator events returns on Saturday, May 7 with the 30th Annual Windermere Cup. The Montlake Cut will be the site for the event, which immediately precedes opening festivities for Seattle Yacht Club, which in turn signal the opening of Seattle’s boating season.

This year’s historic event benefits from last year’s historic restoration of diplomatic ties with America’s Caribbean neighbor Cuba. Cuban Men’s and Women’s National Rowing Teams will be the headlining opponents. Among the homeland favorites will be the rowing men of Stanford University and women of the University of San Diego.

windermerecup_logo_strokeThis is the 30th year for the Windermere Cup, which was created in 1986 by Windermere Real Estate founder John Jacobi, in partnership with the University of Washington, which is still our event co-partner along with the Seattle Yacht Club. In 1986, the goal was to bring the best team in the world to Seattle’s Montlake Cut, which at the time was the Soviets, writes Windermere’s Shelley Rossi. The Soviet Union brought its men’s and women’s crews and won both races.

It is now one of the world’s premier rowing events and a staple of Seattle’s rowing community. The Windermere Cup will include a number of events during the week leading up to race day. The Seattle Yacht Club’s Opening Day parade through the Montlake Cut will immediately follow the racing.

You can follow all events and find future announcements on the Windermere Cup’s Facebook page and Twitter account, @WindermereCup.

February 24th, 2016

Landscape Architect Michael Muro


Profiles // Seattle Arts

| Michael Muro

Michael Muro inset into one of his completed projects


Michael Muro’s fine art of landscape architecture

Michael Muro Garden Design Info BoxCurrently celebrating 16 years in business, Michael says. I learn the most about design by reaching beyond practical and aesthetics qualities, to understand how a place will affect people. “I learn the most about horticulture by working with plants and understanding what conditions they need to thrive. After a while you just know what is going to work. I never approach a project with a one-size-fits-all attitude,” he insists.

“My great grand parents were big wheat farmers in Pullman, Washington. When I was growing up, mother grew geraniums from seed and spaded up the vegetable garden every spring. I learned a lot,” he recalls.

After a remodeling job gutted much of the family’s half-acre in North Seattle, Michael was given his first design project. “I had full reign”, he recalls. During the process of planning the garden, he watched as contractors build decks, patios and place rocks. “I learned more about the design and construction side of things.” He started to learn the botanical names of plants. After studying Latin for three years in high school, Michael continued on to the University of Oregon to study design and fine art.

  • A home on Mercer Island, after . . .
Helping Buyers, Sellers and Owners

Michael Muro and his team understand how environment and aesthetics affect buying decisions and how to maximize the value of a property. This is a great asset to Marilyn Smith Real Estate and other realtors listing homes in the Seattle area. “ I love working with Marilyn because she really gets it. She understands what we are doing and the value it brings.” People may wait to look at enhancements like landscaping until they feel the need to upgrade their property in order to list it,” Michael says. Each year, according to a 2013 Harris Interactive survey, ten percent of Americans hire professionals to dress up their properties, spending less than half what the average family spends annually on clothing, thus resulting increased curb appeal added value.

“I try to urge folks to think long term. Then they have a chance to nurture and enjoy their garden as it matures.” New construction often leaves new owners with uninspired, standardized landscaping or none at all. They want to make it their own – they want something more personal that fits their lifestyle. We feel confident recommending Michael because he looks at the big picture and makes suggestions based on the clients needs and interests.

“I focus on creating privacy,” says Muro. “Big houses, even with big yards, often are close together. My work includes creating spaces that are intimate – where people want to be.

Things to Consideration Before Landscaping

When asked about landscaping for erosion control, Michael cautions “Any slope area must be carefully assessed. There are city codes that dictate protocols based on the location and severity of the slope. For minor concerns in average garden conditions, a lot that can be done by selecting appropriate plants and ground cover.

“There are a lot of variables we consider when planning a garden. We bring a wide range of considerations to the job,” Muro says. “It is important to understand the micro climate of a site to do it justice.

Michael Muro is a member of APLD, WALP, and The Dunn Gardens Foundation, Friends of the Conservatory and the American Horticultural Society.

For more information visit or call (206) 240-0410.

February 10th, 2016


Financing // Guest Bloggers


King County Broke Home Price and
Inventory Records in December 2015

By Sean Keeley
Curbed Seattle

Last month we noted that single-family home listings in King County hit an all-time low in November. Now the December numbers are out and you can crown a new overall king (county). Per the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, there were only 2,196 active listings of houses and condos in King County in December, the lowest monthly level since 1993.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 1.31.09 PM
Furthermore, median single-family home prices hit $508,000, which tops the previous high, $481,000, set in July 2007.

With a complete picture of the entire year, it’s little surprise that Seattle Bubble deemed it “the worst year ever for home buyers.” In Seattle, the median sale price for single-family home ended up 20 percent higher ($600,000) than how it started. Condo prices across all of King County were up 8 percent on the year to $279,975.

No matter where you turn in the region, there are few places for sale and fewer chances to get any of them for cheap.

January 21st, 2016

Robert Zimmer design for the 'Triple Double House.'


Architecture // Profiles // Seattle Arts

| Rendering by FWD3D Design



Seattle Architect Robert Zimmer discusses his architectural achievements and partnership with Harry O. Ray


Talented Seattle-based architect Robert Zimmer joined forces with acclaimed veteran Harry O. Ray to form zimmerraystudios in 2008. The company recently introduced a new website, which seemed a good time to ask Bob for a few minutes to discuss his work, his ongoing partnership, and regional architecture with Seattle Arts & Architecture.


The launch of zimmerraystudios came after Bob (left) ran his own practice for more than a decade. In the 18 years before that he was a Principal at LMN Architects. There, his design and management skills were called upon to lead numerous public projects, including convention and conference centers, cultural facilities, higher education buildings and most recently the award-winning Seattle Central Library. These usually required coordination with other prominent firms and occasionally brought him in contact with such influential and inspiring designers as Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and the late Arthur Erickson and Charles Moore.

Harry began his career in the early 1980s in Southern Nevada and then earned Bachelor and Masters degrees at the University of Washington. It was there he developed a deep love for the Northwest and remained in Seattle for 15 years before returning to Nevada in 2002. His design work includes the first major expansion of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and a great deal of the subsequent airport development. During his career he has coordinated multiple-scale projects ranging from the large and long-term to the small and personal.

He has been associated with several Seattle firms including LMN, NBBJ and TRA and has worked on a variety of large-scale master plans, from a three-county public transportation center to a airport concourse expansion and the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium.

We asked Bob for a few examples of his favorite work.

"One design I call the Admiral Live-Work project (at top of page and in slideshow below) is a flexible live-work building with two dwelling units," he said. "This design can be used to create a space that will easily transform into a multi-family or commercial structure."

  • Front view of house mitigates the scale between single family homes (left) and multi-family structure (right)

"Another is Leschi House (below), which was a redesign of an over-budget pseudo-craftsman expansion project," he said. "The promise to the owner, and challenge, was to bring the project back within budget, including design fees. In turn, the client had to agree to be open to simpler and more modern design expressions in obtaining their desired goals."

  • Lake Washington view out corner window of second floor master suite.

The third was Capital Hill House.


"This project was completed in three phases that required a master plan that would accommodate the evolution of build-outs for a growing family," Zimmer said. "The first phase was a remodel of a 1906 structure. It had been chopped into a house and illegal apartment and needed to be turned into a modern single family home. The second phase was to create a flexible backyard storage and car park structure, and the third phase was the addition of a second-story master suite."

  • The modernized and combined kitchen and dining (and mud room beyond) were inserted into the 1906 structure.

"Fourth was the Arboretum at the University of Idaho (rendering below), where we were to design a new structure emphasizing entrance to one of North America's best arboreta. The solution was entirely non-architectural. There is no structure whatsoever. Rather, we had to merge two arboreta and create a new gathering place. It was necessary that the arboreta and gathering space recall the campus origins — an Olmsted-designed green space — and finally, to extend the academic mall. This required cutting a swath through a dense, steep slope arboretum to the highest summit in the area, which is where the president’s residence is located and adjacent to the new gathering space. It would be a circulatory system that connected some of the university’s greatest physical assets."

While Zimmer's business partner is an acclaimed architect, his life-partner is the acclaimed photographer Lara Swimmer, who was our first profile. It prompted a question about the role photography plays in documenting the work of architects as well as its value for public understanding.

  • U of Idaho Prichard Art Gallery – IDA site-specific installation for Swimmer & Zimmer exhibit

"The role of the photographer is crucial for the design architect of a building," he told us. "In as few shots as possible, the photographer must record an accurate representation of the overall concept and then, with additional photography, thoroughly document the design. An architecture firm like zimmerraystudios uses photography of its designs extensively as a record as well as for marketing material in pursuit of other commissions."

Zimmerraystudios is already working on a variety of projects that will become part of Seattle's architectural profile. One is a group of three single-family homes on a critically steep slope with shared site stabilization and utility systems, vehicular and pedestrian access and conveyance systems. (In slideshow.)

"It is a challenging project that is both 'in the woods' and relatively close to downtown Seattle with the best attributes of both rural and urban conditions," Bob said. "We call it Triple-double House because each of the three structures is comprised of two units – a primary residence and an accessory dwelling unit. The entire development is unified by a site-stabilizing base of shared parking and a pedestrian entrance/hill climb. All six dwelling units are accessible by means of a terraced concourse and the entire circulation system is served by a single elevator and common stair system. While all three homes employ the same structural systems, they all exploit particular site attributes resulting in very different characteristics and experiences for their inhabitants."

  • A one-week concept study reveals the property’s potential and imparts design inspiration.

Seattle Arts & Architecture will be following Bob and Harry's ongoing projects and updating this story as designs are completed. To check out their website, click zimmerraystudios.

January 18th, 2016

Beth DeSort's Hollywood Home Staging


Home Buying // Profiles // Seattle Arts

  • Capitol One - "Hell Freezes Over"



Hollywood Art Director and Set Decorator
Beth De Sort Re-Visualizes Staging

Beth De SortRe-purposing and re-vitalize client’s furnishings with a fresh look for the market-ready home!

While still working in Film Production, Beth De Sort‘s path towards staging real estate is a natural transition for re-vitalizing real estate properties. Having worked on many locations using the existing furniture, she utilizes the pieces in a different configuration breathing new life into the environment. The end result is a re-imagining of the space, which she augments with additional pieces and design elements. Beth consults on color and will redefine the client’s palette with an enriching design aesthetic.

DESORT_E_Craftsman_LivingroomBorn and raised in Chicago and growing up in Los Angeles, Beth entered the world of movie making after attending Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles and Film School at San Francisco State University. She has Art Directed and Decorated over 150 commercials, several films and television series. She has a keen design sensibility and is a sought after Set Decorator in the film business. She fell in love with the PNW while working on two different TV pilots in Portland and the subsequent 1994 Seattle series “Medicine Ball”. In 2015, the Art Director’s Guild nominated her for Set Decoration for a Diehard commercial.

Beth continues thriving in both mediums. A few of her influences are Oscar Niemeyer, A. Quincy Jones, Eva Zeisel, Julius Shulman, Arne Jacobsen, Harry Bertoia, Josep Jujol, Jan Davidsz. De Heem, Mary Colter, Vivienne Westwood, etc etc. Beth maintains a residence in Washington Park and frequently journeys to Los Angeles!

If Beth can make hell freeze over, she certainly can re-vamp your home for the hot hot hot real estate market!

Contact Beth directly, by email or on her mobile phone at 310-625-4282.

October 27th, 2015


Guest Bloggers // Home Buying



Carol Morter is a client of mine who has seen the United States the hard way – by moving to a lot of them! With her father in the military she had a nomadic childhood. Now, her husband Wayne is in the energy business. “It’s like military life,” Carol jokes, “it just pays better!” The couple has been married 36 years and lived in eight states, some more than once. In each state they bought a home, frequently without an advance trip to do a thorough search. Seattle was different. Here they rented for six months while waiting for their home in Austin to sell, and really got to know Seattle neighborhoods better. Based on her extensive home buying experience, she shares her insights below. Thank you, Carol, and we look forward to hearing more about your real estate experiences in future blogs. – Marilyn


Finding the right home, and the right area, in a new city that you don’t know, will always depend on your current circumstances.

When my husband Wayne and I were right out of college we got stuck in a small Illinois oil town. We didn’t have children, so we just wanted an affordable house that we liked. Over time, I have come up with some invaluable tips to avoid home buying mistakes.

Don’t choose a neighborhood just because co-workers live there.
Everyone in Wayne’s company lived in new-home suburbia. We preferred older homes with character, and enjoyed working around the house. So, instead of a newer home in the suburbs we bought a fixer-upper in a location we liked better. It was a cool house, a bungalow, one of those former Sears kit homes. We also wanted to be near enough to town to walk to shopping and restaurants. The house was closer to where Wayne worked and we liked that we made friends with ‘Townies’!

Don’t focus on schools before your kid is even potty-trained!
You can always move down the road if needed. We had a son, and all of a sudden started freaking out about schools. He was five years away from kindergarten! We felt we had to buy in the suburbs. Wrong! At that time of our lives the suburbs weren’t right for us. We feared our souls would be sucked out by all the conformity. Also, we didn’t even check out the city schools, which was ignorance on our part.

Once again, use the ‘Me’ criteria: Can I afford it? Do I enjoy the neighborhood? Is it close to work? Downtown Tulsa and Denver would have been great places to live. There were many family friendly areas that we didn’t explore.

Don’t buy in a place you hate!
We had to relocate to Hobbs, New Mexico. A super drag. Wayne’s company bought our Denver house and pressured us to buy in New Mexico. We did. He quit in less than a year and we were stuck renting that house for almost three years. Right after we left, the whole oil industry pulled out and there was no one to buy our house. We would have been much better off renting.

Below, historical photos of the yard and exterior of Carol’s Magnolia House, before and after her renovations.


September 24th, 2015


Financing // Guest Bloggers


How will it affect real estate transactions?

By Ken Steiner
Senior Loan Officer, Home Street Bank

TRID is almost here. TRID goes into effect for new transactions on October 3, 2015. What is it, and how will it affect real estate transactions?

TRID stands for Truth-in-Lending Act and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act Integrated Disclosure rules. It is a major change to the regulation of real estate disclosure forms and procedures.

The Good Faith Estimate (GFE) is being replaced with an improved form called the Loan Estimate (LE). The Loan Estimate requires the lender to commit to certain fees, and informs the buyer of the monthly payment and cash-to-close. The LE must be sent to the buyer within 3 days of making loan application and at least 7 days prior to closing.

A new form, the Closing Disclosure (CD) must be sent to the buyer 3 days prior to signing the closing documents. The CD replaces the HUD-1 closing statement for the buyer’s side of the transaction, and will be prepared by the lender, not the escrow company.

Once the CD is sent to the buyer, fees cannot be changed. If anything is changed, the lender must re-disclose and the 3 day waiting period starts over.

Escrow will prepare the CD for the seller, and it must be given to the seller before the buyer can sign.

Ken Steiner can be reached at 206-389-4405 (office) or 206-619-2605 (cell).

September 23rd, 2015

Ellsworth P. Storey


Architecture // Profiles // Seattle Arts

  • Front of this Ellsworth Storey Design
  • Stewart residence; June, 2009



When 14-year-old Ellsworth Storey walked onto the grounds of the 1893 Columbia Exposition in his native Chicago, it was to see the future of urban development and architectural innovation.

Instead, he saw his own future.

The Exposition’s stately white buildings so impressed young Storey that he decided to become an architect. A few years later, while attending the University of Illinois, he toured Europe and the Middle East with his family and was inspired further.

In 1903, he graduated, married and moved to Seattle. He built two homes in the Denny Blaine neighborhood overlooking Lake Washington, one for his parents, and another for himself, wife Phoebe and daughters Eunice and Priscilla, who followed shortly after.

Ellsworth StoryStorey would create buildings large and small, public and private, and in the process define what became known as “regionalism” or “the Northwest style.” Among the signature features of his work are extensive use of local materials, distinctive window treatments, multiple rooflines, projecting eaves, dark-stained exteriors, and the incorporation of elements from the Arts and Crafts concepts developed by fellow-Chicagoan Frank Lloyd Wright. One can clearly see echoes of Swiss building concepts he witnessed on that trip to Europe.

He died in 1960, but not before making a lasting impression on his granddaughter, Alice Speers, one of Priscilla’s three children.

“My own memories of our grandfather include his love for word play, his fondness for using some French phrases, and his constant tending and tinkering with fire – mostly in the fireplace,” Speers said recently.

A mother of two and former admissions officer for Lewis & Clark Law School, Speers fondly recalled a favorite memory of her mother’s.

“She told me about going with her father to the backyard with their easels and drawing materials,” she said. “The view overlooks Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier. She remembered her father helping her learn about perspective on that occasion.

“He was sometimes more interested in the architectural look of a space than in practicality,” Speers continued. “In his own home he did not design a closet in the master bedroom, and my grandmother Phoebe had to insist that he include space for their clothing!”

Cottage Industry

Between 1913 and 1916, Storey built a number of cottages on Colman Park in Mt. Baker now owned and managed by Speers and her older sister Kathleen, a retired psychiatric nurse, and her brother David, an electronics engineer.

“In 2014, the family collaborated with Historic Seattle to hold a centennial celebration of the Ellsworth Storey Cottages,” she said. “My siblings and I continue to own and manage these small homes as long-term rentals. Most tenants have occupied their cottages for many years and are permitted to alter the interiors with permission, but because the cottages are on the Historic Register, the exteriors cannot be altered.”

In Editor Jeffrey Karl Ochsner’s Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects (1994), Grant Hildebrand writes that “the cottages, together with the Evans house and the two Storey houses, have been most influential for later designers, perhaps because, in their fresh underivative forms and their thoughtfully imaginative use of simple local materials, they have been seen as Storey’s most original interpretations of the nature of building in the Puget Sound region.”

Speers made her own contribution to the Northwest, chairing the Environmental Commission of the Episcopal Church in western Oregon for 15 years. Currently her focus is on her garden, the family’s cottage industry, and her grandfather’s legacy.

June 18th, 2015

Craig Norberg of Norberry Tile


Profiles // Renovation // Seattle Arts

  • The new storefront for Norberry Tile and Plumbing Studio
  • Craig Norberry and his car
  • Silver tile used for Salty's kitchen
    Silver tile used for Salty's kitchen
  • A Norberry Tile counter backsplash.
    A beautiful counter backsplash.
  • Original metal backsplash of ribboned silver
  • Tile flooring
  • A traditional kitchen backsplash with a landscape.
  • A showroom's floor of tile.
  • Chatham 1 bath shown in Nero Marquina and Thassos.
  • The kitchen of a Mediterranean home
    The kitchen of a Mediterranean home
  • Bathrooms of a Mediterranean home and at the Seattle Art Museum
    Bathrooms of a Mediterranean home and at the Seattle Art Museum



I’ve known Craig Norberg for many years. His Norberry Tile has been producing high-end, custom-designed tiling for houses since 1997.

NORBERRY.PortraitOn May 21, Craig will again have a retail outlet. It’s been a few years since the closing of his location in the Seattle Design Center. Prior to that he had been on 2nd Avenue S. in Pioneer Square.

But anyone who knows Craig’s creativity and attention to detail and service will be heartened to hear he’ll soon be opening a full retail operation at 1400 31st Ave S. in Leschi, where he’s maintained a small office since leaving the Design Center. I’m very familiar with this spot because it’s near my house, on a super sweet street with two restaurants, two coffee shops, two gyms and now his store.

On my neighborhood walks, I’ve been able to check his progress through the front window and recently decided it would be fun to contact him for a Seattle Arts & Architecture profile and get the full story on how he got to this point and what lies ahead.

Ambivalent about architecture

“I felt destined for architecture,” said the 48-year-old Norberg, “and planned to major in it at college until Bill Pederson, of Kohn Pederson Fox, detected some ambivalence and asked if my heart was really in it.”

That reality check was pivotal as Craig instead pursued a general liberal arts degree and upon graduation decided to follow his real passion: hands-on work designing tile for the design-build market.

“What I wanted to do was bring back the kind of beautiful materials that had all but disappeared,” he told me. “I felt this would be doing something positive for the industry. I thought it might be short term and then I’d get on with architecture, but for me, the tile industry became like Hotel California, ‘You can check in but you can’t check out.'”

At 27 he became the youngest tile salesperson at a newly opened Waterworks in Manhattan, the company’s first showroom outside of Connecticut.

“Working at Waterworks gave me a real understanding of the importance of quality design as well as how to brand a business.”

It was then that Craig headed back to Seattle where his father, Doug Norberg, was a commercial developer with Wright Runstad and Co. He began providing sustainable materials to Wright Runstad’s LEED-driven projects, and soon Norberry Tile was born.

Historic settings

“The concept was to bring craft and design back to construction with a sophisticated pallet of hard surfaces for architects and designers,” he said.
“We became the go-to hard surface provider for King County’s publicly funded commercial buildings. You can still see the experimental, sustainable surfaces we installed on on elevator lobbies in the King Street Station at 2nd and Jackson.”

NORBERRY.inset.floralOther public installations where Norberry Tile’s work can be seen are The Raw Bar at Salty’s, Seattle Art Museum and the original Restaurant Zoe.

Craig, who has lectured at Historic Seattle events, continues to represent tile and period hard surfaces for Historic Seattle fundraisers and Seattle’s Preservation Guild among others. He is co-chair of the Mount Baker neighborhood’s Home Tour, which has been held every other year since the 1970s to raise funds for the oldest sustaining clubhouse in Seattle.

Brand new branding

Now Norberry Tile is back with a retail location that will also serve as a teaching studio for design. But there’s a twist. The new location on 31st Ave. S is called Norberry Tile and Plumbing Studio.

“Elijah Farrell has been brought on as the plumbing guru,” Craig explained. “His extensive experience selling for Keller Supply, along with his reputation for customer service, has made him a favorite salesperson among many vendors. He’s going to help solidify Norberry’s position in both the tile and plumbing industries.

“Together, we will make Norberry a vehicle to create exceptional environments with beautiful custom tile walls, floors and counters,” he continued. “And we’ll accent that with top-of-the-line faucets, curbless showers and steam room solutions. I’m stoked that we have acquired three top U.S. tile lines: Blue Slide Art Tile out of Pt. Reyes, California; Antiquities in Maine; and L’Esperance in New York state.”

To learn more about Norberry Tile and Plumbing Studio, visit their website. And to keep up with Craig’s latest news, subscribe to his blog.

May 8th, 2015

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