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


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


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

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

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