Journey Into the Unknown

by Kacey Larsen

To complete a home addition in the Blue Ridge neighborhood of Seattle, the Blue Ridge Architectural Review Committee must approve the plans. The review process ensures any additions stay true to the traditional nature of the home and neighborhood and gives neighbors a chance to review how plans may affect them and their homes. So, Tod Sakai, president, Sockeye Homes, Kent, Wash., moved this project knowing the plans could not be submitted to the city of Seattle until they had the neighborhood’s approval.

When Sockeye Homes was hired to complete a 300-sq.-ft., two-story addition in Blue Ridge, Sakai knew any exterior changes to the home would be driven by the style of the neighborhood. Temporary "example framing" was erected [see photo, pg. 16] for neighbors to view and consider for approval. Additionally, before approval was given by the committee, the design had to be adjusted to an 8-in. offset, causing the new dormer to not line up exactly with the existing dormers, because the home's southern neighbor objected to the view before the adjustment. 

Once approval was given for the exterior, efforts turned to the interior. But first, the clients had to make a decision regarding a six-by-six post that would remain in the midst of the great room space. This was discussed in a meeting with the clients, the architect and structural engineer.

Sakai recommended removing the post, explaining that although it would add time and cost to the addition, it wouldn’t be possible to easily remove the post in the future. “I told them ‘I don’t want you to regret that fact when you enter a great room you can’t arrange your furniture around this six by six post,’” he says. After much contemplation, the homeowners decided to proceed with the addition, minus the post.

Modern Meets Past

The addition by Sockeye Homes is the fourth addition to the 1937 home, which Sakai says raised some concerns for himself, the architect and structural engineer. No one knew exactly what the team would be working with until they began the partial demolition. “The additions and remodels before our time were botched, so much that the foundation was off 1 1/2-in. from one end to another,” Sakai says. “We had to do a lot of masking of the past.”

Because of substandard framing in combination with the latest addition affecting load-bearing walls, the team had to replace 10 beams, four of which were steel, extending 22 ft. from the new addition. Poor framing from the past also affected the work on the ceilings and floors. Coffered ceilings in the kitchen hid previous mistakes, which Sockeye Homes corrected to obtain a level five ceiling finish for the clients. Floors had 8-in to 1/4-in. steps, which then had to be shaved off or raised to make level.  Sakai says that there were elements of the home his team could not correct; instead they were correcting the variances.

Updates also were made to the home’s plumbing, electrical and heating systems during the remodeling process. The company did energy remodeling throughout, which increased overall the efficiency of the home by more than 150 percent.  Modernization of the insulation and the infrastructure were key factors in increasing the structure's energy efficiency.

Sakai points out elements of the home's design in which modern meets past. “When you look at the television area, the surrounding casework, millwork and crown moulding is very traditional, but the clients wanted to have a 3-D television built into the space to make it look very sleek at the same time,” he says.

The second story work encompassed remodeling the laundry room and kid’s bathroom, as well as adding a master suite. Part of the master suite work included introducing a soaking tub, which Sakai says the clients informed them of when they were still in the design process. By using of a crane to fit the tub through the newest dormer, which was the only accessible point of entry, the team was able to install the soaking tub in the master bathroom with a view of Puget Sound.

Sakai says it was a testament to his crews that they were able to successfully complete such an intricate project, especially because they did not really know what they were getting into until they began. Even collaborations with the clients and their hired architect and structural engineer were seamless, “so all cylinders of this remodel and addition really hummed well,” he says. 

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