Mid-Century Modern Remodel
January 16, 2009, 10:22 am
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Seattle, Suburban Architecture, Technical Posts


BUILD LLC recently completed the design and remodel of a mid-century modern home in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood and has some valuable information to share.   As with many of Seattle’s mid-century residences, this home was overdue for considerable updates.  The “bones” of these structures are typically very solid; the concrete and framing can be surgically retained and, oftentimes, featured for their richness and texture.  Efforts and funds can be directed toward reorganization of the space planning as well as the kitchen, bathrooms, cabinet package, surfaces and systems (heating, plumbing, electrical).

Mid-century modern plan Model (1)

As with any project, a great final outcome can be directly attributed to extraordinary clients.  This family understood the value of their mid-century modern home and put an importance on smarter space rather than more space.  The team was able to maintain the mid-century modern character of the home and, at the same time, fully renovate the home, site and pool for the current era and many years to come.

With several mid-century modern residences in our portfolio, we’ve developed some good strategies for cost-effective remodels and updates to these homes.  The cost of the house remodel was $150 per square foot including hard costs, tax and builder fees.  The technical information can be found below and a photo-montage video of the construction process can be found at the bottom of the post.


1. Existing light well upgraded with new roof and Milgard aluminum windows
2. Galvanized steel channel frame at chimney cap
3. New single-ply roof membrane over new rigid insulation
4. Existing brick stained deep caviar
5. Hardie-panel siding painted pewter
6. Existing brick planter boxes
7. Clear finished fir door with reeded glass panel
8. Milgard aluminum window package
9. Fleetwood aluminum sliding door package
10. Galvanized steel handrail verticals with Feeney Cable-Rail components and ipe top rail
11. Ipe decking and fascia
12. Stained clear cedar slats with vertical cedar posts (code required pool enclosure)
13. Open risers with precast concrete treads by Diamond Concrete Products


14. Raumplus sliding glass doors with laminated glass
15. Original T&G refinished decking, over original roof joists painted deep caviar
16. Original sandstone masonry left untreated
17. Eurotech Lighting ET-2 cylinder pendant lights
18. Custom steel firebox and hearth inserted into original fireplace
19. Original oak floor with new ebonized stain
20. Shoemaker AFP series aluminum floor register
21. Custom dining table with steel frame and anigre top by Special Projects Division
22. Honed Raven Caesarstone countertop and anigre cabinets by Special Projects Division
23. Kohler Ladena undermount porcelain sink with Whitehaus Luxe single hole faucet
24. Stainless steel backsplash
25. Solid core door with Omnia 025 passage lever
26. Fisher Paykel RF201ADUX stainless steel refrigerator
27. Porcher Newson Vitreous China 6’-0” freestanding tub
28. Fisher Paykel OS302 stainless steel wall oven
29. 12” x 18” Porcelain floor tile
30. Gaggenau AH 900-791extension hood
31. Miele KM3484 gas cooktop
32. Anigre custom cabinets with full length stainless steel pulls by Special Projects Division
33. “Floating” anigre shelf with integrated Seagull ‘puck’ lights, satin chrome finish.
34. Custom stainless steel countertop with orbital finish and integral sink, extended to exterior for bbq platform.

Photo-montage construction video

[All photos, images, videos, diagrams and drawings by BUILD llc]


Picnic Seattle
September 29, 2008, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Seattle, Technical Posts, Urban Architecture

Monday September 29th marks the opening of Picnic, a brand new food and wine boutique here in Seattle on Phinney Ridge at 6801 Greenwood Ave N. Owners Anson and Jenny are a couple of uber-talented chefs and culinary visionaries who came up with the concept and brought it straight to BUILD llc. We were quickly enrolled in their vision and proceeded with the design and build-out.

[photos by BUILD llc]

The finished space is clean, sleek, uncluttered and vibrant. It focuses on plenty of display area for delicious products and options, without overwhelming the consumer. The goal was to create an inviting space, a storefront that is visible and enticing for passer-bys. The interior is modern and refined but still evokes a sense of establishment and demonstrates Anson and Jenny’s expertise in food and wine. Picnic is creating some of the top take-away food in the city and doing so without the food becoming too precious or fussy.

[photos by BUILD llc]

Here’s the BUILD technical scoop:

1. Dark-stained quarter sawn walnut cabinets with conversion varnish, and adjustable shelves. All exposed faces were fabricated by Special Projects Division (SPD) with sequenced (all from the same log) veneers on platform material using a 10’ vacuum press.
2. Exposed ducting, plumbing, electrical and fire sprinkler systems, painted white to match walls & ceiling.
3. Custom fabricated steel ladder on casters and mounted to steel tracks at top and bottom of wine cabinet. Ladder assembly is cold rolled steel, cleaned, blackened and waxed.
4. Stainless steel sleeves at adjustable shelf pins (part of SPD cabinet package).
5. Custom fabricated steel frame movable tables on casters, walnut table tops and acrylic shelves (by SPD). The tables serve dual purposes of display/ storage and convert to dining tables for special events. The steel frames are an assembly of hot rolled steel angles which were wheel-abrated & waxed and cold rolled steel tubes which were blackened & waxed. The goal was to get the disparate types of steel to appear similar in color/ texture. The steel assembly is mechanically fastened with thru-bolts.
6. Recessed display cabinet made from mangue wood (by SPD). It’s on axis with entry and provides a backdrop to the entry.
7. Solid wood door with frameless single rabbet jamb. L-metal inserted into dato around frame and taped to (and finished with) drywall.
8. Custom fabricated stainless steel filler panels so that wine refrigeration unit flushes out with adjacent refrigeration units (part of SPD casework). The wine fridge is the EuroCave Performance 259 Wine Cellar.
9. Stainless steel refrigeration unit with glass doors by True Mfg, model TS-49G-4.
10. 14-ply ¾” void-less material w/ maple finish veneer- commonly referred to as “apple-ply”.
11. Existing slab on grade with Ardex Feather Finish skim coat and sealed with polyurethane. It was challenging getting the separate pours (from separate bags) to color match with one another.
12. Rubber base by Roppe.
13. Resolute lighting: “David” line.
14. Existing concrete columns painted dark.
15. Custom fabricated steel frame movable table on casters with solid maple “butcher-block” tabletop (by SPD).
16. Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs and bar chairs.

It wouldn’t be a BUILD project synopsis with out a construction photo montage:

and, naturally, this modern addition to the city is up on The Modern List Seattle. Whew… did we cover everything? So enough about design and construction, get yourself over to picnic and have some phenomenal eats…

Picnic a food + wine boutique
6801 Greenwood Avenue North
Seattle WA 98103

Modern House: materials and methods of the current time

BUILD llc recently completed a home on Bainbridge Island here in the northwest that uses some materials and methods that may be of interest. The home was designed and built for Dr. Marc Ferrin. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: good projects are the direct result of extraordinary homeowners willing to partake in the adventure of design and construction & trust our guidance.

[all images by BUILD llc]

1. Orchard of low-growing fruit trees on a pure geometrical grid.
2. Gravel hardscape.
3. Milgard aluminum windows with bronze finish – the dark, minimal corner mullion gives the appearance of a corner window.
4. Blomus stainless steel mailbox on custom steel plate stand with punched numbering. Mailbox sold by Pure Modern.
5. Milgard aluminum window system with bronze finish. The roof joist support beams are pulled back into the living space and exposed – this allows the window system to extend all the way to the roof joists.
6. MDO soffits painted white as a visual extension of the interior drywall lid. Exterior grade can lights installed at soffit.
7. Rainscreen siding system composed of Cembonit panels by CBF. For an explanation of rainscreen systems click here.
8. Cable rail system by Feeney Cable Rails with custom fabricated galvanized steel verticals and custom ipe top rail.
9. Clear sealed fir exterior door with tempered glass panel and weather-stripping. Reeded glass panels at entry door, clear at all others.
10. Clear T&G cedar mounted vertically and clear sealed. These particular boards span the entire height of the house.
11 Single membrane “flat” roof sloped ¼” per foot and concealed with parapet.
12. Outdoor shower (Kohler Stillness series) with winter shut off valve located inside house at conditioned area.
13. Clerestory windows add additional light to the upstairs hallway and maintain privacy.
14. Chimney capped with galvanized steel wide flange frame to conceal vent cap.
15. Standing seam metal roof with minimal vent penetrations.
16. Cedar fascia stained dark to match the window system.
17. A cantilevered bay allows for extra area inside but doesn’t change the line of the concrete foundation wall below. The change in form is reflected by using a different material at the cantilever.
18. Flush panel wood garage door by Clopay, painted dark to match soffits and blend with window package.
19. Strategically located vegetation to eventually hide the heat pump.
20. Rainscreen panel breaks strategically align with changes in plane.

[all images by BUILD llc]

21. Cold rolled custom steel handrail with blackened finish.
22. Vertically mounted aluminum return air grill – custom size by Shoemaker AFP series.
23. 1×4 flush base trim, pre-primed mdf, painted.
24. Prefabricated concrete stair treads by Diamond Concrete Products.
25. Miele DA series island hood.
26. Thin fin-wall made from 1-3/4” x 11-7/8” LVLs stacked end to end and wrapped with GWB, painted.
27. Slot window – as part of the sequence of entry a visitor gets a peak at the extraordinary view.
28. Absolute black granite countertops with slight eased edge.
29. Lutron Diva light switches with stainless steel cover plates – all devices mounted at a common datum line around the house.
30. Bamboo vertical grain flooring.
31. Custom galvanized vertical guardrails drilled to receive Feeney Cable Rail system.
32. 1×6 ipe decking
33. 5’ foot wide sliding door to pantry – the cabinets are notched to receive sliding door.
34. Maple cabinets by Canyon Creek Cabinet Company with Mockett satin chrome tab pulls.
35. The clerestory window at the shower allows natural daylight but maintains privacy.
36. Milgard aluminum floor to ceiling window system with bronze finish.
37. Kohler Stillness series shower fixtures.
38. Epco polished chrome shower curtain rod.

For more information on the Ferrin Residence check out the YouTube digital model and the YouTube time elapse construction process.

Recent Materials + Products
April 4, 2008, 1:57 pm
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Design, Seattle, Technical Posts, Urban Architecture

BUILD llc condominium project

Recently BUILD finished up a nice little condominium interior which introduces several new products to the palette. We’ve put together a brief roster of several materials, products and methods that may be of interest. With the condominium boom here in the northwest, several of these items seem to lend well to a kit-of-parts for condominium upgrades. As with any project, a successful end product can largely be credited to extraordinary homeowners and a contractor that slaved over the details.

BUILD llc new materials + products 01

BUILD llc new materials + products 01
[Images by BUILD llc]

1. Henrybuilt VGC bamboo cabinets with under-mount puck lights at uppers
2. Henrybuilt d-pull stainless steel hardware
3. Sub-Zero 700BC 2-drawer under-counter refrigerator/freezer with integral panels to match cabinets.
4. Light shelf with painted wood valiance and concealed Juno TL102 on Juno Trac 12 system
5. Juno Trac 12 system with Juno TL112 adjustable heads. This is a clean, low-profile track system for a concrete lid where it’s not possible to recess the track into the ceiling.
6. Caesarstone 2430 “Tequila Sunrise” countertops, 3mm thick at counter, 2mm thick at backsplash. Be cautious of the local distributors and installers of this product. We found that the Caesarstone recommended local supplier wasn’t detail oriented enough for a project of this precision.
7. Kahrs “Genua City” 2-strip maple wood flooring over Dura-son acoustical pad. Acoustical pads are typically required in high-rise condominiums; so far the “Dura” line of products has done a good job of meeting these requirements.
8. 1” x 1” solid maple base to match flooring. We find that in smaller spaces the smaller trim helps with the overall scale of the room.
9. Grohe Single Spray Pull-out, 32 170
10. Raeco concrete skim coat on existing concrete column. The original idea was to leave the existing concrete shear walls of the building exposed. Because of the poor finish quality of the existing walls they were enveloped with ¾” Wonderboard and topped with a Raeco base coat. Two Raeco skim coats were then applied and sanded to achieve the finished product.
11. Raumplus S3000 aluminum sliding door system with 6mm diffused white glass – these “sliding walls” hide all of the various closet functions (washer, dryer, furnace) behind a continuous run of sleek, sliding glass walls. The doors are backlit with Alkco fluorescent ceiling mounted strip lights for that glowing look. The doors include a double top track and a recessed routed floor track flush with the floor. The local rep here in Seattle is Pedini.
12. Schluter aluminum edge profiles between wood floor and tile.
13. Pental Lagos Blue limestone
14. Custom frameless glass enclosure & glass door with minimal chrome hinges by Distinctive Glass here in Seattle.
15. Robern recessed flat mirror door cabinets.
16. Alkco LIN40 150 watt linear incandescent wall mount lights. The Aamsco Alinea line is also a good option.
17. CR Laurence BM series Chrome towel bars. These also come in a trim-less version that can be mounted to glass shower enclosure walls.
18. Toto CST414 toilet
19. Lacava Aquaplane #5066 box sink. Be cautious with porcelain sinks from Lacava – the dimensions on their website specs don’t take into account the inaccuracies and tolerances of fired products like these sinks; subsequently dimensions were off by as much as ¾”. For dimensional accuracy we recommend looking into some of the hybrid plastic products out there like Wetsytle.
20. Omnia 025 passage stainless steel lever with (3) Stanley 4 ½” x 4” stainless steel hinges
21. Grohe Essence 32 216 Chrome faucet and 28 871 shower faucet
22. Pental ES#19 5/8” tall x 1-7/8” wide matte finish glass tile with 2% clear finish mixed in at random pattern, mounted horizontally. Glass tiles are more brittle than ceramic tiles and break easily, it takes an accomplished tile setter to work with the product and get the tile grid in alignment with the geometry of the space. The perfect alignment of the recessed shelf and the tile grid takes a great amount of coordination between the carpenter and tile setter (one of the same on this project).

The general contractor on the project is Keith Griffin of Griffin Construction.


Despite the growing popularity of rainscreen systems, we find that most people don’t know much about them and don’t understand why they are important to architecture. Like most innovative building systems it was the Europeans that first introduced the concept. One of the first examples we remember seeing is the IRCAM music school completed in Paris in the late 70’s by Renzo Piano. In the last decade we’ve noticed a growing interest and use of raincreens on buildings and houses here in the northwest. The concept of a rainscreen is to create an air gap between the siding material and the water-proof surface. This allows the structure to breathe a bit. Current building codes require structures to be sealed up so tightly that it’s causing unforeseen problems. More traditional siding systems often trap moisture between the various layers of materials. Differences in air pressure between the outside and inside of a building can actually drive air and, more dangerously, water into the building. The rainscreen system uses a water proof membrane to keep the water out, but it allows a bit of air movement – it’s like a Gore-tex wrap for your building or house. This membrane is a softer, more delicate material, it’s also sensitive to sunlight; UV rays will eventually break down the product if directly exposed. This is where the siding comes in. The siding, or skin of the building, is required for protection from physical harm like soccer balls and also to shield the membrane from sunlight. There is typically an air gap between the skin and the membrane of approximately one inch. If detailed and constructed correctly the system allows the building to breathe, allows the inside and outside air pressure to balance better and allows a tremendous variety of materials to be used as the skin. It is a more expensive system and requires more time and care for the installation but a well made rainscreen is hot, modern and functional.

Rainscreen Diagram by BUILD llc

1. Panel: Panel thicknesses vary; we’ve found most of them to be 5/16” thick. Panel sizes are typically 4’ x 8’ and 4’ x 10’. Products that we’ve had success with so far are Cembonit by CBF, Hardie-Panel, Swiss Pearl, Fincolorply, and Cor-ten steel.
2. Fastener: Typically we use a #8 wood screw with a gasketed hex head. Some panel types require specific fasteners. It’s also possible to flush mount flat head screws if the panels are properly pre-drilled, and if you have a lot of free-time. The fastener geometry is typically 12 to 24 inches on center in each direction. It’s very important to line the fasteners up on a grid as the fastener pattern becomes part of the finished look of the rainscreen system.
3. Vertical Runners: Trex is a great product for this application because it doesn’t move axially and it doesn’t rot. The dimensions of the runners entirely depend on the specifications required of the panel product – we tend to use 3/4” x 3/4” strips more often than anything else. Cedar or pressure treated lumber can also be used, be cautious of the expansion and contraction of these products.
4. Air Space: The dimension of air space typically ranges between ¾” to 1-1/2” depending on the panel product specifications
5. Membrane: This membrane is basically like Gore-tex for your house – it keeps the water out but lets air through (it lets your house breathe). There are many different brands, we like VaproShield because of the products function, durability and that they just started making it in black so that the membrane disappears in the shadows.
6. Flashing: The flashing we use at window wraps (like the one above) is typically a peel & stick application. It is flexible to deal with all sorts of different situations and angles.
7. Sheathing: You can either use ½” plywood and install flat blocking at all of the panel joints or use ¾” plywood behind all panels – we recommend the ¾” as it is MUCH less work. In either case you’ll want to use CDX plywood – don’t use that OSB crap here.
8. Framing: Typically 2×6 framing at exterior walls but this could vary depending on the situation.
9. Reveal: Typically ¼” but this varies with the panel product and desired finish look.

Okay, let’s get to some examples around the Seattle area:

Seattle Orthopedic Center at 2409 N 45th St
The project seems to use the Fincolorply system, or something very close to it. A very well crafted building that we recommend checking out. It displays two-different panel types.
Architect: Collins Woerman

Seattle Orthopedic Center

Seattle Orthopedic Center
[Photos by BUILD llc]

The William H. Foege Building at NE Pacific Str & 15th Ave NE
The panels seem to be a fired clay, almost brick-like in look and texture. The building is a very impressive display of the rainscreen system
Architect: Anshen + Allen

William H. Foege Building

William H. Foege Building

William H. Foege Building
[Photos by BUILD llc]

Medina Residence near Seattle
The residence uses the Swiss Pearl system and is designed with the precision of a cabinet at the exterior.  The panel system continues inside to certain areas of the interior.
Architect: BUILD llc

Medina residence

Medina residence

Medina residence
[Photos by Swiss Pearl]

Camano Cabin on Camano Island
The residence uses steel cor-ten panels as its rainscreen. The panels develop a layer of rust which continues to weather over time but protects the inner layers of the panel.
Architect: BUILD llc

Camano Cabin

Camano Cabin

Camano Cabin
[Photos by BUILD llc]

Dr. Marc Ferrin Residence on Bainbridge Island
The residence has just been wrapped with the membrane and will soon be receiving a skin of Cembonit rainscreen.
Architect: BUILD llc

Dr. Marc Ferrin Residence

Dr. Marc Ferrin Residence
[Photos by BUILD llc]

It’s taken us several years and many jobs to gather the resources and knowledge about these rainscreen systems. So why do we take the time & effort to post this info online for anyone to use and distribute for free? Because the battle against ugly, senseless architecture is a tough one and we need all the help we can get. Cheers

Mid-century modernization
October 30, 2007, 11:22 am
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Seattle, Technical Posts

Being a small design-build firm who recently stepped into developing our own projects we’ve wondered about the possibility of creating a basic formula for renewing the mid-century modern archetype. Seattle, like many cities, is full of mid-century modern dwellings that are now turning 50 and 60 years old; they are in need of new systems (plumbing, electrical, mechanical), many have endured decades of terrible remodels, and most of all they just need a good update. Today’s blog examines a recent design-build-develop project of ours, and while it doesn’t push the architectural envelope it’s the beginning of what may prove to be a successful and profitable formula for the mid-century modern homes in the northwest. We’ve compiled a series of before and after photos of our latest project at 609 West Kinnear on the south slope of Seattle’s Queen Anne hill. Granted, the photographic comparisons are entirely unfair – the before images were shot in poor light, at night, and with ordinary lenses while the finished photos were professionally taken by a very good photographer, Aaron Leitz, in daylight with proper lighting, wide angle lenses and expertise. But this isn’t an exercise in comparing the before and after shots – it’s a catalog of ideas.

The permit type for a project like this is a “Subject to Field Inspection” known to architects as an over-the-counter permit because the permit is immediately obtained at the application submittal (if you know what you’re doing). With a typical permit review in Seattle consuming around 6 weeks of time the over-the-counter permit saves about two mortgage payments. The permit fees are also in the hundreds of dollars rather than in the thousands.

Seattle View

There is a prominent view of Seattle and the Puget Sound from the house – maximizing window sizes without reworking the exterior sheathing was imperative. One of the many stipulations with an over-the-counter permit is that you cannot alter the lateral resistance of the structure (you can’t mess with the plywood at the exterior walls).

609 exterior new 1

exterior existing
Windows are kept to the same width, but the new window openings are brought all the way down to the floor. Although some plywood has been removed from the exterior skin it does not substantially affect the lateral resistance of the structure. More view and daylight are gained without decreasing the lateral resistance. It also saves from hiring a structural engineer to review the project. This keeps within the clean modern lines of the original house – the large planes of glass fit within the geometry of the home. All cost-effectively.

609 entry new

609 entry existing
Surfaces are updated allowing for change of color and texture. Sophisticated shades of gray replace the original dull, brown tones. Clear cedar soffits add warmth to the exterior and enhance the long low overhangs, exemplary of mid-century modern. All appendages are removed from the house (carports, flagpoles, landscape fences, shrubs, yard art). This process of removal surgically takes away other styles from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s… that have accumulated on the house thereby restoring the home to one design philosophy.

609 living room/sun room

609 living room/sun room existing

The bad weekend remodels are un-done and the interior is also restored to its original character, but modernized at the same time. This typically improves the function of the house as most quick remodels address only personalized needs at the time. In this case a series of 1970’s green-house style skylights and sunrooms were removed. The long overhangs and drywall ceilings were restored. Columns in the center of rooms, or other obstructions, are removed and replaced with long-span beams in the ceiling – costly but well worth getting back unobstructed open spaces. Over-the-counter type permits have limits on the size of beams which can be installed but such issues can be negotiable if presented correctly.

609 living room new

living room existing
A clean white interior paint updates the mismatched multi-colored brick and brightens the interiors. The original corner window configurations are kept and enhanced with new aluminum corner windows. The original structural steel corner posts are kept in place, showing off the original construction and saving extra costs in framing. Can lights are installed to add light without making a feature of the light fixture itself.

609 living room new 2

living room existing 2

All interior appendages are removed (trophy cases, ceiling fans). Acoustical ceilings are removed and replaced with drywall. A dark “ebonized” stain is used on the hardwood floors – this conceals the stains at the original oak flooring and helps blend the existing floor with the new patches of oak flooring.

609 kitchen new

609 kitchen existing
Kitchens from the mid-century modern homes usually require a complete update. The original kitchen is gutted down to the studs so that new electrical and plumbing can be implemented. New cabinets, countertops (stainless steel with weld in sink), appliances, lights, etc. Often there are salvage yards for decent used appliances providing a tax deduction.

609 bedroom new

609 bedroom existing 1

609 bedroom existing 2

In the bedrooms again, all interior appendages are removed and the personalized remodels are undone. New surfaces throughout: paint at walls and ceilings, new carpet. Windows maximized by bringing down to floor level. Room volumes are kept simple and straight-forward. The architecture of mid-century modern is marked by discipline.

609 master bathroom

Bathrooms from the mid-century modern homes usually require a compete update. The original bathrooms are gutted down to the studs so that new electrical and plumbing can be implemented. New cabinets, countertops, and fixtures. New tiles are simple shades of gray with matching colored grout. The custom glass shower enclosure maximizes daylight. New mirrors extend to the ceiling to keep within the design philosophy of the house (continuous planes of material). The shower door hardware and cabinet hardware are selected and installed to be functional yet minimal – keeping the focus on surfaces and textures.

609 exterior new 2
The strategic efforts on this project produced a functional 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, modernized home. Since the foundation, framing and brickwork from the 1950’s were solid and dependable, the update costs were reasonable for a seemingly new house. The focus on systems and surfaces is making for a successful formula for mid-century modernization. The home is currently being listed by Moira Holley of Windermere.