At any given time, we're building about ten different projects, all in different stages of construction. Read on to learn more about a selection of our current work.
Whidbey Island: Smuggler's Cove Residence
We are wrapping up finish carpentry and about to hand over the keys to the owner. Designed by MW | Works, there's a lovely vignette around each corner and beautiful details everywhere you look.
Left: Glass front entry door with custom steel and leather handle. Right: stained cedar siding with a rough sawn cedar boardwalk that leads to the front door.
Left: The house is situated at a clearing at the edge of the woods. A south-facing bank of windows illuminates the kitchen and dining room. Right: Past the kitchen is the living room with a basalt stone fireplace.
Left: The plaster and teak slat hallway that leads to the master suite. Right: The last of the blue tape in the master bath, with a teak vanity and shower floor, plaster walls, and cedar ceiling.
Perkins Lane Residence
It's a hub of activity at our Magnolia project, designed by Coats Design Architecture. We're in the finish stages as carpenters install kitchen cabinetry and we pour concrete exterior decks.
Left: The newly installed kitchen cabinetry, fabricated in Dovetail's wood shop. The cabinets are stained rift sawn white oak with a quartz counter top. Right: The stone tiled wall of the living room with fireplace.
Left: View of Puget Sound and Bainbridge Island from a second floor bedroom. Right: In the master bath, carpenter Bryan Pederson measures a half-wall in preparation for trim.
C&C Loft Apartments
Located on Old Ballard Ave, we're constructing two new loft apartments atop a historic building, designed by Richartz Studios. Currently, we're prepping to install casework and finishes.
Left: We're nearing completion of the exterior stucco siding, which wraps around the old brick building like a nurse log. Right: the back decks and floor to ceiling window walls have views of the Ballard Locks and the Puget Sound.
Left: Master bath in the west unit. Right: Master bath in the east unit.
Located in industrial Ballard, the Klotski building is a ground-up mixed use structure designed by Graham Baba Architects. We've finished interior framing, are installing the roof, and are beginning rough-in for electrical and plumbing services.
Left: The front facade with Quantum windows on the ground floor and Fleetwood windows above. We're framing the parapet on the third floor. Right: The back facade where we've completed installing the windows and waterproofing the sheathing.
Left: An interior courtyard on the third floor draws in lots of light and creates different indoor-outdoor spaces. Right: Framed by the structural moment framing, a third floor deck hosts a BBQ area.
When young couple approached Heliotrope and asked them to design a home they had a surprising directive: incorporate an art studio into the residence. The couple, an artist and an engineer, then listed several additional criteria for their new home: a contemporary style, but not out of place with the rest of the neighborhood; privacy balanced with a visual connection to the street; flow between inside and outside; lots of natural light; and wall space for their art collection.
The design solution is reminiscent of a checker-board pattern, alternating between interior and exterior spaces. The main living and dining areas extend from the front entry courtyard to the rear patio courtyard. Because the main floor of the home is elevated above grade, it allows for occupants to observe the street but remain private.
The art studio, which occupies a double height space with a cathedral ceiling, is adjacent to the main living area, but sunk a half level to establish a separation. “The goal here,” says architect Mike Mora, “is to keep the two occupants connected as they go about their daily routines.” This became a theme for the entire house, creating a visual connection between two points, often through a framed view of the landscape. From the master suite, for example, one can look through windows to a Japanese garden and into the kitchen beyond.
The new 3,500 square foot residence that we built includes custom windows, a custom kitchen with walnut countertops, and custom bookshelves, one running the length of the living room. The custom bathroom cabinets are made of Western Red cedar, as is the ofuro, the Japanese soaking tub, built with traditional joinery methods. The flooring is a combination of polished concrete, tile, and myrtle wood. The façade is clad in stained cedar.
Sustainable features include an eco-friendly fluid-applied waterproofing barrier, radiant floor heating, low-VOCs in the interior, a green roof of succulents, and a backyard rain garden that absorbs a large portion of the rainwater runoff from the roof.
The clients often find themselves working side-by-side in the art studio, one making art and one working on the computer. The residence itself defers to the interesting lives of its occupants with a simple, elegant design – a house as a frame, not a subject.
We're FSC Certified.
Dovetail is proud to announce our wood shop is now FSC® Chain of Custody Certified. Cool, right? So, what is FSC? Why did we choose this certification? And what does this mean for you? Firstly, it means we back our values with actions. Environmental sustainability is one of our core values and we believe it’s important for you to have the option to choose wood products that support a healthy planet.
What is FSC?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-governmental organization that sets environmental and social standards by which forests are managed and certified. It’s a voluntary program for landowners with best practices in forestry. FSC chain of custody certification verifies that materials are tracked from the forests where they are grown to the end user – us.
Let’s look closer at FSC to see why it’s the gold standard of forest management and why we chose it for our certification. FSC is the only standard protecting rivers, lakes, and the animals that live in them from erosion and chemical runoff, and it’s the only standard prohibiting highly hazardous chemicals, such as Agent Orange. Additionally, FSC limits clear-cuts to ensure healthy forest ecology and is the only standard with requirements protecting rare and old growth forests. It also prevents converting biodiversity-rich forests into monoculture plantations. Lastly, FSC is the only standard protecting the customary rights and resources of indigenous people and local communities. We chose FSC because it has the highest environmental and social standards of any forest certification program.
What does this mean for your project?
Quality construction focuses on craftsmanship and details, but it’s also about high quality materials – especially in places where we connect with architecture – your walnut counter tops, your cedar front door, your ash dining table. Now that we have FSC products available, you can choose an entire casework package that’s environmentally and socially beneficial – this means your kitchen, closets, vanity, bookshelves, doors, ceiling, floors, and furniture can all be sourced from responsibly managed forests. So every time you open your front door, cook in your kitchen, or share a meal at your table you’ll know that your actions made a difference and your home is contributing to the long-term health of our forests and our planet.
We have about ten projects at any given time. Read on to learn more about our process as we highlight five of our current projects.
Perkins Lane Residence
Above: This three-story residence, designed by Coates Design Architects, is emerging from the waterfront in Magnolia. Dovetail's framing crew is nearly finished combining the steel and wood structural package. Because the roof is 35 feet in the air and the exterior is mostly glass windows, we've reinforced walls with steel to add rigidity and transfer any seismic load.
Far left: A room with a view - the master bedroom has beautiful views of Puget Sound and the Olympics. Middle left: Framing superintendent Chris Mega applies sheathing. Middle right: The framed master bathroom between the two bedrooms on the third floor. Far right: Ray Sumaniaga and Justin Sabala frame stairs to the upper level deck.
The historic renovation of Harvard Exit, designed by S+H Works, is well underway. We've finished seismic and structural upgrades and are moving on to restoring windows, applying drywall, and prepping for installing the elevator.
Above: Carpenters have built a new, level floor in the main theatre that meets up with the stage. New side-doors have been cut on both sides of the proscenium arch.
Above: The third floor theatre has been transformed into a full window restoration operation. In the background, newly restored windows are masked, primed, and ready for paint.
Far left: The restored window frame is repaired of rot and primed. Middle left: Carpenter Peter Church cleans each pain, which is covered with about a hundred years of grime. Middle right: The newly hung drywall in the elevator shaft. Far right: Hanging drywall in the basement.
C&C Loft Apartments
Located on Old Ballard Ave, the new C&C Lofts project, with architecture by Richartz Studios, consists of a tenant improvement build-out within an existing structure - a beatufiul old brick building - and new construction on top of that. The second story of the historic structure will become commercial space and above that a we're building two new two-story loft apartments with views of Magnolia and the Olympics.
The 1960s were difficult for this building. Originally built in 1910, using free standing masonry, it was remodeled in the '60s and covered in a stucco veneer.
Above: This is the same building as above, but stripped of the sad 1960s remodel. Restoration began on this historic building in 2015 - stripping off the stucco, providing seismic upgrades, reintroducing expansive commercial storefronts, as well as restoring the brick facade, wood cornice, and arched windows. Dovetail is renovating the second floor and constructing two new two-story loft apartments on top of the existing building.
Far left: The stunning bank of arched windows on the second floor of the historic building. Middle left: We're upgrading electrical service to the building. Middle right: On the third floor - one of the new double-height loft apartments with massive windows. Far right: The fourth floor private terrace overlooking Old Ballard Ave.
Lino's Glass Art Gallery
We're building a glass art gallery downtown for Lino Tagliapietra, who mentored Chihuly. Designed by Graham Baba Architects, the 6,600 square foot gallery features a large sky light or "light monitor," and a new 11 foot entry door.
Above: The scaffolding and elevated platform for cutting a penetration in the roof and building the 45' x 16' light monitor.
Above: The suspended ceiling of the 45' x 16' light monitor has a gentle radius, from which art will be hung. The platform and scaffolding are soon coming down.
Far left: The exterior of the glass gallery on 2nd Ave. Middle left: The gentle curve of the suspended ceiling in the light monitor. Middle right: We've ripped up the old floor and exposed the original fir sub-floor, which will be covered in 8" white oak flooring. Far right: Meanwhile, at Dovetail's metal shop, Billy Musselman (L) and Kelly Gilliam discuss the new steel frame for the entryway, which supports an 11-foot-tall side light and custom wood door that's offset with a pivot hinge - a custom collaboration between our metal and wood shops.
Whidbey Island: Smuggler's Cove Residence
In this multi-structure residence, designed by MW Works, carpenters are installing the cedar plank ceiling throughout the main house, and prepping for applying plaster in the bunk house.
Above: View of the main house, which sits at the edge of the forest, overlooking a pasture and pond below.
Above: The bunk house and a newly poured concrete wall that will be clad in stone.
Far left: Superintendent Larry Bower explains that the MDF is a placeholder for mirrors, which have the 1/4" reveal on all sides, and align flush with the drywall. Middle left: Carpenters are installing the cedar ceiling - the joint between the boards aligns with the center line of the can lights and sprinkler heads. Imaging how many moves ahead we had to work in order to execute this perfectly! Middle right: Carpenters Joel Janes (L) and Chris Rion calculate the datum line before applying flashing to the sub-fascia. Far right: The open corner window in the living room, custom made by Quantum Windows.
Meanwhile, back at Dovetail's wood shop... Left: cabinetmaker Brooke Nakhuda fabricates drawers. Middle: Nakhuda attaches the drawers to the a queen size bunk bed. Right: Five down, one to go. Our wood shop is fabricating all six bunk beds for the bunk house.
The glass house on the prairie, peaking out from the edge of the woods.
To help bring this temporary art installation to life, Dovetail’s wood shop utilizes our CNC machine to route out measurements and text on the pedestal and benches. Above Janos Mathiesen, Dovetail's architectural woodwork manager, discusses the pedestal panels with with Clay Anderson of Olson Kundig.
Above, Dovetail project manager, David Delfs (center), and Olson Kundig architects (from left) Greg Nakata, Clay Anderson, and Jarri Hasnain, review the freshly routed bench panel.
The Olson Kundig Ice Cube design team consists of Clay Anderson, Noah Conlay, Jarri Hasnain, and Gregory Nakata. Additional collaborators include Cascade Crystal Ice, Niteo, and Swenson Say Faget. The Dovetail team includes project manager David Delfs, architectural woodwork manager Janos Mathiesen, superintendent Duane Robinson, and foreman Kevin Wright.
Dovetail is proud to complete Tavolàta Capitol Hill, another restaurant we've built for chef and restaurateur, Ethan Stowell. Designed by Atelier Drome Architecture, the 2,600-square-foot restaurant is housed on the ground-floor of the new Dunn Motors Building, on the corner of East Pike and Summit Ave. The original building was constructed in 1925, and preservationist-minded developer Hunters Capital preserved the historic façade and simultaneously created a new building that references the original 1920’s design with large warehouse-style windows and high quality finish materials.
Atelier Drome principal, Michelle Linden, explains that the team designed Tavolàta as a “modern interpretation of the original Bell Town Tavolàta, with lighter woods, a pallet of gray hues, and exposed mechanical systems,” creating a warm yet urban feel. Linden adds that further influence comes from the food itself, “they cook finely crafted meals with handmade pastas and sauces, and the build-out reflects that tailoring with handmade wood and steel furniture, surfaces, and details. The space is built with the same quality and care as the food.”
The main design vision for the restaurant, however, derives from its name, “tavolàta,” a large Italian communal table that emphasizes conversation and community. When entering the restaurant the first big gesture is the table – a sixteen-foot-long maple slab with live edges. Sourced locally from around Lake Whatcom and designed and built in Dovetail’s wood shop in collaboration with Dovetail’s metal shop, the communal table can be separated into two eight-foot-long tables. Bare bulbs hang above the table, illuminating its entire length.
Tavolàta is a beautiful space with beautiful food. Come for the delicious eats and stay for community and ambiance.
At any given time, we're building about ten different projects. Here's a sneak peek into five current works in progress.
Whidbey Island: Smuggler's Cove Residence
It's busy and exciting at the Smuggler's Cove residence, designed by MW|Works. Inside, rough-in for all the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing is taking place. Outside, we're beginning to enclose the building envelope and preparing to install the window package from Quantum. Notice the Prosoco Wet-Flash on the sheathing, a roll-on, waterproof and breathable barrier that wicks away moisture on the outside while allowing water vapor to escape from the inside. A high-tech, yet green product that was awarded the Declare Label by the Living Future Institute. We began using Prosoco while building a net-zero-energy home, and fell in love with the quality and ease of application. Now we use it on almost every residential project.
Above, details of the interior living areas, as well as exterior, where 75% will be covered in windows. The residence consists of several structures that come together at a clearing in the woods, overlooking a pond. Far left: kitchen and living space. Middle left: office area off the master suite. Middle right: lower bedroom with views of the pond. Far right: the massive cantilever, an engineering feat, protects an outdoor patio and the entry-path to the front door.
Tavolàta Capitol Hill
Dovetail is thrilled to build chef Ethan Stowell’s latest restaurant, Tavolàta Capitol Hill. Designed by Atelier Drome Architecture, the 2,600-square-foot restaurant is housed on the ground-floor of the new Dunn Automotive building. The team at Atelier Drome designed Tavolàta as a modern Italian eatery with light woods and a pallet of gray hues, creating a warm yet urban feel.
“Tavolàta,” is Italian for a large communal table. When entering the restaurant the first big gesture is the table – a 16-foot-long maple slab with live edges. Designed and built in Dovetail’s wood shop in collaboration with Dovetail’s metal shop, the communal table can be separated into two eight-foot-long tables.
Tavolàta Capitol Hill is one of several Ethan Stowell Restaurants that Dovetail has built throughout the years. Dovetail principal, Scott Edwards, says “it’s always such a pleasure working with Ethan because he’s incredibly dedicated to craft and quality, whether it’s food or building materials. As a builder, it’s really special teaming up with him because he cares so much about design and craft.
View Ridge Residence
How we love the View Ridge residence, let us count the ways. 1: Heliotrope Architects delivered a stunning design. 2: We're crazy about the massive cantilever roof on this house. 3: The cedar doesn't stop at the soffit - it continues inside! 4: Gorgeous custom windows by Quantum - 'nuff said. 5: The clients are really really fabulous! We could go on, but we'll let the rest of the images speak for themselves (kind of).
Far left: the stairwell with floating treads. Middle left: the third-floor window walls open up to a porch with views of the entire Cascade Range. Middle right: the cedar soffit appears to seamlessly glide into the living room. Far right: marble, marble, marble in the master bath.
Harvard Exit Theatre
What's going on inside the historic Harvard Exit Theatre? Well, we can tell you we're thrilled to be performing the historic preservation and restoration of the entire theatre. It's getting a total make over. We're gutting the theatre down to the studs (meanwhile stripping and preserving all the trim and fancy details), performing seismic and structural upgrades, applying a new roof, adding new mechanical, electrical and plumbing service, restoring windows and installing new ones, and lastly adding an elevator. After all the upgrades are performed we then begin putting the building back together and add the old but newly restored trim and details. Here's a sneak peek at what we've been up to over the last few months.
Far left: the roof will be tented while structural upgrades are performed and a new roof is applied. Middle left: the foreman on the job removes an exterior siding panel to reveal the massive old growth beam and column supporting the third-floor theatre. Middle right: the main theatre floor will be leveled. Far right: the newly cut elevator shaft.
Perkins Lane Residence
We're building a new home on Perkins Lane, in Magnolia, designed by Coates Design Architects. We recently demolished the existing home - the retaining wall and parking slab will remain. In its place we're building an entirely new custom home with stunning views of Puget Sound and the Olympics. Stay tuned for progress on this project and more!
Seattle's urban marketplaces are making waves all the way to the New York Times Travel section, which recently covered our hip, vibrant, interstitial spaces that are serving up local food and craft. Meat & Bread, which we built (designed by Ste. Marie), is featured along with Lark and other connected businesses in the Central Agency Building, a renovated auto parts shop in Capitol Hill. Each venue is open at different times throughout the day, attracting a revolving crowd of patrons from the morning into the evening.
Several other new marketplaces are also featured, including the super chic Chop House Row, which boasts restaurants and bars accessible from the street, and additional little shops located down an alleyway called the “mews.” For all these new and unique marketplaces, the article credits Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the longest continually operating farmers market in the country. We love that our city is receiving recognition for our hyper-local craft, quality, and design. Seattle for the win!
Louise Durocher is a force. She’s an architectural designer, a landscape architect, a sculptor, a printmaker, and a photographer. If she’s not in Seattle she can likely be found in her second art studio in Italy. Or she might be in Paris. Louise is a true renaissance woman - there doesn’t seem to be anything she can’t do and that’s one of the reasons we love working with her. We recently finished two successful projects with Louise as the designer, and we’re in the process of finishing up a third.
When Louise first interviewed Dovetail for a large law office remodel she asked one of our principals, Scott Edwards, “how do you work with women?” Scott explained that he comes from a family of women, including sisters, his wife, and two daughters. And, he added, there are many women in leadership positions at Dovetail: the metal shop manager; the controller; the director of operations; the marketing director; a project manager; and a cabinet maker. “We value working with women,” replied Scott. Louise liked the answer and we began a productive and collaborative relationship.
Our first project together was a law firm office that needed a gut-remodel and complete re-landscaping. Daniel Archer, a principal and project manager oversaw the entire project, which included an upgrade of the mechanical and electrical systems, as well as a reception desk, offices, conference room, kitchen, and two mock-trial rooms. The landscaping required a new handicapped accessible ramp that circles the exterior of a new sunken garden and patio.
Our next collaboration was a 4,500 square foot residential condo renovation for a client in the Four Seasons. Louise and Daniel paired up again, addressing the client’s bold sense of color and also adding a fire place, custom casework, lighting upgrades, and a sliding wall that transforms a music room and library into a private bedroom. Additionally, they worked together on a solution for extra guests which resulted in a kinetic bookshelf that converts into a Murphy bed. The results compliment the clients’ aesthetic as well as their music and art collection.
These days, Louise is gearing up for an exhibition of her marble sculptures, in addition to maintaining her international architecture and landscape architecture practice. We can’t wait to see what the exhibition reveals – and what new architectural dreams Louise is waiting to bring to fruition.
Visit Louise's website to see more of her work.
We put the finishing touches on Filson’s new flagship store in SoDo just in time for the holiday season. Designed by Heliotrope Architects, the new 6,500 square-foot retail space is located in a former machinist warehouse, which also houses Filson’s corporate headquarters and manufacturing.
Alex Carlton, Filson's creative director, drove the conceptual design. “Defining the flagship space began by looking at the Filson brand – a Seattle-based company with 118 years of history that needed to embody the spirit of the Pacific Northwest. The experience in the space needed to be one of discovery and exploration.” Carlton continues, “Ultimately, the most important concept was the craftsmanship. We wanted the store to have the same level of quality and integrity as our product.”
The store uses heavy trim, dark colors, and burnt wood. The building’s exterior is painted charcoal black, with new Quantum warehouse-style windows. The massive front doors act as a focal point for the facade. Designed and built in Dovetail’s wood shop, the barn doors are made of reclaimed wine vats of Redwood that are burned dark and hand oiled. Blacksmith Darryl Nelson created the door handles - 55 pound Silicon Bronze pulls forged into the shape of a wolf’s head.
In the foyer stands a 19 foot tall cubist totem hand carved out of a single cedar tree by artist Aleph Geddis. Walls of glass windows afford views into Filson’s bag manufacturing department. A metal stairwell wraps around the cubist totem, taking visitors up to the retail store on the second floor. The stairs are retrofitted with a custom guardrail of hot-rolled steel fabricated by longstanding Dovetail partners, Architectural Elements.
“Visitors arrive at the sales floor with its cathedral ceiling, exposed steel trusses and long axial orientation,” explains architect Mike Mora. “Because the main space is so big,” he continues, “the architecture had to be scaled up: big cabinets, big salvaged timbers, big fireplace.” O.B. Williams made all the casework. The walls are covered in heavy black wainscoting and burnt cedar barn boards. Sourced from Duluth Timber and fabricated by Cascade Joinery, a tremendous custom timber trellis made of reclaimed Doug fir creates an anchor in the middle of the store.
Dovetail’s principal Scott Edwards comments that, “We’ve built a showcase of some of the greatest efforts of craftspeople in our region, but ultimately it’s about the relationships we’ve built around our collective commitment to authenticity, craft, and the history of the space.”
Checkout the February 2016 issue of Metropolis to read more about Filson’s new flagship store.
In 2016, Dovetail celebrates 25 years of building meaningful and memorable projects that define the character of the Northwest’s built environment. Since 1991, Dovetail has been crafting fine residential and commercial buildings throughout the Puget Sound with a hallmark of quality, sustainability, and a commitment to lasting relationships. We specialize in custom, bespoke, architectural projects with both a wood and metal shop to support custom designs.
We have grown from a high-end residential builder specializing in traditional craftsmanship and fine finish carpentry to a contractor with a reputation for exquisite contemporary detailing and finishes. Over the years we have worked with inspirational architecture firms such as Olson Kundig, Suyama Peterson Deguchi, Heliotrope Architects, MW Works, Graham Baba Architects, and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson among others. Additionally, as word spread of our commitment to quality and our collaborative working process, developers and restaurateurs began turning to us for their special commercial projects. Dovetail is trusted to capture the soul of a commercial space with the same care and craft we bring to our residential buildings. As the size and complexity of our residential work has grown, so too has our commercial work: large, multi-story adaptive reuse projects; tenant improvements of cultural landmarks; and new construction of boutique multi-story mixed use buildings. Along the way we have won AIA awards for both our residential and commercial work.
Below are some highlights from our last 25 years.
As we look back over the years we would like to thank you. Thank you for your big dreams, inspiring designs and beautiful visions. Thank you for being such active and passionate collaborators – ultimately together we create the best possible outcome. Additionally, thank you for your commitment to the future of our planet. Together we’ve built net-zero energy homes, Built-Green projects, sustainable structures that divert rainwater into backyard rain gardens, and utilized Living Building products. Lastly, we are deeply thankful for an incredibly talented team of carpenters, superintendents, project managers and support staff that are dedicated to their craft as well as visionary designs.
Looking toward the next 25 years, we are invigorated by the future of building: urbanism and the renaissance of cities; smart and elegant multi-family design solutions; increasing mobility and public transit; innovation in design such biomimicry, smart buildings, buildings that will self-heal, produce energy and food; and once again you. We’re so excited to see what you dream of and dream up in the next 25 years and we can’t wait to begin building it.
What makes an outstanding living room? Next to the kitchen, the living room is the most used space in the home. How do design, choice of materials, layout, and building quality create a room that "works" - that serves multiple functions, that beckons you to relax with the family or entertain guests after dinner? It's a tricky balance to achieve, but our Continental Place Condo, designed by NB Design Group, gets it right - "flawlessly" in fact.
Architecture Art Designs, an online source for daily inspiration and fresh ideas from the fields of architecture, art, and design, recently published their 18 Outstanding Modern Living Room Designs Without a Single Flaw, and the Continental Place Condo that we built was included in this prestigious selection.
One of the most important design elements in the living room is a layout that encourages both relaxation and conversation. Above, comfortable chairs allow for cozy couch time, or conversations over coffee with friends.
Flexibility is another important design element in the modern living room. Here, one living room can be divided into two rooms, both with flat screen televisions, by two pocket doors hidden in the entertainment center, accommodating the contemporary family that has different viewing preferences. Dovetail has its own custom wood shop that brings considerable creative design solutions to the table, such as this multi-functional media center.
Having an open floor plan has many benefits: increased flow of traffic between the kitchen and living rooms; greater use of the living room since it's not cut off from the rest of the house; more natural light, especially in small spaces such as a condo; integrated design style throughout the space. Here the upholstery is a common thread that ties all the rooms together, while each space has furniture and design accents that define that particular room.
Ultimately, for this condo, the living room design succeeds by weaving together several key elements: layout and comfort of the furniture; flexibility of the space through custom built cabinetry; the open floor plan and natural light that draw people into the living room; and the consistent and continuous style of the overall design. Thanks to Architecture Art Designs for recognizing our work and including our condo on your list. We're in great company!
What is the process of building a new home? How do we go from architectural designs to a completed work of art? For those interested in building a new home, we've simplified the process by highlighting major construction milestones, and we take you on a visual tour of a house we're building in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Designed by Heliotrope Architects, the front facade of the house features a prominent "floating gable." Read on to learn about the beginning stages of building a new home.
The first step in building a new home is to excavate the site. Excavating, or removing soil, serves several purposes: it levels the site; allows for below grade utilities to be laid, such as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing; and prepares the ground for pouring the foundation. Above, one of the main plumbing lines, the side sewer, is installed.
After excavating, laying subgrade utilities, and leveling the site, trenches are dug for pouring the foundation footings. Constructed of concrete and reinforced with rebar, footings support the weight of the house and prevent it from settling. If a house is a like a sculpture, the footings are like the platform on which it sits. The size and type of structure determines the depth, width, and placement of footings. In the photo above the footings have rebar protruding through the concrete, anticipating the next phase of construction, pouring the foundation walls.
FOUNDATION WALLS AND WATERPROOFING
Next, the foundation walls are poured. The foundation walls transfer the load of the house to the ground. They also act as a barrier between the wood of the house and the soil of the earth. The oldest and simplest foundation walls were constructed using large stones. In contemporary building, foundation materials have advanced dramatically, but the concept remains the same.
After foundation walls have cured, the exterior walls themselves need to be waterproofed in order to prevent water from seeping through the concrete. Above, a skirt of drain board waterproof fabric is applied to the exterior foundation walls, which protects the foundation from water.
BACK-FILLING AND LEVELING THE SITE
All the exterior utility lines are laid and the foundation walls are constructed and waterproofed, then soil is brought in to bury the utilities and grade the site. An incredible amount of work and infrastructure becomes hidden beneath ground.
HYDRONIC HEATING SYSTEM
This home has a hydronic system for radiant floor heating, which is highly energy efficient. Above, the tubing is installed over insulation, which prevents heat-loss toward the ground. Because concrete conducts heat well, a concrete slab is then poured on top of this hydronic tubing.
Framing is the next step in the building process. Here studs and headers form walls, ceilings, windows, and doorways. Then, the frame of the house is bolted to the foundation. Framing provides the structure to support the form of the house, it also creates an armature for the network of electrical and plumbing utilities to come.
The plywood panels applied to the outer framing of the house are called sheathing. Sheathing strengthens the structure and serves as a base for exterior weatherproof siding. In the Pacific Northwest, an earthquake region, sheathing stabilizes the structure and helps prevent sheer forces from pushing and pulling the house in opposite directions.
FRAMING THE ROOF
After the sheathing is applied, framing the roof begins. Above, manufactured trusses create the vaulted ceiling and the roof line simultaneously. Modified trusses are erected where skylights occur.
The design of this house calls for two different kinds of roofs. On the left is a "flat roof" (actually, it has a slight slope to prevent standing water), and the right side is a pitched shingle roof. The main role of the roof is to prevent water from entering the house. The roof is also part of the "building envelope" or the physical barrier that separates a building from water, air, and heat. The Northwest is known for its wet winters and the roof is an important element in the overall waterproofing system.
Waterproofing itself is a crucial and complex part of building, and the next post will focus solely on the various steps in the waterproofing process.
The evening was breezy and brisk as we traversed Seattle’s downtown streets, heading for the Living Future 2015 unConference and its opening night events. After mingling our way through the vendors section, we followed a man in a salmon costume into a large hall for the keynote address. Several elders from local Native American tribes began with a prayer. Then Sarah Bergman, director of Pollinator Pathway, described her a large-scale participatory project connecting cities, farmland, and national parks for bees and other pollinators.
It’s when Janine Benyus, the keynote speaker, took the stage that the tenor of the conversation shifted. With the earlier speakers we were still thinking about and existing in the present tense. With Benyus, we were in the future – the distant future – where biomimicry is a given and humans have restored balance to our natural systems thereby “creating conditions conducive to life.”* It was a paradigm shift, and that’s where she began her lecture, and it took me a minute to catch up. The thing is, Benyus is so far ahead of us that she’s actually inspired by the future. But, before we launch too far into that future, you may be asking, “What is biomimicry?”
Biomimicry is a term coined by Benyus herself that’s defined as “learning from and then emulating natural forms, processes, and ecosystems to create more sustainable designs.”* It’s using nature as a mentor. It’s “the conscious emulation of life’s genius.”* Studying the design of a leaf in order to create more efficient solar cells is an example of biomimicry. Or examining how Namibian beetles catch fog and condense it into water, then applying that design to a desert irrigation system. Benyus, a biologist, innovation consultant, and author, stresses that for any given design challenge – waterproofing, heating, daylighting – there are millions of organisms to learn from.
Benyus is also quick to point out what is not biomimicry. It’s not designing something and post-fabrication saying, “It reminds me of a whale.” This, Benyus sites, is convergent evolution, the development of similar features in different species. Biomimicry, on the other hand, is a design process that requires consciously consulting the natural world as a starting point. Additionally, using a renewable resource such as cork flooring, although it’s eco-friendly, is not biomimicry but bio-utilization. What about purifying water with bacteria? Again, not biomimicry but bio-assistance. Benyus explains that biomimicry is not using an organism itself, but borrowing a design idea from an organism.
Throughout her presentation, Benyus returned to a common refrain, “the adjacent possible.” It was the first time I’d encountered the “adjacent possible,” so I did some quick research. It’s a term introduced by theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman that refers to an evolutionary process where biological systems are able to morph into more complex systems by making incremental changes – not great leaps. We did not go from walking to spaceships without first building bicycles, cars, and rockets. Or, to use a building analogy: you build a first floor with stairs, then you build a second floor with stairs, and finally a third floor. Each floor makes access to the next floor possible. You can get to the third floor because of the second floor. That’s the adjacent possible. You can’t see it or get there today, not directly. But through small steps, one next to the other, you can arrive at a vastly different place from where you started. It appears that Janine has applied the adjacent possible to biomimicry and can see into the future the elegant and innovative solutions to design and building challenges.
As I sat in the darkened hall, I began to wonder what that might look like. What are the biomimicry implications for the building industry, and how might the “adjacent possible” transform the field? What is biomimicry from a builder’s perspective? How might the “adjacent possible” help us innovate and envision the future of building? One obvious result of applying biomimicry to building would be an even closer collaboration with architects and designers. Because biomimicry looks to nature at all the stages of making – planning, designing, fabricating, evaluating – it’s easy to envision architects and builders communicating and cooperating at the planning phase. Additionally, with the utilization of biomimicry, the very nature of building may increase in technical and chemical sophistication. We could sub-contract biologists and chemists. There may even be a need for an on-staff biologist. Or, builders may borrow from birds the design for creating extraordinarily colorful plumage, and act more as scientists, combining molecules and chemicals, then overseeing as fibers organize themselves to create color by scattering light. At the very least, the fields of building and architecture will cross-pollinate with the fields of biology and natural sciences, creating a need for multi-disciplinary practitioners.
Furthermore, biomimicry could change not only the products and materials we utilize (that’s happening already), but our fundamental building systems and processes. To address the first point, our waterproofing products are advancing dramatically. Dovetail is currently building a net-zero energy home using a new product, Wet-Flash, which wicks moisture on the outside while allowing water vapor to escape from the inside, creating a waterproof yet breathable barrier. Sound familiar to human skin? That’s not just a coincidence, but a deliberate design choice, says Tom Schneider, the chemical engineer who developed the product. It’s not a far leap, then, to imagine a future of builders creating structures that are living and breathing and productive.
Addressing the point about process, we take for granted our current organizational structures and construction order of operation because they are tried and true. But, what could we learn from bee hives, a pride of lions, or a flock of crows? How could natural processes inform and improve the design of our building processes? Expanding on the idea of the adjacent possible, Benyus asked, “What did you make possible today?” As builders, we’re in the business of making. It’s an exciting moment when we can ask not only what did we make, but what did we make possible today.
How do you think biomimicry and the adjacent possible will influence design and building? How do you think builders will adapt in order to leverage biomimicry? What do you think is the adjacent possible for our field?
*Janine M. Benyus, “A Biomimicry Primer,” Biomimicry 3.8, 2014
The Pacific Northwest, in all its wonder and glory, does in fact experience extreme weather - long periods of winter rain followed by arid sunny summers (shh, don't tell anyone about our amazing summers). These weather extremes are particularly challenging for waterproofing exposed wood, which has the potential to soak up water and rot. Then, when it dries out, it can shrink and crack. In order to prevent water from damaging exposed wood, Dovetail employs several strategies: best practices (what we like to call "the fundamentals of building"); expertise built through years of applied knowledge and experience; and the highest level of quality and craft.
The Challenge: Exposed wood subject to weather extremes - prolonged rain and sun. Repeat.
- Paint: these deck posts will be painted, the first step in waterproofing.
- Ensure water does not become trapped. Within the design, allow for shedding and drainage.
- Protect end grain: no exposed end grain. End grain that's exposed sucks up moisture and begins the rotting process.
- Joints: fully glue all joints, which protects end grain and minimizes water retention
- Minimize seams: when possible, build details out of one piece of wood
- Reinforce seams: dado (cut a trench in the wood) and glue up wood details to prevent water from creeping in between two pieces of wood
- Use exterior-rated plywood even in areas with minor moisture exposure.
- Fasteners: stainless steel fasteners are superior to galvanized
- Choose appropriate materials: clear Western Red Cedar, for example, is indigenous to the Pacific Northwest and thus acclimatized to Northwest weather. It's naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insect attacks.
- Sustainability: Cedar is a renewable resource, often harvested from some of the most sustainably managed forests in the world.
Architects and home owners: we'd love to hear about your experiences designing and living with exposed wood. How have your homes and projects held up?
Originally posted May 6, 2013
Portland is the perfect mini-vacation. You can leave Seattle in the morning and by lunchtime be sitting at a sidewalk cafe soaking up sun and snacking on appetizers Portland's Pearl District, which is amazingly similar Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Both neighborhoods were originally developed in the 1860's as rough-and-tumble commercial areas, leveraging their access to rail and water in order to support booming lumber trades. Today, despite nearly identical looking buildings and proximity to their respective downtown cores, these two neighborhoods are drastically different.
Portland's Pearl District has been experiencing an urban renewal since the 1980’s and is thriving with brewpubs, art galleries, and every flavor of gastronomic delight. In stark contrast, Seattle's Pioneer Square is largely lifeless. As designers, builders, and contributors to our built environment, it bears asking: Why? What can we do, or avoid doing, to improve the design and quality of living in Seattle?
The caption of each photo points out some of the obvious differences between the two neighborhoods, amounting to some fairly basic urban planning reasons why Pioneer Square lacks the "life" of the Pearl District. The real questions remain: What now? What can those of us in the design and building community do about it?
A recent program of RadioLab is surprisingly relevant in addressing these questions. The episode, Emergence, explained the rise of sophisticated ant colony behavior. Here, the random actions of individual ants, at first insignificant and driven only by scent pheromones, can influence the next ant’s actions, which then influences the next, and so on. Soon, complexity and order form, unplanned, and without an initial blueprint. The chaos of thousands of individuals becomes a cohesive, tight, sustainable community.
The following story discussed concept of "sway" as it pertains to urban planning. Simply put, it's the idea "I was on my way here, when I found my self 'swayed' by that interesting place over there. Now my idea of what the community holds for me is twice as large, twice as vibrant." To some extent it's even further simplified to the notion of "build it and they will come." It happen in Ballard. In the Pike/Pine Corridor. These places have life and it happened over a surprisingly short span of years.
And now there is emerging life in Pioneer Square. Dovetail currently has the privilege of working with several culinary visionaries including award winning local chef Matt Dillon, his partner Katherine Anderson (proprietor of Melrose Market's Marigold and Mint), and Russel Flint.
We are collaborating with the design and construction of Matt and Katherine's The London Plane and Little London Plane, which follow right on the heels of just opened Bar Sajor- together accounting for three of the four corners of Occidental Park. Additionally, we recently finished building Russ's Rainshadow Meats Squared, a full-fledged butcher shop just doors from the other three restaurants. That's four new places in Pioneer Square. Will be it be enough to revitalize the area? Much like that story about the ants, individual efforts in isolation are just the first delicious scents of success. It's a brave start by some innovative thinkers and top-notch talent and Dovetail is excited to be a part of these efforts.
We seem to be on the brink of new life in Pioneer Square! But it won't be easy. No matter how good they are, a few restaurants alone won't transform the area. Luckily, more development is on the way. So we turn to you, our colleagues and friends, looking for some advice and insight.
- What else has to happen to bring Pioneer Square back to life?
- What mistakes should we NOT make?
- How do the stadiums and sporting events impact the area and its potential?
- As an individual, what would draw you to Pioneer Square?
- What would Pioneer Square need to be like for you to call it home?
- If you are one of those contributing to the redevelopment, what gives you the courage to do so and the confidence that it will work?
- What advice do you have for other business owners thinking about opening up Pioneer Square?
- How would you like to see your efforts supported or expanded upon?
We would love to hear your opinions. Please share!
Originally posted April 04, 2013
Dovetail is proud to partner with Olson Kundig Architects (OKA) on April's installation for their [storefront] project entitled "One in a Million." The project runs through the month of April. [storefront] is located at 406 Occidental Ave., Seattle, WA, 98104.
[storefront] is an experimental work place for Olson Kundig Architects’ community collaborations, pro-bono design work, philanthropic and volunteer work, and design research and development of design ideas.
This month's installation, "One in a Million," is part of Naomi Natale's One Million Bones project.
One Million Bones is a large-scale social art practice, utilizing education and hands-on art-making to raise awareness about current genocides and atrocities taking place worldwide. The project is collecting handmade sculptural bones for a collaborative installation of 1,000,000 bones to be displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from June 8th-10th, 2013. This installation will serve as a collaborative site of conscience to remember victims and survivors, and as a visible petition to raise awareness of issues and call upon our government to take much needed and long overdue action.
The project also reflects one of Dovetail's core values, connecting our wealth of talent and resources to that of the larger community. One Million Bones is a perfect opportunity to serve our community. Artist Naomi Natale partners with Students Rebuild, a non-profit organization that mobilizes young people worldwide to connect, learn and take action on critical global issues. Together, they are partnering with the local Bezos Family Foundation, which is matching $1 for each bone created up to a total of $500,000. OKA contacts Dovetail. A little brainstorming, a couple of meetings, and in the span of a few days, a powerful space is built to raise awareness about global genocide.
This project combines art, craft, and building, bringing together community to making bones with our own hands and give voice to those that can no longer speak. Our individual efforts here in Seattle make their way to the other Washington where they will become larger, where they will speak with a power that so often eludes us.
As builders, we have a chance to reach beyond the typical scope of "construction." We positively impact our community and contribute to a global artistic discourse. It's part of what Dovetail is about. It makes us proud to be building with craft, quality and heart.
If you have an idea on how to unify and leverage the talents of our design and build communities - hit us up. A special thanks to all involved for giving us this incredible opportunity.
Here is a short powerful video describing the project and chronicling the "One Million Bones" event that place in Albuquerque. Take a look. And then come down and help us sculpt some bones!