Landscaping draft plans

We have a first set of draft landscaping plans based on the great work of Mark at Project Ground Work. We started working with Mark about a month ago and he will be helping with landscape design and project management.

As Chris mentioned in the last post we are planning on phasing the landscape execution. Phase one will include all of the work to rebuild the pond and to landscape the driveway and front of the house. Phase two will be to put in the formal & kitchen gardens as part of building out the extension building for Chris’ craft cabin and my office/work shop. The final phase will be to bring the outer edge of the property back to its original natural state.


Mark Graff – Project Groundwork

Many changes, but little progress

Since it has been a few weeks since we declared victory on the wetlands designation I thought it would be useful to provide a brief update. In general there has been a decent amount of activity, but unfortunately no real progress. We need to complete engineering drawings so that they can be submitted to the county and we can wait approximately three months for permits. However, since we received the wetland designation a number of changes have been proposed (mostly by me, much to Chris’ feelings of consternation) and that has ground most of the engineering progress to a halt.

First the good news. We have multiple quotes on both septic system designs and drilling of a new well. As you may remember the original well, which is awesome in all ways (high water pressure, clean, etc.) doesn’t meet code and so needs to be decommissioned. We are hoping that we can use it to either feed the sprinkler system for the buildings or feed irrigation systems, or hopefully both. In any case we need to drill a new well and that seems like it won’t be a problem. Finding water on this property is not one of our challenges. The soil samples and changes to house location (more on that in a minute) have likely simplified and reduced the cost of the septic system.

In addition to making good progress on the septic and well systems we have selected a builder.  We interviewed a number of builders, all came as recommendations from our architect.  In the end the choice was fairly easy.  The builder we chose has a ton of experience building custom homes in the area, has worked with our architect in the past and we absolutely fell in love with one of their builds.  Here is information on the builder if you are in the market, can’t comment on anything first hand but they seem top rate:

Bender Construction Company
150 Lake Street South, Suite 224
Kirkland, WA 98033

Since the wetlands designation came back with no protected areas it caused us (me) to re-imagine the whole lot and this has created quite a few potential changes. The original placement of the house was up on a small hill in the middle of the property. This location was mostly selected because it was the only viable location given our understanding of likely wetland designation and setback restrictions. With those out of the way we started playing with alternative locations.

The first iteration of this was to move the house down the hill and onto the edge of the pond, looking north towards the main road. We would then refurbish the existing workshop into a new office/workshop for me. However, after further thought and some preliminary sketches putting the house there created a lot of new problems. It cleaves the yard into two large sections, which greatly diminishes the utility of the yard and having two large structured built on the pond would I think not look very good, given the relatively small size of the pond. So we then thought that we should move the house to the other side of the pond, bring all of the buildings together on that end of the lot. Greatly reduce the amount of driveway and pavement on the property and situate all of the buildings around the pond/garden area. This would leave a majority of the yard to the south open and more natural.
snip - layout
Of course this change in position requires some fairly radical changes to the floor plan of the main house. The original design was three floors with a daylight basement containing theater, rec room, au pair bedroom, bathroom and exercise room. The new location doesn’t allow for a daylight basement and we don’t want three stories, so we have eliminated the third floor and moved most of the rooms from that floor over the garage. Below is a fairly rough sketch showing placement on the lot and general design changes to the house. We are waiting for the architect to complete full designs of the new house layout and will review those when I get back from a business trip next week.

snip - new layout

I really like both the new location and the new house design. I was never a huge fan of the basement and the new design will allow the main entrance to look right through the house out the back windows and have a full view of the pond and a majority of the lot. Chris is somewhat ambivalent at best about the new design and fairly unhappy about the delays and constant changes. I hopeful that when she sees the finished project it will all be worthwhile. As always would love to hear comments on the changes.

Critical Areas Designation complete!

We finally heard back from King County and have no critical areas on the property that will affect construction or landscaping.  This is great news as we had a lot of concerns about where this would land.  We went from minimal wetlands, to significant wetlands, to management wetlands to no wetlands.  This is a brutally opaque process and if you are doing a construction project expect this phase to take much longer than you expected.

We hired The Watershed Company, who are a Preferred Wetland Consultant for the county.  I would highly recommend them.  They definitely went to bat for us and didn’t just take the route of least resistance.

Here is their contact information:

The Watershed Company
750 6th Street South
Kirkland, WA 98033
Phone: (425) 822-5242

Now we need to start on septic field design, well placement and pick a builder.


Quick update on permits.

I wanted to provide a quick update, so you know we haven’t fallen off the grid.  Things are moving very slowly right now.

We filed papers with King County to finalize our critical area designation.  As you might recall from previous blog posts we have gone back and forth with the wetland consultants on how much of the property will end up with a wetland designation.   We started with a belief that a large portion of the property was going to be designated as wetlands, which would have meant we would be quite constrained on where we could build.  Then we ended up during the final feasibility with a much more conservative view of the wetlands designation, this meant much less constraint on where we could build.   We waited until the property was quite dry before submitting the final report from the consultant.  The process involves us paying for a county approved consultant to draft a report, which is submitted to the county for review and hopefully approval.  We submitted the final report about two months ago and were surprised that the consultant found no wetlands on the property.

So we have been quite hopeful that we would get a speedy approval from the county.  Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.  We heard back from the county and they want to have a meeting with the consultant on the property next week to review a number of items.  Hopefully shortly after that we will hear back.

In the meantime we are reviewing a draft proposal on the home automation system and preliminary bids on the construction from builders tomorrow.  This will give us a better sense of how close to budget we are on the current design and will provide insight into the builder that will allow us to short-list a few builders for a final proposal.


We are currently working with two builders to get preliminary bids:

Bender Custom Construction –

Lanzinger Construction – strangely these guys don’t have their own web-site

And the home automation company we have been talking to is:

Madrona Digital –


I’ve also attached a copy of the questionnaire we will use (supplied by our design firm) to interview the contractors – Contractor Interview Questions

We should have updates on home automation, construction bids and county permitting shortly.


Starting up again

Well I am thinking of starting this blog up again. Then our friends and family can keep up with what we are up to.

Ainsley: Not much new she is almost two months old now. She smiles and kind of giggles. She enjoys watching the cats, her sister and the occasional cartoon. Her main activites are eating and sleeping.

Zoe: Zoe seems to be much bigger now that we have Ainsley. She loves her little sister and is always wanting to hug and hold her. She is going to school and enjoying it. She still plans on marrying Dylan when she gets bigger. She has many activities and interests such as going to the park, crafts, puzzles and playing games. Today we collected leaves then put them under paper and used crayons to make leaf rubbings.

I am a big fan of napping right now and try to nap with Ainsley in the day while Zoe is at school. I also try to get out for a walk everyday usually to the Starbucks with Ainsley. Right now I am not doing as much with Zoe as I would like because Ainsley eats a lot but hope this changes in the next few months when Ainsley begins to eat cereal and baby food.

Steve is now working a job in Redmond so will not need to go to China as often or travel as often. He is still working in the Bing group so everyone should use Bing. He is at work or helping out at home. He has taken over putting Zoe to bed, making her lunches, and taking her to school in the mornings. He also cuddles with Ainsley in the evenings and on weekends so she will nap longer and I can get a rest, shower, and eat.

This weekend we are going to get a family photo done. Which means I have worn Steve down and finally got him to agree to it. We are going to have it done outdoors by a friend of mine that has a photography business. It will be nice to have a good quality photo that is not the standard pose shoot you get at other big chain places. So I am hoping there is no rain on Saturday. It was rained out last weekend.

We have a part time nanny now that helps with Zoe in the afternoons her name is Amelia. Zoe seems to like her. She also comes on weekends sometimes and takes Zoe on an outing so she isn’t stuck at home because of Ainsley’s schedule.