Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Backyard Cottages

Seattle, like most urban cities, is struggling to increase its residential density without destroying its single-family neighborhoods. As a real estate agent specializing in our distinctive in-city neighborhoods, I am carefully aware of our need to create affordable and sustainable housing while maintaining our unique neighborhoods. For me this means the return of the backyard cottage.

I recently listed a sweet home in the Renton Highlands. Hip clients Dirck and Diana are savvy homeowners pursuing creative endeavors. Combining talents they found innovative ways to eek out more livable space in their modest sized ranch. With plenty of off street parking, they first tackled their garage and created a shop for Diana, converting 240 unused square feet into a highly functioning work horse. 

Complete with heat, ambient and task lighting, new flooring, windows and French door, running water and wrap around porch, this once unused tool shed has become a fabulous backyard cottage.
Hankering for an artist studio for Dirck they turned their attention to the solid, but basic backyard tool shed. Rolling up their sleeves they transformed ho hum in to the perfect blend of function and form.

Just last month Seattle City Council's committee on the Built Environment reviewed a report on backyard cottage development in Seattle over the past 18 months. Their findings conclude that backyard cottages create affordable housing options and help increase land use density in the city. 

A great article in GOVERNING talks in-depth about the current buzz in urban zoning and what it means, both pros and cons, to Seattle and other urban areas around the nation.

There are many issues to think about when discussing zoning changes. Street parking immediately comes to mind. But having an open dialogue about the subject, chatting about what we can do as an individual and as a city is critical as we look forward.

For fun, check out these inspiring backyard cottages. Whether converted from old rickety sheds or newly constructed using pre-fab materials, I must say, they are charming.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Home away from home

First, I must apologize as I have been ignoring my blog of late. The usual - work, work, work got the better of me but so did some pretty special and not so usual events, most importantly was my oldest daughter's eighth grade graduation from St. Joseph's School; nine years with the same kids needed celebrating.

But a beautiful weekend away with my husband got things back on track. I tagged along to a conference he attended at the Skamania Lodge. Sited on the northern shores of the Columbia Gorge, this laid back lodge takes full advantage of the river and mountains. While he sat in what must have been some very engaging meetings I hit the trails and explored this beautiful region.

Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington

The view from the front lawn of the lodge
Having grown up just south of Portland, I was familiar with the Gorge but had never explored the Washington State side. I found it just as beautiful as the Oregon side. The towns were sweet, small and friendly. The people charming, kind and helpful. The vistas were extraordinary and most of all, serene.

Looking west from the 'Bench Trail'

My reward 
All this hiking and communing with nature got me thinking about scheduling a camping trip with the family. This of course led to thoughts of back pain, bug bites, deadly encounters with bear, cold fingers and toes, and the most dreadful of all - the midnight jaunt to the loo.

As you know, I love all things British and as always, those Brits know how to camp, well actually glamp. That's right, Glamping began in England. A recent trend stateside (love saying that), Glamping combines the best of two worlds - the rustic beauty of the great outdoors with the cozy comfort of home. Who doesn't like sitting in a cushy armchair after a day of hiking the wilderness and fishing the streams? Or drinking wine from stemmed crystal? Walking on a real rug? Oh la la.

For a better idea of what kind of camping luxury I'm talking about, just check out these photos.

Seriously, my bedroom at home isn't this nice.

Or this nice!

Can you imagine waking like this?
or this?

Even Shabby Chic goes au naturel
Love the added touch of the coat stand for hanging your garmets...
when I camp I wad my clothes up (at least the ones I'm not wearing) and use them for my pillow. 

There is no question that this is just sheer decadence, but why not? Who doesn't want the comfort of home? Wherever you are!

If you would like to check out some regional Glamping sites and tips, here are a few links:

Glamping Sites in Washington and Idaho

Glamping tips and ten essentials for family camping

Until next time (yep it's the summer)

la chasse au bonheur