The backyard welcomed a separate sunken office.
Published Dec 12, 2022
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Sixteen feet is a lot when you’re talking about ceiling height, but when that’s the width of your house, things can start to feel cramped. For one Seattle-based family of four living in such tight quarters, the fact that their home was so narrow wasn’t the issue—it was how it was being utilized. Rather than tack on a big fancy addition, they called on Best Practice Architecture to optimize the century-old interiors and make the most of each square foot. “We collectively felt that demolition [would] rob the family and neighborhood of its unique and irreplaceable charm,” says Kip Katich, the firm’s senior principal.
So they instead stuck with the home’s slim bones, configuring a smarter and savvier layout that made way for a soaking tub, playroom, laundry area, and more. Though it’s not all about function: The studio embraced the clients’ Hawaiian and Japanese backgrounds, drenching the home in sunlight, picturesque views, and a warm palette of chestnut and cream. “We knew we could preserve the house’s integrity while breathing in new life for, hopefully, the next 100 years,” says Katich. Here are the most innovative ideas from this space-defying reno.
The home was previously divided up into a series of successive smaller rooms, resulting in a closed-off living area with minimal storage. “Compact spaces are hard, and narrow ones are even harder because there is a need for more circulation to move from one space to another,” explains Katich. The family was craving an open concept, so Best Practice knocked down a few walls. To minimize visual clutter, they nestled a coat closet, shoe cabinet, and shelving into an entry “box” at the front door (it also conceals the HVAC unit). A similar structure at the center of the kitchen and living area, partially clad in two-tone oak slats, consolidates the fridge, pantry, and powder room.
The only expansion of the home came in the form of a 30-square-foot micro addition to accommodate a Japanese soaking tub, called an ofuro. “It was the one indulgence they afforded, for that is an essential part of the family’s culture,” says Katich.
The team took a counterintuitive approach, shaving off the width of the kitchen to make room for the bath at the rear of the house. It acts as a threshold between the interior and the deck, with a folding window wall opening up to vistas of the cherry and maple trees outside. The tub is now the perfect bonding spot, whether you want to “dip your toes [in] on a warm day” or “enjoy a hot, relaxing soak with abundant natural light,” Katich notes.
Because there wasn’t room for a dedicated office with the ofuro and kitchen configuration, the next logical place to put it was in the backyard. However, the homeowners didn’t want it to take over their precious outdoor space or impose on their neighbors. So Best Practice integrated the WFH spot into the landscape, tucking it under the trees and digging into the ground, resulting in a sunken room.
The space is complete with a vegetated roof that can grow plants and “adds a delightful fuzzy hat to the work shed,” says Katich. The family contributed their own special touch, too: A Japanese copper rain-chain in the gutter splashes water onto a mini rock garden outside.
The basement offered an opportunity to create an expansive hangout spot. Best Practice started by encasing the exposed piping and electrical wiring into a designated cavity to allow for a smooth, ubiquitous ceiling height. “That eliminated those telltale signs of it being a basement,” explains Katich.
For a breath of fresh air, the stairs were refinished in a warm white oak, with a clever storage area hidden underneath. The wall at the back was also replaced with a south-facing glass slider to flood the room with natural light—and provide direct access to the backyard. Most days, the basement acts as a play area for the kids, but depending on the occasion, it shape-shifts: A custom Murphy bed transforms it into a spacious guest room when visitors arrive, and an enclosed laundry room means they don’t have to wake up to the sight of a washer and dryer.
meet the team
We’re inspired by diverse design perspectives, innovation, technology, art, and the world around us. We live for the chance to create and disperse powerful, genuine messages that resonate.
Growing up in Seattle, Amy was always exploring the great outdoors but she found a particular thrill in traveling. During a visit to New York City at age 10, she knew that was where she wanted to live. After high school she left her home in the Pacific Northwest behind for the great unknown to attend Fordham University in the Bronx. Upon graduation, Amy received a phone call from CNN offering a job opportunity of a lifetime working in television ad sales at Manhattan's Time Warner Center. When a job opportunity in Los Angeles opened up a few years later, Amy couldn't say no to a new adventure back on the west coast. But Seattle eventually called her back home and Amy returned to pursue a Master's degree in Business Administration with the hopes of learning the skills she needed to feed her entrepreneurial spirit. Before graduating, Amy co-founded Paxson Fay with Tessa Andrews in 2015. Amy focuses on marketing strategy, public relations, social media, and partnerships.
Tessa graduated from Fordham University in New York with a dual bachelor's degree in Communications and Political Science. During her time at Fordham, she worked for an interior designer and at NBC News where she developed her love for both design and communications. After graduating, Tessa managed marketing at 3form, a pioneer in the sustainable building products industry. During her tenure, 3form was repeatedly named one of the most recognized manufacturers in the design industry among architects and designers, and the company won multiple awards for its innovative product launches. After 3form, Tessa consulted on marketing efforts with leading product manufacturers in architecture and design before starting Paxson Fay with Amy.
After graduating from Fordham University in New York City with a major in Communications and Media Studies and a handful of marketing and PR internships, Colby moved to Boston to manage marketing for a small, women-owned, creative consulting agency. While in that role, Colby managed public relations and marketing efforts for some of Boston's most prominent events and public art initiatives, including the Boston Pickle Fair and The Bulfinch Crossing Projections in downtown Boston. Colby gained experience crafting brand stories and identities through social media marketing and creative copywriting, seen through the successful launch of a premier Massachusetts adult-use dispensary and the revamp of her agency's own website. After two years, Colby decided it was time to figure out what the West Coast was all about. Looking to blend her marketing experience with her passion for design and architecture, Colby found Paxson Fay, where she focuses on social media strategy and management and public relations.
Originally from Spokane, Washington, Stasha relocated to Seattle after completing her studies in communications at Eastern Washington University. Over the past seven years, she has held various communication roles at Amazon, specializing in crisis communication and brand reputation. In June of 2023, Stasha joined Paxson Fay as a Communications Specialist, providing her with the opportunity to blend her communications expertise with her passion for design. Stasha focuses on PR efforts for a variety of clients at Paxson Fay.
From San Francisco, California, Zoe moved to Seattle, Washington to pursue her undergraduate degree at the University of Washington. She graduated with a dual bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science. Shortly after graduation from UW, Zoe hopped across the pond to pursue her Master of Science in Urban Economics and Real Estate Finance at the London School of Economics. Focusing on Sustainable Development, she found herself drawn to adaptive reuse and preservation projects in the world of architecture and design. Building on prior marketing and social media experience, Zoe returned to the PNW in July of 2023 to work on social media strategy and content creation for clients at Paxson Fay.
Martina joined the Paxson Fay team as an intern when she was a senior at the University of Washington. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Public Interest Communications, Martina is now continuing with the team as a Communications Assistant. During her time at UW, Martina worked as the Special Sections Editor at the university’s newspapers where she won multiple awards for her front page spreads. Looking to blend her minors in real estate and environmental science with her focus in communications, Martina is passionate and excited to join the Paxson Fay team.
We are looking for a star communications specialist to join our team, leading creative brands in their communications efforts across platforms. Click here to read more.
what we do
We are a communications firm founded in our passion for good design. Our unique approach to marketing and public relations in the architecture and design community has elevated our clients work to the next level. We’re backed by a talented community of creatives. From copywriters to social media experts, we provide a complete package of customized services. We strive to create a personal experience with each client, integrating teams and tackling your biggest marketing and public relations challenges from a high level. Then we help execute those plans ensuring lots of reporting along the way, with lots of coffee breaks in between because we’re from Seattle and that’s what we do.
partnerships acquisition and management
media communications and outreach
awards: strategy, content development and submissions
platform strategy and management
results + reporting
budget strategy + negotiation
website and e-mail marketing
video: sourcing, storyboarding and scheduling
photography acquisition + curation
sponsorships + partnerships
Here is a little taste of who we love to work with and what we love to do.