2309 E Madison Street
Seattle, WA 98112
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 a team (and a dog named Evie) 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.
senior account coordinator
Claire Butwinick specializes in marketing and social media strategy, copywriting, and public relations. Formerly the Assistant Editor at GRAY Magazine, an international architecture and design publication based in Seattle, Claire brings to Paxson Fay her editorial background and a passion for all things design. In addition to her writing experience, Claire is a seasoned public speaker, moderating a number of panel discussions with IDS Vancouver and Be Original Americas, and hosting the 2019 GRAY Awards. Last year, she took her speaking skills virtual, conducting several Instagram Live interviews with designers amid the pandemic. A graduate from the University of Washington’s School of Communication: Journalism, Claire was honored with a Pioneer News Group Excellence Award for Visual Journalism, selected for the Communication department’s prestigious Career Exploration scholarship, and nominated for a Hearst National Journalism Award. Her work also appears in GRAY Magazine, Office Insight, SagaCity’s Jewish in Seattle Magazine, and more.
senior account coordinator
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.
Chloe Edwards is a PNW native and recent Summa cum laude graduate from the University of Washington, where she studied Communication and Anthropology. While interning with the strategic communications firm Parsons + Co. Chloe developed skills in messaging and branding development, media outreach, and social media management. Chloe joined the Paxson Fay team as an intern in the fall of 2020. At Paxson Fay, Chloe creates social media content for a variety of client campaigns and profiles and leads engagement on several accounts, coordinates internal communications efforts, and assists with media outreach. As Paxson Fay's full-time Communications Assistant she uses her experience to achieve social media marketing, content strategy, and media relations success for clients and for the Paxson Fay brand.
digital marketing manager
Originally from Las Vegas, Ryan (they/them) graduated from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!) and considers Seattle to be home. Ryan’s career has shifted many times - from being a campaign organizer in politics to being a professional photographer and wedding planner - but they have always gravitated towards the art of marketing and know it's their true calling. After working at multiple start-ups and building digital campaigns for companies like Google and Amazon, Ryan is excited to be a part of a team that aligns with their passions for architecture and design. Ryan is bringing years of marketing, data analysis, and social media experience to the team and is thrilled to start supporting clients in achieving their marketing goals.
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.