Idea Lab

When we moved from Chicago to Seattle, we realized in order to buy a house, we’d have to spend a lot and probably not get a lot in return. Our house is small (not for SF standards) but we realized the potential of owning in a great neighborhood, and with my architecture and construction skills, we’d be able to make our small oasis a great home. One thing that was missing was an area for me to work, be creative and build things I was interested in. I left my architecture job one month before started the HCI program at the University of Washington. That allowed me to work, uninterrupted on building a backyard workspace, but also gave me a tight timeline where I knew I’d have to make quick and thoughtful design decisions in order to complete the project.

LOCATION: Seattle, Washington
SIZE: 116 Sq/Ft
TYPE: Personal Project

40 days

Individual Project


Ideally the space would be larger. After hours of code research and talking with the city planning department, I decided to make the building 14’ x 8’ (112 square feet) by 12’ tall. Structures over 120 square feet and above 12 feet tall need to be permitted, which would have blown my budget and timeline. The tight budget meant keeping the shape simple and maximize standard material sizes - almost no waste in materials. The exterior cladding is a rainscreen system - cedar boards that were 5’ long to start with, creating 3” of waste, which we used as firewood. The glass doors were purchased from a reuse store ($75/each) and slide on a custom track that I made.


The backyard workspace is a solid cube with one glass wall, on a budget. People are shocked when they find out that I built it, then even more shocked to know how cheap it was to build. The building is exactly what I need to be creative, but it also taught me about functional simplicity. Often times as an architect, we want to over-design our buildings to have that wow factor, regardless of the functional program. This building is a direct result of the program. It’s tall to allow for storage overhead, plywood interior walls so that I can drill and hang things wherever I might need, skylights and north facing windows for diffused natural light, and the cedar exterior will eventually fade to gray, blending in with the neighborhood color palette.