Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

A Family Remodel Creates a Modern Hideaway

The Zerbey family’s modern remodel in Whittier Heights was conceived and crafted as an oasis in the city.


Husband-and-wife team Lauren and Kyle Zerbey, architects who founded the firm Studio Zerbey, were on a mission when they purchased their 1,350-square-foot home in the North Seattle neighborhood of Whittier Heights. The plan was to create a modern hideaway out of an existing structure, rather than demolishing and building anew, and doing most of the work themselves. “The house was in pretty rough shape, but one of the things that drew us to it was its fairly simple form that would lend itself well to a more modern remodel,” Lauren says. 

After the bones of the house had been tended to — they reworked all of the house’s main systems, including electrical, mechanical, structural and plumbing, and even replaced the roof and siding — the Zerbeys were able to work on the interior aesthetic. They took a sledgehammer to several walls, opened up the ceiling, and created an open-concept floor plan with office loft, using the house’s original first-floor footprint. New windows were punched out for more air and light, the interior walls were painted a soft, soothing white and the outside a dark, bluish grey. 


The girls' bedroom was crafted out of an alcove off the main living area.

Their two daughters, Avery, 3, and Lillian, 1, share a bedroom in the former sitting room, just off the now-open living room, which can be closed with sliding track doors. “Having a small home that is also fairly open has allowed us to give our kids free rein while still keeping them within our field of vision — or at least earshot!” says Lauren. Essentially an alcove off of the main living area, the girls’ bedroom may eventually be converted into a primary play space, and a downstairs office will become their sleeping room for their beds, clothes and books. “Like all parents,” says Lauren, “we love having all sorts of toys, activities and art supplies for our kids, but struggle with keeping it all organized and in check.” 

During the remodel, the Zerbeys were able to add several stylish-looking safety elements with their little ones in mind, including a customized wooden baby gate, plus built-in bookcases and furniture for safety. The couple finds it challenging to keep rambunctious kids off of that tempting loft ladder to the upstairs office — and who could blame them? “Our kiddos aren’t allowed on the loft ladder — one of the ground rules that we’ve had a harder time enforcing with our 1½-year-old — but we both realize that at some point that space will likely become their hideaway zone,” Lauren says.


The kids will someday claim the loft as their hideaway zone.

When asked about future design plans, Lauren gives us the scoop: “We’ve often discussed a modern playhouse for the backyard that we design and build ourselves. We want it to be something that can be adaptable as they grow and serve multiple purposes. We’re not sure when it will happen, but it’s going to be awesome.”