I had the pleasure of working with a client on a project recently where were configured their existing basement layout.

Their wish list included:

  • Adding 1 bedroom
  • Creating a smaller laundry area
  • Adding a ¾ bath
  • Creating an area for a desk
  • Adding more storage

The client wanted to incorporate an office area, but they didn’t want a full-blown desk in the middle of their family room. Before our work, they had a rather large office area that was rarely used. The desk area was meant to be more of a side-line feature than the star of the show.

This is the final layout design we came up with (before on the left, final on the right):

In the process of space planning, we realized a few things. By changing the location of the garage entry to what used to be the “office” area and re-purposing the old bathroom/laundry room area as a new bedroom, we didn’t really have a dedicated space for a desk that wouldn’t infringe on the family room or storage areas. We came up with a solution that not only provided the family with a desk area, but extra storage as well. We utilized a typically underused portion of the basement…the underside of the stairs.

We created a multi-function desk and storage area under the stairs. The shelving above the desk is set back to allow for headroom, and the shelves on the left are scaled to fit bins for toys and office supplies.

This was an extremely rewarding project because we completely transformed the way this space functions and feels. The clients now have a light, bright and beautiful basement space that they can enjoy for years to come.

For more photos check out our portfolio. 

Inspiration board created using Canva.

If you’ve ever worked with a designer, they will often ask you to give them inspiration images. Sometimes it can be overwhelming finding images that adequately depict what you’re looking for in a space, especially if you don’t like some aspect of the image.

Here are some important tips for finding those images…

  1. You don’t have to love everything about the image to save it, it could be the way the kitchen is laid out, the tile in the shower or even just the way it feels.
  2. Take notes about what you do and don’t like about the image as you find them, often you’ll end up compiling hundreds of images and then not remember what it was that you liked about the photo. Here’s what you need to take note of:
    1. What do you like about the image?
    2. What do you dislike about the images?
    3. How does it make you feel and is that how you want to feel in your space?
  3. If you’re using Pinterest or Houzz, don’t just re-pin, add a description making note of your likes/dislikes of the image.
  4. If it’s physical images, from magazine or even printed images, take sticky notes and write down notes on each.
  5. If you’re just googling images of what you’re looking for, and don’t want to use Pinterest or Houzz a simple way to digitally compile your images would be to just use PowerPoint to drag and drop images and add notes. It’s easy to manipulate and you don’t have to worry about pictures and text mixing changing layouts. If that’s too much work, try using Canva to create a mood/inspiration board.
  6. It doesn’t have to be of the same type of space you’re working on, you can find inspiration anywhere, your garden, artwork, public spaces..etc.. The important thing is to make note of what it is that you like so that we can help you implement that into your new space.
  7. Finally, this is probably the most important part, go back and look through the images you’ve saved a second time. Sometimes you’ll have found better images after the fact and can then narrow down your wants for your new space.



Designing small spaces isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when you’re working with just shy of 34 square feet. Thankfully, the client and I had established realistic expectations for the space. It was the little details that made the difference in this tiny bathroom’s functionality.

This was one of my favorite projects because I got to collaborate with the client, who is a commercial interior designer. She had a few “must-haves” such as this fabulous Cambria Waterstone in Skye and this super high tech, Bluetooth compatible lighted Roburn medicine cabinet with USB charging ports, Bluetooth speakers, touch control and a nightlight.

It was the little details that really made this bathroom sing. We switched the location of the sink and toilet, so you don’t run directly into the toilet bowl. The hallway wasn’t a main walkway, so we switched the door to swing out so that the bathroom itself was more spacious, and no longer felt too tight. We eliminated  a door to the shower to allow for better flow, which was possible because the floors were tiled and water safe.. A high shelf that spans from the shower to the doorway provides extra storage without taking over the small space.

The results were this stunning, functional space that our clients are absolutely in love with.

For more photos check out our portfolio.

Built by Better Builders.




By: Karen Pfeiffer Bush

Decorating a small home can seem like a daunting project—especially when you’re transitioning from a larger space. A good first step is to focus on the positive aspects of living in a small space: less maintenance, greater efficiency and function, and of course, the beauty and coziness factors.

Whether you’re downsizing to a smaller home or transitioning into a retirement community, small-space living does not mean the end of good design; instead, it is an opportunity to be smart and intentional with your design and decor. It’s a chance to shed some tired things and surround yourself with only items that you love, need, and use. While it’s a big task to sort through a lifetime of possessions, most of the hundreds of people my company has helped with this process express a feeling of liberation and peace once they’ve pared down to just their favorite and most useful things.

Many people choose to keep just their artwork or a single statement piece of furniture and start from scratch with the rest of the furnishing. Whether you choose from pieces you already own, or you shop for new pieces—or a combination of the two approaches—here are some tips for making your small space beautiful and functional.

Create rooms within rooms. Floating seating areas within a room rather than pushing furniture against the walls can actually make a room seem larger and airier. Desks or side tables can be placed against walls and used for work, dining, or display. A throw rug in the seating area will ground and separate the spaces.

Employ furniture that can serve multiple purposes.  A sofa table behind a floating sofa can double as a work surface—just pull up a chair. Bins underneath can hold office or hobby supplies. Reconsider the shin-bruiser bulky coffee table. Instead, use two smaller ottomans or trunks, preferably ones that do double duty as additional storage.

Smaller scale furniture need not be boring and uncomfortable. Look for smaller pieces that are still full and comfortable. Throw pillows can be used for extra comfort and to add bright pops of color. Larger pieces like sofas or loveseats are usually best upholstered a bit more neutrally while patterned side chairs and throw rugs can add layers and interest to a room.

Look up and maximize space by going vertical. Choose wall sconces instead of table lamps to free up surface space on side tables and nightstands. Use vertical space for storage and display. Floating shelves or custom casework can act as a focal point in a room.

Let in the light. Hang window treatments above the window frames as close to the ceiling as possible and position rods so curtains can be opened all the way to the edges of the windows. This lets in more light and gives the illusion of taller ceilings and wider windows.

Downsizing to a smaller space does not mean saying farewell to good design. It is an opportunity to embrace the wisdom of how you really want to live in a home and what makes your heart sing. What do you truly love to look at? What do you really need and use? How are you most comfortable? When you fill your space with only beautiful, useful, comfortable things that are intentionally placed for the best flow and function, you have reached design nirvana. Go for it! You know what you like!

Karen Pfeiffer Bush is a senior living specialist and owner of two Seattle-based companies, Housewarming (housewarmingseattle.com) and Studio 65 (studio65design.com). Contact Karen at (206) 719-1662 or email her at karen@housewarmingseattle.com


Here are a few resources for smaller-scale furniture:

Del-Teet Furniture, 10308 NE 10th St, Bellevue, delteet.com.

West Elm, westelm.com

Housewarmingseattle.com for interior design assistance and access to designer showrooms.


Originally published on 3rd Act Magazine, in the Spring, 2018 issue.

Contractors are in integral part of the renovation process. While the internet is a great place for many things, there is such a thing as too much information.  It can be extremely overwhelming trying to find a good contractor. A cursory Google search for “Seattle Contractor” came up with 20 on the first page alone including the two that paid to be put at the top.

Here is a good starting point to help guide your decision process:

  • Get personal recommendations. Who among your friends and family have had a remodel in the past two years?
  • Have a set of questions ready to ask each of your prospective contractors (more on this below)
  • Know your rough budget
  • Do your research! Learn as much as possible about the companies you are considering!
  • Make sure they’re licensed and bonded

Bill Babb of Better Builders in West Seattle, took some time to talk with me about the process of finding the right contractor for you.

The most important thing you should do before calling any contractor is to know your budget. With an established budget, you will be able to get more information from the contractor and know whether or not your project is realistic with your budget.

Things to consider before hiring your contractor:

  • Do they take the time to establish rapport? You want them to get to know you and your goals. What are your “pain points” and can they be addressed??
  • Will they let you know what to expect with every meeting? You should know just as much as the contractor about the topics and goals of each meeting.
  • Will they be honest about whether your budget is realistic? Will you get everything you want?
  • Will you get an upfront contract? You should know exactly what you’re getting into and there should be no surprises.
  • Did they follow up after your initial meeting? You want to be able to contact them and not worry about chasing them down.

There are specific questions to ask that are unique to everyone… It’s important to ask about things that are important to you.

Here are a few to get you started:

  1. If scheduling is important: How is the schedule maintained?
  2. If it’s the budget: Are there any additional charges to the agreed upon budget?
  3. If it’s keeping the house clean, keeping doors closed, not imposing on neighbors: How will those concerns be handled??
  4. The contractor should ask you some key questions also. There isn’t just one question that is important for them to ask you, it’s the 50 questions they’ll ask to find out what is important to you. What is your pain with the house? If there isn’t a pretty big pain, you should ask yourself if you really need to do the work?

The most important thing about hiring a contractor is that it’s a good fit. It’s just as important for you to be a good fit with your contractor as it is for the contractor to be a good fit with you.

Bill councils people to find someone that they can relate to. You are working with your contractor for a significant amount of time, it’s a very intimate relationship. Someone will be working in your home. Your needs and things are important and that should be communicated. Communication is the key to this being a successful relationship.


Walter (Bill) Babb is the owner of Better Builders. Better Builders manages new construction and residential remodeling projects throughout Seattle and the Greater Puget Sound Area, including: Kirkland, Bellevue, Lake Forest Park, Des Moines, Federal Way, Renton, Burien, Normandy Park, Mercer Island, Shoreline, Sammamish, Issaquah, Redmond and Kent.

Finding a good Interior Designer can be a difficult task as there are many misconceptions and stereotypes about interior design and designers.


Here are a few misconceptions and clarifications about interior designers:

[one_third]Misconception[/one_third] [one_fourth_last]Clarification[/one_fourth_last]

[one_third]Interior Designers and Interior Decorators are the same thing.   [/one_third][one_fourth_last]You can find more about this in our previous blog post found: here[/one_fourth_last]

[one_third]Interior Designers are unaffordable.[/one_third]   [one_third_last]Any good designer will work within your budget (given that it’s realistic for your goals) Even if you just need advice on simple things. Most designers will consult with you for a small fee.[/one_third_last]

[one_third]Interior Designers won’t be able to design to my aesthetic.[/one_third]   [one_third_last]Any designer worth their salt has the education and background to design within any given style and do it well. Not only will they be able to work within your design aesthetic, but they’ll be able to guide you and ask the right questions to further develop your style and needs.[/one_third_last]

[one_third]I’m would be paying them to do something I can do myself.[/one_third]   [one_third_last]While you may have a good eye for design, color and color and layout, you could be missing out on important ways to implement as well as showrooms you don’t have access to (tons of places are to the trade only!) as well as the education on the top trends, technology, and building codes.[/one_third_last]


These are some questions you should always ask a potential interior designer:

  1. Can I see a portfolio of your work?
  2. Can you give me a testimonial from one of your clients?
  3. What is your design process?
  4. How do you charge? And do you offer a complimentary proposal or estimate for your services?
  5. What is your design aesthetic. Most have a preferred design aesthetic but all should be able to design within your given style.
  6. What is your education?