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All Houses Are Not Created Equal When Re-working Floor Plans!



A former bedroom and bath were combined to create new master bath.

A former bedroom and bath were combined to create a lovely new master bath.


I’ve had two clients in the last couple of months who bought houses in the depressed local housing market and rented them out with the future intention to remodel them and move in. Both of these houses are older homes situated on particularly nice sites with fine views of coastal waters.

Both houses were built as modest family homes. One was built in 1959 and the other in the 1970’s. Each house is a product of its time and neither of them had been updated.

Each client was very attracted to the view and felt that their house had hidden potential but were uncertain of what could be done. They contacted me to show them what might be possible.

What surprised me in working with these two houses back to back was how similar the design exercise was but how each house was very different when it came to the ease of developing a new floor plan for the client’s lifestyle, budget and general housing needs.

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It always surprises me that when I get to the final stage of an interior design project and it is time to accessorize that I panic! Finding home accessories for a project is a challenge and can be time consuming.  Shops that specialize in designer accessories are few.  So it’s always a question of where should I look this time?

My go to place is La Conner in Skagit Valley. And while some old timers lament ‘what’s happened to La Conner’, when it comes to finding the best home accessories La Conner is a natural winner! La Conner’s small coastal town atmosphere with its unique shops, not to mention art galleries, makes for an unusually pleasant and often productive adventure. Driving in on Chilberg Road while feasting my eyes on the wide open farm land and the mountainous land masses beyond, I delight in the good fortune to spend an afternoon in LaConner.


GO OUTSIDE is a shop with a fun mix of cook books, gardening gear, and home decor and accessories.

I start with Go Outside which is a small mercantile shop located in a quaint wooden building. When I arrived on an overcast Sunday recently, it was just full of people having a very good time looking at the diverse merchandise that Mark, the owner, has artfully assembled. And despite the fact that what I am looking for may not be here, it gently eases me into ‘La Conner’ while finely attuning my designer’s eye.

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This house was repainted to fit into the natural landscape and  to be welcoming.

This house was repainted to fit into the natural landscape and to be welcoming.


I know it is only mid-February, but if you are planning on having the exterior of your house repainted this season this is the perfect time to get your name on a house painter’s list. Here in the Pacific Northwest there are only so many good days to paint outside and you will definitely want some of those paintable days reserved for your project.

This would also be the perfect time to develop a beautiful new color scheme for your home. Look around as you travel about and search out those houses that you find attractive. Ask yourself what is it about ‘that house’ that is catching my eye? Invariably, the color combination appeals to you, but more over, the homeowner or some designer has probably spent many hours working out those precise paint colors.

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United Tile Everett

United Tile in Everett, WA

I’m working on a remodel project in Bellingham with a great guy who has been a long-term client. He is lovingly remodeling a shingle style craftsman on South Hill.  This is a labor of love. He is doing a lot of the work himself, so it is taking awhile.

Now he wants to finish the master bath. Wonderful! This bath is on the third floor of the house in a gable and has a soaring 15’ high wall in the shower! There is a large cherry wood vanity which dominates the room and a new double cherry medicine cabinet that he built himself. There is also a large soaking tub with views to Bellingham Bay.

So what to do with the finishes in this space? He didn’t have much of a direction for me to start with but as I began to select materials for him, it became increasingly clear to me that he really wanted natural stone. Natural stone is unique— there is really nothing like stone for beauty, durability and sophistication.

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Austin-Murphy Interior Architectural Design & Home Remodeling, Bellingham & Seattle, WAWelcome! This is my very first blog post so this is going to be a learning and growing experience for me. Hopefully we can learn, grow and have some fun together through the sharing of ideas, discoveries and insights.

What I want to do in this blog is explore the many aspects of house and home. As you are probably already aware, I am focused on architectural remodels and the interior design of homes and commercial space in my work. So this blog will naturally discuss interesting aspects of projects that I am working on or a design problem that I am focused on for a particular client. Also, I intend to discuss certain products or sources for these products that I come across in my work and design journeys.

The more elusive and perhaps more interesting aspect of this blog [for me, anyway] is the exploration of that eternal question, ‘what is home’? Certainly, as an architect and professional interior designer, I know that we all have different ideas about what is home. And, in my work I strive to dig down deep and discover what represents home for each of my clients which is one reason why my projects look and feel different from the next.

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