My love of big cities is undoubtedly a direct response to growing up in a small one. Racine, Wisconsin, had a lot going for it back in the ’80s (great schools, the best kringle on the planet, lots of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture), but it didn’t have much for teenagers. We had a mall, movie theaters and a post-dance-spot Pizza Hut (woo-hoo!), but there was no coffee shop or other such neutral (and inexpensive) place to just hang out. My best friend and I would take every chance we got to head to The Big City of Chicago, a little more than an hour’s drive south. From my teen-angst perspective, Racine was basically a suburb of that grand metropolis.
The idea of the “suburbs” has come a long way since then, especially here. Living outside the Seattle area no longer feels like being exiled from the culture and vibrancy of the city. Burbs now come with buzzy, chef-driven restaurants, interesting shops, art centers, movie theaters—plenty of coffee shops, of course—and all sorts of things one can do. No, I’m not talking about getting all excited because a Chipotle is coming to your neighborhood. Strip malls are being replaced by denser “hive communities,” where people can literally walk steps from their home to all these perks.
In this issue, we showcase some of the communities at the top of their suburban game. These burbs are experiencing a resurgence because of their more affordable houses, bigger yards and appealing small-town vibe. The question of what exactly constitutes a suburb in the Seattle generated a lot of conversation as we researched this story. West Seattle may feel like a suburb to someone who lives in Kirkland, for example, but it’s in the city of Seattle (my husband, who is from New York, refers to it as the Queens of Seattle). Bedroom communities such as Bothell, Edmonds, Kirkland and Everett are experiencing a kind of renaissance, as younger generations start buying homes. They are well-established communities and cities in their own right, but firmly in the orbital path of Seattle and the Eastside. Heck, there are some days that my corner of Ballard feels like a sleepy little burb—especially when it comes to the length of my commute (an average of 45 minutes into downtown now).
I can’t help but wonder if the pendulum might swing the other way for my kids; if growing up in a city that’s rapidly taking on big-city problems will drive them to the comfort and pace of smaller towns. Thus, the cycle begins again, I suppose.
Elsewhere in this issue, in our Shelter section, we’re getting into the hygge (pronounced “HOO-guh”) spirit and celebrating the Danish art of cozy living (as I type, I am wearing my fluffy socks and sipping tea). We (OK, I) have been obsessing over this notion of hygge, which has been gaining popularity in the U.S. in recent years. Maybe it’s because it’s that time of year when the sky, pavement and our surrounding bodies of water are the same dull shade of gray, but we have found sinking into hygge one of our favorite, snuggly distractions to get through a Northwest winter.