Hot Countertop Trends

A stunning countertop is one of the elements that makes for an amazing kitchen or bathroom. Countertops come in a myriad of materials but there are a few new ones that are making headway, edging out former top contenders.

Quartz continues to be a favorite among homeowners who are remodeling both kitchens and baths. According to Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning senior designer, Sara Jorgensen, nine out of ten Harrell clients choose quartz for their countertop materials. There are many “pros” to quartz including its durability, low-to-no maintenance, and the incredible variety it provides, with marble look-a-likes being the most popular.

“Besides the wide selection and low maintenance, quartz can be manufactured in jumbo slabs, which makes it ideal for expansive islands,” Sara says. “This means our clients can have a perfectly seamless and truly gorgeous countertop.”

The “newest kid on the block” when it comes to countertops, Sara explains, is epoxy. Epoxy is often used to resurface old countertops but can also be applied over wood. It must be created on-site versus typical counter materials which are fabricated offsite and installed at the residence.

Epoxy counters offer limitless variety in design including colors and patterns. It can be created to look like marble, granite, concrete, stone, or something completely unique and custom. These counters can be metallic or matte and are always seamless with a luminous high gloss, which protects the color beneath. Epoxy is food safe, durable, heat resistant, and easy to clean.

“Epoxy countertops are really exciting from a design perspective,” says Sara. “I love their versatility and how the product can be used to achieve such amazingly realistic patterns mimicking marble and other popular countertop materials at a fraction of the cost. I really think this trend will be gaining momentum in kitchen remodels.”

Epoxy countertops can be professionally installed or, for those feeling adventurous, created as a DIY project. It can be applied over tile, laminate, wood, concrete, and other surfaces. If you want a specific pattern and a countertop that is top quality, Sara recommends foregoing the DIY option and leaving it to the pros.

Last on Sara’s list of trending countertop materials is porcelain. Once primarily used in tiles on kitchen and bathroom counters, this man-made material is fabricated in large slabs, which are then installed much like quartz or granite. Porcelain is durable and resists just about everything including stains, heat, scratches, chemicals, and UV light. It comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, many of which look like marble or natural stone. Porcelain typically doesn’t require sealing and is an environmentally friendly option as it’s made from 100% natural clay-based materials and is completely recyclable, should you ever choose to change your counters in the future.

Sara explains, “Porcelain can be fabricated in extra large slabs and, because it is so thin, it can be applied directly over existing counters, if needed.”

When it comes to countertop color trends, typically, whatever countertop material is chosen, Sara says her clients continue to prefer a high contrast between cabinets and counters.

When the time comes to reimagine your kitchen or bath, allow Harrell Remodeling’s design team to help you discover the possibilities. We offer numerous free inspirational and educational workshops and are always available to meet with you for a design consultation.

Sara Jorgensen, one of Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning designers, artfully executes her clients’ design desires coupled with their functional needs. Sara’s creative passion, authenticity, and open style of communication, enabling her to provide an innate understanding of client needs to the Harrell Remodeling design/build team. “Some clients know their style. Others need inspiration. Through the design exercises in which my clients’ partake, we come easily to an understanding of their preferences. The ultimate goal is to create a beautiful, timeless, on-budget, and functional project,” says Sara. Sara works from a holistic viewpoint to the smallest of details that create the design’s ‘wow’ factor. Her designs have won awards from the NKBA, NARI and National CotY and encompass a wide variety of projects from Wine cellars, Yoga rooms, Master Suites, Kitchens, and Decks to whole house remodels. A Bay Area native, Sara holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Interior Design from San Jose State University. Sara is a California state Certified Interior Designer (CID) and a Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP). Outside of work, Sara enjoys kayaking, San Jose Sharks hockey, snowboarding, cycling, snowman building, spending time with family and relaxing outdoors. She is a proud committee member of the Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club and enjoys driving her Model T around California on various club tours.

Universal Design and Kitchen Remodels

Genie Nowicki is one of Harrell Remodeling’s Universal Design experts. Passionate about creating living spaces that are functional, accessible, and beautiful, she explains how Universal Design can be incorporated into a kitchen “in small bites without major design changes.” Or, if a homeowner is undergoing a full kitchen remodel, more comprehensive changes can be integrated into the overall design.

“I fully believe that homeowners should take advantage of making their home accessible whenever the opportunity presents itself,” says Genie. “Many people think that Universal Design products will make their home look and feel like a hospital but in reality, they are beautiful. When a space is properly designed, you’d never realize it was created to be accessible. And accessibility can benefit the entire household.”

The Small Bite Approach

Even if you don’t plan to undertake a major kitchen remodel, there are still Universal Design principles that can easily be applied. Cabinet hardware and faucets can easily be changed, appliances can be upgraded to those allowing easier access, and existing cabinets can be modified using special storage solutions, drawers, and unique shelving units that extend outward.

Simple Universal Design Solutions

  • Cabinet hardware: install pulls instead of knobs
  • Faucets: Install a single lever faucet to the side of the sink to allow for easier reach
  • Drawers: use full extension for increased accessibility
  • Base Cabinets: Use roll-outs and drawers versus shelves
  • Upper Cabinets: Forego a backsplash and have cabinets come all the way down to the counters
  • Storage Accessories: Installed inside cabinets, these make items easier to reach
  • Dishwashers: Choose an appliance manufacturer, like Fisher Paykel, that offers dishwasher drawers rather than doors.
  • Refrigerator: Choose a unit with the freezer drawer on the bottom
  • Wall Ovens: Install at a comfortable, reachable height. A better choice than a one-piece range
  • Microwave: Install at a level accessible to those seated or standing

Genie explains, “One of the most ingenious Universal Design products I’ve discovered is made by Hafele, a company that offers a variety of kitchen storage solutions as well as cabinet hinges. They have a hinge mechanism that allows upper shelves to pull out and drop down to a lower level, making them fully accessible to someone who is seated or has any issue with reaching high places.”

Incorporating Universal Design Into a Kitchen Remodel

Updating your kitchen is the perfect opportunity to maximize accessibility. It allows a design to be achieved that creates ample space and reachability alongside function and beauty.

Comprehensive Universal Design Solutions

In addition to those accessibility features listed above, the following solutions can be included when a kitchen is being fully redesigned.

  • Ample aisle space: A minimum of 48 inches between counters and one 60-inch diameter open space to allow a wheelchair to turn around
  • Counter heights: Standard counters are 36 inches but to achieve the best accessibility, 33 inches is ideal. Having counters at both heights creates multiple useable workspaces, with the lower counter also serving as an accessible space for young children or as a baking center.
  • Flooring: Smooth, non-skid surfaces with seamless transitions ensure durable, easy to maintain floors that virtually eliminate tripping hazards and allow for mobility devices to move easily in the space. Hardwood, luxury vinyl tile, engineered wood, porcelain tile with machined edges, linoleum, and sheet vinyl are all viable options.
  • Cooktops: Induction units are responsive and easy to clean. These electric appliances only heat the cookware; the surface itself never get hot, virtually eliminating the risk of fire or injury.
  • Stove hoods: Choose an appliance with a remote-control unit that can be mounted on the side of a reachable cabinet.
  • Outlets and switches: Place on the face of cabinets or at levels that are easily reachable by those in seated positions.
  • Lighting: Use of natural light sources in addition to LED fixtures create ample light. Recessed or surface mounted fixtures are ideal for overall illumination while under-cabinet task lighting should be installed at the front underside of cabinets. Decorative pendant lights over islands are also popular.
  • Counters: Polished black granite or quartz is a very reflective surface. This can cause a lot of glare making it uncomfortable to sensitive eyes when lighting bounces off.
  • Pull out breadboards: Create an instant, functional “roll under” work area.
  • Rolling carts or butcher blocks: These allow for easy transport of ingredients, dishware, or other kitchen items for those using mobility devices.
  • Appliance lifts: These mechanisms are installed inside cabinets and eliminate having to lift and move heavy appliances such as mixers. The appliance is securely placed on the lift which easily pulls up and locks into place. These mechanisms require a larger, 18-inch cabinet.
  • Roll-under sink and cooktops: By designing an open space beneath cooktops and sinks, individuals using wheelchair are able to get close enough to wash dishes and prepare meals. Drains and garbage disposals should be located toward the back of a shallow sink.

Genie explains that an additional level of thoughtful design is required when applying Universal Design, especially in kitchen spaces. The initial interview process is critical in understanding how the homeowners use their space, allowing a designer to problem-solve, often creating a functional solution that didn’t previously exist. Things like plumbing and electrical along with counters, storage, and creating ample space all need to be planned in advance.

“The kitchen is a very personal space and there are numerous ways to integrate UD products and principles, many of which depend upon the homeowners, their lifestyle and how they use the space,” Genie offers. “There is a unique motorized solution for sinks or cooktops. With the push of a button, the counter raises or lowers up to six inches. This product takes preplanning but adds an amazing level of accessibility.”

Incorporating Universal Design doesn’t require a significant kitchen remodel. There are many aspects that can be applied without major design changes. But if you are contemplating a kitchen remodel, integrating accessibility features is something to seriously consider, especially if this will be your forever home.

Schedule a complimentary consultation with one of Harrell Remodeling Inc.’s designers to learn more about Universal Design and how it can increase the functionality, accessibility, and beauty of your Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay Area residence.

Premier senior designer, Genie Nowicki, is certified in numerous forms of design and the recipient of multiple awards. Genie joined the Harrell Remodeling team after years of running her own successful design business. Beginning her career in the world of income tax planning, she made a career leap in 1990 to the equally “detail and code-filled world” of kitchen and bath design. Genie obtained her Certification in Professional Kitchen and Bath Design in 1992 and achieved her Certified Kitchen Designer (CID) and Certified Bath Designer (CBD) status in 1996. After passing another rigorous examination, she became a Certified Interior Designer (CID) in the State of California in 2002 and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) in 2006. Her experience has included residential interior design, kitchen and bath design, barrier free/Universal Design, lighting design, and participation in numerous showcase houses in the Bay area, as well as several commercial projects. Genie prides herself on listening to her clients and providing timeless design work that is appropriate to her clients, their lifestyles, and their homes. Her excellence in design has been recognized with awards, projects published in local and national magazines, and a Sunset design book, and an article she wrote was featured in the Fine Homebuilding Kitchen and Bath Annual Issue.

Creative Options for Island End Caps

With islands becoming more of a standard kitchen feature, more imaginative ideas are emerging for how to use island end caps. Depending upon whether the homeowner prefers them to be a focal point or simply to blend in plays a role in the ultimate design.

“Understanding the client’s needs along with the overall design aesthetic helps me to guide them with end cap options,” shares senior Harrell designer, Sara Jorgensen. “During our in-depth planning meetings, I ask a lot of questions: Do they prefer clean, simple lines? Do they need more storage or want a place to showcase special kitchen platters or décor? Do they want a special spot for their kitty or pup?”

Creative ways to use island end caps include:

Open bookcase: End caps offer an ideal location to house and display favorite culinary tomes.

Storage: Most homeowners can use more rather than less storage. End caps offer perfect locations to visually highlight key display pieces facing the living space. This could be open storage or a cabinet with beautiful glass doors and interior illumination. For hidden storage that is easily accessed, adding in drawers or doors on the opposite side allows frequently used item to be tucked away. This is a perfect place to store homework items, entertainment ware, beverage items, microwaves, and more.

Pet-friendly niche: Many people have pets and the kitchen is the primary location for food and water bowls. A special niche can be designed into an end cap, typically on the side facing into the kitchen, where bowls can be recessed and tucked out of the path of (human) travel. They can even be elevated for larger pets.

Wine rack: For wine lovers, incorporating a custom wine rack into their island end cap allows them to display their collection as well as have favorites close at hand.

Waterfall edge: For those who love the crisp, clean look of a continuous countertop, a waterfall edge is a stunning use of end caps. The counter material continues vertically all the way to the floor, creating a simple, uninterrupted line. Alternately, a waterfall edge can be created using a contrasting material such as natural wood.

Decorative element: As an alternative to a waterfall edge, end caps can be used to create a decorative element that offers visual appeal. This design can then be repeated in other areas throughout the kitchen. These elements can be traditional, classic, modern, farmhouse, or contemporary and as ornate or simple as desired.

“Determining which option works best is a very personal decision based on lifestyle, function, and personal preference,” Sara confirms. “But there are a lot of resourceful options to put island end caps to great use.”

If a kitchen, bath, or even a whole home remodel is something you would like to explore, we invite you to set up a consultation with a member of the Harrell Design Team. We also encourage you to visit our online project gallery to see our extensive kitchen, bath, and even whole-house remodels.

Sara Jorgensen, one of Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning designers, artfully executes her clients’ design desires coupled with their functional needs. Sara’s creative passion, authenticity, and open style of communication, enabling her to provide an innate understanding of client needs to the Harrell Remodeling design/build team. “Some clients know their style. Others need inspiration. Through the design exercises in which my clients’ partake, we come easily to an understanding of their preferences. The ultimate goal is to create a beautiful, timeless, on-budget, and functional project,” says Sara. Sara works from a holistic viewpoint to the smallest of details that create the design’s ‘wow’ factor. Her designs have won awards from the NKBA, NARI and National CotY and encompass a wide variety of projects from Wine cellars, Yoga rooms, Master Suites, Kitchens, and Decks to whole house remodels. A Bay Area native, Sara holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Interior Design from San Jose State University. Sara is a California state Certified Interior Designer (CID) and a Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP). Outside of work, Sara enjoys kayaking, San Jose Sharks hockey, snowboarding, cycling, snowman building, spending time with family and relaxing outdoors. She is a proud committee member of the Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club and enjoys driving her Model T around California on various club tours.

HarrellCARE: Small Projects and Kitchen & Bathroom Refreshes

In Silicon Valley, it can be challenging to find professionals who have the time or even want to take on smaller home improvement or maintenance projects. This often leaves homeowners with some less than appealing options: hiring an under-qualified person, taking on the projects themselves, or deferring needed home maintenance.

Project Manager, Marshall Parker, works exclusively on HarrellCARE projects. “This unique program was created because we kept getting requests from clients who needed work done but couldn’t find anyone qualified to complete it,” Marshall explains.

That’s where HarrellCARE comes in. A unique and separate service from Harrell’s Design+Build format, it provides the utmost in quality, exceptional customer service, and attention to detail for which Harrell Remodeling is known while focusing solely on the often-overlooked small project niche.

HarrellCARE is designed to fulfill the needs of two specific areas:

  1. Remove & Replace
  2. Small Projects

HarrellCARE Remove & Replace Division

This high efficiency, streamlined segment of HarrellCARE is specifically for kitchen and bathroom “refreshes” that update these spaces aesthetically within the room’s existing footprint.

Harrell Designer, Debra Winston UDCP, works with all HarrellCARE Remove & Replace clients to help them choose new materials, fixtures, cabinetry, flooring, and the like to update the look of their kitchen and/or baths.

“Homeowners that work well within the HarrellCARE Remove & Replace scope are those who can make decisions quickly and who don’t want a fully customized kitchen or bathroom,” shared Debra. “It is a great way to achieve an updated look with some custom details without undertaking a major remodel project.”

Any design aesthetic can be achieved, resulting in a beautiful, functional and efficient space without moving walls, plumbing, gas or waste lines. Debra explains, “We can easily relocate electrical appliances in a kitchen, change a shower-tub combination into a full shower, bring the electrical or plumbing up to code, and use cabinetry to maximize space planning. Universal Design concepts can even be implemented in a kitchen or bath refresh.”

Debra encourages clients to create Houzz Idea Boards, sharing them with her so she understands what they like and what they don’t. She then curates materials, finishes, and fixtures from items in the Harrell Remodeling showroom as well as from Harrell suppliers that meet their design preferences. Though these refreshes aren’t completely customized remodels, there is a lot of tailored design that can be integrated including cabinet sizing, layout and tile designs.

All necessary permits will be obtained, and any needed code upgrades will be performed. Often times owners are unaware or don’t think they need a permit when they regularly do. It can be surprising for them to find out their small project fits that requirement. The HarrellCARE team arranges all the necessary trades and communicates with the homeowners, ensuring they are aware of what work is scheduled and when. If any issues, such as termites or structural damage, are discovered during demo, these will be also be properly addressed and resolved.

A typical kitchen project takes from 10 to 12 weeks and a bathroom refresh project takes from 5 to 7 weeks and involves two distinct phases: the design phase and the construction phase. Both have defined pricing and focus on quick turn-around with top-quality work. Clients get access to a designer to help them achieve the design they desire while the build team schedules all the necessary trades to keep the project on track, on budget, and on time.

HarrellCARE Small Project Division

The Small Project segment is a catch-all of sorts, a broad service that tackles that never-ending honey-do list that the majority of large companies or contractors won’t even consider. Homeowners often hire handymen but even they often don’t have the bandwidth, desire, or the ability to complete many of these small jobs.

“One of the things I hear most from HarrellCARE clients is that they’ve called dozens of businesses but Harrell is the only company that has called them back,” says Marshall.

Marshall clarifies the HarrellCARE Small Projects service as having one primary criteria: all jobs must require “zero to minimal designer involvement,” he explains. “Other than that, it can entail almost anything, from touch-up painting, installing new light fixtures, replacing a window, weather stripping doors, rebuilding decks, installing a shower door, a bathroom vanity, or even hanging Christmas lights. You name it, and odds are, it falls within the HarrellCARE Small Projects scope.”

Many small projects involve multiple trades such as electricians, plumbers, structural engineers, and painters as well as required code upgrades and permitting. Marshall’s dedicated HarrellCARE team handles it all to minimize homeowner headaches while completing each project in a timely manner and on budget.

Depending upon the type of project, a homeowner will pay either Time & Materials or, if the work can be defined, a Fixed Price will be agreed upon in advance. “We may also draw up a pre-construction services agreement if the job is fairly complex, entailing a lengthy timeframe due to structural work and permitting requirements,” says Marshall.

If you have a kitchen or bath that has a few decades under its belt and could use a refresh, or a honey-do list that simply never gets done, the HarrellCARE team has got your back. To learn more about HarrellCARE, give us a call. Marshall promises: he will call you back. To see photos of some of our Remove & Replace spaces, visit our HarrellCARE webpage.

Warming Drawers, Convection Ovens & Induction Cooktops

Good food and a warm kitchen are what makes a house a home. Warming drawers, convection ovens and induction cooktops are a popular choice in kitchens where cooking, entertaining or family gatherings are a focus.

Choosing the proper appliances to meet your culinary requirements is one of the many decisions a homeowner must consider during a kitchen remodel. Harrell Certified Kitchen Designer, Debra Winston advises her clients to consider how they cook, entertain, and their overall lifestyle when considering cooking units.

Debra explains, “Appliances for kitchens continue to evolve with more pre-programed settings to make cooking more pleasurable and more precise. There are many finish options now, available in suites such as matte black, shiny black, slate, rose gold, and the classic stainless steel. Look for smudge, scratch, and fingerprint resistant finishes. Also, newly popular is bright white in either a gloss or matte. Made with a powder coated finish, these whites won’t turn yellow with age. Bright pops of color such as orange or French blue can become an exciting focal point of the kitchen.”

Warming Drawers

These units are an entertainer’s must-have, perfect for warming food as well as keeping dinner hot for a family member who comes home late. It can also be used to warm plates and cups and is a champ at heating damp finger towels to the ideal temperature. They can also be used to proof bread and other yeasted doughs, make homemade yogurts or ferment foods. Warming drawers are typically 30 inches wide by 10 inches high and can be located below a wall oven or cooktop.

Convection Ovens

These ovens use a fan to uniformly circulate hot air, which results in faster cooking at lower temperatures. Convection units create an even, golden brown for baked goods and a toothsome crispy texture for baked poultry. Though available in gas and electric, the latter is preferred for baking. Convection ovens come in a variety of sizes as well as freestanding and wall units, ensuring you can choose the appliance that best fits your new kitchen design.

Induction Cooktops

Cooking with induction is safe, fast, and much more energy efficient than gas or electric. These cutting-edge cooktops and ranges use electromagnetic coils under a glass surface to create heat directly into cast iron, carbon steel, or magnetic stainless-steel cookware. (Aluminum, copper, and glass won’t conduct heat on an induction cooktop.) Since the heat is transferred directly to the cooking vessel, cooking is accelerated while the cooktop itself remains cool. This effective, innovative and easy-to-clean design is ideal for households with young children and also works well as a Universal Design feature. Believe it or not, this technology has been around for quite a while, and prices have come down significantly. (One note of caution; if someone with an implanted pacemaker is very close to the cooktop for an extended period of time, there may be some interference from the magnetic field).

Harrell Remodeling’s premier design team is here to help you create the kitchen of your dreams, including offering insights into the brands and types of appliances to fit your lifestyle and budget. Contact us to set up a complimentary meeting at our Palo Alto showroom with one of our award-winning designers to explore your kitchen remodel.

Debra has been with Harrell Remodeling Design + Build for five years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, is an accomplished painter and quilt artist, and spent 13 years working for Ralph Lauren in New York City as a fashion designer before moving to California. She studied Interior Design at Cañada College, where she specialized in Kitchen and Bath Design. She worked as an Interior Designer prior to joining the Harrell Team in April 2014. Debra has received numerous awards for her designs, her specialty being Kitchen and Bath redesign, as well as color consultation. She is a passionate Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP), and also works on whole-house remodels and room additions.

Designing Beautiful and Functional Baking Stations

When designing a functional baking space in a kitchen, Gloria Carlson always asks clients, “What are you baking?” There is no prescribed layout or single answer that fits every homeowner who loves to bake so it’s important to get to know each client’s lifestyle and how their current kitchen space works or falls short.

“I had a client who wanted a baking station designed into her kitchen. Her adult son was a professional baker and would often come to her home to bake,” Gloria shares. “Additionally, a few times a year, her husband would make 1,000 chocolate truffles, which meant he needed quite a bit of counter space for the creation of his desserts. There were very distinct baking needs required by this client, and yet keeping the kitchen aesthetically pleasing and generally functional on a daily basis were crucial too.”

For a client who enjoys baking, setting up their kitchen to function efficiently for this purpose, as well as meet the everyday demands of a typical kitchen and even an entertaining space, entails defining specific zones. Typically, there are four primary components to consider for a baking zone.

  1. Large, smooth counter surfaces
    Having a spacious counter allows the baker to comfortably spread out and have areas for each phase of the process. Using a smooth, durable surface such as quartz or natural stone ensures easy clean up. (Gloria advises against tile, which has grout lines). Bakers generally prefer a lower than standard counter height for kneading or rolling dough. This 30-inch counter can be in a separate but nearby location within the kitchen or can be stair-stepped off the main, 36-inch countertop.
  2. Appliances
    Electric ovens are preferred by most bakers, so many will select an electric wall oven or opt for a duel-fuel range, with an electric oven and a gas cooktop, providing the best of both worlds in one appliance. Having a secondary combi-speed oven (a combination microwave and convection oven) or a combi-steam oven (a convection oven with steam) provides an overflow baking source, especially if the kitchen isn’t large enough for two full ovens or a double wall oven. These multi-function combi-ovens are available in a variety of brands including Miele and Bosch.
    “Specific features in an appliance can make all the difference to an individual baker’s needs,” says Gloria. “If you bake bread, a steam oven offers major perks, and if you bake pies or cookies, you’ll want to use convection, but generally speaking, an electric oven will provide more even heat for baking than a gas oven.”
  3. Efficient, Ample Storage
    Divided drawers for baking utensils such as measuring cups and spoons, larger cabinets for mixing bowls, hand mixers, and tall cabinets for storing baking trays, should all be considered. Often, carefully planned inserts in drawers and specialized pull-outs in their cabinets ensure the homeowner has a well-organized and accessible location for their utensils. Baking ingredients should also be stored in a single area for maximal convenience. Using a Lazy Susan with bins for flour, sugar, and all other baking accoutrements or a pantry cabinet near the baking center can be very convenient. Placement for frequently used baking items and ingredients should be in close proximity to the primary workspace.
  4. Appliance Garage
    These cabinets are designed specifically for hiding away countertop appliances such as stand mixers and food processors when not in use. They should be located near the primary baking workspace to allow for easy set up and clean up. Mixer lifts within cabinets can also be used but do require an 18-inch cabinet for storage. This option can be convenient when a baking zone is at an island where you don’t want to leave the stand mixer out and don’t want to lift or move it.

Harrell Remodeling’s slogan is, “We never forget it’s your home.” Part of living up to this statement is sitting down with clients to learn what they want and need, how they live, discover their passions and hobbies. This helps guide the design, be it a baking station or an entire home remodel.

Do you live to create cakes, cinnamon rolls, or cookies? Do you bake baguettes, revel in dinner rolls, or make a mean banana bread? We bet you would love to have a baking station designed for how you cook. Our award-winning design team can make that happen! Get in touch, set up a complimentary consultation, and let’s whip up something wonderful together!

Harrell Remodeling premier designer, Gloria Carlson, has two degrees from Stanford University. She began her career in Speech Technology, but left to raise two children. After remodeling her home in 2001, she realized that design was her passion. She went to work for her contractor and returned to school to study Interior Design at Cañada College, where she specialized in Kitchen and Bath Design and Green/Sustainable Design. Gloria quickly realized that the kitchen was her favorite room to design, and decided to focus her years of training on this specialty, including multiple examinations from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and earned the title of Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD). Before joining Harrell Remodeling, Gloria worked as a Designer in a Kitchen and Bath showroom, and now she enjoys designing projects of all sizes, from a small bathroom update to whole house interior and exterior remodels and additions.

Gloria prides herself on listening to her clients and providing designs that are appropriate to their lifestyles and their homes. She possesses a practical approach to her projects, creative style, and responsiveness to her client’s needs. She also is very attentive to both budget and detail. “Remodeling one’s home can be stressful, so I try to make the process as fun as possible,” says Gloria. “I listen carefully to the homeowner’s desires, whether functional, aesthetic or budgetary, and come up with a plan that will work for them. Then, throughout the project, they know they can count on me to respond quickly to questions and help with decisions.”

Gloria has won multiple awards for her designs from the local chapters of NKBA, NARI, ASID and IFDA. Outside of work, Gloria loves to play tennis, and being a “foodie”, enjoys everything epicurean.

Cabinet Lighting Trends

Cabinets are a key feature for both function and aesthetics in every home, especially in the kitchen. There are numerous ways in which to illuminate cabinets to showcase special décor, provide focused task lighting, and even automatically light up blind or corner cabinets when opened.

Under-Cabinet Lighting

According to Harrell Remodeling designer Debra Winston, under-cabinet lighting is the most important source of illumination in the whole kitchen. It offers concentrated, no-glare task lighting that is ideal for chopping, fine mincing, measuring, or reading recipes from the cookbook. Under-cabinet lighting is cleverly hidden from sight by adding a 1 1/2-inch light-rail mounted on the bottom front edge of the cabinet.

Accent Lighting

Lighting in glass display cabinets highlights special dishware or objets d’art. A single puck light can be built into the inside top of the cabinet or LED light strips can be recessed down the interior sides of the cabinet. With the single light option, Debra recommends having glass shelves so light shines down throughout the cabinet and brightens the entire display. Inset LED strips provide an equal amount of light from top to the bottom allowing the use of wooden shelves, and illuminating the entire cabinet evenly.

Up-Lights

To create general ambient lighting with a subtle glow, up-lights can be installed on the tops of wall cabinets that do not go all the way up to the ceiling. They reflect off the ceiling and provide an attractive atmospheric effect. As with under-cabinet lighting, low profile up-lights can easily be hidden from view behind the cabinet crown molding. This can be a nice solution to an Eichler home where no attic means recessed cans cannot be installed.

Corner or “Blind” Cabinet Lighting

Corner or blind cabinets tend to be deep and homeowners often can’t easily see inside. Installing lights that turn on when the cabinet door is opened provides much-needed visibility, especially for blind base cabinets.

Night Lighting

A Universal design feature, installing dimmable strip lighting beneath the cabinet toe-kick functions as a night light, providing subtle illumination near the floors. This feature is especially useful in bathrooms as well as in kitchens.

“There are numerous ways to incorporate lighting in your cabinets, whether they are in the kitchen or are built-ins located in Great Rooms or Master Suites. Efficient, long-lasting LED lighting can even be connected to smart home systems, allowing the homeowner to control their entire house from one panel or remotely via a phone app,” shares Debra.

Could your home use a little illumination? Harrell Remodeling has been designing and remodeling distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area since 1985. We invite you to schedule a complementary consultation with one of our talented designers to discover the possibilities for your home.

Debra has been with Harrell Remodeling Design + Build for five years. She has a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts, is an accomplished painter and quilt artist, and spent 13 years working for Ralph Lauren in New York City as a fashion designer before moving to California. She studied Interior Design at Cañada College, where she specialized in Kitchen and Bath Design. Debra worked as an Interior Designer prior to joining the Harrell Team in April 2014. Debra has received numerous awards for her designs, her specialty being Kitchen and Bath redesign as well as color consultations. Debra is a passionate Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP), and also works on whole-house remodels and room additions.

Peninsula vs. Island: How to Know Which Works in Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home. So much happens in this space: creating and eating meals, entertaining groups, chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee, doing homework or catching up on emails. Having an area that invites multiple uses is an attractive option and that’s where peninsulas and islands shine.

If you’ve decided to remodel your kitchen to meet your family’s lifestyle, there are a lot of exciting design decisions to be made to achieve a space that is both beautiful and functional. Certified Kitchen and Bath Specialist and Harrell Remodeling designer, Debra Winston, advises homeowners to carefully consider how they will use their kitchen.

One of the key decisions is whether your new kitchen layout will benefit best from an island or a peninsula. A peninsula extends out from an existing wall or counter while an island stands alone in the kitchen. Islands fit perfectly into an open floor plan, creating a break in a large space without providing a clear border. A peninsula, on the other hand, creates a definitive border between your living space and cooking area.

Islands

People are drawn to an island. It is a fantastic place to entertain and interact with guests, keeping them on the periphery if you’re cooking. But Debra explains that an island does have certain requirements to make it functional.

  • Enough space: Ensure there is at the bare minimum 3 feet—four or more is better—around all sides for proper traffic flow.
  • Just the right size: Too large of an island can make for an inefficient space. It is important not to have the island block the “work triangle,” the pathway between the sink, refrigerator, and cooktop. It can become an obstacle (or a race track) if you have to walk around the island every time you have to grab something from the refrigerator and rinse it at the sink. If you put a prep sink in a large island, this can be a way of creating a secondary work triangle, alleviating the race track feeling. An island that is too small lacks usable counter space for just about any purpose.
  • Additional seating: Many families sit at their island to eat meals, saving the dining area for more formal events. An island should be large enough to seat two to four people comfortably, with seats tucking away when not in use. If you are lucky enough to have the space, five or six seats could be possible with the right planning. Allow two feet per seat/person at the island.
  • Sink or cooktop: A secondary sink in the island can be useful for food prep or for a beverage center with filtered, chilled, and carbonated water. Other people prefer a cooktop in the island so they can see into other rooms while preparing meals. If choosing the cooktop, the island should be wide enough for safety. The other thing to consider with this option is the vent hood location. If located in the ceiling above the cooktop, it can obstruct your view.
  • Extra storage: Islands offer a significant amount of additional storage.
  • Appliances: People who entertain or have large families may benefit from a second dishwasher in the island, especially if they’ve opted for a prep sink. Wine/beverage refrigerators are the perfect place for grab and go drinks and to chill your wine to perfection. Microwaves installed in cabinets allow young children to easily heat food without getting underfoot.
  • Proper lighting: Pendant lighting lends itself well to islands, illuminating the space for baking, meal prep, or casual dining. Skylights also work well above islands and offer beautiful natural light.
  • Universal Design: Having two different counter levels, one at the standard 36 inches and another connected counter at 30 inches extends the island’s functionality to those who require the use of mobility devices. And, if you enjoy baking, having a lower countertop is ideal for kneading doughs as well as a secondary workspace.
  • Multi-Level: Some people like to have an area at bar height (42”) to create a visual barrier between the public view of a great room and the messier prep area on the island.

Peninsulas

Years ago, the peninsula held court in many kitchens. It worked well if your kitchen was long and narrow and that basic principle hasn’t changed. Though most homeowners lean toward a love of islands, a peninsula can often fit the same needs in kitchens that don’t offer enough room for their four-sided counterpart.

  • The work triangle: If an island will interrupt the functionality of the work triangle (location of sink, oven, and refrigerator), a peninsula may be the answer. Dividing this triangle should be avoided as it detracts from the livability and overall design of the kitchen while a peninsula opens up the inner area of the kitchen, creating a continuous workspace.
  • Seating: A peninsula offers extra seating for eating, entertaining, and checking those work emails. As with an island, the seats should tuck under the counter.
  • Extra storage: Peninsulas can incorporate extra storage, and if they are deep enough, you may be able to get cabinets on the kitchen side as well as on the side with the seats.
  • Multi-level counters: Peninsulas can also accommodate two-level counters but in a different format. “By having the seating counter at a height of 42 inches, it also serves to hide the “mess” in the kitchen,” says Debra of the benefit of peninsulas.
  • Electrical: By code, both peninsulas and islands must have electrical. This also makes them more functional for working, using countertop appliances, and charging devices.
  • Lighting: Proper illumination is always a must. Pendants are a great option and visually define the space.

“One thing to remember is that both islands and peninsulas require proper clearance for passage behind someone who may be opening a nearby appliance, such as a refrigerator, oven, or dishwasher,” cautions Debra. “This is one of the many things we as designers think through in advance as we are designing a kitchen remodel.”

Peninsulas and islands both have their benefits and add to the beauty and functionality of a home. For kitchens that aren’t spacious enough for an island, a peninsula can be a fantastic option that is both functional and adds a wonderful design aesthetic to your newly remodeled space.

Is it time for your kitchen to get a much-needed makeover? Book a complementary design consultation at either Harrell’s Los Gatos or Palo Alto showrooms. Designing and remodeling distinctive homes since 1985, Harrell Remodeling serves homeowners in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Debra has been with Harrell Remodeling Design + Build for five years. She has a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts, is an accomplished painter and quilt artist, and spent 13 years working for Ralph Lauren in New York City as a fashion designer before moving to California. She studied Interior Design at Cañada College, where she specialized in Kitchen and Bath Design. Debra worked as an Interior Designer prior to joining the Harrell Team in April 2014. Debra has received numerous awards for her designs, her specialty being Kitchen and Bath redesign, as well as color consultation. Debra is a passionate Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP), and also works on whole-house remodels and room additions.

Outlet Technology

Earlier this year, Harrell Remodeling Designer Genie Nowicki, spent three days at the annual Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) where she was immersed with the latest industry products, trends, and technologies. Although not as sexy as steam showers, spa bathtubs, and the latest fixtures, electrical outlet technology was prevalent at KBIS.

According to Genie, “Kitchens and bathrooms have considerable code requirements. These are spaces in which numerous appliances are used around water, so there are strict guidelines around the placement and type of outlets used. At KBIS, there were some really exciting solutions to make unsightly outlets more visually pleasing, or unique ways to hide them completely.”

Outlet Technology

With more and more devices requiring USB ports for charging, electrical outlets are finally incorporating this technology and docking stations are being integrated into kitchens and baths.

Smart WiFi plugs are remote control devices, enabling automation to actively manage any appliance, light, or device via an app or using a smart home assistant. Affordable and easy to install, these smart plugs allow you to control or schedule lights and temperature, pre-heat hair styling devices with the touch of a button, regulate your kid’s access to gaming consoles and television, and monitor your home’s energy efficiency.

For years, outlet trim plates have been available in a variety of colors, designs, and finishes but the outlets themselves hadn’t followed suit. Finally, outlets are being designed in a number of metallic finishes to create a seamless, cohesive appearance.

Creative Outlet Placement in the Kitchen

GFCI outlets are required to be placed every four feet in a kitchen, and within two feet or less of the edge of a sink or cooking surface. There are multitudes of ways to make outlets less conspicuous, maintaining function without compromising the aesthetics of your space.

  • Under cabinet outlets: The outlet or outlet strip is hidden from view but may have “dangling” appliance cords.
  • Pop-up outlets: Tucked into the surface of a countertop, these low-profile outlets are made accessible by simply pushing on the them to have them ‘pop’ above the counter or pushing them down to hide them away. These may not be accepted by all building departments.
  • Outlet post: Nestled between cabinets, a post is a great way to incorporate outlets.
  • Hinged cabinet facade: Hiding outlets behind a hinged drawer façade allows accessibility when needed but is disguised when not in use.
  • Recessed below counter: An outlet strip can be hidden underneath a deep countertop edge, peninsula, or island overhang for easy access without compromising design.
  • Inside drawers/cabinets: A great place to install a docking station for tablets, phones, and others devices.

Creative Outlet Placement in the Bathroom

Just as in kitchens, our bathrooms must have GFCI outlets and have equally strict requirements on placement. We typically have a number of personal grooming devices that can crowd our countertops, creating a tangle of cords and a battle over outlet access. This can be resolved with creative and functional outlet placement.

  • Medicine cabinets with built-in outlets: great for storing and charging electric razors and toothbrushes.
  • Inside cabinets: A great way to get outlets off walls is to place them inside cabinets. USB outlets allows for charging of phones, wireless speakers, and tablets.
  • Underneath counters: An ideal blend of accessibility and functionality.
  • Inside drawers: Outlets at the back of a drawer is ideal for plugging in hair styling or personal grooming devices.
  • Pop-up outlets: These low-profile outlets work well in bathrooms and can be set into the countertop.

“It’s always exciting to offer clients inventive new ways in which to integrate outlets in bathrooms and kitchens that both maximize and personalize the function and beauty of the space. Plus, the evolving technology that allows homeowners to control appliances at the touch of a button is very desirable,” shares Genie.

Are you dreaming of updating your kitchen or bath? Schedule a complementary meeting today and allow the design team at Harrell Remodeling to help you discover what’s possible.

Genie Nowicki, senior designer, holds numerous certifications in design, and is a renowned authority of Universal Design, and the recipient of multiple awards. Genie joined the Harrell Remodeling team after years of running her own successful design business. Beginning her career in the world of income tax planning, she made a career leap in 1990 to the equally “detail and code-filled world” of kitchen and bath design. Genie obtained her Certification in Professional Kitchen and Bath Design in 1992 and achieved her Certified Kitchen Designer (CID) and Certified Bath Designer (CBD) status in 1996. After passing another rigorous examination, she became a Certified Interior Designer (CID) in the State of California in 2002 and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) in 2006. Her experience has included residential interior design, kitchen and bath design, barrier free/Universal Design, lighting design, and participation in numerous showcase houses in the Bay area, as well as several commercial projects. Genie prides herself on listening to her clients and providing timeless design work that is appropriate to her clients, their lifestyles, and their homes. Her excellence in design has been recognized with awards, projects published in local and national magazines, and a Sunset design book, and an article she wrote was featured in the Fine Homebuilding Kitchen and Bath Annual Issue.

Incorporating Color In Cabinetry

Color is just one way homeowners can express their personality. A popular way to incorporate color is with cabinetry, which is especially popular in kitchens. Once upon a time, high quality cabinet color choices were very limited, but these days, just about any color is available, opening up a myriad of amazing design possibilities.

Harrell Remodeling Design+Build’s award-winning Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD), Gloria Carlson, has helped numerous clients remodel their kitchens, including integrating colored cabinetry. “Using color is very personal,” Gloria explains. “Although many homeowners want a palette that uses muted color, others get pleasure from bolder colors that are more unique to them.”

According to Gloria, the key to incorporating colored cabinets is to choose a focal point. This is an area in the room, such as a kitchen, that you immediately want people to notice. Gloria suggests choosing a feature or material that you love and working around that. It could be a unique backsplash, the island, a high-end range or vent hood, or individual colored cabinets. This focal point is the starting point around which everything else must revolve.

Choosing a cohesive, pleasing color palette is also incredibly important. Choosing complementary colors (those that are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel) work well together, or as Gloria says, they “pop each other.” Complementary colors make a bigger statement, and are more vibrant and contrasting. When homeowners want to break out of the safe color box it’s also important that they don’t overdo a good thing.

“I had a client who had already purchased their kitchen countertop material, which was a beautiful blend of blue and mushroom beige,” shares Gloria about a recent kitchen remodel. “These homeowners wanted to make a bold statement so we used the countertop colors in the cabinetry, and we complemented that with a vibrant orange Dacor range as the focal point.”

When choosing colored cabinets, Gloria generally recommends purchasing cabinets outside of California. Other states aren’t restricted to water-based paints, which enables cabinet makers to use a much more durable baked-on colored varnish.

The style of cabinet also comes into play where color is concerned. A more neutral or “safe” palette can typically be matched with just about any style of cabinet but if bold hues will be used, it is best to avoid traditional cabinetry.

Colored cabinets can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways. The upper cabinets can be one color while the lowers are another. Alternately, the island can be one hue while all the perimeter cabinets are another. Yet another option is to have individual colored cabinets, using them as a focal point. Colored cabinets can also be combined with dark or light wood cabinetry, making a very distinct visual statement.

When asked about colored cabinets, Gloria’s advice to her clients is to go for the “ROE—Return on Enjoyment versus the ROI.” If the homeowners are planning to stay in their residence for a while, Gloria encourages them to think more about their personal enjoyment of their home rather than worry about resale years down the road.

“Sometimes something that is truly unique—like that blue, mushroom, and orange kitchen combination—becomes timeless in a different way,” Gloria clarifies.

Are you exploring the idea of colored cabinetry in your kitchen? Schedule a complimentary consultation with Gloria or another of Harrell’s designers to discover how color can enhance your space and fit your personal style.

Gloria Carlson, Harrell senior designer, earned two degrees from Stanford University before beginning her career in Speech Technology. When she remodeled her home in 2001, she realized that design was her passion and true calling. She went to work for her contractor and returned to school to study Interior Design at Cañada College, where she specialized in Kitchen and Bath Design and Green/Sustainable Design. Gloria quickly realized that the kitchen was her favorite room to design, and decided to focus her years of training on this specialty, including multiple examinations from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and earned the title of Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD). Before joining Harrell Remodeling, Gloria worked as a Designer in a Kitchen and Bath showroom, and now she enjoys designing projects of all sizes, from a small bathroom update to whole house interior and exterior remodels and additions.

Gloria prides herself on listening to her clients and providing designs that are appropriate to their lifestyles and their homes. She possesses a practical approach to her projects, creative style, and responsiveness to her client’s needs. She also is very attentive to both budget and detail. “Remodeling one’s home can be stressful, so I try to make the process as fun as possible,” says Gloria. “I listen carefully to the homeowner’s desires, whether functional, aesthetic or budgetary, and come up with a plan that will work for them. Then, throughout the project, they know they can count on me to respond quickly to questions and help with decisions.”

Gloria has won multiple awards for her designs from the local chapters of NKBA, NARI, ASID and IFDA. Outside of work, Gloria loves to play tennis, and being a “foodie”, enjoys everything epicurean.