Adding some playfulness and functionality to your next home remodel!

Remodeling a whole house, kitchen or bathroom can be a serious job, but it can also be a great opportunity to add some fun and playfulness into your home. Whatever room you are remodeling, the Harrell Remodeling team of employee-owners are experts at creating modern residential designs, while also developing special spaces that reflect the personality and spirit of homeowners.

Creating unique and personalized kitchen and bathroom designs that infuse happiness and joy, may not be the first thing a homeowners thinks about when they start to consider a remodel. However, for those Bay Area residents who have found their dream home, and plan on staying in it for the foreseeable future, investing in creative designs that make a statement and stray from traditional motifs can be the perfect solution for adding a lifetime of happiness for both children and adults.

Gloria Carlson, one of our senior designers at Harrell-Remodeling, enjoys creating fun and innovative designs that reveal her clients’ unique personalities and passions:

The number one thing I do when I have a specialized design project is to establish a deep trust between myself and my client. Clients that want something different are very unique and special to us. They have to know that we care deeply for their home, and that I am really listening to them, illuminating their dreams. After that trust forms, we can do amazing things together.

Creating Enjoyment Through Better Organization

A family came to Harrell Remodeling to create a new kitchen system and design. Gloria spearheaded the project, starting the process by observing the owner’s kitchen “rhythm” and family flow. She immediately saw that the client cooked in special sections, throughout the kitchen, from baking bread to making espresso. So Gloria created a new, streamlined and contemporary layout that emphasized special zones and the following details:

Accentuated Special Kitchen Zones

  • A special baking section that included an appliance garage that held mixers, bowls, yeast risers, and other appliances (five in all), all hidden behind bi-fold laminated glass doors and pull down storage areas. This zone was situated directly next to the oven.
  • The coffee counter was designed with pull open cabinets that had laminated glass to hide coffee containers, filters, and boxes of teas. Gloria made sure the coffee and espresso machine were connected directly to a potfill faucet that is positioned perfectly for fast and easy brewing.

Carbonated, Filtered, and Chilled Beverage Zone

  • In the center of the kitchen, Gloria designed a floating island that served as a buffet serving area, prep zone, and gathering spot. To help contribute to the central gathering purpose of the island, Gloria added a built-in filtered water faucet that included a water chiller system below the sink. Then she included a state-of-the-art carbonated soda water faucet as part of the sink and countertop. An under-the-counter refrigerator and built-in liquor cabinet makes the island anything but a place of isolation.

Customized Planning Zone

  • A planning zone was created to add an additional function to the room, including organizer shelves, key hooks, and a cork and white board.
  • Lots of color was also incorporated into the kitchen to highlight the modern upgrades.

My clients still tell me how much they love what I did in their kitchen, said Gloria.

Garage Doors: The Gateway to Curb Appeal

One of the most frequently used home additions is the garage. It rolls convenience, safety, security, and storage all into one. As a key component to your next custom remodeling project, a new garage or simply a new garage door can dramatically alter your Bay Area home’s appearance. And newer garage doors may provide improved function. If thinking about enhancing the curb appeal of your home, you may consider these options available for today’s garage doors.


Wood is a traditional garage door material that provides a more natural appearance. It blends in particularly well with brick, stone, and wood homes. Depending on the design, it can be elegant or rustic. Wood is a popular choice for carriage house designs and often comes with windows in the upper portion of the doors.


Metal garage doors for Bay Area homes are traditionally made of steel and aluminum. Traditional steel doors offer higher durability and an added sense of security. A more modern steel door, often called a sandwich construction, is now available with varying degrees of insulation to help ward off energy loss. Aluminum provides a sleeker look and is a much lighter weight material, although still durable. Both materials can be painted as needed to coordinate with the rest of your home’s exterior.


If you like the look of wood but prefer a less weather sensitive material that is easier to maintain, fiberglass may be the answer for you. Fiberglass doors are made in a broad variety of styles, including faux wood finishes available in different colors and grains.

Glass Panels

Many attached garages are incorporated into the front of the house, while other homes have detached garages that sometimes function as temporary workshops for hobbyists. The need for glass panels on a garage door can be dictated by the desire to have the door coordinate with the appearance of the home or to increase the natural light within the space.
Garage doors with large glass panels are also available and marry well with homes that have a high incidence of glazing. Adding glass panels to a garage door can balances the exterior appearance and provide a source of natural light to the interior.

Classic Versus Carriage

Classic garage doors are typically laid out in blocks and rows of rectangles. As the door rises, they roll up and disappear into the garage ceiling. Carriage house doors hearken back to the horse-drawn carriage era, and typically open outward from the center. Choose your carriage house hardware and windows carefully to create a plain or more ornate look. Add lift handles and knockers for an even greater authentic appearance.

If you’re not sure which look will best enhance your curb appeal, talk it over with your design and build team from Harrell Remodeling.

Rediscover Your Back Yard with Hardscape Features

Are you ready to spend more time outdoors without leaving the sanctuary of your home? Do you want to fall in love with your back yard again and add to your home’s useable footprint while enjoying the Bay Area’s world-renowned micro climates? There are many different hardscape features and ideas that will enhance the outdoor living experience in your home. Hardscapes are typically defined as the fixed objects in landscaping, such as brick and tile patios and pathways, pergolas, stone walls, wood decks and other similar structures.

Gazebos and Pergolas

Create a shaded seating area with a solid-roof gazebo. Furnish it with a small table and chairs, a swing or built-in benches. Pergolas provide filtered shade without blocking your view of the sky. Choose materials like cedar, steel, vinyl or aluminum to coordinate with other outdoor-living components in your yard.

Decks and Patios

Rediscover the outdoors with the installation of a deck or patio with wood planks, pavers, concrete, natural stone or brick. Add outdoor furniture, a hot tub, fire pit or a kitchen to create a space for relaxing with family, and entertaining guests.

Swimming Pools

Add some refreshing splash to your back yard. Instead of your typical pool of the blue-and-white rectangular variety, use instead, natural stone basins and borders. Add waterfalls, unusual shapes and graduated levels to your custom pool. Surround it with a brick patio or a multi-level deck with seating.

Stones and Boulders

Large stone sculptures or a thoughtfully-placed stone fountain can be a beautiful focal point for your back-yard. Large rocks built into a low wall along a pathway or perimeter, convey a touch of rustic elegance and can create a terrace effect. Consider granite, limestone or slate for a beautiful yet natural look.

If you’d like to create something extraordinary with the outdoor living spaces in your Bay Area home, the design-build professionals at Harrell Remodeling can help. Contact us for details.

Open Up Your World to Skylights and Sun Tunnels

Skylights and sun tunnels are two innovative ways to bring natural light into the interior rooms of your home. Skylights are windows or see-through panels located on the roof.   In rooms with angled ceilings that match the angle of the roof, the skylight is mounted on the roof and light travels directly into the room.  In rooms with flat ceilings that do not match the angle of the roof above, it is fairly typical to have a light well made of drywall built around the roof mounted skylight that connects the skylight to the room’s flat ceiling.  This light well brings the light into the room.  These applications work when a skylight can be placed directly above a room.   Sun tunnels are often used when there are obstructions in the attic that prevent the installation of a skylight.  Sun tunnels are similar to skylights, but rather than a light well, sun tunnels have a tube with a reflective interior lining that captures natural light from a roof mounted dome and channels the light indirectly into the room.  This tunnel often travels at a slight angle through attic space. Sun tunnels can be installed in kitchens, living rooms, hallways and other areas of the home that may not have ample natural lighting.


These ‘windows in the ceiling’ can increase natural lighting and make a room feel brighter and larger.   When properly installed as part of a Bay Area home remodeling project, skylights can help homeowners cut costs on an electricity bill while enhancing the home’s level of sophistication.   Skylights are available in a wide array of shapes and sizes with UV protected glass in a variety of tints.  Skylights can be fixed, or operable.  Operable skylights increase the fresh air flow and are often available with easy to use remote controls.

Sun Tunnels

Starting in sizes roughly a foot across and available in both round and square shapes, a sun tunnel diffuser panel sits on the ceiling level of a room.  From there the connected sun tunnel extends through and across attic space to a roof mounted clear dome.  The interior effect in the room’s ceiling appears similar to recessed lighting. Sun tunnels can be integrated into roof systems with slopes between 15 and 60 degrees.  Choose a diffuser for the sun tunnel that limits both glare and bright spots.

Federal Tax Credit

Homeowners interested in improving their energy efficiency will like the green impact of skylights and sun tunnels. Skylights and sun tunnels bring the illuminating properties of daylight into dark rooms. Federal tax credits of up to $200 are available for certain products through the federal government’s Energy Star program. They must be purchased and installed by Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. The tax credit covers replacement windows, including a variety of skylights, as well as new ones put in as part of a home addition.

Two Simple Design Ideas to Ponder as You Start Your Design Journey!

Going Global

Feng Shui, Vástu Shástra, and other Eastern philosophies have been guiding builders since ancient times. Today these principles are gaining interest in the West , and inspire features such as  shoji doors,  Japanese “Ofuro” soaking tubs, bamboo or warm cherry woods with simple elegant lines, artistic fixtures and cabinet pulls.

Timeless Design

Frank Lloyd did it effectively and you can too!  Think neutral  colors – not beige necessarily, but the colors you might find in nature.  Choose finishes that are sustainable and low maintenance, free from excessive patterns or considered overly trendy. When it comes to style; modern, traditional, eclectic, or craftsman are always wise investment choices when it comes to your home and they will hold their appeal and value over many decades.

Laundry and Hobby Rooms: The New Family Center?

More and more home remodeling projects are including large open spaces with multiple uses instead of smaller rooms with a single use. Sometimes the need arises for a less formal space, a place where family members can spend quality time together in a relaxed atmosphere. A multi-purpose room has become the new family center. As a result, hobbies and laundry are ideal companion activities to share this space.

The space can be designed such that there is enough room for all family members to do their special activities, alone or together. For example, Mom or Dad can do the laundry while the kids are painting or building puzzles. There are several elements that are popular in hobby and laundry rooms which help make the space more functional. For example, add a TV or a sound system for enhanced usability.

Counter Space

Everyone needs room to work. Layouts for the room might include counters that that run along some or all of the walls. For extra room to work, tabletops or islands can be placed within the room, or perhaps pull out or fold down for convenience. Countertop materials range from wood to laminate to natural or engineered stone. Give some thought to scratch-resistant and stain-resistant surfaces that wear well and fit their purpose.


Where there are activities, there are supplies. Ask your design build team to create cubbyholes, drawers and storage space above or below the countertops and workstations. This can help you minimize the clutter and keep it a pleasant place to spend time together. Cabinets can include a fold-down ironing board, a place to fold clothes and an area to store laundry supplies.


Choose flooring that is smooth, moisture-resistant, durable and easy to clean while coordinating with the rest of the decor. Use area rugs to create extra comfort and a cozy feel to select parts of the room.


Lighting is one of the most important features to the new hobby room and laundry room. Use natural light from large windows and put focused task lighting over specialized work spaces. Recessed lighting throughout the room can help illuminate even the largest spaces.

A Look at the Hottest Residential Solar Energy Options

There are several different alternatives available for homeowners hoping to become more energy efficient. Solar energy, in particular, can be an excellent choice for Bay Area homeowners, with options ranging from passive solar design to solar water heaters to photovoltaic panels. Here’s a look at some of the options that can be incorporated into your custom remodeling project.

Passive Solar Heating

One way to make your home more energy efficient is through passive solar heating and cooling techniques. Passive solar building design relies on the collection, storage and distribution of solar energy through the optimal placement and design of interior and exterior walls, windows and floors. For example, one can use reflective coatings on exterior walls and roofing. Overhangs, insulation and careful landscaping can all lower energy use. Deliberate placement of windows and effective ventilation are also important elements. For a whole-home remodeling approach centered around passive solar energy, it’s critical to make changes to the areas in your home that use or lose the most energy. Passive solar heating and cooling requires little maintenance and no mechanical system installation, but it’s important to plan early in your design and build process for best results.

Photovoltaic Systems

A photovoltaic solar system involves the installation of solar panels. They can be integrated into your building materials and roof shingles, or installed on top of the roof for a more traditional solar look. Some solar-powered items for your home remodel include a water heater, pool heater and flooring. The home can be partially or entirely powered with solar energy. If you choose to do a whole-home conversion, you can stay connected to the utility grid or go “off the grid” and provide your own collection, regulation, conversion and distribution. There are various federal and state incentives, rebates and tax credits available for different systems.

Outdoor Landscaping

If you’re looking for a smaller-scale use of solar power, try solar lighting outdoors for your garden, patio, front walk or pool area. This makes your outdoor living spaces safer and more inviting for parties and barbecues, as well as just spending time outdoors in solitude. Put solar lights in areas that receive a considerable amount of sunshine to maximize the strength of your lights. LED lighting is the most efficient form of outdoor lighting as compared to fluorescent and halogen lights. Some solar landscape lighting systems require battery replacement about every two years.

To learn more about the different methods and degrees of going solar, talk to our Harrell Remodeling design and build team. We can help you decide which option will work best for your Bay Area home.

Interior Remodeling Basics: Choosing Wall Treatments

Wouldn’t you like to liven up your room and show off your personal style? Wall treatments can give you the opportunity to add color, texture, depth and creativity to your spaces. A common option is to create custom walls or an accent wall by using bold patterns or three-dimensional patterns on one wall with paint or paneling on the others. There are several home remodeling options to choose from that can bring some excitement into your living spaces. Merge colors and patterns with textures to create depth in each room.

Today’s wallpaper isn’t like the old-school wallpaper that covered all four walls and was hard to remove if you ever wanted a change. Today’s wallpaper designs are often larger prints and can be used in concert with paint and other wall treatments to create a “wow” factor. Many wallpapers are paintable, so we can customize them to your color choices for the rest of the room.

Fabric Panels
Visually, fabric panels can create a dramatic presence. They can be a series of panels with a design for a mural-type effect, or they can have a more upholstered look. Use them to create or reinforce a theme and to add texture to an otherwise blank wall covering a select a portion or the entire wall.  Mount fabric panels on the wall to cover audio speakers or camouflage wall safes or other hidden features on a wall to create visual and acoustic functionality in any room. Use panels of nearly any type of fabric, from cotton to canvas to suede, to serve as a sound barrier in entertainment rooms, the baby’s nursery or a workout room.

Wood Paneling
Use wood paneling or wainscoting to blend or contrast with other room furnishings. Wood paneling or beadboard, with materials ranging from pine to cedar to oak, can be stained or painted to provide a more traditional look and can easily be refinished when you’re ready for a change. Depending on the finish and wood species, wood paneling can also create a rustic look or a more luxurious environment. For environmentally-conscious homeowners, reclaimed wood paneling is a green option for a custom remodeling project.

Gypsum board and drywall have evolved into more sophisticated wall treatments than a simple flat surface that is covered in paint. Drywall can be textured, reinforced with fiberglass, or mudded and sanded. It can also be painted and stand alone or serve as a base underneath other forms of wall treatments.

Delving Deeper Into Kitchen Cabinets

When it comes to a kitchen remodel, cabinets are a prominent part of the project. They are visually dominant, play an important role in storage, and must coordinate with all other components in the kitchen to create the desired look. Depending on the homeowner’s style, the right kitchen cabinets can vary widely in materials, finishes, and in the type of framing, door style and special features.

Cabinet Finishes

One common consideration for design build contractors is whether to use paint or stain for the finish. Wood cabinet finishes are sanded, stained and sealed with a finish coating on top. Stain can alter the hue, but preserves the effect of the natural grain. Another option is paint. Choosing the right paint color can completely change the look and feel of the kitchen. Traditional colors tend to complement a more traditional cabinet style.

Open or Closed?

The style of the cabinets doesn’t have to be uniform throughout the kitchen. Some areas may be better suited to open cabinets, while the contents of others prompt the necessity for doors. Consider some glass- front doors to showcase special items. A careful inventory of different items for storage, from food to dishes to small appliances, can help determine what type of door style is best.

Cabinet Construction

Framed or frameless cabinets have a distinctly different look. A framed cabinet is considered more traditional and has either a door that sits on top of the cabinet frame, or is inset to the frame. Either way you “see” the frame of the box. Frameless or unframed cabinets tend to be a more contemporary look as the door fully overlays the cabinet box. Either option can be chosen when considering kitchen remodeling in the Bay Area.


The presence of hinges and knob or pull hardware can also change the look of cabinets. The hinges can be concealed from view, and the cabinet hardware can be recessed into the door design or attached to the outside. Hardware is often made of metals like brass, copper, iron or stainless steel; more atypical options like glass, ceramic, bronze and porcelain are also available.

Getting Organized

Part of the purpose for replacing the cabinets in a kitchen remodel is to make them more functional and effective. Identifying the function for each cabinet helps to maximize the efficiency of the design. For example, the home cook should be able to see and access all of the choices in the spice cabinet, whether it’s through a pull-out or folding solution. Lower (or base) cabinets might have a roll-out shelf to maximize space and for easier accessibility. Some items are better suited to drawers than shelving, such as placemats and silverware.

Whether your new kitchen will be contemporary or traditional in style, knowing the stylistic and functional aspects of cabinet selection will make your project even more successful.

Three Style and Design Trends

Three trends, styles and designs that are on the forefront of our designing minds these days…

1. Designed for Aging

Many Designers are becoming certified aging-in-place specialists (CAPS), in response to the growing need to identify ways to help aging baby boomers “age gracefully” in their homes, for as long as possible. Universal design is one such trend that is coming to the forefront of main stream design for homes.  Look for easy kitchen and bath upgrades to enhance functionality, comfort and safety. Features such as wide hallways, enlarged and zero-step walk-in showers, wall hung vanities and lowered countertops blend seamlessly into the design so that the home does not have a clinical or institutional appearance.  (zero-step shower and wall hung vanity are shown to the left)

2. California is All About Outdoor Living

Outdoor living is here to stay. The yard and garden become a part of the floor plan when sliding glass doors or retractable glass walls such as nana-walls™, open up the home and lead to patios and decks, either covered or open to allow for natural light. Outdoor rooms may even include kitchens with sophisticated sinks and grills, including features such as built-in fireplaces, eco-friendly fire pits that burn clean fuel (ethanol) , LED lighting in a variety of colors including water-proof rope lighting discreetly hidden along fences, pathways or decking.

3. Glass Backsplashes

Be on the lookout for back-painted, solid glass panel backsplashes in contemporary settings, which provide a colorful yet ultra-clean, sleek alternative to the more traditional tile backsplash.  This sleek look can also compliment a kitchen or bathroom that has busy patterns in the cabinets, flooring or countertops.  Glass will provide a simple backsplash will not compete with the surrounding textures, and add either a pop of color or neutrality to your space.  (mustard glass backsplash in the photo to the left)

Article Credits: Ciro Giammona – President and General Contractor