How To Choose The Best Firm For Your Next Remodeling Project

The saying “Home is where the heart is” strikes a deep cord with homeowners everywhere including those residing in the Bay Area. Home is where our lives are centered. Home is where we relax and unwind, spend time with family and entertain friends, where we enjoy the holidays and special occasions. Because of this, more and more people are investing money in remodeling or redesigning their residences to create beautiful gathering spaces, safer living environments, and versatile homes.

How do you find the right remodeling professional that will make your remodeling vision a reality? Harrell Remodeling recommends the following guidelines to help you choose a professional design and remodeling firm:

  1. Ask for Recommendations
    There is no doubt about it… word of mouth is one of the best strategies to follow when selecting a remodeling professional.
    Residential remodeling can be tricky, thus the potential for lengthy and unexpected delays, budget overages, or costly mistakes. To avoid this, check with your local Chamber of Commerce, get recommendations from friends, and check online for references and reviews. See if certain businesses continue to be mentioned. When investigating remodeling firms, it is also a good idea to establish the level of complexity these companies are able to handle, and their experience with remodeling projects similar to yours.
  2. Credentials and Certifications Matter
    With a solid list of recommendations in hand, it’s time for some basic research on each firm.
    Really look through the firm’s website to see the qualifications of its designers, project managers, and carpenters. Like any vocation, recognized credentials and certifications from professional associations like the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) along with certifications including Certified Interior Designer (CID), Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP), and Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP) are important. Any seasoned and skilled remodeling professional will have invested time and money in course work and passed rigorous tests to earn these credentials and certifications.
  3. Get To Know Your Remodeling Professiona
    One of the best strategies for finding the best remodeling firms is to visit their offices. 
    Do they have a showroom with the latest materials and design concepts? When discussing design and remodeling ideas, do they include a professional designer in the conversation who can offer suggestions and apply these concepts to your project and lifestyle? Who would you be working with? How are projects like yours handled? How and when are payments made? Is there an open line of communication should you have questions or concerns? It is important to ask a lot of questions, but also make sure to listen closely to answers. The way remodeling professionals answer questions can be extremely important and revealing.
  4. Check References
    When conducting your due diligence on remodeling firms, ask to see some of the firm’s past projects.
    Get a good idea of the firm’s style and ability to solve challenging problems. When looking through the company’s portfolio of work, make sure to ask if you can call former clients to get a firsthand account of their project: Was the worksite clean and the workers respectful? Did the job get completed on time and on budget? What was the communication and planning process? All of these will give great insight into the overall professionalism and quality of the remodeling firm from someone who has employed their services.
  5. Check The Status of Their License
    After checking references and speaking with past clients, visit the Contractors State License Board and make sure the company is in good standing.
    Is their license active? When does it expire? Do the have any claims filed against them? Are they bonded and insured?
  6. Price Is Not The Most Important Criteria
    While every homeowner has a budget for their remodeling project, choosing a firm purely on the basis of cost can backfire.
    There is a lot of truth behind the saying, “You get what you pay for”, and when it comes to hiring a remodeling company these words are even more crucial. There are firms that will provide a very attractive quote on the project but when the rubber meets the road, they end up costing much more in lost time, poor workmanship, and inaccurate pricing. It is important to weigh all of the criteria including price in your decision. Everyone wants to get the most bang for our buck but when it comes to our home, the quality of work and inter-personal communication far outweigh saving a few dollars. The results will be worth it in the end.
    Recommendations, certifications, and being licensed, bonded and insured are all important aspects of finding the top remodeling firms. Finding a company with high quality workmanship, who understands your lifestyle and distinct requirements, can solve challenging problems, is on the cutting edge of design, will stay on time and on budget, and with whom you have a solid professional rapport are also very key components to finding the right firm for your home remodel.

Since 1985, Harrell Remodeling has been designing and remodeling distinctive home all around the Bay Area. A design-build firm with locations in Palo Alto and Los Gatos , we invite you to contact us to find out more about how we work, talk to members of our team, and discover how we can make your remodeling dreams a reality!

Pet-Friendly Design for Your Four Legged Furry Family Members

According to a 2017- 2018 National Pet Owners Survey, 68% or 85 millions families in the United States own a pet. 60% of households own a dog while 47% have a cat as a pet although the number of felines (94.2 million) outnumbers canines (89.7 million).

Yet another recent study has shown that a whopping 95% of people consider their furry friends to be a part of the family. Pets provide companionship, comfort, and entertainment, boost our wellbeing and provide unconditional love.

With more and more people in tune to their pet’s needs, making these furry family members comfortable and happy is important. In working with clients, another of Harrell’s award-winning Senior Designers, Sara Jorgensen, frequently incorporates pet-friendly spaces and solutions into her design.

A California state Certified Interior Designer (CID) with a BA in Fine Arts in Interior Design, Sara has the unique ability to discover and artfully execute her clients’ design desires along with their functional needs. “I love to ask a lot of questions,” Sara says of her meetings with new clients. “These days with so many people having pets, I always ask about their animals. Often, people undergoing a home remodel have frustrations about things like pet food storage or placement of food bowls or litter boxes. They often don’t realize a solution could be quite simple and easily incorporated.”

Whatever the pet-related challenge, Sara will create the nook or niche, storage or space that will solve it. Working from a holistic viewpoint to the smallest of details that create the design’s ‘wow’ factor, she looks for creative ways to situate food dishes, tuck away unsightly litter boxes, or to incorporate much-needed storage.

“I help clients truly consider how they live and the roles their pets play in the family. Through this process, I can design an environment that works for both people and pets in mind without sacrificing individuality and personal style.” Sara explains.

Sara finds that homeowners with canine companions often want her help with creating attractive or hidden storage systems for their pet’s food and supplies as well as elevated and/or out-of-the-way food and water bowls. Since feline family members are more likely to remain indoors, Sara designs special spaces for litter boxes, food and water bowls, and even perches for cats to climb or vertical “highways” that enable them to move from room to room.

“Catios”, or patios for cats, are becoming a popular home design element. They can be simple or elaborate but the goal is to create a safe, enclosed outdoor spaces for cats to lie in the sun and fresh air. Sara has designed “catios” from previously open balconies and decks by installing mechanized rolling pet screens that drop down to fully enclose the space.

An example of a more elaborate pet space is a “catio” project Sara did for a client in which she transformed an unused second floor balcony into an artistic safe space for the homeowner’s cats. “The owners were huge San Jose Sharks fans so we designed a custom metal panel with the Sharks logo that added a unique architectural element to the rear of the home that both homeowners and cats could enjoy. We even selected a bird-nest pattern for the background pattern that creative a playful reflection with the light.” says Sara.

 

Ideas for incorporating pet-friendly design in your home

  • Choose durable, pet-friendly materials and fabrics: From flooring to furniture, there are materials that lend themselves to homes with pets. Choose colors and fabrics that hide dirt, are durable and scratch-resistant as well as easy to clean.
  • Stop dirt at the door: Create a station in your home where you most frequently take your pet in and out. This area should have resilient, easy maintenance flooring plus storage for leashes, toys and supplies.
  • A room with a view: Both dogs and cats enjoy being able to look outside so having a large picture window that provides your pet with a view will be appreciated.
  • Special spaces: Dogs have an innate desire to go underneath beds, tables, and other areas where they can rest in peace while you should think vertically for your feline friends. Designate a doggie den beneath cabinets in the kitchen or Family Room and set up perches or stair-step walls shelving to create areas for your cat to sit or sleep.
  • Pet doors: Technology is a wonderful thing even in the pet product realm. There are electronic pet doors that open only when triggered by a chip in your pet’s collar, keeping your home secure and other unwanted critters out. Even cameras that can allow you to see what your pets are up to while you are away.

Harrell’s Remodeling is very sensitive to how the remodeling process affects your furry family members. We always make areas safe for your pets by removing debris as well as posting signs to alert workers of animals in a home. Sometimes we even post a photo of your pet on doors with a sign to alert our people and subcontractors that special circumstances need to be taken for safety of an animal.

Whether you have a very specific pet project in mind or wish to integrate pet-friendly design as part of a home remodel project, Sara and the entire team at Harrell’s Remodeling can make it happen!

Designing Your Kitchen for Entertaining and Fun

We’ve all heard that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning Senior Designer, Gloria Carlson, agrees. The kitchen being her favorite room to remodel, Gloria has helped many of her clients reimagine their kitchens, making the spaces not only beautiful and functional, but also creating a place for entertaining friends and family.

Understanding a client’s entertainment style is paramount to producing a finished product that fits their unique lifestyle and preferences. “Everyone entertains in different ways,” explains Gloria, who is a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD).

There are a few key questions Gloria asks when meeting with clients who want to redesign their kitchens. Gloria delves into the following areas that guide her toward an end result that best fits the way they live and entertain.

  1. “How do you cook?”
    This includes how the homeowners interact in the kitchen. Does one person cook everything and then clean? Does one person prep while the other cleans? Will two or more people be cooking together?
  2. “How do you want to live?”
    When the homeowners entertain, how many people typically come to a gathering? How do they want to interact with their guests? Do they need flexible seating space for both intimate and large groups?

According to Gloria, some people are what she calls “participatory entertainers,” meaning they love having gatherings where friends and family are involved in the preparation of the meal. This entails designing the kitchen to provide plenty of workspace for meal prep and clean up, as well as ensuring there is adequate room for people to move freely throughout the kitchen. Often a spacious island is part of this type of entertaining kitchen remodel.

Other people prefer to cook alone but want to have an inclusionary yet distinct gathering area that allows guests and host to interact while the food is being prepared. Sometimes they simply want seating nearby for easy conversations with guests, and sometimes they are looking for something more specific. “We had a client who loved soda fountain drinks,” Gloria said. “Using this theme, we created a separate bar area and serve-yourself beverage center with a soda bar gun, ice maker, and vintage bottle cap backsplash that was a big conversation piece.” This custom entertainment space connected to the kitchen, creating the ideal blend of separation and interaction, enabling the host to cook in peace yet entertain and converse with their guests.

Still others want their kitchen to be a showpiece, a beautiful place to gather and entertain, yet they don’t plan to use it for cooking. These spaces take ambiance, flow of people, and ample seating into consideration. Of course, they are also functional and well thought out, even if they are only used to entertain.

Gloria also finds many clients hold gatherings that revolve around sports. Having a television in the kitchen area or nearby with an area for guests to eat and watch the game is key. Other homeowners want flexible spaces where they can add or remove tables and seating based on the size of the group they are hosting.

No two kitchens are ever alike. Each kitchen Gloria creates is custom, unique to the people for whom she is creating it. “Designing a kitchen for entertaining and fun is very much an individual endeavor,” she says. Each kitchen is distinct, centering on the homeowner’s personalities, lifestyle, hobbies, personal design aesthetic, and cooking/entertaining style. She believes that any combination of homeowner and designer will create a completely different design within the same space, yet the end result can be beautiful, functional and solve the problems of their previous kitchen.

Gloria says that there are a few things that clients do want in a kitchen designed for entertainment. These include:

  1. Efficient storage to house kitchen tools
  2. Considerable counter space to set out food, especially since buffet-style meals are very popular
  3. The durability and low maintenance of Quartz makes it a sought-after material for countertops
  4. Ample, flexible seating areas (bars, peninsulas, or islands, etc.)
  5. Many clients would love an island in their kitchens, but she cautions that an island must fit the space. Squeezing in an island can result in a cramped, less functional. and desirable layout.

“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.”

Whatever socializing style fits you, there is a kitchen that will fulfill how you live, cook, and entertain. Harrell Remodeling Design+Build and premier designer, Gloria Carlson, can help your kitchen entertaining dreams become a reality.

Employee Ownership: Keeping Us Proudly Client-Focused

As a 100% employee-owned company, we feel a sense of accountability and responsibility for our individual roles, our company’s future, and as importantly, our client focused mission ensuring our clients, their desire to have their homes reimagined and redesigned, and our care of their homes always comes first!

Tony Mathews of the Beyster Institute wrote an interesting and compelling article about employee ownership and our 100% employee-owned company, and we thought it was a great read!

Read the article here.

Kitchen tile backsplash

Make A Splash With Backsplash Beauty

It’s impossible to know when or where the first backsplash was included in kitchen design, however the why behind the beauty of backsplashes isn’t hard to decipher. Backsplashes are generally found between the sink and the wall, preventing water, grease, and spaghetti sauce from being splashed against the walls. Pretty soon, simple tile backsplashes were used as the best solution for wall protection. During the 1970’s, white and yellow Formica countertops included a sort of built-in backsplash to avoid mixing materials and designs.

Today, interior designers like Harrell Remodeling’s Gloria Carlson, take the backsplash into an entirely different level, maximizing the utilitarian tool as a great opportunity to create a distinctive focal point for kitchens with multiple materials and patterns.

“You need to have some sort of backsplash purely for protection. Historically, people used a basic four-inch backsplash to provide minimum protection and to just catch spills. But over time, backsplashes have been used provide protection and add aesthetic interest,” explained Gloria.

According to Gloria, knowing how to highlight the backsplash can be tricky.

“The backsplash needs to become part of the whole story and the whole palette. For example, if you have a busy countertop material, you want to use a simple backsplash design so the two don’t compete. The backsplash in that case highlights the countertop. On the other had, you may want your backsplash to be the focal point, in which case you want your countertop to be simple and not compete with it,” said Gloria.

Using The Backsplash As A Central Theme For Kitchen Design

For example, one Bay Area family came to Harrell-Remodeling to redesign their kitchen to accommodate a steady docket of formal dinners and lively entertaining events. But more importantly, the family also wanted a gourmet, multi-use kitchen where entertaining and serious culinary skills could be employed without the interference of casual but valued guests. Gloria created a beautiful cooking area and a more social gathering area where people could mingle without bothering the cook. To accomplish this, she created a fun, socially focused fountain soda bar that also included a fully equipped bar gun with lots of soda flavors. Using the backsplash as a way to highlight the design, Gloria successfully punctuated the soda theme by using the backsplash as a conversation piece and created from vintage bottle caps. The hundreds of bottle caps were individually placed in the backsplash to resemble tile, and create a fun place for people to gather away from the prep and cooking area.

“The family entertained a lot, but they didn’t like when people could just walk into the middle of preparing a meal. So I used the backsplash as a focal point of my design. In this case, I a neutral, solid color for the counter top in order to make the backsplash a focal point to draw the attention of the eye,” said Gloria.

Consider Different Materials For Your Backsplash Beauty

Long gone are the days the four-inch Formica backsplash. Today, designers are taking the backsplash as a way to make a real design splash in kitchens. The boundaries for backsplash designs are being pushed to include modern materials and visionary shapes and sizes.

Today, Gloria includes materials that range from colored glass or tile to stone slabs. In addition, many homes now include backsplashes that run all the way up the wall to the bottom of the top cabinetry to provide maximum impact.

“Depending on what else is happening. You have other when you’ve got a whole kitchen with multiple materials: you’ve got a floor, you’ve got cabinets, you’ve got countertops, you’ve got all those things that you need to have cohesive. You want to make sure that you don’t have too much going on or too much competition and you don’t know where to look. The backsplash can be one of the opportunities within that palette to make a statement. Personally I love it when people aren’t too safe with the backsplash, because it can be so effective when you want to add something striking,” said Gloria.

Design Details: Bathroom Spa Trends

Do you envision slipping into a deep tub, or even stepping into a relaxing hot shower after a long and perhaps stressful day at work? Designing your bathroom to fit your lifestyle will give you the oasis you seek.

In a fairly short amount of time, the bathroom has gone from “utilitarian” to a space that is a relaxing respite. Bathrooms have evolved into a place to unwind or decompress after a long day, and/or a place to invigorate your morning routine, as you set off for the day ahead.

For some of us “oasis” might mean a walk-in curbless shower, a deep soaking tub or perhaps an infrared sauna. Many infrared saunas also come with Bluetooth capability, allowing you to stream your favorite Pandora station or iTunes. With proper planning and design, each of these can add a touch of luxury to your bathroom remodel and soon, to your morning or evening routine.

We all have a similar desire for the bathroom – a purely functional place at times; and a place to relax, decompress and simply get away from life’s hectic pace. All you need now is a fluffy robe and a candle or two.

Seasonal Tips for Your Home

With all this rain we thought this tip from our Production Team might be of help. Rain, and what it can tell you about your home’s performance.

The California rainy season creates an opportunity for you to see how your home performs in rainy conditions. Take advantage of this very telling opportunity, the heavier the rain the better! Put on a raincoat, grab an umbrella and walk around the outside of the house. No ladders required!

Stand at the sidewalk, looking toward your home. Start by looking at the top of the roof and work your way around and down as you walk closer.

  • What you do want to see:
  • Clear view of roof surface. (for a flat roof, this won’t be possible, but still take a look from the street)
  • Water running freely down the roof slope and into the gutters.
  • Water flowing out from the downspout/rain-chain and away from the foundation.

What you don’t want to see:

  • Tree branches touching or resting against the roof.
  • Debris on the roof, slowing the flow of water to the gutters.
  • Dripping water from the corners or underside of the gutters.
  • Rusty gutters or open seams.
  • Very slow or no water flow from your downspouts.
  • Rusty downspouts or open seams.
  • Water flowing out from the downspouts and back toward the foundation.
  • Water from the dripping gutters or downspouts splashing up onto the sides of the house.

If you find that the rain water is flowing off your roof, down your downspouts and away from your home, that’s great news.

If you don’t see this, then it’s time to call for an inspection of your roof and roof drainage system. Having a roof in working order should be at the top of every homeowners maintenance list.

Second, would be exterior paint, but let’s leave that for another day.

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

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

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.

Fiberglass

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.