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

Choosing Shelves, Niches and Benches for your Bathroom Remodel

When planning a bathroom remodeling project, many homeowners are interested in enhancing the design and functionality of their bathtub or shower by including more convenient and attractive storage or seating for their bathing needs. Three options  for this purpose are shelves, niches and benches.


Shelves are typically attached to the corner of the shower and are triangular in shape. The size and height of each shelf affects what it can hold and how easy it is to reach. When planning a bathroom remodel, designers should make sure that the protrusion of the shelves into the shower space doesn’t interfere with elbow room. Shelving should comfortably hold items like shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash and other bathing necessities. The distance between each shelf should take these sizes into consideration. Moreover, a detail-oriented design/build remodeling company will be sure to place the shelves in a way that avoids a direct stream of water.

Sometimes confused with shower shelves, a niche is a recessed area embedded into the shower wall. The edges of the niche can be curved and soft or sharp and distinct to coordinate with the design of the remaining wall space. The niche was once just a small area to hold soap and offer a handle to grab when taking a bath, however today’s showers and tubs have single, double and even triple niches built in to accommodate all the homeowner’s bathing supplies. They are sometimes used instead of, or in addition to, shelves. Their placement and size should be large enough to replace the shower caddy as the catch-all for bathing items.

One of the growing trends in bathroom remodeling projects is the use of benches in showers. These attachments or built-in extensions from the wall are ideal for people with balance and mobility issues, homeowners who are thinking about aging-in-place, anyone who desires a more comfortable shaving position, and people who just like the comfort of sitting while showering. Bench seating offers a place to relax without having to step down into a tub, although it must be sized appropriately to still allow ample standing space within the shower.

Article Credits: Gloria Carlson – Designer

Take a Peek Into Our Shower… Options!

When it comes to your bathroom remodel, designing a comfortable, functional yet beautiful and maybe even creative shower is probably at or near the top of your priority list. It’s one of the first things we do in the morning, and for some a necessary part of the ritual of waking up and facing the day. Choosing just the right materials, textures, colors, shower door and framing options can be one of the fun aspects of planning this part of your bathroom remodeling design for your unique San Francisco Bay Area home.

Sliding Door
One advantage to a sliding door is that it can move aside on rails or into a hidden wall pocket. For smaller bathroom spaces, a pocket that hides the door in a wall maximizes functional space and can be a sleek alternative  in smaller bathroom.

Hinged Door
A hinged door creates a more solid and defined enclosure. Metal or stone structures offer a more defined space. Hinged doors swing into the shower or out into the rest of the bathroom space, so be sure that there is ample room between the shower and the adjoining elements – you don’t want to open your shower door into your toilet or bidet.  Hinges can be attached to a wall or to a frame. Choose waterproof materials that are rust-free and low maintenance / easy to clean.

A shower without a frame opens up and gives the illusion of space, thus making a small to medium size bathroom feel larger.  It can also highlight any accents you have in the shower, such as mosaics, listellos and other tiling patterns. A custom designed tile pattern, whether simple or complex, can create just the right feel and enhance your bathroom and ensure it stands out among the hundreds of other beautiful bathrooms you may have seen throughout our San Francisco Bay Area.

Glass Types
There are several options in glass types for glass shower enclosures:

  • Frosted glass is a popular option for those who want added privacy. While this takes away from the open and spacious effect that comes with clear glass, it has the added effect of seclusion when you’re inside.
  • Cast or patterned glass is beautiful to look at, but may reduce the amount of light from inside the shower, but is an innovative privacy alternative to frosted glass. And with the advent of water-proof LED lighting, and specialty ligthing you can create a colorful or monochromatic lighting plan that can soothe or energize your shower experience while providing a solution to the lack of natural light.
  • Traditional tempered glass has a slightly green tint from its iron properties – this glass embraces a contemporary style/design or offers an opposing cool feeling to an otherwise warm-toned bathroom.   It can also lend itself to spa-like feel, and with the addition of some cucumber scented water, you may never wish to leave.
  • Clear glass (low-iron glass) is a popular choice for people who prefer a clear glass without the slight green tint. This is especially desirable for white or light motifs, or where there is a significant amount of color already in the bathroom, where the preference for the shower enclosure is that is fades quietly into the background.

For more information about choosing the right shower enclosures for your bathroom remodeling project in the San Francisco Bay Area, we would welcome you to give us a call, and speak with one of our knowledgeable design + build employee owners.

You will be floored with all the choices!

Outdoor kitchens are known to be a beautiful extension of your home that can be used to relax or enjoy your time with family and friends. Transform your existing patio into an outdoor kitchen or create a new outside addition in a space that isn’t currently being used for anything else. Aside from size and location, one of the key and first areas to consider when you’re thinking about outdoor kitchen remodeling is your outdoor flooring.

Outdoor kitchen floors should be a flat surface where you can comfortably walk and stand. Choose a material that is durable when exposed to the elements and materials that meet the safety criteria include concrete, brick, engineered stone and natural stone. After safety, consider your design needs and budget. Because of its affordability and durability, concrete is still one of the most popular outdoor flooring options – there is stamped, colored or a rock-salt finish.

Surfaces that work well for outdoor living space remodels include:

  • Flagstone is a durable option as these stones aren’t easily damaged when exposed to the harmful elements. Flagstone does not crack easily and it is not destroyed by termites or other such insects as compared to wood patios which can have both of those problems.
  • Slate is available in a variety of colors and textures as these are made up of a fine type of rock that retains its natural appearance and is smooth and flat.
  • Ceramic tile is a popular choice that offers a variety of colors and finishes to choose from and, in most cases, is adequate in terms of slip resistance.
  • The old standby is brick and is a traditional favorite for a reason – it’s attractive, water and heat resistant, easy to clean and blends in well with all types of furnishings.
  • Porcelain tile – this durable, low maintenance material is making a grand re-entrance with texture, color, the ability to mimic most stones and even wood surfaces, and is a great choice for those who are budget minded, Steer clear of surfaces that are easy to crack or are slippery when wet, like glazed ceramics, porous surfaces, polished stones and glass. Crush-and-run stones are uneven and impractical for a kitchen floor.
  • Field stone / Blue stone – a natural and rustic touch is created when Fieldstone is used in an outdoor living space, especially if the natural stone hasn’t been cut. For a more formal and elegant look, you can use Field stone that is shaped into rectangles and squares.

If you’re not sure what you need or want, talk things over with our Harrell Remodeling design + build team, we’ll walk you through the options and the process so you can have an outdoor kitchen that you’ll truly love.

Enjoy the Beautiful Bay Area Weather in Your Own Custom Outdoor Living Area

What better way to enjoy this beautiful Bay Area weather than in your own custom designed outdoor living area.

From all of us here at Harrell Remodeling, enjoy your weekend!

Wireless Lighting Controls and Home Automation

Wireless controls for lighting and home automation are gaining popularity in home remodeling features. Once you’ve used a remote to turn down the lights or turn up the volume on your sound system, you’ll probably be hooked. Wireless functions go far beyond the convenience of making adjustments without getting up out of your chair, however.

Consider the different lighting and electrically powered items you use each day. Most of them can probably be added to an automated system to reduce inconvenience and the repetition of turning them on and off. Some of these features can be incorporated into a home security system, while others are operated by separate controls. The number of wireless automated devices available on the market is constantly evolving. Your system can be set up to accommodate newer products and models as they become available.

Activity Choices
When choosing which items you want to have control with a wireless timer, think in terms of indoor and outdoor lighting, thermostats, pools, hot tubs, warm floors, security cameras and home surveillance. Use remote control devices from inside or outside the house to turn on specific lights and small appliances. You can also add motion detector alarms to items like cabinets with cleaning supplies or medicine cabinets to help keep kids and toddlers safe. Room-to-room intercom systems are another convenience feature that adds peace of mind for parents or convenience for those with spacious homes. Trigger automation is another option; turn on certain lights when the garage door activates or turn on the deck lights when the sliding door opens.

Wireless devices typically work on a radio frequency (RF). There are three main types of wireless control, Z-Wave, Insteon and X-10. They can be combined with wired automation or stand alone with wireless capabilities, depending on which system you choose to use. Controllers for automated systems come in the form of remote controls, wall switches and tabletop panels. Some wireless speakers and home entertainment systems require hard wiring to create a signal that can be used by wireless remote control devices.

Remotes for Convenience
Dimmer switches powered by remote can raise and lower lighting and sound for everything from kitchen lights to home entertainment. When planning your home remodeling project, do a room-by-room survey with your design-build contractor to cover all of your potential needs.

Energy Conservation
If you’re aiming for greener energy usage, use automatic timers for scheduling the thermostat, towel and floor warmers, and outdoor lighting. Motion sensors can also trigger lights and fans to turn on and off when someone enters or exits the room.

The choices in home automation and wireless controls are practically endless. If you’re not sure which systems you want to control or what the most effective RF or wired signals are for your lifestyle, discuss it with a Bay Area design-build contractor.

A Closer Look at Stone Surface Countertops

Natural stone surfaces have grown in popularity throughout the home. Choosing sturdy and sophisticated surfaces for your countertops and backsplashes adds an unmatched level of beauty to any kitchen.

Made from natural igneous rock, granite is a durable and distinctive countertop surface for kitchen remodeling projects in the Bay Area. It has a different look when polished, adding a look of elegance to kitchens and baths. Variegated, or veined, granite has deep contrasting colors. Consistent, or speckled, granite offers depth and texture.

Some people simply can’t resist the appeal of marble. A softer surface, it is equally beautiful but not as durable as other kitchen countertop surfaces. It will pick up stains and nicks, so if you plan to do much meal preparation, other surfaces are probably better suited. Marble should be sealed at least once a year to help it wear better.

Quartz is a natural crystallized mineral surface that is a popular countertop option in kitchens and baths for Bay Area remodeling projects. It is an alternative to natural stone that that offers a different look and sophistication. Quartz is a naturally occurring mineral in crystalline form. It can be cut in slabs from the quarry, but it more commonly appears as engineered quartz ordered through a manufacturer or distributor to create a beautiful and sturdy countertop surface.

As the largest producer of quartz surfaces, Silestone® offers a diverse range of more than 60 colors and patterned countertop finishes. It is available in single-dimensional, three-dimensional and five-dimensional color processing for added depth.

Microban® is an anti-microbial technology built into kitchen countertops. You’ll find it in Silestone quartz countertops and in other products. It minimizes the presence of bacteria, fungi and mold, which is always good for kitchen and bath surfaces. When a quartz countertop is treated with the protective Microban technology, it’s permanent. It doesn’t wipe off or wash away.

Zodiaq® quartz surfaces are made by DuPont™. This scratch-resistant and heat-resistant engineered quartz crystal surface is rich in depth. It, too, is available in a wide array of colors and textures. Zodiaq®
is well-known for its brilliant colors.

Natural stone countertops can be coordinated with other surfaces in the home during your design and build remodeling project. It’s also a fashionable choice for flooring, walls, tabletops, vanities and backsplashes. Despite the material’s popularity, it is rare to find two stone surfaces in different Bay Area homes that ever look alike.

Choosing Windows and Exterior Doors for Your Home Remodel

You may be asking yourself, “How do I make a decision regarding which windows and doors would be suitable for my remodel or new home? When I look at all the possibilities out there I get overwhelmed.”

We understand the stress related to the thousands of decisions a homeowner faces when it comes to undertaking a remodel. With such a permanent and lasting decision like windows and doors, your first intuition should be to trust a professional. It is important to know what you are hoping to accomplish with the purchase of windows and doors so they can best direct you to the appropriate brand and style.

Here are some things to consider:

Windows: How do you want them to operate? Will they slide or swing open? Let’s start with sliding windows. You will need to decide if they are to slide horizontally or vertically. Once that decision is made a great number of questions will be asked to point you in the right direction. What if they are to swing open? Do you want them to roll open, push open, or pull open? Are there any walkways, shrubbery, or furniture to consider that may affect your decision?

Doors: Will they slide or swing? If sliding, do you want them to be French (wide stiles and rails) or Patio (narrow stiles and rails) style frames? If swinging, do you want Inswing or Outswing? Also, think about the obstructions as you would with windows and if they swing out, how will you keep the doors open if a wind kicks up or if there are lighting sconces on the wall?

If you don’t mind painting or staining on a regular basis there are windows and doors made completely of wood. However, there are low-maintenance wood windows and doors with exterior frames clad in aluminum or vinyl. This gives you the traditional warm look of wood on the interior yet protects the exterior wood from damage by the natural elements. (You just have to clean them once in a while.) There are also windows and doors made with aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass framing, each with their own special aesthetic and feel.

There are also different types of glass, grids (mullions), hardware and screen styles, each varying by brand and each offering an array of energy efficiency.

Stroll through your neighborhood or thumb through magazines to get an idea of what you would like to see in your home. Then take the time to visit showrooms in your area in order to see the differences up close. Consumer Reports can help you compare brands.

The right purchase not only enhances the warmth and beauty of your home, it will also help create energy savings for you and our planet.

By: Danielle LaNear