Fireplace Shapes, Styles & Trends

Gone are the days of the standard built-in masonry wood-burning fireplaces. Today’s fireplaces offer a tantalizing trifecta of ambiance, customization, and technology. Sleek lines and multi-media options abound, all of which offer homeowners endless ways to add the inviting warmth of a fire into their homes.

Fireplace Favorites

The linear fireplace is by far a homeowner favorite and a hot trend right now. Built into the wall, they don’t take up any square footage and they can easily be incorporated into rooms of any size. Linear units can be as small as 36 inches in length to an impressive 10 feet long (varying by manufacturer) with ribbon of flame spanning the entire width. Linear fireplaces come in a myriad of styles including tunnel, stand alone, corner and front facing units as well as space creators, used to separate living spaces while retaining an open feel. These horizontal pieces can be complemented with surround finishes including bronze, black, graphite, stainless steel, and even hammered copper.

Gas inserts are another popular option to convert and modernize existing brick or stone fireplaces without undergoing significant renovation. Though the general size and shape of inserts are fairly standard, there are a multitude of styles from classic to contemporary. A fireplace insert can transform your energy-inefficient, expensive, and high-maintenance wood-burning unit into a beautiful, energy-efficient fireplace that creates instant ambiance and warmth. Something to take note of for inserts is that they have a thicker frame around the outside of the units.

LED Lighting

Fire and technology seem like two unlikely bedfellows but today’s models are packed with techy touches. One of the most sought-after is LED lighting, which can be changed to fit décor or to achieve a particular ambiance. With the touch of a button, homeowners can choose from a rainbow of hues.

“Manufacturers have really upped their game in the choices of media,” states Harrell senior designer Sara Jorgensen. “One of our clients chose a unit with LED lighting so they could alter the color to fit their mood. They use the red tone for Valentine’s Day and Christmas and teal to show their support of their favorite hockey team, the San Jose Sharks.”

Reflective Glass

Once upon a time, brick was the material of choice for fireplaces, especially the back panels. Choices were limited to a simple straight brick pattern or a herringbone design. In addition to the traditional designs, modern fireplaces now offer a black reflective glass that enhances the beauty and luminescence of the flames. The clean, sleek lines of these reflective panels provide a contemporary look that can be a pleasing aesthetic addition.

“I highly recommend going to see the reflective panels in person,” says Sara. “They just sparkle.”

Customized log sets

Another medium that allows fireplace personalization is by choosing a customized log set. R.H. Peterson Company’s Realfyre offers an extensive line of incredibly realistic ceramic log inserts. The hand painted log sets are available in a wide variety of wood types such as woodland oak, western campfire logs, and charred, rugged split oak to name a very few.

For those desiring a more modern look, Realfyre also offers a glass pan burner system that are ideal for island, see-thru, and peninsula fireplaces. Instead of a log set, flames erupt from glass gems or nuggets that cover the base of the firepan. Different shapes, colors, and reflectivity of the glass can be chosen to fit the décor of a space.

Heat N Glo is another highly reputable fireplace manufacturer and they also offer a selection of realistic log sets as well as a modern ceramic fiber stone base for some of their models.

Zero Combustible Zone

Another technological advancement is the creation of a zero combustible zone. This transfers heat through other venting areas and away from sensitive electronics. Ortal fireplaces offer cool wall technology, allowing wall-mounted televisions to be placed within inches of the fireplace at optimal viewing level. With televisions being a primary entertainment source for most and the ever-increasing popularity of placing TVs above fireplaces, this eliminates the need to mount your TV at uncomfortable neck-craning levels.

No matter the type of fireplace you choose, it is required by code to have a screen for safety reasons. Depending upon the manufacturer, some screens are visible while others are more of a mesh that is designed to protect but not be seen.

Sara offers this advice to homeowners choosing a fireplace, “I always advise my clients to go see the fireplace in person so they get a real-life view of what it looks like and how visible or “invisible’ the safety screen is. Seeing it online just isn’t the same so it’s worth a trip to a place like California Window and Fireplace in Campbell before we place your order.”

With all of the media, finishes, shapes and sizes, there is a fireplace that fits your personality, décor, and lifestyle. The options are endless so let your imagination run hot!

Sara Jorgensen is a California state Certified Interior Designer (CID) and a Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP) with a BA in Fine Arts in Interior Design. A Harrell designer since 2005, she has the unique ability to discover and artfully execute her clients’ design desires along with their functional needs.

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!

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.

Bathroom with skylight sun tunnel

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.

Skylights

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.

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.

Wallpaper
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.

Drywall
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.

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.

Types
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.

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

Flooring Choices and Where to Use Them

When it comes to Bay Area home remodels, flooring options can affect the look, feel and sound of any room in the home. Some types are more environmentally-friendly than others. While flooring choices are nearly endless, here are four popular choices in Bay Area remodeling.

Marmoleum
Marmoleum is a type of linoleum made by Forbo Flooring Systems. Its roots are in the phrase “marbleized linoleum.” Marmoleum is anti-static, anti-microbial, is easy to keep dust-free and is ideal for people with allergies. It’s a solid choice for kitchens and bathrooms because of its naturally clean features and lasts between 25 and 40 years. Vibrant color and pattern choices are diverse, separating it from its stereotypical ancestry of linoleum. This green material is not based in petroleum, but in linseed oil. It is one of the greenest flooring materials on the market today.

Amtico
Vinyl flooring has long been a popular choice in flooring for any room in the house. From kitchens to living rooms to hallways to bedrooms, Amtico flooring is a popular choice for remodeling projects. Manufactured by a British company, this is a higher line vinyl floor known for use with accents, designs and patterns. It discolors with high heat, and protective floor guards will keep it from getting scratched by furniture. An Amtico floor dressing will provide added protection from scuffs, spills and scratches.

Cork
Cork flooring is a sustainable material that comes in as many as 40 different shades of color and a variety of patterns. It is comfortable to walk on in bare feet and is an excellent choice as a noise barrier. Use it for upstairs floors or for rooms where quiet is appreciated. Although it is insect-resistant and can last for years, it is susceptible to scratches and dents from furniture, sharp objects and high heels. Cork flooring is practical for people with allergies, but fades under constant light and warps with high humidity. Use it in any room in the house except the bathroom and laundry room.

Hardwoods
Hardwood floors are durable, ranging in color from blond to black. Exotic and domestic woods offer high quality. They blend well with any decor and will last for years when sealed. Medium shades show less dirt than dark or light hardwoods, and placing mats by high traffic exterior doors is wise. Hardwood flooring lasts more than 100 years and can be refinished or repurposed to extend its life. Hardwood floors are good for people with allergies and are easy to keep clean.

Warm Flooring Offers Cozy Options For Cold Feet

If you’ve ever walked across a cold floor barefoot, you’ve probably wished for a warmer surface. You can change that with your next remodeling project. There are a variety of floor heating systems, each a little different but all with the same purpose – warmth and coziness. Flat heating mats typically offer electric radiant heat. Loose heating cable systems are another option. Hydronic radiant heat pumps warm water through flooring pipes. Air-heated floors are similar to hydronics, using air tubes instead. All warm flooring heating elements are installed underneath the floor and are invisible from above. Depending on the type, they can be used to heat the floor or the whole room with a minimum installation area of about 20 square feet.

Where to Use Warm Floors
If you’re primarily interested in foot comfort, consider putting them in the hallway, kitchen, bathroom, living room or bedroom. Hydronic systems are also used to heat swimming pools and outdoor living spaces from below.

The Basics
Mats and loose cabling are powered by low voltage electrical wiring and affect the immediate area. Hydronics are designed much like the loose cabling method, snaking through the space in a carefully planned configuration. Regardless of the method of heat used, your floor typically needs to be removed and replaced during installation. This is one reason why installing warm floors as part of a remodeling project is a frequent choice among Bay area homeowners. Another option is to use a warm floor system that installs underneath the floor joists. This allows you to keep your existing floor if the joists are easily accessible from the ceiling below.

Flooring Surfaces
Radiant flooring can be used under a variety of surfaces, but are most effective under marble, tile and natural stone, creating floor temperatures into the mid-90s if desired. They are less effective with carpet, hardwoods and vinyl. There are also some systems specifically designed for concrete floors.

Scalability Options
While incorporating a warm floor in your bathroom remodeling project is a popular choice for cold feet, there are multiple alternatives. Choose from floors only to whole rooms to whole-home heating. Radiant underfloor heating is cleaner, quieter and more energy efficient than using forced air, although certain systems are more energy-efficient than others. If you are incorporating soundproof rooms into your home and you’re concerned about unwanted noise generated by forced-air heating systems, warm floors are a quiet alternative. Hydronic heating is a strong solution for whole-home heating. Installation involves multiple zones which are controlled with programmable thermostats for your family’s lifestyle.

There are several alternatives in warm flooring, depending on your needs. The design + build professionals at Harrell Remodeling can help you to choose the one that works best for your Bay area home.