A Time for Reflection; A Time for Gratitude: Women Still Lead the Way at Harrell Remodeling

It’s that time of the year again, as we celebrate the holiday season and approach the end of the year, when the world slows just a bit and the season creates the time and space for reflection and gratitude. We reflect on the positive things that have occurred in our lives during the year, and on the challenges and hardships we faced. We are grateful for the good things in our lives and take inventory of the losses, contemplating how we move forward in the coming year. This year, a moment of gratitude is especially helpful to makes sense of an otherwise challenging year for all of us.

For Harrell Remodeling, as the year 2020 in business draws to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on our company’s ground-breaking history, the extraordinary year we have faced, the success we had as a company, and all the great possibilities that lie in the years ahead. Through it all, HRI has been grounded in a culture and values that embrace diversity and offers a gentler, more compassionate remodeling experience for its clients. But even more so, we find gratitude in our broad and diverse group of clients who have embraced our unique approach to Design + Build remodeling. They have been the foundation that helped build our great company.

Exemplifying the motto, “We never forget it’s your home,” from the outset Harrell Remodeling made its mark by flipping the script on the typical jobsite mentality, providing a kinder, more considerate touch in our client interactions. From the beginning, company founder Iris Harrell instituted jobsite rules that embodied a woman’s sensibility and fell right in line with the corporate motto to respect our clients and their homes. For over three decades, these policies have been a key point of differentiating HRI from the average general contractor.

When Iris founded Harrell Remodeling in 1985, she was one of very few women in the construction industry. Her pioneering and visionary spirit shaped a Bay Area company that educated and elevated those around her – employees and clientele alike. That vision included diverse and deliberative hiring focused more deeply on cultural fit than prior construction experience. Her process of hiring based on one’s potential and ethos has resulted in numerous talented women assuming leadership roles, each of whom have been instrumental in advancing the success that continually carries us forward.

Lisa Sten, CR, CID, UDCP is a perfect example of the vital leadership roles women have held at HRI. And in March 2020, Harrell Remodeling once again welcomed a woman leader to its helm. Lisa assumed the role of CEO upon the retirement of Ciro Giammona, the company’s most recent past CEO who recounted, “My mother raised me as a feminist!” Sharing in Iris’s passion for excellence, Lisa is mentoring a new generation of women leaders to meet this moment, ensuring the future success of HRI while continuing to foster the culture and values upon which it was founded.

Before relocating to the Bay Area from Minneapolis, a mutual acquaintance connected Lisa and Iris, leading to Lisa joining Harrell Remodeling in October 2000. Lisa always wanted to be involved in helping to govern HRI. Over her twenty-year tenure, Lisa has taken on more responsibility and leadership, holding positions as Sales Designer, Sales Manager, General Manager, culminating in her transition from President to the company’s top position as CEO.

“I still embrace our long-standing mission to provide excellent customer service and be our clients’ ‘contractor for life’.” When asked about what it means to be a woman leader in a still primarily male-dominated industry Sten replied, “Harrell Remodeling has an inclusive culture that encourages new ideas and achievements regardless of gender. As Employee-Owners, we collaborate toward a singular goal, providing the ultimate quality and the best customer service to every client.”

According to Ciro Giammona, he stated emphatically that Lisa’s progressive entrepreneurial spirit, deeply-rooted understanding of the industry, and “get it done” attitude are reminiscent of Harrell Remodeling’s founder. “She embodies our company’s innate DNA and deeply entrenched core values. Through her leadership, Lisa Sten continues to elevate Harrell Remodeling’s already high level of quality, design, and customer care to even greater heights.”

Other talented female leaders also play critical roles at HRI. Senior Designer and Sales Coordinator, Gloria Carlson, CKD, UDCP, has worked at Harrell Remodeling for over six years. Gloria prides herself on listening to her clients, understanding their needs and lifestyle, which enables her to provide designs that are appropriate to how they live and the overall design of their homes. She also takes the lead in matching clients to other HRI Designers who then explore remodeling engagements with Harrell Remodeling.

Senior Designer and Design Coordinator, Sara Jorgensen, AKBD, CID, has been a key player at Harrell Remodeling for over 14 years. Sara is a stickler for process and helps guide all of our projects through the critical phases of design development, like feasibility and city plan check reviews. For her own projects, Sara starts with the initial planning stage, commencing with complex code city research. From the schematic floor plans to the design development for the entirety of the project, Sara works from a holistic viewpoint to the smallest of details that create the design’s “wow” factor.

Chief Design + Build Estimator/Specifier, Kathy Paul, has been estimating projects for Harrell Remodeling since 1998. In 2001, Kathy was promoted to Chief Estimator, and over the past 20 years has been leading the estimating team and been instrumental in developing Harrell’s comprehensive approach to developing projects through thoughtful phases from conceptual scopes of work to highly detailed build contracts.

Outdoor Living Designer, Lisa Parramore, APLD, brings a unique set of experience and skills to Harrell Remodeling. Lisa P’s passion for designing indoor-outdoor living spaces enables her clients to embrace the lifestyle for which California is celebrated. Her projects are informed by the special relationship between traditional Japanese architecture and their surroundings, whether it’s borrowing scenery from a distant landscape or creating a lovely courtyard vignette, Lisa P’s creativity is inspiring.

Divya Vijayanandakumar, LEED AP ID+C, UDCP, joined Harrell Remodeling in May 2019, and has already proven herself to her colleagues and clients alike. She takes a practical approach to designing spaces for clients, making sure functionality is weighted equally to design. Her charming personality makes her easy to work with and her practical approach to leading clients through the phases of design make the journey both pleasant and productive.

Harrell Remodeling’s design team offers a heightened appreciation for the finer points of style trends, mixing of materials, color, and cabinetry. Their practical knowledge of the home and inherent female touch affords them the ability to lead clients through a complex journey of design and value.

Despite having one of the industry’s most talented and award-winning design teams, “Collaborating with clients is a philosophy,” explains retired HRI Designer, Genie Nowicki. “If you engage the client in the design process, it’s a much stronger relationship.”

By involving every client in a collaborative process, listening to and understanding their distinct requirements, HRI’s female design leaders provide the love and care clients want, the quality they expect, and the flawless execution for which Harrell Remodeling is known.

As we enter 2021, we are incredibly grateful for our community of clients, many of whom have become friends and serial remodelers. Thank you for trusting Harrell Remodeling to transform your homes and make your vision a reality. We are inspired by the women in leadership roles that carry us forward into the future, and we remain indebted to Iris for the foundational and cutting-edge culture and values upon which she constructed the company. All of Harrell Remodeling’s Employee-Owners uphold the high bar she established for quality, relationships, and client care.

Since 1985, Harrell Remodeling remains Woman Founded, Client-Focused, and Employee-Owned.

Meet Harrell Remodeling Project Manager Gary Gray

From cutting-edge software products to high-tech brands, to Bay Area homes, Harrell Remodeling Inc. Project Manager, Gary Gray, has been designing and building great things his entire life.

Born in Virginia, Gary had a passion early on for architecture and construction. He grew up watching “This Old House” and working side-by-side with his father on a myriad of home improvement projects. “Thanks to my dad, I was able to experience first-hand the “ins and outs” of home improvement. He taught me to take pride in our home and the importance of maintaining it well,” recalls Gary. These core values are ones which Gary has carried with him throughout his life and career, values that perfectly align with his exceptional customer service, attention to detail, integrity, and a deeply rooted respect for helping homeowners achieve their vision.

Building on his interest in mechanical drawing and architectural design during his high school years, Gary moved south to Florida where he obtained his degree in Advertising Design.

Flipping homes had always sounded intriguing to Gary, and in 2008, he ventured into the business and partnered with a friend trained in the trades, to begin rehabbing Bay Area residences. His very first project was quite successful and for the next eight years, Gary worked more and more on his own, gaining valuable experience as he remodeled multiple homes, including a tear down of a Mid Century Modern home to build a 3,000+ square foot contemporary masterpiece in Palo Alto, CA. “This project was ambitious but offered the opportunity for me to explore me further develop my Design + Build skills. With this project, I did it all, creating the architectural drawings, interior design, and project management,” Gary states. “This was a unique opportunity to design and construct a large-scale project from beginning to end, and see my visions turn into reality. The end result was extraordinary…a stunning contemporary home that was simply amazing.”

Seeking new opportunities to leverage all he’d learned, Gary was recruited by Home Depot Exteriors to take on the role of Installation Service Manager for the Silicon Valley managing over $3 million in home improvement projects across a 9-store territory from San Mateo to south San Jose. Following Home Depot, Gary moved to a Kitchen and Bath Design + Build firm initially as a Project Manager before being asked to lead the production team as Field Operations Supervisor. And then, his path crossed with the leadership of Harrell Remodeling, which resulted in him joining the project management team. At Harrell, Gary most enjoys being a client’s trusted advisor during construction, guiding them through the build process and leading their project efficiently through the various phases of construction.

Gary is certified in OSHA safety, is EPA Lead certified, and is currently working on additional certifications through the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). He brings to Harrell not only a wealth of experience, but a collaborative, team-oriented mindset. “Harrell Remodeling is much more than your typical contractor,” states Gary. “As a Design + Build firm, we listen to our clients wants and needs, and design to their sensibilities. Each of our Employee-Owners takes enormous pride in what we do, making us that reliable Design + Build partner our clients can trust.”

Gary takes time to give back to his community, having been appointed by his City Counsel to serve as a Commissioner on their Public Works and Transportation Committee. A coffee lover (bold brews only, please), avid gardener, golfer, and DIY’er, Gary has traveled extensively but one of his favorite places is Cabo San Lucas, Mexico which he says is “a slice of paradise where you can escape the daily grind and rejuvenate your spirit.” Gary’s favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote is one that he strives to live by daily; “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Harrell Remodeling Wins 2019 ESOP Company of the Year

PALO ALTO, CA Harrell Remodeling, Inc., has been named the 2019 ESOP Company of the Year by The ESOP Association. The announcement was made at the Association’s Annual Conference in Tahoe, CA.

“Harrell Remodeling is a terrific example of an ESOP company that actively engages its employee owners, the employee ownership community, and our elected officials at the local and federal levels,” said Lisa Sten, President of Harrell Remodeling. “We are fiercely proud of our commitment to sharing the power of ESOPs both internally and externally.

Founded in 1985, the company launched its ESOP only a few years later, in 2001. By 2014, Harrell Remodeling was 100 percent employee owned with every one of our employees eligible to participate in our Harrell Remodeling ESOP.

”We are so often inspired by the many remarkable Employee Owned companies that make our ESOP Association Chapter,” states Ciro Giammona, CEO of Harrell Remodeling “To win the Chapter’s Company of the Year Award among such an impressive field of contenders is a true honor and it makes us that much more proud of our 100% Employee Owned company and our Team!”

Harrell Remodeling proudly supports our internal ESOP educational committee, comprised of employee owners from every department in the company. They meet for 60 minutes once a month and offer a wide range of educational and inspirational activities to help our employee owners learn about ESOPs and our unique company culture. Externally, they shares lessons learned by participating in and speaking at chapter and national meetings of The ESOP Association.

Founded by Iris Harrell in 1985, Harrell Remodeling is now a 100% employee owned company, and provide award winning, full-service Design + Build services, specializing in timeless residential interior/exterior design.

Learn more about our work and culture here: https://harrell-remodeling.com.

About ESOPs
An ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) is a retirement plan permitted by federal law. Owners of a business set up an ESOP by selling some or all of their shares to an ESOP trust, which then credits shares to the accounts of participating employees. The Trust holds the shares for employees for the duration of their tenure with the company. After leaving the business, employees may receive cash for the value of their shares or roll the funds they receive into another qualified retirement vehicle. ESOPs are the only retirement plan authorized to invest primarily in the stock of the employer. Under specific conditions, employees are legally entitled to diversify their ESOP funds and to invest assets outside of the company.

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Media contact:
Bella Babot
Director of Marketing
[email protected]

Meet Harrell Remodeling Designer Angela Rasmussen

Joining Harrell Remodeling, Inc. after running her own award-winning Design + Build company for over a decade, designer Angela Rasmussen is always thinking of the next big idea. An entrepreneurial innovator known for her “hustle and creativity,” Angela is inspired by designing homes where function is just as important as beauty.

Growing up in Washington state, Angela possessed an innate ability to view the world in a uniquely imaginative way. Initially pursuing a degree in photography as a way to channel her talents, in 2004 she decided to redirect her creativity into designing beautiful homes. Following the sunshine and with $400 in her pocket, she relocated to the Bay Area and enrolled in West Valley College’s acclaimed Interior Design Program.

After flipping a few homes, in 2009 Angela decided to launch her own Design + Build company in Silicon Valley. “From a very young age, I realized that we have choices in life to do and be anything we want if we simply muster the up the drive and put in the work. I made a conscious decision to overcome my fears and expand my abilities.”

Her favorite projects are those in which she is able to make small spaces feel larger. “I love the challenge of reimagining an existing footprint to make a small room feel expansive,” Angela says. She also specializes in integrating technology and enhancing living spaces by incorporating lighting design.

As life often does, it took a sharp turn, allowing Angela to once again reinvent her career path. Angela’s favorite quote is one of her own, and one that she took to heart during this time of turbulence. “Life as you know it is merely a manifestation of your conditioned perception. Bend it to your will.”

When the opportunity arose to join Harrell Remodeling in 2019, Angela jumped at the chance. “Harrell has always been my former company’s main competitor and I’ve always respected their work,” explains Angela. “As an entrepreneur, the company’s employee ownership format appealed to me. Being a part of a cutting-edge team that appreciates design and works collaboratively is incredibly attractive.”

Known for her drive, integrity, transparency, and ability to achieve amazing results, Angela brings her multi-faceted Design + Build experience to the Harrell team. “I’m not just here to do a job,” Angela states. “I am always trying to out-do myself, create better design, build a better business, provide better service and communication, and add technology to simplify processes.”

A social butterfly, Angela loves planning and hosting parties and events, and taking weekend RV excursions with friends, especially if that means heading to a warm, sunny beach. Her orange tabby, Raja, always greets her in the driveway when she returns home. An avid believer in continual personal growth, John Maxwell, a renown expert in leadership and business development, is one of her favorite authors and speakers.

Deconstructing a Designer: Divya Vijayanandakumar

Having created over fifty compelling interiors in both India and the Bay Area, Divya Vijayanandakumar brings a wealth of design experience to Harrell Remodeling Inc. Born and raised in Chennai, India, the most significant cultural, economic and educational center of south India, Divya initially pursued Computer Science but after graduating with a Bachelors degree, she did a career about-face, deciding to come to Silicon Valley in 2004 to attend West Valley College, where she achieved her AA degree in Interior Design.

After working in a residential firm as a Junior Designer and then moving to a commercial firm as a Senior Interior Designer contributing her talents to large-scale office buildings as well as healthcare and educational facilities, Divya moved back to India in 2011. She spent a few years working at a high-end residential design firm before launching her own residential and commercial Design + Build company, Plan B, whose award-winning designs were featured in none other than Vogue Magazine.

“My favorite commercial project was close to the beach in a prime location in Chennai,” reflects Divya. “It was a building that would serve as a retail showcase for up and coming fashion and lifestyle designers in India. The Plan D created that space from the ground up, inside and out. It put the company on the map.”

Her favorite residential project to date was a show home for clients with a limitless budget. With 16,000 square feet, it was an Interior Designer’s dream project, that included top of the line, carefully curated fixtures, products and materials.

Once again, the Bay Area called and Divya answered, relocating once again to Silicon Valley and joining Harrell Remodeling Inc. in May 2019 as one of our Designers. Divya brings with her a keen eye for design aesthetics along with a deep-rooted understanding of field work, project management, and entrepreneurship.

A LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design and Construction, Divya also has her Evidence Based Design certification and accreditation. She is driven by creating a sense of function and beauty by understanding the deepest wants and needs of her clients. She fully believes that that grade of work you offer the world reflects that strength of the respect you have for yourself, and lives by this credo through her integrity, professionalism, patience, and empathy.

“I was drawn to Harrell Remodeling because it is very different than any other work environment I’ve experienced,” shares Divya. “The employee-owner concept means there is no internal competition. It literally changes the entire dynamic to one where we all work efficiently and effectively together toward a common goal-making our clients’ homes perfect for them.”

Divya has volunteered her time working with Habitat for Humanity as well as with a former organization called Design Response, that also created affordable spaces for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have a home. She also put her artistic skills to work painting murals at local schools.

When she isn’t working, Divya, her husband, and young son enjoy trail hiking all around the Bay Area. A self-proclaimed “major foodie,” she loves discovering new restaurants and is extremely well-traveled, having spent considerable time immersing herself with the goal of “living like a local” in Italy, Thailand, New Zealand, Greece, and Croatia.

Design, Build…Run?!

Everyone on the Harrell Team has interesting backgrounds and hobbies. It’s always fun to learn more about the person who’s designing your kitchen remodel, prepping your home for impending construction, swinging hammers on-site, or the team members in charge of making the entire project run smoothly.

By day, Nigel Robinson is one of our valued and talented carpenters. But when he lays down his construction tools, Nigel is a marathon runner. And he can thank his wife Margaret for getting him hooked on this hobby.

When they were living in Edinburgh, Scotland, Margaret, who was an avid runner, suggested running with the local chapter of the worldwide Hash House Harriers, which is often described as “a drinking club with a running problem.” Though he’d never been a serious runner, Nigel decided to join because it was a lively social club (the Brits really know how to have a good time) as well as a way to get a bit of exercise.

“We’d get together, run a bit, and then hit a pub,” shares Nigel of the Harriers’ typical get together. “But the group would do longer runs, some 20 to 25 miles and others, epic 80 to 100-mile runs spanning a four day period. So, yeah, they had a running problem to be sure!”

This social interaction along with Margaret’s enthusiasm for the sport sparked Nigel’s passion for running. He ran his first marathon unexpectedly in 2009 when Margaret, who was training for the Edinburgh Marathon, had an accident, which resulted in an injury. So, Nigel decided to take over her spot in the race.

“I’d been running about six miles a week,” Nigel explained. “And I thought, six miles, thirty miles, that can’t be much of a difference. Well, it was. I promptly injured myself with that foolishness, but then prepared properly for a marathon that fall.”

But that marathon clinched it. Nigel was hooked. Ever since, he has run numerous marathons in the U.K., Germany, Canada, and the United States. While still living in Scotland, he participated in the Loch Ness and Edinburgh marathons and also ran the Munich (Germany) marathon. After returning to the United States, he continued running, putting in miles, and participating in more marathons including the Humboldt Redwoods Marathon, and the Santa Rosa Marathon, which is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

“Santa Rosa is a flat, fast course, and the race is held just before the Boston entry cut-off, so it’s popular for people that want to qualify for Boston.”

Just recently, Nigel ran the Boston Marathon for the second time, his third time qualifying. The Boston Marathon holds the distinction as the oldest marathon in the nation, with about thirty thousand people running the race and thousands more spectating. It’s held on Patriot’s Day, a holiday commemorating the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.

Nigel’s four-months of training leading up to the event had him running five days a week, averaging fifty miles a week. During this time, he caught a cold and missed four training days. But the week before the event and on race day, he was “feeling pretty good.” Nigel’s brother-in-law also ran the race and Nigel’s wife, mom, and sister-in-law came with them to Boston to cheer on the two runners.

“I was shooting for a race time of three hours, seventeen minutes and was on track until mile sixteen. Unfortunately, I was coming off a cold and those last ten miles were tough,” says Nigel.

Nigel finished the race with a final time of three hours, fifty-two minutes but believed had he been healthy, he would have met or bested his goal time. Because he got into Boston, Nigel and his brother-in-law were both eligible to sign up for the “Boston 2 Big Sur” option of the Big Sur International Marathon on April 28th, a popular race among runners that takes a scenic, hilly route from Big Sur to Carmel.

Explains Nigel, “There are about 400 spots reserved in the Big Sur race for people who run Boston. It’s not common to run two races so close together but Big Sur was an opportunity to run a beautiful course and take on a special challenge.”

Nigel’s final race time for Big Sur was three hours, fifty minutes. “My finishing time was slow but running two marathons basically back-to-back, your body doesn’t have a lot of time to recover. And, as luck would have it, I caught another cold. But Big Sur is a fantastic marathon. The course is quite hilly but the scenery is amazing.”

Nigel Robinson is a Carpenter Level II and has been with Harrell Remodeling for three years. He grew up in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, receiving his B.A. in History from the University of Waterloo. He also earned a two-year certification in Heritage Restoration from Algonquin College in Canada. The Heritage Restoration course taught shop and millwork fundamentals, along with an appreciation of buildings and architecture. Nigel is driven to create high-quality results that are on-time and on-budget. With fifteen years of carpentry experience under his tool belt, Nigel loves his work, the environment, the Harrell staff, and the clients. “I want people to know that we really do live our motto, ‘We never forget it’s your home.’” Though he enjoys every project, he is most enthusiastic when a project presents him with the opportunity to problem-solve creative solutions or exceptionally detailed work. His favorite project was one in which he constructed an outdoor bench and pergola. “It required precisely curved beams, which were interesting and challenging to fabricate,” Nigel shares about what inspired him about the project. Harrell Remodeling is an employee-owned business, and Nigel finds that to be a great motivator knowing that he is sharing in the company’s success.

When he’s not working for Harrell Remodeling, Nigel loves to be outdoors. In addition to running, he enjoys camping, rock climbing, and in the early 1990s, took a summer off to explore Canada and the West Coast on a bicycle tour. He also volunteers his time at the West Point Inn, a heritage non-profit on Mt. Tamalpais as well as helps at the annual Western States Endurance Run, a 100.2-mile ultramarathon that traverses between Squaw Valley and Auburn. When it comes to travel, Nigel “has a particular love of desert canyons” but going “anywhere in the back of beyond” feeds his soul.

Defying his British heritage, Nigel prefers coffee over tea. Though currently pet-free, Nigel and his wife had two cats, Tuna and Wasabi. He enjoys listening to podcasts, his two favorites being “Marathon Talk” and “Stay Tuned with Preet.” He is also an avid consumer of political news.