The Beauty of Backsplashes: From Minimalistic to Artistic

One of the most exciting parts of undergoing a kitchen or bath remodel is putting your personal touch on the newly transformed space. Backsplashes present incredible possibilities—from minimalistic to artistic. There exists an array of colors, textures, sizes, materials, and designs from which to choose, all of which can take your remodeled kitchen or bath to the next level.

A standard backsplash used to be a single 4- to 6-inch-high run of material that matched the countertop. Strictly functional, its purpose was to protect the painted wall from being damaged by heavy pots and kitchen messes. A single run format works a bit better in a bathroom but leaves a significant area of painted wall exposed to dirt and grease in a kitchen, which is much more challenging to clean and maintain than tile.

Lisa Mellberg, Harrell Remodeling Allied ASID CAD/Designer, explains that these days, a backsplash isn’t limited to this thin, linear arrangement. “When it comes to designing a backsplash, many clients want to embrace what’s on-trend, while others have a very firm sense of personal style,” she emphasizes. Trendy or unique, the options are endless, and the impact is impressive.

Budget, material, and application are three primary points to consider when designing a backsplash in a kitchen or bath.

Budget

Your backsplash budget determines the type and amount of material options at your disposal. Tile and solid slab material come in a large range of price points. Standard tile sizes keep the price down, while novel tile formats such as mosaic, hand painted, or dimensional patterns have higher price tags for the material and installation. Solid slab can also be on the higher end depending on the specific type and the intricacy of fabrication.

Material

Tile comes in all sizes, shapes, colors, textures, finishes, and patterns and is the cornerstone of the overall design. Colors range from neutral to bold and opaque to a mutable watercolor wash. Textured tile creates a rustic, handcrafted artisanal appearance, or you can use matte, metallic, or glossy finishes for a modern, sleek backsplash design.

Lisa loves the textural handcrafted appearance of Moroccan Zellige tile. “The uneven, rough edges and monochromatic yet varied color is striking.”

Three-dimensional and decorative tiles are bursting with character and personality. For homeowners who want a dramatic visual, hand painted tiles make an artistic statement with distinct colors and patterns. Applied as a focal point behind a range or covering entire walls, hand painted tiles produce a strong pattern and color statement in any space.

“Subway tiles are still in high demand because they’re timeless,” states Lisa. “Choosing an unconventional size, color, or finish can create a dramatic result.”

Full slab quartz that matches the countertop is yet another popular backsplash material. It’s durable, low maintenance, and offers incredible variation. Lisa also points out that quartz can come at a higher price point due to the material, fabrication, and installation which can be relatively costly.

Application

Application, or the tile layout, is another essential backsplash element.

Rectangular subway tiles continue to be a popular choice, and now they are available in a wide variety of sizes, colors, finishes, and textures. The term “subway tile” comes from the first 3” x 6” rectangular tile installed in the New York City subway system in 1904.

Lisa suggests that rather than installing the horizontal layout typically found with subway tile, that you can use a vertical application to add interest while retaining the classic appeal. “Installing the tile upright in a stacked layout gives new life to a standard look.”

Choosing a unique shape is another way to make a visual statement. Mosaic layouts using hexagon, wave, picket, chevron, and diamond shapes create eye-catching designs. Still, they can involve a higher cost for installation and require more maintenance due to the numerous grout lines.

In kitchens, backsplashes can span an entire wall from countertop to ceiling or be a focal point behind the range or floating shelves, which are very on-trend. They can also wrap a sink window or fill the area between the countertops and the underside of the cabinets.

In bathrooms, a backsplash can be minimal and straightforward, or it can run countertop to ceiling, even flowing into a shower and tub space, as shown below.

Modern, rustic, bold, neutral, luxurious, decorative, textural. Backsplashes offer a magnificently creative way to express and embrace your style while also serving a functional purpose.

Are you considering ways to reimagine your residence? We invite you to schedule a complimentary discussion with one of our experienced Designers.

Or, attend one of our virtual workshops to learn more about the Harrell Remodel Design + Build experience.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

Top Tech and Trends From KBIS 2021

Harrell Remodeling Designers Barb Wingo and Brooke Nicholson virtually attended KBIS (The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show®), the preeminent and highly anticipated kitchen and bath design event. In association with the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), KBIS offers an inspirational, interactive platform showcasing the latest industry products, trends, and technologies.

The topics and products presented at KBIS confirmed that homeowners seek to repurpose and reimagine the spaces in their homes. It came as no surprise that outdoor living, smart home technology, cleanliness and hygiene, and Universal Design continue to gain traction.

“Harrell has seen firsthand how spending so much time in their homes has clients exploring new ways to improve it inside and out,” affirms Barb.

“The environment and eco-friendly renovation was another hot topic,” Brooke contributes. “Luxury kitchen upcycling is a trend that is also gaining a foothold.”

Here’s a quick peek into our Designers’ top KBIS take-aways for 2021.

Taking Life Outside

The pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home orders have upped the ante for indoor-outdoor living. Travel restrictions have homeowners seeking to design memorable experiences in their own homes. Barb points outs, “Rather than traveling to resort destinations, the trend is to transform yards to create a multi-functional retreat atmosphere at home.”

Through expanding usable outdoor square footage, homeowners also extend the value of their homes. Families are looking for covered outdoor areas that offer protection from the elements with all the comforts of inside spaces. They want amenities that allow them to cook, dine, relax, entertain, work, study and learn al fresco.

Pergolas and cabanas expand outdoor space by creating exterior “rooms” that can be fully equipped with a myriad of conveniences, including outdoor kitchens, pizza ovens, surround sound, WiFi, lighting, and outdoor furnishings that rival their interior cousins in comfort.

Watching TV outside, participating in Zoom meetings and social hours, and family movie nights under the stars have all given rise to the popularity of projection. The anti-glare technology enables a vibrant, clear image even in full sun, and it rolls up and hides away when not in use.

“Outdoor living has been a hot trend for years, but the trend now is to design exterior spaces that serve as a destination, offering many of the luxury amenities of travel locations. Homeowners want a multi-functional area they can use as an office, movie theatre, learning environment, and staycation escape all in one,” Barb points out.

Smart Kitchen/Smart Appliances

Smart appliances that are part of the connected environment in a home bring additional value to the owner. With the ability to update wirelessly and customized with enhanced capabilities, this technology is a future-proofed investment, continuing to provide value over time instead of becoming obsolete.

In addition to dedicated displays on the appliance, many appliances can be voice or touch controlled by smartphone apps. “Your connected washing machine can notify you when the cycle is complete; your oven can ping you when it’s preheated; the dishwasher will alert you when the drying cycle is finished,” Barb elaborates.

Smart food storage technology helps reduce food waste and expense. These devices track what’s in your refrigerator and pantry and informs you when items expire. They can even suggest recipes with the ingredients you have on hand. Brooke explains, “Your smart phone can show you what is inside as well, so if you can’t remember how much milk you have while you are at the store, you can just turn on the camera inside your fridge and have a peek!”

Another top tech appliance touted at KBIS is the LG Washtower. This full-size, full-capacity washer/dryer takes up half the space, stacking neatly in a kitchen, closet, or other location, eliminating the need for a dedicated laundry room. The centrally located control panel for both the washer and dryer makes it easily accessible. Built-in artificial intelligence detects fabric texture and load size, automatically selecting the proper wash motions and drying temperatures. The turbo wash setting with five variable sprays thoroughly cleans a load in under 30 minutes. LG also has a Styler steam closet that fits perfectly tucked up against the Washtower. The WiFi-enabled steam closet is ideal for sanitizing and reducing odors in sporting and fitness gear, reducing wrinkles, and gently refreshing delicate fabrics.

The GE Kitchen Hub provides access to all Android-based devices from your kitchen microwave, including other smart appliances, lighting, etc. The Hub can access the internet, streaming services, email, and offers video chat capability. Oh, and it can help you cook, too! The Hub’s scan-to-cook capability reads package bar codes and programs the proper cook time and temperature. The touch screen allows users to search guided recipes, and a built-in camera tells you if you’ve missed a step or if what you’re cooking is cooked appropriately.

Bold Fixtures and Finishes

New offerings in kitchen and bath fixtures allow for even greater personalization of the home as a reflection of the homeowner’s unique lifestyle.

Kohler offers new hues from calming to vibrant for kitchens and baths. Kohler’s Iron/Tone sink comes in a dozen shades, including Lavender Gray, Black Plus, and Indigo Blue.

Stunning, statement faucets and plumbing fixtures are available in Matte Black, and Vibrant Brushed Moderne Brass as well as Vibrant Ombré effects in Rose Gold/Polished Nickel or Titanium/Rose Gold.

Hygiene and Hands-Free

COVID accelerated the popularity of personal hygiene toilet seats, both for cleanliness in the face of the virus and self-reliance from those infamous toilet paper shortages. The once separate functions of toilets and bidets have been combined into one fixture, sometimes referred to as bidet seat or washlet.

A bidet seat can be part of a new toilet or added to an existing toilet. Equipped with auto on/off and auto-select single or dual flush capabilities, these intelligent toilets offer a completely hands-free experience. Many people find this appealing from a cleanliness standpoint.

While most toilet/bidet fixtures require a nearby electrical outlet, some, like Kohler’s Purewash™ manual bidet toilet seat, require no electricity or batteries. The Purewash installs in minutes, connecting to the toilet’s water supply line.

 

Also in high demand are touchless or hands-free faucets. Motion-sensing and voice-activated fixtures, like Delta’s TRINSIC VoiceIQ™ kitchen faucet connects to voice-enabled platforms like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Homeowners can turn the water on and off, pour specific amounts, and warm-up with spoken commands. The TRINSIC also has a hand wash feature, providing the proper length of time pre-set for lathering, scrubbing, and rinsing, a great feature for households with kids.

Luxury Kitchen Upcycling

Sustainable and eco-friendly products and services continue to be on-trend. For homeowners who plan to remodel their kitchens, upcycling is a way to give kitchen cabinets, countertops, fixtures, and appliances a new lease on life. Organizations like Renovation Angel receives donated high-end kitchens and, in turn, upcycles luxury cabinetry and appliances in other homes. They have partnered with Miele, Sub-Zero, and Wolfe, along with numerous other high-end brands.

The Renovation Angel Upcycling process:

  1. Renovation Angel conducts an inspection
  2. They provide a net value estimate
  3. They carefully remove/demo the kitchen
  4. A third-party appraisal (Approximately $450) is conducted
  5. Tax deduction paperwork provided upon appraisal completion
  6. For those purchasing a upcycled kitchen, you’ll need to hire an outside party for installation

Brooke explains more about this unique take on upcycling, “Renovation Angel takes donations of kitchens and offers significant tax credits. People buying the used kitchens receive a deep discount on elegant kitchens and appliances while also reducing recycling and landfill tonnage.”

Universal Design

Universal Design is an evergreen trend that gained more attention as families sheltered in place. The process of creating products and environments accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, Universal Design applies to people of all ages and in all stages of life. Independent design principles and products benefit those who live in the home and to those who come to visit.

In addition to sleek and stylish Universally Designed products, voice-activated smart technology makes life easier for those with varying abilities. Voice commands turn on and off lights and appliances, including activation of a pre-set morning or evening routine. Verbal instructions or motion sensors activate faucets and fixtures. Water sensing systems monitor and send alerts regarding water leaks. Smart thermostats can adjust the ambient temperature with an app or via voice command. Smart keypads allow doors to be locked upon command and unlocked with an app. Personal hygiene bidet seats allow for independent self-care.

To discover more about the latest technology and trends for your home, we invite you to attend any of our complimentary virtual workshops.

To explore the remodeling possibilities your home has to offer, connect with one of our talented Designers.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

Creating Contrast with Kitchen Cabinets

Your imagination is the limit when it comes to design. As the entertainment and gathering epicenter of every home, the kitchen is an aesthetic focal point where function and “fashion” join forces. Using two-tone kitchen cabinets or mixing and matching materials creates contrast and visual interest. Whatever your personal style preference, from farmhouse to contemporary to modern, choosing complimentary hues makes a statement.

There are a variety of ways in which to mix and match cabinet colors, some of which have definitely fallen into favor among homeowners. One is by having the island a different hue than perimeter cabinetry. This makes the island a focal point of the space, especially when using a complimentary yet different color countertop than the primary counters.

Gaining traction is having upper cabinets a different tonal value than lower cabinets. It could be light and dark grays, differing values of white or blue, or two completely different hues, such as gray and white, black and white, or navy and gray. This concept can also be applied to painting all tall cabinets a distinctive color.

According to Harrell Designer, Sara Jorgensen, one of the hottest trends she is seeing is matte black. “Matte black is on the rise,” says Sara. “It is being used in fixtures, lighting, and hardware. It is simple, clean, and visually dynamic.”

Another way to incorporate the high contrast, rustic chic of matte black is by applying a black glaze on cabinets. “This ties in that black element in a subtle yet very distinct manner,” Sara explains. Using floating shelves in another way to add in contrast. Some or all of the upper cabinets can be replaced with shelves in any style from modern, traditional, or contemporary. Using wood or black hardware makes an impact. Open shelves do require more dusting but the visual punch is well worth it more with many homeowners.

For homeowners who love the look of wood, Sara suggests using open bookcases, banks of drawers, end panels, or other accent pieces, the natural wood making them “pop” against painted cabinets.

“The grain of walnut is very desirable but the cost can be prohibitive for large banks of cabinets,” Sara shares. “Another option is using walnut as a contrasting accent for a wine rack, bookshelf, or for another key element in the kitchen.”

Whatever your preference, mixing and matching cabinet colors and materials should be deliberate and purposeful. From a design perspective, less is always more, and a thoughtful approach will result in a truly stunning kitchen or bathroom.

Woman-founded in 1985 and 100% employee-owned, Harrell Remodeling has been creating distinctive homes for 35 years. If you are considering transforming your space, allow our award-winning Design+Build team help you create the home of your dreams. Reach out to us to set up your design consultation or sign up for one of our frequent and informative educational workshops.

A modern, gray universal design bathroom features a curbless shower and tile details.

Harrell Remodeling Designers Win Multiple NARI META Awards

Two of Harrell Remodeling Inc.’s Designers were honored recently at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Silicon Valley awards gala. Gloria Carlson and Debra Winston received coveted META Remodeling Awards for multiple projects that transformed the homes of three Harrell Remodeling clients. Both designers have received META honors in the past but, as Gloria shares, “A large part of the award is the fact that we’ve solved very unique problems, making dramatic and often life-changing transformations in our clients’ homes. Clients love to feel that their needs were met but in such a way that their home was acknowledged as an award-winner.”

META, short for metamorphosis, “signifies the transformation process and beautiful results that can be accomplished through a remodeling project.” The Silver, Gold and Platinum awards are categorized by project price point and include everything from interior redesigns of kitchens, baths and living spaces to residential landscape design to entire home remodels.

Designer Debra Winston won multiple META Gold awards for two projects within one residence, which incorporated Universal Design principles to enable the homeowners to age in place. The first project took a small, outdated master bathroom from “Blah to BLING” while the second Gold award winning project transformed the compartmentalized floor plan into a spacious and dramatic interior.

Blah to Bling

Two META Gold awards for Residential Bathroom under $100,000 & Universal Design Bathroom

“This couple isn’t afraid of color or of embracing their unique style and personality in the home,” Debra remarks. “This project definitely proves that Universal Design can be beautiful and functional.”

Dark, dated, and depressing, this original San Jose master bath was small and was not wheelchair-accessible. The corner shower was much too small for assisted bathing and had a high curb that created an entry barrier. Debra reconfigured the area, more than doubling its size by taking space from the hall bathroom. In its place Debra designed a stunning spacious roll-in shower with teak folding bench, grab bars, and a handheld shower to make bathing safe, easy and accessible. The wall-hung Toto Washlet toilet and white high-gloss floating vanity with Silestone quartz white platinum counters are functional and attractive. The “bling” comes from wall, floor, and backsplash tiles with burnished metallic finishes, glittering mosaics, and silver “ribbon candy” pendant lights that add sparkle.

Debra relates, “One of the wife’s guilty pleasures is collecting fragrances and nail polish. To display her collection in style while offering easily accessible storage, we added was a 16-inch X 5-foot Robern medicine cabinet.”

Dark to Dramatic

META Gold Award for Residential Interior $250,001-$500,000

The same homeowners also needed to convert the entry, kitchen and great room of their home to increase functionality and accessibility. The existing 1950’s kitchen was dark, narrow, and closed off from the living space by a 16-foot long wall.

Removing the entry coat closet and the dividing wall created an open floor plan, allowing ease of movement and linking the great room and kitchen together. The same glossy white cabinets grace the updated kitchen and are accented by vivid glass “wavy” backsplash tiles and matching pendants above the contrasting dark island. The kitchen is illuminated with recessed lighting and a skylight.

Luxury vinyl plank flooring extends into the great room, which had a dated brick fireplace flanked by built-in bookcases with scalloped wood trim, all which had been painted white. The space was transformed by applying concrete over the existing brick for an industrial look, adding metal mesh door panels to the bookcases, and matching the color of the kitchen island. Floating shelves and an edgy wallpaper transform the space into one that is functional, accessible, and captures the homeowner’s distinct style.

“The homeowners aren’t afraid to be bold with color, texture, and design,” Debra explains. “In their previous home, they used a small-run “stealth print” wallcovering and decided to continue this adventurous design aesthetic by incorporating a fanciful skeleton wallpaper as a feature wall in their new great room.”

Last but not least, all interior doors were painted a charcoal gray, and the home’s exterior was modernized, removing the dated scalloped facia and adding horizontal cedar plank siding. The stucco was painted a deep teal and the exterior entry door a bright orange, creating curb appeal with significant WOW factor.

Small to Spacious & Stunning

META Gold Award for Residential Interior Remodel $100,000-$250,000

Harrell Remodeling Senior Designer, Gloria Carlson, was a META award winner for her transformative design on a two-story Menlo Park home. The layout of the client’s home restricted her ability to age in place as there was no bed and bathroom space on the main level that offered the necessary accessibility.

To achieve a functional, accessible, and beautiful master suite, Gloria reconfigured the existing floor plan, which included a barely usable ensuite “micro” bathroom and small closet, with an adjacent sub-standard “bedroom” that was too small to be used as one.

By incorporating the footprint of the second bedroom, Gloria created a luxurious master bathroom and walk-in closet, both 3-1/2 times larger than their original spaces. The once infinitesimal closet was expanded to a walk-in closet, allowing the owner to store all of her clothing in one place whereas before, it was scattered in various closets throughout the home.

A large shower includes accessibility features such as a low curb, folding teak bench and grab bars. The client and Gloria worked together to lay out the shower tiles to mimic hot air balloons floating skyward, reminding the homeowner of one of her favorite getaways.

Gloria interspersed numerous other personal touches reminiscent of vacations including custom cabinet knobs made from stones found near the owner’s beloved mountain cabin on the double vanity and seated make-up area.

“The homeowner is a tall woman and she wanted the bathroom designed to comfortably fit her height,” Gloria explains. “Now she has a master ensuite bath that not only fits her personality but her stature, enabling her to comfortably and safely live in her home for years to come.”

Baker’s Dream Kitchen & Functional Garage

META Gold Award for Residential Interior Remodel $250,001-$500,000

Gloria designed a dream kitchen for another Menlo Park client, a close-knit family that loves to bake. Their adult son is a professional baker while the husband makes 1,000 truffles at a time multiple times a year. Their kitchen was attractive yet the confined space was not conducive to the cooking and baking functionality this family desired.

“This family is very unique and as such, had very specific requirements and challenges to solve in their home remodel,” Gloria states. “Not only were they avid bakers and chefs but they had a menagerie of exotic pets whose needs they also wanted to embrace in their remodeling project.”

Significant changes to the structure were made to create the dream kitchen that fit the family’s lifestyle. A load-bearing wall was removed, and a massive engineered beam inserted into the ceiling framing opened the kitchen and dining areas. It also allowed for a large island with seating for four, a lower counter area for the son’s baking while the husband used the large, higher portion of the island for making his truffles. With so many special baking appliances and accoutrements, storage was at a premium. Appliance “garages” were added for mixers and other large items while overflow storage was added to the home’s garage. The end result is an open, expansive space filled with natural and artificial light, colorful cabinets, plentiful prep space and storage, high-end appliances, and a mosaic backsplash, which is a nod to the family’s Spanish heritage.

The garage itself also underwent a significant METAmorphosis, transforming it into a fully functional space for laundry and overflow kitchen storage. Gloria also designed a secure location to store high-end bicycles in addition to a separate area for storing food for their tortoises, iguanas, snakes and other reptile pets.

Founded in 1985 by Iris Harrell, Employee-Owned Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has been transforming distinctive homes for 35 years in the Bay Area. If you are considering a METAmorphosis of your Silicon Valley or Mid-Peninsula home, Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning Design + Build team can make your residential dreams a reality. Explore our website to see more of our projects, learn about our company or to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Hot Countertop Trends

A stunning countertop is one of the elements that makes for an amazing kitchen or bathroom. Countertops come in a myriad of materials but the latest countertop trends are making headway, edging out former top contenders.

Quartz continues to be a favorite among homeowners who are remodeling both kitchens and baths. According to Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning senior designer, Sara Jorgensen, nine out of ten Harrell clients choose quartz for their countertop materials. There are many “pros” to quartz including its durability, low-to-no maintenance, and the incredible variety it provides, with marble look-a-likes being the most popular.

“Besides the wide selection and low maintenance, quartz can be manufactured in jumbo slabs, which makes it ideal for expansive islands,” Sara says. “This means our clients can have a perfectly seamless and truly gorgeous countertop.”

The “newest kid on the block” when it comes to countertop trends, Sara explains, is epoxy. Epoxy is often used to resurface old countertops but can also be applied over wood. It must be created on-site versus typical counter materials which are fabricated offsite and installed at the residence.

Epoxy counters offer limitless variety in design including colors and patterns. It can be created to look like marble, granite, concrete, stone, or something completely unique and custom. These counters can be metallic or matte and are always seamless with a luminous high gloss, which protects the color beneath. Epoxy is food safe, durable, heat resistant, and easy to clean.

“Epoxy countertops are really exciting from a design perspective,” says Sara. “I love their versatility and how the product can be used to achieve such amazingly realistic patterns mimicking marble and other popular countertop materials at a fraction of the cost. I really think this trend will be gaining momentum in kitchen remodels.”

Epoxy countertops can be professionally installed or, for those feeling adventurous, created as a DIY project. It can be applied over tile, laminate, wood, concrete, and other surfaces. If you want a specific pattern and a countertop that is top quality, Sara recommends foregoing the DIY option and leaving it to the pros.

Last on Sara’s list of trending countertop materials is porcelain. Once primarily used in tiles on kitchen and bathroom counters, this man-made material is fabricated in large slabs, which are then installed much like quartz or granite. Porcelain is durable and resists just about everything including stains, heat, scratches, chemicals, and UV light. It comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, many of which look like marble or natural stone. Porcelain typically doesn’t require sealing and is an environmentally friendly option as it’s made from 100% natural clay-based materials and is completely recyclable, should you ever choose to change your counters in the future.

Sara explains, “Porcelain can be fabricated in extra large slabs and, because it is so thin, it can be applied directly over existing counters, if needed.”

When it comes to countertop trends and color, typically, whatever countertop material is chosen, Sara says her clients continue to prefer a high contrast between cabinets and counters.

When the time comes to reimagine your kitchen or bath, allow Harrell Remodeling’s design team to help you discover the possibilities. We offer numerous free inspirational and educational workshops and are always available to meet with you for a design consultation.

Sara Jorgensen, one of Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning designers, artfully executes her clients’ design desires coupled with their functional needs. Sara’s creative passion, authenticity, and open style of communication, enabling her to provide an innate understanding of client needs to the Harrell Remodeling Design + Build team. “Some clients know their style. Others need inspiration. Through the design exercises in which my clients’ partake, we come easily to an understanding of their preferences. The ultimate goal is to create a beautiful, timeless, on-budget, and functional project,” says Sara. Sara works from a holistic viewpoint to the smallest of details that create the design’s ‘wow’ factor. Her designs have won awards from the NKBA, NARI and National CotY and encompass a wide variety of projects from Wine cellars, Yoga rooms, Master Suites, Kitchens, and Decks to whole house remodels. A Bay Area native, Sara holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Interior Design from San Jose State University. Sara is a California state Certified Interior Designer (CID) and a Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP). Outside of work, Sara enjoys kayaking, San Jose Sharks hockey, snowboarding, cycling, snowman building, spending time with family and relaxing outdoors. She is a proud committee member of the Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club and enjoys driving her Model T around California on various club tours.

Universal Design and Kitchen Remodels

Genie Nowicki is one of Harrell Remodeling’s Universal Design experts. Passionate about creating living spaces that are functional, accessible, and beautiful, she explains how Universal Design can be incorporated into a kitchen “in small bites without major design changes.” Or, if a homeowner is undergoing a full kitchen remodel, more comprehensive changes can be integrated into the overall design.

“I fully believe that homeowners should take advantage of making their home accessible whenever the opportunity presents itself,” says Genie. “Many people think that Universal Design products will make their home look and feel like a hospital but in reality, they are beautiful. When a space is properly designed, you’d never realize it was created to be accessible. And accessibility can benefit the entire household.”

The Small Bite Approach

Even if you don’t plan to undertake a major kitchen remodel, there are still Universal Design principles that can easily be applied. Cabinet hardware and faucets can easily be changed, appliances can be upgraded to those allowing easier access, and existing cabinets can be modified using special storage solutions, drawers, and unique shelving units that extend outward.

Simple Universal Design Solutions

  • Cabinet hardware: install pulls instead of knobs
  • Faucets: Install a single lever faucet to the side of the sink to allow for easier reach
  • Drawers: use full extension for increased accessibility
  • Base Cabinets: Use roll-outs and drawers versus shelves
  • Upper Cabinets: Forego a backsplash and have cabinets come all the way down to the counters
  • Storage Accessories: Installed inside cabinets, these make items easier to reach
  • Dishwashers: Choose an appliance manufacturer, like Fisher Paykel, that offers dishwasher drawers rather than doors.
  • Refrigerator: Choose a unit with the freezer drawer on the bottom
  • Wall Ovens: Install at a comfortable, reachable height. A better choice than a one-piece range
  • Microwave: Install at a level accessible to those seated or standing

Genie explains, “One of the most ingenious Universal Design products I’ve discovered is made by Hafele, a company that offers a variety of kitchen storage solutions as well as cabinet hinges. They have a hinge mechanism that allows upper shelves to pull out and drop down to a lower level, making them fully accessible to someone who is seated or has any issue with reaching high places.”

Incorporating Universal Design Into a Kitchen Remodel

Updating your kitchen is the perfect opportunity to maximize accessibility. It allows a design to be achieved that creates ample space and reachability alongside function and beauty.

Comprehensive Universal Design Solutions

In addition to those accessibility features listed above, the following solutions can be included when a kitchen is being fully redesigned.

  • Ample aisle space: A minimum of 48 inches between counters and one 60-inch diameter open space to allow a wheelchair to turn around
  • Counter heights: Standard counters are 36 inches but to achieve the best accessibility, 33 inches is ideal. Having counters at both heights creates multiple useable workspaces, with the lower counter also serving as an accessible space for young children or as a baking center.
  • Flooring: Smooth, non-skid surfaces with seamless transitions ensure durable, easy to maintain floors that virtually eliminate tripping hazards and allow for mobility devices to move easily in the space. Hardwood, luxury vinyl tile, engineered wood, porcelain tile with machined edges, linoleum, and sheet vinyl are all viable options.
  • Cooktops: Induction units are responsive and easy to clean. These electric appliances only heat the cookware; the surface itself never get hot, virtually eliminating the risk of fire or injury.
  • Stove hoods: Choose an appliance with a remote-control unit that can be mounted on the side of a reachable cabinet.
  • Outlets and switches: Place on the face of cabinets or at levels that are easily reachable by those in seated positions.
  • Lighting: Use of natural light sources in addition to LED fixtures create ample light. Recessed or surface mounted fixtures are ideal for overall illumination while under-cabinet task lighting should be installed at the front underside of cabinets. Decorative pendant lights over islands are also popular.
  • Counters: Polished black granite or quartz is a very reflective surface. This can cause a lot of glare making it uncomfortable to sensitive eyes when lighting bounces off.
  • Pull out breadboards: Create an instant, functional “roll under” work area.
  • Rolling carts or butcher blocks: These allow for easy transport of ingredients, dishware, or other kitchen items for those using mobility devices.
  • Appliance lifts: These mechanisms are installed inside cabinets and eliminate having to lift and move heavy appliances such as mixers. The appliance is securely placed on the lift which easily pulls up and locks into place. These mechanisms require a larger, 18-inch cabinet.
  • Roll-under sink and cooktops: By designing an open space beneath cooktops and sinks, individuals using wheelchair are able to get close enough to wash dishes and prepare meals. Drains and garbage disposals should be located toward the back of a shallow sink.

Genie explains that an additional level of thoughtful design is required when applying Universal Design, especially in kitchen spaces. The initial interview process is critical in understanding how the homeowners use their space, allowing a designer to problem-solve, often creating a functional solution that didn’t previously exist. Things like plumbing and electrical along with counters, storage, and creating ample space all need to be planned in advance.

“The kitchen is a very personal space and there are numerous ways to integrate UD products and principles, many of which depend upon the homeowners, their lifestyle and how they use the space,” Genie offers. “There is a unique motorized solution for sinks or cooktops. With the push of a button, the counter raises or lowers up to six inches. This product takes preplanning but adds an amazing level of accessibility.”

Incorporating Universal Design doesn’t require a significant kitchen remodel. There are many aspects that can be applied without major design changes. But if you are contemplating a kitchen remodel, integrating accessibility features is something to seriously consider, especially if this will be your forever home.

Schedule a complimentary consultation with one of Harrell Remodeling Inc.’s designers to learn more about Universal Design and how it can increase the functionality, accessibility, and beauty of your Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay Area residence.

Premier senior designer, Genie Nowicki, is certified in numerous forms of design and the recipient of multiple awards. Genie joined the Harrell Remodeling team after years of running her own successful design business. Beginning her career in the world of income tax planning, she made a career leap in 1990 to the equally “detail and code-filled world” of kitchen and bath design. Genie obtained her Certification in Professional Kitchen and Bath Design in 1992 and achieved her Certified Kitchen Designer (CID) and Certified Bath Designer (CBD) status in 1996. After passing another rigorous examination, she became a Certified Interior Designer (CID) in the State of California in 2002 and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) in 2006. Her experience has included residential interior design, kitchen and bath design, barrier free/Universal Design, lighting design, and participation in numerous showcase houses in the Bay area, as well as several commercial projects. Genie prides herself on listening to her clients and providing timeless design work that is appropriate to her clients, their lifestyles, and their homes. Her excellence in design has been recognized with awards, projects published in local and national magazines, and a Sunset design book, and an article she wrote was featured in the Fine Homebuilding Kitchen and Bath Annual Issue.

Creative Options for Island End Caps

With islands becoming more of a standard kitchen feature, more imaginative ideas are emerging for how to use island end caps. Depending upon whether the homeowner prefers them to be a focal point or simply to blend in plays a role in the ultimate design.

“Understanding the client’s needs along with the overall design aesthetic helps me to guide them with end cap options,” shares senior Harrell designer, Sara Jorgensen. “During our in-depth planning meetings, I ask a lot of questions: Do they prefer clean, simple lines? Do they need more storage or want a place to showcase special kitchen platters or décor? Do they want a special spot for their kitty or pup?”

Creative ways to use island end caps include:

Open bookcase: End caps offer an ideal location to house and display favorite culinary tomes.

Storage: Most homeowners can use more rather than less storage. End caps offer perfect locations to visually highlight key display pieces facing the living space. This could be open storage or a cabinet with beautiful glass doors and interior illumination. For hidden storage that is easily accessed, adding in drawers or doors on the opposite side allows frequently used item to be tucked away. This is a perfect place to store homework items, entertainment ware, beverage items, microwaves, and more.

Pet-friendly niche: Many people have pets and the kitchen is the primary location for food and water bowls. A special niche can be designed into an end cap, typically on the side facing into the kitchen, where bowls can be recessed and tucked out of the path of (human) travel. They can even be elevated for larger pets.

Wine rack: For wine lovers, incorporating a custom wine rack into their island end cap allows them to display their collection as well as have favorites close at hand.

Waterfall edge: For those who love the crisp, clean look of a continuous countertop, a waterfall edge is a stunning use of end caps. The counter material continues vertically all the way to the floor, creating a simple, uninterrupted line. Alternately, a waterfall edge can be created using a contrasting material such as natural wood.

Decorative element: As an alternative to a waterfall edge, end caps can be used to create a decorative element that offers visual appeal. This design can then be repeated in other areas throughout the kitchen. These elements can be traditional, classic, modern, farmhouse, or contemporary and as ornate or simple as desired.

“Determining which option works best is a very personal decision based on lifestyle, function, and personal preference,” Sara confirms. “But there are a lot of resourceful options to put island end caps to great use.”

If a kitchen, bath, or even a whole home remodel is something you would like to explore, we invite you to set up a consultation with a member of the Harrell Design Team. We also encourage you to visit our online project gallery to see our extensive kitchen, bath, and even whole-house remodels.

Sara Jorgensen, one of Harrell Remodeling’s award-winning designers, artfully executes her clients’ design desires coupled with their functional needs. Sara’s creative passion, authenticity, and open style of communication, enabling her to provide an innate understanding of client needs to the Harrell Remodeling Design + Build team. “Some clients know their style. Others need inspiration. Through the design exercises in which my clients’ partake, we come easily to an understanding of their preferences. The ultimate goal is to create a beautiful, timeless, on-budget, and functional project,” says Sara. Sara works from a holistic viewpoint to the smallest of details that create the design’s ‘wow’ factor. Her designs have won awards from the NKBA, NARI and National CotY and encompass a wide variety of projects from Wine cellars, Yoga rooms, Master Suites, Kitchens, and Decks to whole house remodels. A Bay Area native, Sara holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Interior Design from San Jose State University. Sara is a California state Certified Interior Designer (CID) and a Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP). Outside of work, Sara enjoys kayaking, San Jose Sharks hockey, snowboarding, cycling, snowman building, spending time with family and relaxing outdoors. She is a proud committee member of the Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club and enjoys driving her Model T around California on various club tours.

HarrellCARE: Small Projects and Kitchen & Bathroom Refreshes

In Silicon Valley, it can be challenging to find professionals who have the time or even want to take on smaller home improvement or maintenance projects. This often leaves homeowners with some less than appealing options: hiring an under-qualified person, taking on the projects themselves, or deferring needed home maintenance.

Project Manager, Marshall Parker, works exclusively on HarrellCARE projects. “This unique program was created because we kept getting requests from clients who needed work done but couldn’t find anyone qualified to complete it,” Marshall explains.

That’s where HarrellCARE comes in. A unique and separate service from Harrell’s Design + Build format, it provides the utmost in quality, exceptional customer service, and attention to detail for which Harrell Remodeling is known while focusing solely on the often-overlooked small project niche.

HarrellCARE is designed to fulfill the needs of two specific areas:

  1. Remove & Replace
  2. Small Projects

HarrellCARE Remove & Replace Division

This high efficiency, streamlined segment of HarrellCARE is specifically for kitchen and bathroom “refreshes” that update these spaces aesthetically within the room’s existing footprint.

Harrell Designer, Debra Winston UDCP, works with all HarrellCARE Remove & Replace clients to help them choose new materials, fixtures, cabinetry, flooring, and the like to update the look of their kitchen and/or baths.

“Homeowners that work well within the HarrellCARE Remove & Replace scope are those who can make decisions quickly and who don’t want a fully customized kitchen or bathroom,” shared Debra. “It is a great way to achieve an updated look with some custom details without undertaking a major remodel project.”

Any design aesthetic can be achieved, resulting in a beautiful, functional and efficient space without moving walls, plumbing, gas or waste lines. Debra explains, “We can easily relocate electrical appliances in a kitchen, change a shower-tub combination into a full shower, bring the electrical or plumbing up to code, and use cabinetry to maximize space planning. Universal Design concepts can even be implemented in a kitchen or bath refresh.”

Debra encourages clients to create Houzz Idea Boards, sharing them with her so she understands what they like and what they don’t. She then curates materials, finishes, and fixtures from items in the Harrell Remodeling showroom as well as from Harrell suppliers that meet their design preferences. Though these refreshes aren’t completely customized remodels, there is a lot of tailored design that can be integrated including cabinet sizing, layout and tile designs.

All necessary permits will be obtained, and any needed code upgrades will be performed. Often times owners are unaware or don’t think they need a permit when they regularly do. It can be surprising for them to find out their small project fits that requirement. The HarrellCARE team arranges all the necessary trades and communicates with the homeowners, ensuring they are aware of what work is scheduled and when. If any issues, such as termites or structural damage, are discovered during demo, these will be also be properly addressed and resolved.

A typical kitchen project takes from 10 to 12 weeks and a bathroom refresh project takes from 5 to 7 weeks and involves two distinct phases: the design phase and the construction phase. Both have defined pricing and focus on quick turn-around with top-quality work. Clients get access to a designer to help them achieve the design they desire while the build team schedules all the necessary trades to keep the project on track, on budget, and on time.

HarrellCARE Small Project Division

The Small Project segment is a catch-all of sorts, a broad service that tackles that never-ending honey-do list that the majority of large companies or contractors won’t even consider. Homeowners often hire handymen but even they often don’t have the bandwidth, desire, or the ability to complete many of these small jobs.

“One of the things I hear most from HarrellCARE clients is that they’ve called dozens of businesses but Harrell is the only company that has called them back,” says Marshall.

Marshall clarifies the HarrellCARE Small Projects service as having one primary criteria: all jobs must require “zero to minimal designer involvement,” he explains. “Other than that, it can entail almost anything, from touch-up painting, installing new light fixtures, replacing a window, weather stripping doors, rebuilding decks, installing a shower door, a bathroom vanity, or even hanging Christmas lights. You name it, and odds are, it falls within the HarrellCARE Small Projects scope.”

Many small projects involve multiple trades such as electricians, plumbers, structural engineers, and painters as well as required code upgrades and permitting. Marshall’s dedicated HarrellCARE team handles it all to minimize homeowner headaches while completing each project in a timely manner and on budget.

Depending upon the type of project, a homeowner will pay either Time & Materials or, if the work can be defined, a Fixed Price will be agreed upon in advance. “We may also draw up a pre-construction services agreement if the job is fairly complex, entailing a lengthy timeframe due to structural work and permitting requirements,” says Marshall.

If you have a kitchen or bath that has a few decades under its belt and could use a refresh, or a honey-do list that simply never gets done, the HarrellCARE team has got your back. To learn more about HarrellCARE, give us a call. Marshall promises: he will call you back. To see photos of some of our Remove & Replace spaces, visit our HarrellCARE webpage.