Repurpose Interior Spaces to Meet Your Lifestyle

After almost six months of spending a lot of time in our homes, many of us have discovered that our interior spaces may not be fully functional. We could use a dedicated office, a quiet area for our children to do schoolwork, a place other than the kitchen table for our 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. You might want to repurpose interior spaces in your home to better meet your needs.

“Families normally don’t spend such an extended period in their homes,” shares Harrell Remodeling CEO and Senior Designer, Lisa Sten. “Now is the perfect time to walk through your home with a fresh perspective to determine how you can reimagine and repurpose interior spaces.”

Lisa highly recommends starting this “room reimagining” at the curb. “We are all feeling disconnected from everyone outside of our immediate household and are searching for ways to socialize safely. Having a connection to others and the outdoors is something many of us are seeking.” For many homeowners, that means people-watching or holding physically distanced gatherings in their front yard. Front yards are an underused space ripe for repurposing. (We will be exploring repurposing front yards in an upcoming blog!)

Once inside your home, look with fresh eyes and analyze every room, every niche, nook, and storage space. Think about your lifestyle needs: how could these various big and small spaces be reimagined to meet those needs? Maybe those lifestyle changes are short-term, like an area for children to attend school online, while others, like dedicated game rooms, might be ones that your family will enjoy for years to come.

Living rooms are an excellent example of an area that many families don’t utilize frequently. Consider dividing large rectangular rooms into two sections, such as a seating area and game or study space. Rearranging the layout or adding multi-functional pieces of furniture can result in a quick transformation. Get creative – clear off that sofa table and use it as a desk. If your family is all about game night, turn your living room into a “tricked out” game room with areas to work on puzzles, play and store board games, engage in a round of foosball, pool, or other favorites.

Many newly-constructed homes don’t have a formal dining room, but if you have one in your home, seriously consider how often you use it. Do you plan to entertain often, and, if so, are they sit down meals or more informal occasions that occur around a kitchen island or in the backyard? Formal dining rooms can easily be transformed into a game area, play or study space, or a hobby, craft or music room. Installing glass or barn doors is a simple way to provide a barrier against sound or create privacy.

There are many wellness services that we’ve been unable to enjoy over the past six months. Getting a haircut or massage, enjoying a workout at our favorite local fitness center, going to a spa for some self-care, all of these are wellness luxuries we’ve gone without for a while. If you’d like to have these personal care services close at hand, you could remodel your master bath to include a steam shower, soaking tub, sauna, or a dedicated hairstyling space. “Harrell has a longtime client who has a specially designed location in her home where she has her hair cut and styled,” Lisa shares. “Many others love creating a spa-like experience in their master bathrooms or designing a dedicated space for yoga, lifting weights, or cardio fitness.”

What spaces or locations in your home could be revitalized? Consider all areas, large and small.

  • Living rooms
  • Formal dining rooms
  • Guest bedrooms
  • Under-stair or other storage spaces
  • Walk-in or large closets
  • Landings
  • Lofts
  • Open niches or nooks
  • Flex spaces
  • Large entry or hallways
  • Great rooms
  • Backyard sheds

One client’s airy great room was reinvented simply by adding doors. “The open space was ideal for keeping an eye on her young children, but when they got older, everyone wanted more privacy. Dividing the great room with artful frosted glass doors created a sense of separation between the kitchen and seating areas without diminishing the home’s natural light or overall flow.” 

There are many ways to breathe new life into your home, meeting your entire family’s needs, hobbies, and lifestyle. Some creative spaces include:

  • Game room
  • Home theatre
  • Hobby or craft space
  • School/study space
  • Playroom
  • Home office
  • Home gym/yoga studio
  • Meditation room
  • Music room
  • Art studio
  • Home library
  • Wine room

There are many opportunities to recreate under-utilized areas in your home. An open landing may be just the right spot for playing board games or a reading nook, and a guest bedroom can double as a home gym. Under-stairway spaces can become wine cellars or quiet study areas for distance learning or fun, cozy play areas for younger children. Spacious walk-in closets may have enough room for clothes as well as a home office set-up.

When deciding on the new purpose of a room or space, Lisa recommends considering the room’s lighting, size, and shape, and the privacy required. How many people will use it? What type and size of furniture are needed? Is natural light a necessity, or will other light sources suffice? Do you need visual or sound privacy?

There are numerous ways to reinvent and reclaim your home and repurpose interior spaces. Rearranging furniture, flipping a room’s purpose, and reimagining a space can breathe new life into your lifestyle. If none of these ideas work for your residence, consider constructing an ADU, an addition, or remodel. The Harrell Remodeling Design + Build Team is always here to help you reimagine your Silicon Valley or mid-Peninsula home inside and out.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and mid-Peninsula since 1985. We invite you to attend one of our virtual workshops or schedule a complimentary appointment with a Harrell Remodeling designer to learn more about how we can help you achieve your perfect lifestyle.

Green Building Explained

What is Green Building

According to the World Green Building Council, a green building is one that, “in its design, construction, or operation, minimizes or eliminates negative impacts and creates positive impacts on our climate and natural environment.” Green buildings preserve natural resources and improve our quality of life.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) provides a framework for efficient, healthy, and cost-effective green building. Spearheaded by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is the most widely recognized green building rating system in the world, LEED certified buildings are a symbol of the highest level of sustainability.

Any building can be green: a shopping center, an office complex, a school, hospital, library, and a residence, provided they include and meet specific requirements and features such as:

  • Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
  • Renewable energy (i.e. solar)
  • Reduction of pollution and waste along with recycling and re-use
  • Use of non-toxic, sustainable, and ethical materials
  • Improved indoor air quality
  • Consideration of the environment and the inhabitants in design, demolition, construction, and operation

Harrell Designer and Code Specialist, Rafael Gomez, explains that after World War II, housing was built very rapidly to meet demand. “These post-war homes were not necessarily healthy or durable. They used materials that not only stripped our planet’s natural resources but also could unknowingly expose residents to lead paint and other toxic chemicals. With the increased global awareness of the importance of environmentally sustainable practices, green building has emerged as an all-encompassing process with the mission of creating long-lasting structures that take the health of the Earth and humans into account.”

When building a home, or remodeling in California, there are green building guidelines that must be followed, as California has its own green building standards, called CALGreen. The first state-mandated green building code in the nation, CALGreen measures are applied to planning, design, operation, construction, use, and occupancy of all new construction as well as remodels and additions.

CALGreen addresses five areas of construction and remodeling:

  • Planning and design
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water efficiency and conservation
  • Material conservation and resource efficiency
  • Environmental quality

Every city must comply with CALGreen code standards and can also choose to enforce a higher level of green building requirements. “Palo Alto has been pioneering the green building movement in Silicon Valley for years,” says Rafael. These enhanced local city ordinances create “reach code” standards that go above and beyond those required by the state.

To encourage homeowners to upgrade to more energy efficient appliances or materials, many cities offer rebate incentive programs for installation of green alternatives such as solar panels, electric water heaters, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Palo Alto is spearheading California’s mission to have zero emission buildings by the year 2045. Many other cities and states are taking the same initiative, joining efforts with contractors and developers to make remarkable progress toward this mission of a carbon neutral future. Energy efficiency in new construction is exceeding the 2020 target of 33 percent.

“At Harrell Remodeling, we integrate the mandatory green building measures into each stage of a project,” states Rafael. “Depending upon the size and scope of the construction, there are also prescriptive measures we must take into account, such as roofing, insulation, and windows.”

Recycling construction material plays a significant part in green building. “Harrell Remodeling pays close attention to the recycling rules for all our projects,” Rafael explains. “It is our responsibility to meet the recycling requirements, and to salvage and repurpose materials for a second life.”

Rafael shares that some homeowners want to go even farther with making their residence environmentally friendly. Studies show that one in three Millennials want a home that is sustainable and eco-friendly. “Whether our clients simply want to meet the minimum green building standards, or want to make their homes as environmentally friendly as possible, Harrell Remodeling is here to help facilitate that.”

Myths about Green Building

There are a lot of misunderstandings and falsehoods surrounding green building. Below are just a few of the misconceptions and explanations dispelling those myths.

Green building is more expensive

According to Gina Rodda, principal owner of Gabel Energy, the upfront cost of an eco-friendly building is indeed more expensive but after year ten, the return on investment kicks in. The energy efficiency of a sustainable home results in considerable savings over time. And, because of the use of non-toxic materials and enhanced indoor air quality, the occupants enjoy better health and reduced medical costs.

Green building is not as efficient as traditional construction

Construction using green building is still a new process but when applied properly, which is where CALGreen and other code mandates come in, it can be exceptionally efficient in all phases.

Green building is just a fad

With our reliance on oil, escalating fuel costs, and the negative impacts we’ve made on our planet, we’ve reached a point where we need to pivot. And a large part of that pivot is the implementation of global green building practices. The green approach to construction is constantly evolving and requires diligence but this environmentally responsible and responsive process is here to stay. It saves resources, energy, and increases the health and wellbeing of occupants.

If a product has the Green label on it, it must be green

Unfortunately, this label isn’t an indicator of a product’s sustainability. It simply means the manufacturer complied with minimal criteria. Often, these are also less expensive options that lure consumers with the label and a lower price. To determine if a product is truly eco-friendly, ask a professional for advice.

If you are considering a remodel, addition, or construction of an ADU on your Silicon Valley or mid-Peninsula property, green building practices will come into play. Having been in the Design + Build industry since 1985, Harrell Remodeling understands the process and importance of these sustainable practices. We invite you to reach out and schedule an appointment with one of our award-winning designers to discover how we can make your home healthy and beautifully sustainable.

Beautify Your Backyard with Wood Grain Porcelain Pavers

The opportunity to add texture, dimension and color in your outdoor living design has greatly increased in the last decade as outdoor living has become a priority for homeowners. As options for driveway materials have expanded, this has influenced other hard surfaces in landscape design and outdoor living.

Originally designed as a much more appealing alternative to concrete slab or asphalt driveways, classic concrete interlocking pavers are small and thick, making them sturdy enough to withstand the weight of multiple vehicles. Since concrete interlocking pavers are laid individually over base rock, should one or more get damaged, they are easy to replace, giving them yet another advantage over the typical concrete slab driveway.

As the popularity of concrete interlocking pavers increased, manufacturers began creating them in more textures, colors, and finishes, including larger format interlocking pavers that mimic the veining and cleft of natural stone. Because larger format pavers are bigger in size (yet thinner in thickness), they should not be used as a driveway material, but they are ideal for backyard patios, outdoor spaces, and pathways. Coordinating styles and sizes of porcelain pavers allow for the creation of that highly desired indoor-outdoor flow.

Surfaces that include walkways, patios and pool decks (but not driveways, or where vehicles are parked) are seeing additional new flooring and outdoor surfaces come to market. One recent trend, according to Harrell Remodeling Designer, Lisa Parramore, is the emergence of wood grain porcelain pavers. “Wood-inspired porcelain tiles have gained significant foothold inside homes,” Lisa shares. “Once again, paver manufacturers are seizing an opportunity to take this interior design aesthetic outside by creating durable, low maintenance, and very attractive pavers that have the same wood-like appearance.”

Noon porcelain pavers by Belgard

Wood-inspired porcelain pavers come in variety of sizes from small to large. They also come in large format sizes, including a popular plank format, like a wood floor. Just as with the classic driveway pavers, the new wood-inspired porcelain pavers are placed over base rock. “Most true porcelain tile has to be adhered to a concrete slab to ensure its durability,” explains Lisa. “The need for a slab adds to the cost, as you are hiring a concrete specialist, as well as a tile installer. The same look can be achieved with wood-inspired porcelain pavers and costs from 25% to 40% less, specifically because a concrete slab isn’t necessary.”

“One of our vendors commented that this product is ‘flying off the shelves,’” Lisa recounts. And the installation of wood-inspired porcelain pavers or tile ensures that you have continuity in the look and feel of your flooring, if you have a wood flooring inside. This is a great way to extend your living space, blur the line between inside and outside, and create the outdoor room of your dreams.

Lisa, who holds her Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) accreditation, is currently working on an exterior remodeling and landscaping project in Los Gatos in which the client wants to use wood grain pavers for their expansive pool deck. Proving that this product is a hot commodity, Lisa was able to find matching pool coping (the material above the water tile line that generally covers the top of the pool structure) from paver manufacturer Belgard, to create a continuous look.

Outdoor porcelain pavers in a variety of interpretations of wood planks can add a touch of the avant garde to your garden, backyard, or outdoor space. If you’d like to explore this contemporary look in your Silicon Valley or Peninsula yard, we invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our Harrell Remodeling Designers.

Innovative Interior Design Tech and Trends

Innovation and technology continue to forge a path into residential living, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. Emerging technologies are aesthetically designed, user-friendly, and can make your home more efficient! These interior design tech and trends allow homeowners the flexibility to customize their spaces to fit their distinct style and personality.

Technology, especially voice activated tech, is a major component of many evolving products, and Amazon’s Alexa is one technology of choice. Voice activated devices are often promoted as a luxury item, but they serve everyone with basic assistive needs.

“Being able to talk to a device is an amazing lifestyle accessibility tool,” offers Harrell Remodeling Designer, Divya Vijayanandakumar. “It is ideal for seniors, the sight impaired, and anyone with limited physical abilities, allowing them to perform multiple tasks in their home such as turning on and off lights, faucets, and setting appliances by simply making a verbal request. I envision it as a powerful aspect of Universal Design.”

 With the ubiquitous nature of WiFi, smart apps, and voice activation, kitchen technology is becoming the norm. Delta’s VoiceIQ system enables homeowners to “command their kitchen.” This VoiceIQ tech pairs with connected home faucet devices, offering features like metered water dispensing and custom container commands, as the faucet can be programmed to precisely fill uniquely sized containers. As an cooking aid, “smart ranges” can help you cook, range hoods can display videos showing how to prepare a recipe, and smart refrigerators inform the homeowner when they are running low on a food item.

Creating personalized “scenarios” is another leading-edge capability offered by voice activated technology. Saying, “Good morning Alexa,” could be the catalyst for a specific routine established by the homeowner that includes turning on the coffeemaker, turning on lights, pulling up window coverings, turning on the shower, and so on. These customized scenarios can be designed to fit specific needs throughout the day and they can be initiated by a trigger phrase.

Manufacturers incorporating this WiFi-enabled voice capability are aware that security is the weak link when it comes to this type of tech and they are working diligently to resolve this issue.

The Zip Hydro Tap dispenses filtered chilled, sparkling, and instant boiling water. Popular in Europe, these fantastic faucets are finally making their way across the pond. This top tech item does away with all those extra water bottles in your fridge and tea kettles on your countertop. The Hydro Tap comes in six styles and twelve colors, ensuring the perfect aesthetic for every home. Hydro Tap’s chilling and heating unit is compact enough to fit in a 24-inch cabinet, making it a great addition to an island or wet bar.

Another interior design tech product is Plum, an automated wine dispenser that chills to the ideal temperature for each varietal so that it can be served one glass at a time. Plum holds two bottles of wine at a time and uses argon gas to preserve the wines for up to 90 days. The smart device also currently recognizes 3,000 different types of wine and they are constantly adding new varietals to the database.

And since we are talking beverages, countertop glass rinsers such as the one offered by Delta are moving from taprooms and coffeeshops into residential kitchens. These “glass rinsers” quickly and thoroughly clean most standard drinkware and can be easily installed in place of a sink sprayer, soap dispenser – all you need is a hole in the countertop to accommodate one. This means no more hand washing wine glasses, travel mugs, and baby bottles or taking the risk of washing fragile glassware in your dishwasher.

A broader range of color is making a foray into faucets, (as mentioned above, the Hydro Zip comes in 12 colors) showerheads, and appliances as well as door and cabinet hardware.

For those who love using bold hues, the DacorMatch Color System allows homeowners to personalize kitchen appliances by creating interchangeable “skins” in any color imaginable. Rather than having to make a commitment to a single color, DacorMatch offers the flexibility to change colors on appliances seasonally, or whenever the mood strikes.

Another brilliant product is the DUW Wall recessed Linear Floor Drain, perfect for many showers. Inserted into the shower wall rather than placed on the floor, this almost invisible drain blends into its surroundings, creating a continuous flow of floor tile and letting your shower’s beauty shine. The custom and standard configurations are easy to install and maintain.

Innovation is making even more advances into the home. Smart appliances and devices are interconnected. Our voice or the touch of a button allows us to manage and run our residence. And for those who love to make a statement, color reigns supreme in kitchens and bathroom spaces.

Exploring a kitchen and bath remodel and wondering what interior design tech products would work well in your Silicon Valley or Peninsula home? Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has been on the cutting edge of Design + Build since we were founded in 1985. Join us for one of our webinars or in-person workshops, peruse our online portfolio, or give us a call at 650-230-2900 to set up a virtual or in-person complimentary meeting with one of our stellar designers.

The Power of Production in Design + Build

When embarking on a remodeling project, most homeowners are familiar with the traditional and separate design and construction processes. Historically, a homeowner would hire a Designer or Architect to work with them to plan the design and remodel of their home, and then once the plans are complete, would hire an independent Contractor to oversee the construction phase of the project. If all went well, the work of the Designer would translate seamlessly into the construction phase with the Contractor. If the project didn’t go well, the finger pointing between the Designer, Contractor, and homeowner would begin.

For the last several decades, a concept in remodeling has gained traction and acceptance as a successful remodeling approach: It’s referred to as Design + Build, where both aspects of remodeling, Design and Construction, are provided by one single source. With today’s Design + Build firms, you typically find a Certified Design Team and Licensed General Contractor in one company, commissioned under one contract, working together as a team. The goal of the Design + Build concept is to plan and execute a remodeling project with greater precision, a more predictable outcome, and collaboration along the way.

According to Harrell Remodeling, Inc.’s Production Manager, Gary Gray, the Production Team plays an integral role throughout every project, even in the design phase, and long before the permit is pulled or any ground is broken.

“Production’s goal is to create predictability and continuity for each remodeling project,” Gary describes. “We take the time to explore the project up front, collaborate with the entire Harrell Remodeling team, and plan the project to eliminate surprises, and to also maintain steady workflow.”

At Harrell Remodeling, the Production and Design Teams work hand-in-hand from the outset, and especially as the proposed design becomes more solidified. That’s when Gary and team begin to focus in earnest to explore feasibility, buildability, sequencing of work, coordination among trade specialists like structural engineers, electricians, plumbers, roofers, heating and air specialists, drywall installers, and they also factor in city inspections. During this pre-production phase, the team looks at everything necessary to anticipate and plan for a successful project outcome.

Gary explains the important role production plays before the very first hammer is swung. Gary emphasizes that, “Our Project Managers and Production Team play a pivotal role from the beginning of every project, from design through demo, and then continuing through the build, and even into the final punch-list phase.”

Exploration of the existing space is important to quantify the unknown. Visiting the client’s home to assess the site and existing conditions is vital to unearth and quantify as many potential issues as possible. The Production Team explores attics, basements, crawl spaces, and in some cases even looks inside the walls. We look at plumbing, electrical, potential structural issues as well as the existing overall condition of the areas where work will be performed. The goal: to identify and address issues that may come into play once the construction begins.

Once a thorough examination of the current home is complete, the Production Team, along with the Designer and Estimator, collaborate to present a range of possibilities and associated costs so clients can make informed decisions. “By conducting this initial investigative stage, we can usually uncover and plan for issues that would have been a surprise during construction. This keeps unexpected costs down, the project on budget, and the client feels informed and in charge,” Gary conveys. Gary notes that Harrell Remodeling’s “unknown conditions” change orders are a tenth of the national average and the company attributes that low percentage to the exploration that is done up front.

Gary explains that the production process is forward-thinking: planning for client’s anticipated needs, (such as the installation of an electric car charger, or knowing a client’s desire for additional square footage) are thoughtfully considered. Advanced planning can save time and money down the road.

Once design is complete and the build phase begins, the Production Team takes over the daily management of the project. With permits in hand, a Project or Site Manager deploys the team of trade specialists to make the plans a reality and make the client’s dream come to life.

Armed with all the details worked out in the design phase, the Production Team then creates a preliminary build calendar, which outlines the entire remodeling project from beginning to end. This calendar shows which trade specialists will be conducting work, when and for how long. It also takes into account holidays, client schedules, and necessary inspections. The sequencing of work is carefully considered and factored into the plans and schedule.

Clients can view this calendar at any time using a mobile app (or cloud-based website), ensuring they are aware of what tasks are happening at their home, and what is coming up next. The calendar is a working document, meaning it will be amended as the project progresses, but it is a vital collaborative tool used by the entire Harrell Remodeling team to keep the project on track, and on budget.

In addition to creating the build calendar, every remodeling project is assigned a dedicated Lead Carpenter, or Site Manager. This person is on the job site daily and manages the trade specialists, oversees the work, meets with inspectors, utility personnel and structural engineers, and addresses any issues that may arise in construction.

Once the project nears completion, the Production Team oversees the final inspection, and walks through the project with the client to create a “punch list” of any items that need fine-tuning. While Harrell strives to have no items on this punch list, when this list is cleared, the project is complete. Our Warranty Specialist manages the warranty phase and attends to and resolves any issues that come up after the completion of the job.

“The Production Team is part of the process all along the way. We do our best to leave nothing to chance. We explore, plan, schedule, collaborate, and communicate,” Gary states. “It’s all about keeping the work flowing, keeping a critical eye in all areas, maintaining the utmost quality, craftsmanship, and in the end, it is all about delivering on superior client satisfaction for which Harrell Remodeling is known.”

Are you considering an addition or remodel to your Silicon Valley or Peninsula home? We invite you to contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation and let the Design + Build team at Harrell Remodeling work with you to transform your home today.

The Difference Between an Architect and Design + Build

You’ve made the exciting decision to remodel your home. Now what? Where do you start? Who do you hire to make your vision a reality?

As with everything, there are multiple ways to achieve an outcome and different methods work for different people. When it comes to home remodeling, there are two primary approaches homeowners can employ: hire an architect or choose an all-inclusive Design + Build firm.

One approach is to hire a residential architect. The architect’s role is to create a design, which is then translated into a detailed set of construction/design drawings that meet current code and zoning requirements. Depending upon the complexity of the design, the architect’s own project load, and any structural engineering needed, this design process (combined with finding a builder) can take from 6 to 18 months or more, depending on the scope of work.

When construction/design drawings are completed, the building process has just begun. These plans must be reviewed and submitted for building permits, which can in itself be a time consuming ordeal, including several trips to the planning or building department, and can include a visit to the fire or arborist’s department in some cases too! Submitting for permits is not typically the architect’s responsibility, so this often challenging ordeal is frequently left for the homeowner to navigate either before they have selected a contractor, or in some cases, they may have the contractor submit for the permit.

According to Harrell Remodeling CEO, Lisa Sten, “Managing the permit process, especially in certain cities like San Jose, is getting progressively more difficult. Handing this off to a homeowner can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and frustration, not to mention time delays.”

Unless an architect is also a builder, it may be difficult to truly anticipate the potential cost of your project. A builder or general contractor will need completed drawings to provide an idea of the remodeling costs, which means an architect is potentially creating a design that may have to be downsized or significantly altered once accurate estimates are obtained. Many architects do not provide assistance on choosing interior elements such as lighting, paint colors, cabinetry, lighting, flooring, or other materials, leaving you to either make all of these choices yourself, or with another hired professional to help you, such as an interior designer. Although your architect may provide you with recommendations for a general contractor, interior designer, and other specialists, ultimately interviewing and hiring each of these contributors is a separate step, equating to more money, more time, and more decisions for the homeowner.

If you hire an architect, you can anticipate the following steps in the process:

  • Interview and select architect, interior designer, kitchen & bath specialist, lighting designers, other specialists
  • Architect and others work on developing the design
  • Design completed
  • Construction drawings created
  • General contractors interviewed, initial project estimates obtained
  • Drawings/design revised to meet budget
  • Continue to work with interior designer to choose materials and selections
  • Final selection of general contractor
  • Apply for permits
  • Once permit is received, wait to get on general contractor’s construction schedule
  • Remodel/addition project construction begins

An alternate all-inclusive approach is to hire a Design + Build firm

The Design + Build process is like an all-inclusive resort, providing everything you need from start to finish. From feasibility studies, code verification, design, structural engineering, permitting, and construction, every aspect of a home remodel or addition is handled by in-house specialists and loyal tradespeople.

“Harrell Remodeling has completed thousands of remodeling projects, so early on in our client relationships, we are able to provide realistic cost information – we call this a ‘preliminary conceptual budget,’” explains Lisa. “We use value engineering to prioritize the wants and needs of each client to fit within their budget if their initial project scope exceeds their desired investment.”

From the outset, the Design + Build approach streamlines the start-to-finish project timeline and can reduce the number of weeks or months in the entire process. There is an immediate direct and on-going line of communication between the company and client. When you become a design client, a construction start (and more importantly end) date is assigned to your project, and the Design process is guided by those dates. Design + Build also offers homeowners:

  • Single source of accountability and communication
  • Quality control
  • Budget considerations
  • Collaborative teamwork
  • Detailed timelines
  • Design and construction “under one roof”
  • Minimized time delays
  • Procurement of necessary reviews and permits
  • Assistance from professional designers in choosing finishes and materials
  • Priority status during construction

For homeowners desiring a high-end professional result on time and on budget, Design + Build is worth considering. Celebrating our 35th year of remodeling with our incredibly well-rounded team of professionals, Harrell Remodeling is known for designing and remodeling distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

We invite you to learn more about the Design + Build experience by attending one of our free informational webinars. Or, if you’re ready to get started on updating your residence, contact us to schedule a Zoom (or other platform) design consultation with a Harrell Designer.

Making a Statement With Garage Doors

We’ve all heard the saying, “necessity is the mother of invention” and this definitely holds true for the residential garage. Well over a century ago when one of the primary modes of transportation was horse and buggy, many homes had carriage houses. These were outbuildings situated behind homes that served as shelter for the horses and carriage. When mass production made the motorized vehicle (the “horseless carriage”) popular in the 1920s, the garage replaced the carriage house.

As alleys behind homes were not constructed in the new post-war and 1950s and 1960s neighborhoods, garages eventually moved to the front of the home, often becoming a prominent (and sometimes not very attractive) architectural feature. Today, garage doors offer homeowners the opportunity to add visual interest to their homes, especially if their garage is a primary feature.

Garage doors have come a long way since the cumbersome single panel, manual, swing-up or sliding door. Today, they come in a myriad of materials, including wood, steel, vinyl, glass, and fiberglass, and the styles include contemporary, traditional, modern, and even the historic “carriage house” style. The almost limitless options allow homeowners to design a garage door that makes an architectural statement in keeping with the aesthetic of their residence.

Says Harrell CEO (and occasional Senior Designer) Lisa Sten, “Garage doors have such potential but are underused as a residential design feature. It’s imperative to take a holistic approach – a garage door should be a cohesive, rather than a standalone design statement.”

Lisa suggests that when choosing a new garage door for your home, you should consider:

  • Curb appeal
  • Cohesive design
  • Functionality
  • Energy-savings
  • Safety
  • Privacy and light
  • Material durability

When it comes to materials, wood doors are beautiful but take considerable time and money to maintain. Embossed steel or fiberglass doors with a wood grain offer a similar aesthetic and require much less maintenance. Opting for an insulated door will help keep your garage cool in the summer, and warmer in the winter, which is a benefit, especially if the garage is attached to your home. Be sure to choose windows wisely if privacy (or safety) is a concern. Frosted windows allow light inside while concealing the contents in your garage. Be sure to get a door with heavy-duty springs, especially if you will be using your garage door frequently. Lisa also recommends that homeowners purchase a new garage door opener and have both the opener and the door professionally installed.

There are a number of other elements to integrate with your new garage door in order to coordinate with the design aesthetic of your home, including:

  • Lighted house numbers
  • Exterior light fixtures
  • Trellis structure for plantings and vines above the garage doors
  • Planters or greenery on sides of doors
  • Complementary side gates and fencing
  • Coordinating person door to the garage
  • Paint or stain, and using accents colors

“Painting your garage door a contrasting or bold color makes a visual statement,” Lisa says. “In my opinion, darker colors tend to recede while lighter colors actually pop out more. If you prefer to have your garage door ‘disappear,’ paint it the same color as your house.”

Whatever the style of your home, the right garage door can make an impact, creating curb appeal as well as increasing the functionality of your home.

Woman-founded in 1985 and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling has been creating distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula for 35 years. If you are considering transforming your space, allow our award-winning Design + Build team to 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.

Ceilings — Making the Most of the “Fifth Wall”

Thoughtfully-designed ceilings treatments are frequently a forgotten design element in homes, and that’s unfortunate as they offer one of the largest areas of visually-uninterrupted square footage for creating a visual statement, and for incorporating creative design elements and principles in our homes.

Harrell Remodeling Designer, Lisa Mellberg, believes that ceiling treatments can be applied in all styles of homes if they are intentionally designed with each client’s personal aesthetic in mind.

“It’s all about coordination and the use of unifying elements to create an intended design driven by the client’s budget and individual preferences,” Lisa explains. “A ceiling treatment can embody color and pattern or add subdued interest. Regardless of a client’s distinct flair, these design elements should feel intentional and fluid throughout all areas of the home”.

Below are six ways to make the most of your fifth wall.

Tray or Coffered Ceilings: A tray ceiling features a center area that is several inches “popped-up” higher than its perimeter. Wood moldings can be applied to the border area as a design element. The perimeter can also be constructed to conceal lighting that is directed upward, outlining the space with a warm, subtle glow.

A coffered ceiling has its origins in classical design. Applied molding creates a repetition of indentations or recesses that can be simple or elaborate. These ceiling treatments are timeless, often with a square or rectangular pattern. Both tray and coffered ceilings work well in bedrooms and living areas of the home.

Faux Beams: Beamed ceilings instill architectural appeal in almost any home and frequently provide a solution to the functional problem of an exposed structural beam. If you have an exposed structural beam, you can create a repeating design pattern, by adding intentionally placed faux beams for a thoughtfully designed look. Ready-made beams are lightweight and come in a wide variety of wood grains, textures and colors. They can be placed over existing wood beams, and offer the ability to make the beams appear much larger than structurally needed if it fits the design. Faux beams are a great way to disguise electrical wiring and up-lighting.

Harrell Remodeling is using this ceiling treatment in a current Redwood City remodel where moving a visible structural beam (into the second floor structural system above) was not desired, nor would it impact the intended design. The beam pattern is embellished and repeated with faux beams. When the project is complete, the clients will have a stunning and dramatic faux beam ceiling in their living space.

Wood Plank or Beadboard: Placing wood planks such as shiplap, barn wood, or tongue and groove on the ceiling creates a relaxed, natural ambiance. Painted beadboard lends itself to a farmhouse atmosphere. These textural ceiling treatments have gained in popularity with the advent of industrial chic designs and because of the appreciation of rustic, patinaed, and distressed materials. Wood plank and beadboard applications can also add visual interest in bathrooms and in all living spaces.

Wallpaper: The incredibly wide variety of colors, patterns, and styles make installing wallpaper an exceptional way to add interest to ceilings. Crown molding is often used to define the space and the wallpaper is applied within its borders. The design can be bold and colorful, textural, or subtle. For lower ceilings, the addition of wallpaper to the ceiling can give the illusion of height. Adding a complimentary or dramatic light fixture can intensify the visual impact. Wallpapered ceilings are ideal for adding drama to special spaces such as bedrooms and dining rooms. Be careful in selecting an appropriately-rated wallpaper treatment in bathrooms because of moisture.

Silver or Gold-leaf, or Metallic Paint: Perfect for a single small space, like a dining room, foyer, or powder room, silver or gold-leaf creates exponential drama. Crown molding is used to delineate the ceiling with the gold or silver-leaf applied within the area. For those looking for a similar effect at a lower price point, metallic paint is a fantastic solution. Add a statement light fixture to illuminate the space, and voilà!

Barrel Ceilings: A barrel ceiling is semi-cylindrical in shape, resembling the inside of a half barrel. This type of ceiling treatment can be accomplished in a room or often a hallway, by constructing a ceiling so that two sides of the space are a few feet lower than the highest point in the middle. The barrel shape can be finished in a multitude of ways, including brick, tile, stucco, or wood plank, to name a few. This dramatic ceiling type works beautifully in a long, narrow space such as a foyer or hallway.

“Classic architecture embraced the use of the fifth wall,” Lisa reminds us. “You see all types of dramatic and beautiful treatments but they lost popularity mainly due to budget constraints. But ceiling treatments can be designed to fit any aesthetic and budget and add a dramatic statement to a home, even if it is applied in just one room.”

Wondering how to make the most of your fifth wall? Contact us for a complimentary design consultation and let the Design + Build team at Harrell Remodeling work with you to transform your Silicon Valley and Peninsula home.

Home Media Rooms & In-Home Theatres Create Immersive Entertainment

Who doesn’t love to binge watch their favorite TV show or gather with family and friends for a night out at the movies? The average family of four spends about 1,785 hours each year watching television and $2,500 annually on entertainment. Our love of film and ever-advancing technical innovation have been major catalysts in bringing our go-to entertainment into home media rooms and in-home theatres.

Media rooms and home theatres have become a mainstream must-have, bringing the immersive movie-going experience directly to the viewer. These specialty entertainment spaces can be a dedicated room designed as a full-blown media room, or, for homes without a separate space, living and great rooms can just as easily be transformed into home theatres.

There are multiple technical and aesthetic areas to consider when designing a media room in a home.

Single or Multi-Screen

For movie enthusiasts or families who enjoy watching television, a large single screen is an ideal option. But sports fans often prefer having multiple screens, allowing them to watch several games at one time. Video gamers are another group who benefit from multi-screens as it offers them a first-person perspective especially when engaging with other players.

HD Projector or SmartTV

The choice of an HD projector or Smart TV for a media room depends upon the wall space and the distance viewers will sit from the screen. HD projectors are similar to what is used in commercial theatres and come in a wide variety of sizes, with the most popular sizes ranging from 100 to 120 inches. High definition Smart TVs are continuously increasing in innovative technology and screen size, with 80 inches being the largest to date.

Sound System

The most integral part of a memorable movie is the sound. “As any movie professional will tell you, big sound is more important than a big picture,” declares Harrell Remodeling Designer, Divya Vijayanandakumar. The standard sound system is a 5:1, with speakers located at the front and on the sides of the room along with a subwoofer. If space allows, upgrading to a 6:1 or 7:1 system, where speakers are also at the back of the room, creates a fully immersive sound experience. Since sound is such an important aspect of a home theatre, Divya highly recommends working with a Media Designer to achieve the best possible sound.

Acoustics & Soundproofing

Hand in hand with sound is the room’s acoustical design. Not only does it maximize auditory enjoyment, it is critical to ensuring sound remains inside the room to avoid disturbing other family members or nearby neighbors. Proper sound dampening and acoustics are achieved by installation of fabric panels on the walls, plush seating, carpeted floors, and fabric window coverings. For home theatres in open living spaces, it is best to choose a location away from bedrooms as complete sound dampening may not be achievable.


The initial step in seating choice goes back to the function and size of the space. Is it purely for movie and television viewing or will it also serve as a gaming space? On average, how many people will be using the media room? These details help determine the size and number of seats as well as their layout to ensure that each is the “best seat in the house.” There are a wide array of home theatre recliners, which can be either manually operated or motorized. Seat size and style options also vary widely, from large and plush to sleek in design. Most recliners have drink holders, and some offer built-in tables. According to Divya, a 10’ X 16’ room is the minimum space to comfortably fit two rows of seating.


Proper lighting provides a number of different functions in a home theatre. Dimmable recessed lighting and wall sconces offer the best illumination for a variety of entertaining needs. Divya suggests avoiding table or floor lamps in media rooms to eliminate on-screen glare. If there are two levels of seating, illuminating stairs is important, especially when the space is darkened. She also recommends using a Smart system to pre-set and auto-control lighting within the space. Lutron Homeworks QS and Lutron Radio RA2 are two total home control systems that wirelessly manage both lighting and temperature. If the room has windows, installing motorized shades, which can also be controlled by a Lutron system, also helps create the perfect entertainment environment.

Drinks & Snacks

No movie would be complete without snacks! For many home theatres, a simple snack center with small refrigerator to keep beverages cold, a table-top popcorn maker, and a cabinet filled with candy and other goodies adds to viewer’s enjoyment. Larger media rooms can include a kitchenette space with built-in beverage station, fountain drinks on tap, a fully stocked snack center, and cabinets for storing extra munchies, blankets, and pillows.

From living rooms to a dedicated space designed to mimic the movie-going experience, media rooms and in-home theatres are highly desired by homeowners. Not only do they increase home value upon resale, they enhance lifestyles by connecting families through entertainment.

Schedule a complimentary consultation with one of Harrell Remodeling’s Designers to dial in your family’s home entertainment experience.