Bathroom with skylight sun tunnel

Open Up Your World to Skylights and Sun Tunnels

Skylights and sun tunnels are two innovative ways to bring natural light into the interior rooms of your home. Skylights are windows or see-through panels located on the roof. In rooms with angled ceilings that match the angle of the roof, the skylight is mounted on the roof and light travels directly into the room. In rooms with flat ceilings that do not match the angle of the roof above, it is fairly typical to have a light well made of drywall built around the roof mounted skylight that connects the skylight to the room’s flat ceiling. This light well brings the light into the room. These applications work when a skylight can be placed directly above a room. Sun tunnels are often used when there are obstructions in the attic that prevent the installation of a skylight. Sun tunnels are similar to skylights, but rather than a light well, sun tunnels have a tube with a reflective interior lining that captures natural light from a roof mounted dome and channels the light indirectly into the room. This tunnel often travels at a slight angle through attic space. Sun tunnels can be installed in kitchens, living rooms, hallways and other areas of the home that may not have ample natural lighting.


These ‘windows in the ceiling’ can increase natural lighting and make a room feel brighter and larger. When properly installed as part of a Bay Area home remodeling project, skylights can help homeowners cut costs on an electricity bill while enhancing the home’s level of sophistication. Skylights are available in a wide array of shapes and sizes with UV protected glass in a variety of tints. Skylights can be fixed, or operable. Operable skylights increase the fresh air flow and are often available with easy to use remote controls.

Sun Tunnels

Starting in sizes roughly a foot across and available in both round and square shapes, a sun tunnel diffuser panel sits on the ceiling level of a room. From there the connected sun tunnel extends through and across attic space to a roof mounted clear dome. The interior effect in the room’s ceiling appears similar to recessed lighting. Sun tunnels can be integrated into roof systems with slopes between 15 and 60 degrees. Choose a diffuser for the sun tunnel that limits both glare and bright spots.

Homeowners interested in improving their energy efficiency will like the eco-friendly impact of skylights and sun tunnels. They bring the illuminating properties of daylight into dark rooms. If you would like to learn more about skylights or sun tunnels and how they might be included in your remodel, please call or email us today for a complimentary discussion with one of our designers.

Two Simple Design Ideas to Ponder as You Start Your Design Journey!

Going Global

Feng Shui, Vástu Shástra, and other Eastern philosophies have been guiding builders since ancient times. Today these principles are gaining interest in the West , and inspire features such as  shoji doors,  Japanese “Ofuro” soaking tubs, bamboo or warm cherry woods with simple elegant lines, artistic fixtures and cabinet pulls.

Timeless Design

Frank Lloyd did it effectively and you can too!  Think neutral  colors – not beige necessarily, but the colors you might find in nature.  Choose finishes that are sustainable and low maintenance, free from excessive patterns or considered overly trendy. When it comes to style; modern, traditional, eclectic, or craftsman are always wise investment choices when it comes to your home and they will hold their appeal and value over many decades.

Laundry and Hobby Rooms: The New Family Center?

More and more home remodeling projects are including large open spaces with multiple uses instead of smaller rooms with a single use. Sometimes the need arises for a less formal space, a place where family members can spend quality time together in a relaxed atmosphere. A multi-purpose room has become the new family center. As a result, hobbies and laundry are ideal companion activities to share this space.

The space can be designed such that there is enough room for all family members to do their special activities, alone or together. For example, Mom or Dad can do the laundry while the kids are painting or building puzzles. There are several elements that are popular in hobby and laundry rooms which help make the space more functional. For example, add a TV or a sound system for enhanced usability.

Counter Space

Everyone needs room to work. Layouts for the room might include counters that that run along some or all of the walls. For extra room to work, tabletops or islands can be placed within the room, or perhaps pull out or fold down for convenience. Countertop materials range from wood to laminate to natural or engineered stone. Give some thought to scratch-resistant and stain-resistant surfaces that wear well and fit their purpose.


Where there are activities, there are supplies. Ask your Design + Build team to create cubbyholes, drawers and storage space above or below the countertops and workstations. This can help you minimize the clutter and keep it a pleasant place to spend time together. Cabinets can include a fold-down ironing board, a place to fold clothes and an area to store laundry supplies.


Choose flooring that is smooth, moisture-resistant, durable and easy to clean while coordinating with the rest of the decor. Use area rugs to create extra comfort and a cozy feel to select parts of the room.


Lighting is one of the most important features to the new hobby room and laundry room. Use natural light from large windows and put focused task lighting over specialized work spaces. Recessed lighting throughout the room can help illuminate even the largest spaces.

A Look at the Hottest Residential Solar Energy Options

There are several different alternatives available for homeowners hoping to become more energy efficient. Solar energy, in particular, can be an excellent choice for Bay Area homeowners, with options ranging from passive solar design to solar water heaters to photovoltaic panels. Here’s a look at some of the options that can be incorporated into your custom remodeling project.

Passive Solar Heating

One way to make your home more energy efficient is through passive solar heating and cooling techniques. Passive solar building design relies on the collection, storage and distribution of solar energy through the optimal placement and design of interior and exterior walls, windows and floors. For example, one can use reflective coatings on exterior walls and roofing. Overhangs, insulation and careful landscaping can all lower energy use. Deliberate placement of windows and effective ventilation are also important elements. For a whole-home remodeling approach centered around passive solar energy, it’s critical to make changes to the areas in your home that use or lose the most energy. Passive solar heating and cooling requires little maintenance and no mechanical system installation, but it’s important to plan early in your design and build process for best results.

Photovoltaic Systems

A photovoltaic solar system involves the installation of solar panels. They can be integrated into your building materials and roof shingles, or installed on top of the roof for a more traditional solar look. Some solar-powered items for your home remodel include a water heater, pool heater and flooring. The home can be partially or entirely powered with solar energy. If you choose to do a whole-home conversion, you can stay connected to the utility grid or go “off the grid” and provide your own collection, regulation, conversion and distribution. There are various federal and state incentives, rebates and tax credits available for different systems.

Outdoor Landscaping

If you’re looking for a smaller-scale use of solar power, try solar lighting outdoors for your garden, patio, front walk or pool area. This makes your outdoor living spaces safer and more inviting for parties and barbecues, as well as just spending time outdoors in solitude. Put solar lights in areas that receive a considerable amount of sunshine to maximize the strength of your lights. LED lighting is the most efficient form of outdoor lighting as compared to fluorescent and halogen lights. Some solar landscape lighting systems require battery replacement about every two years.

To learn more about the different methods and degrees of going solar, talk to our Harrell Remodeling Design + Build team. We can help you decide which option will work best for your Bay Area home.

Interior Remodeling Basics: Choosing Wall Treatments

Wouldn’t you like to liven up your room and show off your personal style? Wall treatments can give you the opportunity to add color, texture, depth and creativity to your spaces. A common option is to create custom walls or an accent wall by using bold patterns or three-dimensional patterns on one wall with paint or paneling on the others. There are several home remodeling options to choose from that can bring some excitement into your living spaces. Merge colors and patterns with textures to create depth in each room.

Today’s wallpaper isn’t like the old-school wallpaper that covered all four walls and was hard to remove if you ever wanted a change. Today’s wallpaper designs are often larger prints and can be used in concert with paint and other wall treatments to create a “wow” factor. Many wallpapers are paintable, so we can customize them to your color choices for the rest of the room.

Fabric Panels
Visually, fabric panels can create a dramatic presence. They can be a series of panels with a design for a mural-type effect, or they can have a more upholstered look. Use them to create or reinforce a theme and to add texture to an otherwise blank wall covering a select a portion or the entire wall.  Mount fabric panels on the wall to cover audio speakers or camouflage wall safes or other hidden features on a wall to create visual and acoustic functionality in any room. Use panels of nearly any type of fabric, from cotton to canvas to suede, to serve as a sound barrier in entertainment rooms, the baby’s nursery or a workout room.

Wood Paneling
Use wood paneling or wainscoting to blend or contrast with other room furnishings. Wood paneling or beadboard, with materials ranging from pine to cedar to oak, can be stained or painted to provide a more traditional look and can easily be refinished when you’re ready for a change. Depending on the finish and wood species, wood paneling can also create a rustic look or a more luxurious environment. For environmentally-conscious homeowners, reclaimed wood paneling is a green option for a custom remodeling project.

Gypsum board and drywall have evolved into more sophisticated wall treatments than a simple flat surface that is covered in paint. Drywall can be textured, reinforced with fiberglass, or mudded and sanded. It can also be painted and stand alone or serve as a base underneath other forms of wall treatments.

Delving Deeper Into Kitchen Cabinets

When it comes to a kitchen remodel, cabinets are a prominent part of the project. They are visually dominant, play an important role in storage, and must coordinate with all other components in the kitchen to create the desired look. Depending on the homeowner’s style, the right kitchen cabinets can vary widely in materials, finishes, and in the type of framing, door style and special features.

Cabinet Finishes

One common consideration for Design + Build contractors is whether to use paint or stain for the finish. Wood cabinet finishes are sanded, stained and sealed with a finish coating on top. Stain can alter the hue, but preserves the effect of the natural grain. Another option is paint. Choosing the right paint color can completely change the look and feel of the kitchen. Traditional colors tend to complement a more traditional cabinet style.

Open or Closed?

The style of the cabinets doesn’t have to be uniform throughout the kitchen. Some areas may be better suited to open cabinets, while the contents of others prompt the necessity for doors. Consider some glass- front doors to showcase special items. A careful inventory of different items for storage, from food to dishes to small appliances, can help determine what type of door style is best.

Cabinet Construction

Framed or frameless cabinets have a distinctly different look. A framed cabinet is considered more traditional and has either a door that sits on top of the cabinet frame, or is inset to the frame. Either way you “see” the frame of the box. Frameless or unframed cabinets tend to be a more contemporary look as the door fully overlays the cabinet box. Either option can be chosen when considering kitchen remodeling in the Bay Area.


The presence of hinges and knob or pull hardware can also change the look of cabinets. The hinges can be concealed from view, and the cabinet hardware can be recessed into the door design or attached to the outside. Hardware is often made of metals like brass, copper, iron or stainless steel; more atypical options like glass, ceramic, bronze and porcelain are also available.

Getting Organized

Part of the purpose for replacing the cabinets in a kitchen remodel is to make them more functional and effective. Identifying the function for each cabinet helps to maximize the efficiency of the design. For example, the home cook should be able to see and access all of the choices in the spice cabinet, whether it’s through a pull-out or folding solution. Lower (or base) cabinets might have a roll-out shelf to maximize space and for easier accessibility. Some items are better suited to drawers than shelving, such as placemats and silverware.

Whether your new kitchen will be contemporary or traditional in style, knowing the stylistic and functional aspects of cabinet selection will make your project even more successful.

Three Style and Design Trends

Three trends, styles and designs that are on the forefront of our designing minds these days…

1. Designed for Aging

Many Designers are becoming certified aging-in-place specialists (CAPS), in response to the growing need to identify ways to help aging baby boomers “age gracefully” in their homes, for as long as possible. Universal design is one such trend that is coming to the forefront of main stream design for homes.  Look for easy kitchen and bath upgrades to enhance functionality, comfort and safety. Features such as wide hallways, enlarged and zero-step walk-in showers, wall hung vanities and lowered countertops blend seamlessly into the design so that the home does not have a clinical or institutional appearance.  (zero-step shower and wall hung vanity are shown to the left)

2. California is All About Outdoor Living

Outdoor living is here to stay. The yard and garden become a part of the floor plan when sliding glass doors or retractable glass walls such as nana-walls™, open up the home and lead to patios and decks, either covered or open to allow for natural light. Outdoor rooms may even include kitchens with sophisticated sinks and grills, including features such as built-in fireplaces, eco-friendly fire pits that burn clean fuel (ethanol) , LED lighting in a variety of colors including water-proof rope lighting discreetly hidden along fences, pathways or decking.

3. Glass Backsplashes

Be on the lookout for back-painted, solid glass panel backsplashes in contemporary settings, which provide a colorful yet ultra-clean, sleek alternative to the more traditional tile backsplash.  This sleek look can also compliment a kitchen or bathroom that has busy patterns in the cabinets, flooring or countertops.  Glass will provide a simple backsplash will not compete with the surrounding textures, and add either a pop of color or neutrality to your space.  (mustard glass backsplash in the photo to the left)

Article Credits: Ciro Giammona – President and General Contractor

Choosing Shelves, Niches and Benches for your Bathroom Remodel

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


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

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

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

Article Credits: Gloria Carlson – Designer

Take a Peek Into Our Shower… Options!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will be floored with all the choices!

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

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

Surfaces that work well for outdoor living space remodels include:

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

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