Danville Express

- June 15, 2007

Refresh, renew, remodel

Helpful tips on making your design dreams reality

by Christina Straw

The orange shag carpeting and wood-paneled rumpus room just isn't cutting it anymore. You've decided to make a change, move on, and have fallen in love with warm neutral colors and crown molding.

Not having a lot of experience with drills and drywall, you're not sure where to start in the whole construction process.

"Careful planning, budget management and doing what works for you and your room will help you avoid disaster when it comes to a construction project," said Lucia Palmitessa, designer and project manager for Kitchens of Diablo in Danville, a full service design studio. "Be sure to get referrals and interview designers before getting started. You should work with someone you feel comfortable with, who understands your goals and can interpret your vision."

Palmitessa, a native of Italy, has been working in the construction and design industry for more than 12 years. She believes that taking time talking to clients and understanding what they like is important when it comes to the success of a project.

"I can better direct them in making choices for their homes when I know what they're looking for," she said.

A common mistake people make is trying to micro-manage a project without experience. For people who want to save time, it's better to hire a general contractor to oversee the project from start to finish.

Danville residents Leslie and Frank Harris decided to remodel their entire house after getting married in 1992.

"We looked at possibly purchasing an updated house, but wanted to stay in the neighborhood," Leslie Harris said. "When we decided to remodel, we did a lot of interviewing."

They hired Barry & Volkmann architects in Danville after visiting homes they had designed and built.

"The fact that Blair Barry lived in our neighborhood was a big plus," said Harris. "His approach was terrific and he knew what style was fitting for our house."

"Our project was managed by Blair from start to finish, which was great. There were no surprises. We knew what was going on every step of the way," she added.

To save money, it is possible to sub-contract each element of the project, from the fixtures to the tile. But this can be challenging for people trying to balance work, family, schedules and contractor availability.

"It's important to understand market value," Palmitessa said. "Know how much things cost and understand what you value in your decision-making. It will help you make better choices and you'll know what's right for you."

She said the trends she is seeing in the Danville/Alamo area include larger kitchens and opening up spaces.

"People want what you see in magazines," she said. "Clients in this area are still keeping to traditional styles, but getting rid of formal living rooms and making family rooms bigger."

Plan a successful remodel

* Plan your project. Regardless of size or type of your project, if you plan out your ideas, you're more likely to meet your requirements and avoid going over budget.

* Get at least three written, detailed estimates. You'll be able to see how each contractor approaches the project. Be sure to get an explanation if estimates greatly vary.

* Check the contractor. Be sure to get a copy of a license, as well as check his insurance terms.

* Check references. Contact prior clients as well as visit current projects in progress.

* Be cautious of contractors who won't answer your questions about the work, progress and the contract.

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