Real Estate

An almost-instant bathroom

New HarrellCARE division takes on smaller projects

After Carey Holubar and Mark Dietz remodeled their Monta Loma home 14 years ago, nobody wanted to use the second -- decidedly pink -- bathroom, especially not their two growing sons.

The parents got really tired of sharing the shower with their boys, now 19 and 15, so they turned to HarrellCARE, a new division of Harrell Remodeling that focuses on less design-intensive, smaller projects.

Not everyone needs "high-design or award-winning bathrooms or kitchens, but they want something new, that has some style, is functional," Ciro Giammona, Harrell Remodeling general manager, says.

The 5-foot by 7-foot bathroom was actually the first project of the new division, where the CARE part stands for Construction And Repair Experts, according to Lisa Sten, senior designer at the design/build firm.

Holubar was just the client HarrellCARE was designed for: "I knew what I wanted," she says, recalling that she found a sink online. But rather than just buying that sink and vanity online, Sten suggested having Harrell's cabinet maker custom build it.

"We felt we could have our cabinetmaker make it more durable, and then we could warranty it," Sten says.

"I told them what I wanted to do, and they showed me three types of fixtures that would be within my budget," Holubar says.

Parallel with starting HarrellCARE, the remodeling firm opened up a selection center in Mountain View "so you don't have to go to five places to find plumbing fixtures, tile finishes, samples of solid surfaces," Giammona says. "We can put together a whole array of selections without running out to any showrooms at all.

"They still get good service, good quality finishes. ... Ultimately it's just a more streamlined and more straightforward type of project," he adds.

With HarrellCARE clients sign on for a limited number of meetings. "If you have trouble making decisions and you need to go to six plumbing showrooms to pick one (item), it's not for you," Sten adds.

A key innovation in the small bathroom was trading the old tub for a stall shower, with controls on the wall opposite the adjustable showerhead.

"You open the door, flip it on, close it and you're good to go," Holubar says of the roomy stall.

The original design included a fixed-glass panel with a space at the left to step in. But once the tall boys began using the shower it became apparent that water was splashing everywhere, so they added a glass door.

The shower features an acrylic pre-made shower pan, with walls made of Marblestone, a manmade solid-surface material that comes in slabs. Sten describes it as a "more economical alternative to natural stone."

The floor is composed of 12-inch slate squares. Completing the room is a Toto dual-flush toilet and a DuraVit sink, with that custom-made open vanity -- "It makes the room feel bigger, feels more open," Sten says -- as well as a recessed medicine chest.

"We wanted a place to store toilet paper and Kleenex. Before it was on the back of the toilet tank," Holubar says. "The advantage of boys: They don't use a lot of product."

The former off-center, low vertical window over the tub was replaced with a horizontal Milgard slider with textured glass.

A final touch: adding a grab bar in the shower.

"This is the house that Mark and I will be living in until they put us out to pasture, so I asked for the grab bar," Holubar says.

"Even young men break their feet and need help getting in and out," Sten adds, noting "it doesn't look institutional."


Design/build: Harrell Remodeling Inc. (designers: Lisa Sten and Beth Leibbrandt), Mountain View, 650-230-2900,

Goal of project: Create a functional bathroom for two boys to share

Unexpected problems: Needed to add door to glass shower stall

Year house built: 1958

Size of home: 5' by 7' bathroom remodeled in 1,300-sq-ft home

Time to complete: Less than 2 months

Budget: About $33,000


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