A lot of homeowners don’t think enough about design when remodeling a room or even the entire house, says design consultant and contractor Sophie Huang. But consideration for color, texture, and atmosphere makes a world of difference—even potentially adding up to multiple times the cost of the remodeling in profits when you sell.
“You really transform the space into something very lovely and inviting, and then you really enjoy the atmosphere,” Huang said.
Huang has many clients who often stay at upscale hotels. “After they remodel, a lot of clients say they really want to return to their homes. They browse through hotels and don’t find them as appealing as their homes and say ‘Why stay at a hotel, then?’”
“I have a client who, after they remodeled one of their bathrooms, says everyone uses the new bathroom, no one uses the old one,” she said. “So the family said, ‘Mom, you have to remodel the old one, otherwise everyone keeps fighting for the new one.’”
The Bay Area’s booming real estate market has much to do with the large international buyer base and thriving tech sector—which means there are many busy business people who want the house they envision at the turn of a key.
When it comes to remodeling, “the floor plan is the most important,” Huang says.
“When we work with clients, we consider the entire floor plan. We suggest where you should put the sink, whether you need to reorganize the space, maybe even take out a wall to make it more spacious, open,” she said. “If your floor plan’s not right, definitely don’t do it, don’t remodel.”
“How much money you spend isn’t the issue, it’s the floor plan that’s the issue—and if your floor plan is right you can do it piece by piece, and do it right. This is our philosophy,” Huang said.
“You can’t just—if for example you have $100—spend $10 here and $10 there, just to spend it all. Definitely not. You have to think, with this $100, how do you make $100 back?” Huang said. “If today you want your $100 to be a good investment, you want to put it in something with value.”
A favorite for her clients is Porcelanosa, Huang says. The Spain-based one-stop shop for remodeling has the widest variety of tile that she’s seen, with unique-to-the-brand textures, colors, designs, and tile sizes.
It’s important to have a common theme and coordinate between the different rooms, but your rooms shouldn’t look all the same either, Huang says. Viewing showrooms and recently remodeled houses can help clients pick out ideas and start to personalize each room.
“For a homeowner it’s overwhelming—but a lot of fun,” said Michael Gordon, manager of Porcelanosa’s Bay Area locations, at the grand re-opening of their San Jose showroom.
Founded in 1973, Porcelanosa was one of the first companies to market ceramic as a high-class product.
“Before, this was just a building material. People didn’t really care about their bathroom, their kitchen tiles, and how they will look,” says Pedro Pesudo, Porcelanosa Barcelona’s export manager.
Now it’s fashion, Pesudo says, and people coordinate décor like outfits, and track trends from season to season.
“These days the ceramics industry … invests a lot of money in design, and you become really creative,” Pesudo said.
Porcelanosa manufactures, in-house, everything you would need to remodel a bathroom or kitchen, including faucets, showerheads, and accessories, but the core of the business is ceramic tile. “We are constantly investing and creating in this field,” Pesudo said, with eight factories that each have laboratories for “not only creating new products, but also to improve, all the time, the quality.”
The plan is to increase from 27 to 100 showrooms in the Bay Area, Pesudo said. Porcelanosa doesn’t market much in the United States and instead relies on showrooms—which seems to work. A customer who had just finished remodeling her home stepped into the new San Jose showroom and said it made her want to remodel it all over again.
“For the price range, I’d consider it pretty affordable because there are other more expensive brands,” Huang said. “They’re not a dollar-per-tile type place … but they do have some less expensive tiles that can achieve the effect.”
Remodeling a bathroom with tile of a much higher price range can come out to only a few hundred dollars’ difference, Huang explains, because you don’t use many tiles in the first place. The biggest cost factor of a redesign comes from the construction because certain jobs require a lot of skill, so Huang cautions against skimping on the aesthetics just to save minimal costs.
“They’re not looking at hours, but the difficulty of the remodel,” Huang said. “You might look for the least expensive constructor, but that’s because they can only do very simple things, and if you need something more difficult they’ll say they can’t do it.”
On one project, Huang walked into the client’s bathroom and found the layout strange, with the vanity a good foot away from the wall and taking up door space. “I found out it was because the plumbing was there, and if they were to push the vanity to the wall they’d have to redo the plumbing,” Huang said. “A lot of constructors, it’s not that they’re not good, it’s just [outside] their area of expertise.”
When a homeowner is ready to upgrade or downsize their home, they want products that will retain and increase the property’s value, Gordon said. And having high quality products to show “at the end of the day, for a homeowner—it brings value to their home,” Gordon said.
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