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Style Magazine

Extreme Makeover

Jan 30, 2012 08:11AM ● By Style

Photos courtesy of Phil Kampel Photography.

Any homeowner will tell you that once the dust settles on their home remodel project, it’s a skilled and qualified contractor that made all the difference.

Despite an era of DIY and HGTV, some home projects are best left to the experts. Luckily, the greater Sacramento area benefits from the local chapter of NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Members of NARI are trusted and experienced professionals in the business, united by the organization’s commitment to ethics, expertise and exceptional work. In addition to full-service contractors, members include design-build firms, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, subcontractors, lenders and other related professionals who work in the remodeling field.

Additionally, NARI honors some of its members yearly with the Contractor of the Year (CotY) Awards. Chosen for their expertise in specific categories based on size of project, type of room, and budget, the selected members hope to generate future contracts from new clients impressed with their work. Not a traditional design competition, the CotY’s look at how the overall project met and exceeded the clients’ needs and goals. According to Brenda Kress at NARI, project binders are submitted and viewed by a panel of judges who are normally NARI members from other Chapters. “Using a point system, each entry is graded in 10 overall categories,” she says. “At the conclusion, points are added up and those in each category with the highest points win.” The judges also select a “Judges’ Choice” award based on their collective decision and not points.

This issue, we feature two recent CotY honorees, Henley Homes, Inc. in the “Entire Home Remodel” (250K to 500K) category and DreamBuilders Home Remodeling in the “Bathroom Remodel” (60K+) category.


Master Bath


With 32 years of experience as a general contractor under his belt, George Henley wouldn’t trade his career in for anything. “A man, a truck and his dog working in the sunshine…how can you beat it?” Not even the challenge of transforming a one-story, ranch-style home into a two-story Tudor twice the original floor plan could make the Newcastle-based contractor flinch. “The changes to the home were tremendous,” he says of the mammoth project. “It is virtually a completely new home.”

Built in 1935, the original structure was a “modest” 1,400-square-foot home in a variation of the architectural “ranch” style. Single story, with a gabled roof design, the contractor says it was well maintained and in good shape, minus a leaky roof, when they first laid eyes on it. Still, homeowners Michele and Bob Hobza had their eyes set on something grander: an elegant “Tudor,” a half-timbered look with a German-framing style known as fachwerk. They also desired the addition of a second story master suite.

“Bob was most concerned that the home didn’t look like it had a box sitting on top of it,” Michele says, describing the proposed second floor. “We wanted it to look as authentic as possible.” Connected through a select referral list via Applied Architecture, George’s business and the homeowners formed an ideal partnership from the start. “We interviewed several contractors and asked them how they would address the issue. We met with George and liked his answer best,” she shares.


“The owners were very detail oriented,” George notes, “which was a great match with Henley Homes.”

As with most major remodeling projects, budgets must be carefully considered before tearing down walls. Experts in the field, Henley Homes proved instrumental in developing the budget, starting with a cost projection range from low to high. “The scope of work, mainly to do with products and finishes, was selected in concert with the budget projections,” George says. “It was a matter of balance and choice by the homeowner to control and determine the project budget.” Fortunately for all parties involved, the subcontractors and suppliers hit their projected numbers, and the owners were then able to make selective upgrades throughout the project without surpassing their target. “There are decisions a homeowner needs to make to keep the budgets and schedule in check,” Michele says. “Do we want this light fixture or a less expensive one? Granite or marble countertops? These things can get you caught up if you don’t have a vision from the beginning.”

Other than a very specific request to maintain and achieve only the finest quality of work and craftsmanship, George says his clients offered few expectations going into the project. “Initially, they had no real idea as to the magnitude of the job or how it would affect the existing first floor,” he shares. “So it was a bit of an eye opener when the demolition was done!”


Ten months of construction and several subcontractors later, George and his crew turned the previous structure into a magnificent 2,600-square-foot, two-story home of the owner’s dreams. Most exceptional was the fact that 14 NARI members participated in the massive endeavor. While Henley Homes, Inc. acted as general contractor and provided the construction, supervision and management of the entire project, they also coordinated the efforts of the additional team members, including Michael Malinowski of Applied Architecture, Linda Panattoni of Panattoni Interiors and The Transect Group, who performed the structural engineering. “We had our team over to the home at least once a week,” says Michele. “We would discuss the design, construction, process, etc. to make sure we were all on the same page. Good communication is everything.”

To get a complete picture of the home’s transformation, a look at the original floor plan is a must. Starting with only three bedrooms and two baths, Henley Homes was saddled with the task of converting old spaces to newly purposed ones and adding a brand new master bedroom and bath, plus a laundry room, office and huge storage area. Thankfully, due to the skilled upfront design work and engineering of Allied Architecture, they encountered few road bumps in the building process.

George’s trained eye and craftsman skills helped create the rustic, fachwerk style the Hobzas desired. “He has a special tool he used to chip away at the wood to give it an authentic look,” Michele reveals. “People who come over and look at the home think it has always been that way.”

Living Room

Downstairs, they converted one of the existing bedrooms into a media room and opened the space to the living room with a beautiful elliptical arched opening. The “before” kitchen included a small utility area that housed the home’s washer and dryer units. With plans to add a separate laundry room on the second floor, they were able to repurpose the space as a new wet bar and recycling area.  

One of the more exciting prospects for George was the creation of the new upstairs level. “We were careful to pay special attention to detail throughout the project,” says George. “One example was having the millwork made and installed to match the beaded oval casing used in 1935.” But the absolute highlight of the project for George was the master bathroom. “The vessel sinks and wall mount faucets are highlighted by recessed lighting and are the focal point of the bathroom,” he says. “Many other features were incorporated, too, such as a therapeutic multi-optional bathtub and a glorious walk-in shower complete with body massage jets, as well as handheld and rain head outlets.” Shares Bob: “We are both retired, so we had ample time to spend supervising the project. It was a lot of hard work, but fortunately we could offer the hours and attention to detail needed for a successful project. And we believe that it was.”


Master Bath

For their efforts on this extensive remodel, Henley Homes, Inc. received the honor of being named “Contractor of the Year” in the category of “Entire Home Remodel” by NARI’s Greater Sacramento Chapter in the 250K to 500K cost category. According to George, the home’s new “curb appeal” likely caught NARI’s attention. “The ‘Tudor’ style features heavy wood timber trim and the steep pitched roofs,” he says. “Maintaining the architectural integrity of the time on the interior with the wood molding and elliptical arches is also pleasing.” This project will also be featured in NARI’s inaugural “Virtual Home Tour.” The tour will promote NARI, its members and a variety of completed projects; it’s slated to appear on the NARI Web site in the spring of 2012.



Bathroom after photos courtesy of David Adams Photography.


It all begins with a tree fort. Since completing his first structure at the ripe age of 10, Mike Russell couldn’t resist the urge to build. Following a 10-year stint serving in the United States Air Force, Mike began a 30-plus-year career in construction and became a general contractor in May of 2000. His El Dorado Hills-based company DreamBuilders has emerged as one of the leading home remodeling businesses in the area.

In March 2011, Mike met Mark and Chris Winston after the couple saw the signage on his work truck and made an appointment to visit his showroom. Connecting at that initial meeting, Mark and Chris knew Mike and DreamBuilders were the best fit to take on their extensive bathroom remodel. “We had a style in mind at the beginning and provided a few pictures from magazines to help communicate our ideas,” says Mark Winston. “DreamBuilders had many beautiful photos from their previous projects that inspired us and helped guide the new design.”

In addition to the cosmetic updates for an often-used space in a 1979 home, the Winston’s bathroom proved to be in overall bad shape. Numerous water leaks from the shower had taken their toll, and the discovery of dry rot demanded attention and repair.  

Kathe Russell at DreamBuilders describes the challenges facing the contractor. “The structural work was due to the original home framing not being adequate in some areas and had to be beefed up,” she says. “The rest of the changes were more than cosmetic. An adjoining bedroom was claimed for use in the master suite area, which called for a new space plan that incorporated not only the wet areas but a walk-in closet as well.”

“An adjacent small bedroom provided a convenient way to expand the bathroom area,” Mark says. “We really wanted to create a nice space.” Mike also asked the Winstons what upgrades they wanted in their new bathroom. That list included a two-person shower “with some bells and whistles,” custom tile layout with lots of travertine, a heated floor, a double vanity with custom framed mirrors, and most importantly, a tub, something missing from their original bathroom. Their well-organized walk in closet would feature new storage spaces and a fold-down ironing board.

Luckily, Mike and his team established a generous $65,000 to $75,000 budget with the Winstons, taking into account all the clients’ needs and referencing prior experience to come up with the approximate cost before pulling up any tile. “That way the expectation is set and no one is disappointed as we use that budget number as a guide for the design process,” Kathe says.

With any remodel it is important for a contractor to manage his or her client’s expectations and communicate up front the day to day impact of the construction, like clean-up schedule and supervision. Mike and crew, who were also employed to remodel the entire home, estimated a 12-week process for the entire project, though the bathroom and master suite would have been finished in six to eight. “We want clients to know about every facet of their project so they always know what to expect,” Kathe shares.


The Winston’s missing tub would provide the focal point for the new bathroom as one entered the space. This addition involved the creation of a tiled arched ceiling and a glass block window to bring much needed natural light into the space. In the shower, a semi-circle bench added some fun and softened the shape by eliminating hard corners. Arches at the entry of the shower were designed with a similar effect in mind.

Paul, the project superintendent, supervised a large team of contractors that made up the bathroom crew, including demo, framing, plumbing, drywall and tile installation, painting, cabinetry, closet installation, flooring and glass installation for the shower and mirrors – not a small team by any means. Just as Mike promised, DreamBuilders came within 2 percent of the bathroom remodel’s projected budget.

The Winstons couldn’t be happier with the final product. “This was our second remodel so we were aware of the challenges,” Mark says. “DreamBuilders made the whole project pretty easy for us. Now Chris greatly enjoys relaxing in the new tub and the convenience of having her closet so near. I delight every time the toilet flushes so well.”

“Mark and Chris were an absolute pleasure to work with,” Kathe says of their clients. “They became very much a part of the team that made their project come out perfect for them.”

Proud NARI members, DreamBuilders were thrilled to be included with such exciting entries for the annual CotY Awards and their win for “Residential Bathroom” remodel in the 60K+ category was well deserved. “I would like to think that they saw how well organized the space had become, as well as how all the products we used worked so well with each other to create the timeless look that we were going for,” Kathe says. “We wanted them to see that this was not just another bathroom but one that is uniquely individual to the client.”