Our Founder, Iris Harrell
For more than 37 years, Harrell Design + Build remains Woman Founded, Client-Focused, and Employee-Owned.
When Iris Harrell founded Harrell Remodeling in 1985, she was one of very few women in the residential construction industry in the nation. Her pioneering and visionary spirit shaped a Bay Area company that promotes education in the industry. Iris elevated the people around her — employees and clientele alike. Before moving to the Bay Area, Iris led a slightly nomadic life as a touring musician, and she was also a teacher on an Indian Reservation. When she landed in Texas, she not only found her life’s calling in construction, but she found her partner in life, Ann Benson. Iris mentored with a gentleman carpenter named Chape and she immediately fell in love with building and remodeling. Her first clients were “little old, widowed ladies” who preferred to not necessarily have a man working in their home. Iris’s vision for the company included a diverse and intentional hiring practice focused on cultural fit in addition to construction experience. Initially, the company (like many Silicon Valley companies) was founded in the garage of her personal residence. From there, the company grew from one employee to now, nearly 50. The company offices, originally established in Menlo Park, moved to Mountain View, and are currently in Palo Alto. Iris’s hiring process based on potential and ethos has resulted in numerous talented men and women assuming leadership roles, each of whom has been instrumental in advancing the success that continually carries the company forward.
Exemplifying the motto, “We Never Forget It’s Your Home®,” from the outset, Harrell Remodeling flipped the script on the typical job site mentality, providing a kinder, more considerate touch in regards to client interactions. Iris instituted job site rules that fell right in line with the company’s mantra to respect clients and their homes. Iris led the charge in differentiating the company in the industry by being a leader as one of the first contractors who enforced “no dogs, no smoking, no radios, and no swearing” on the jobsites. The company continues to enforce a dress code that excludes t-shirts with offensive words, graphics, or illustrations. Many companies have since followed suit.
As the company grew, clients repeatedly asked, “Can you design my kitchen, too?” Iris returned to school earning her certificates in Kitchen & Bath Design. Design naturally became an offering to clients, and Design + Build was born. Since its inception, Harrell Remodeling won recognition at the local, regional and national levels, including the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) awards, Chrysalis awards, NARI Contractor of The Year (CoTY) awards, National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Awards, Qualified Remodeler Master Design Awards, among many other local and national business awards. Iris and HRI were awarded many accolades over her tenure at Harrell Design + Build: Silicon Valley Business Journal (SVBJ) Top 100 Women of Influence, and the 25 Largest Women-Owned Businesses; Professional Remodeler #1 Market Leader; Qualified Remodeler’s Top 500; Woman Entrepreneur of the Year from the Women’s Initiative; Fred Case National Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year, and several other “Outstanding Businesswoman” awards.
Beginning in the year 2000, Iris and Ann started the process of evolving into an Employee-Owned company. Shares in the company were purchased over several years by the Employees and in 2014 the company became 100% Employee-Owned. Iris subsequently fully retired in 2014.
From 2014 to 2020, Ciro Giammona was the company CEO. Ciro’s tenure at HRI was nearly 24 years. Ciro, a long-time remodeler, joined the company as an estimator and over time at HRI, he assumed many roles, enabling not only Iris’s retirement, but the evolution of the ESOP bringing the company to 100% Employee-Owned.
In March 2020, Harrell Remodeling once again welcomed a woman leader to its helm. Lisa Sten assumed the role of CEO upon the retirement of Ciro Giammona. In 2022, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. was renamed to Harrell Design + Build — a rebrand that reflects the company’s growth, and the passion that its Employee-Owners feel about the projects they take on.
Over her twenty-plus-year tenure, Lisa’s responsibilities included positions as Sales Designer, Sales Manager, General Manager, and President. Sharing Iris and Ciro’s passion for excellence, Lisa is mentoring other enthusiastic Employee-Owners to lead the company and ensure the future success of Harrell Design + Build while continuing to foster the culture and values upon which it was founded.