A Time for Reflection; A Time for Gratitude: Women Still Lead the Way at Harrell Design + Build

It’s that time of the year again, as we celebrate the holiday season and approach the end of the year, when the world slows just a bit and the season creates the time and space for reflection and gratitude. We reflect on the positive things that have occurred in our lives during the year, and on the challenges and hardships we faced. We are grateful for the good things in our lives and take inventory of the losses, contemplating how we move forward in the coming year. This year, a moment of gratitude is especially helpful to makes sense of an otherwise challenging year for all of us.

For Harrell Design + Build, as the year 2020 in business draws to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on our company’s ground-breaking history, the extraordinary year we have faced, the success we had as a company, and all the great possibilities that lie in the years ahead. Through it all, HRI has been grounded in a culture and values that embrace diversity and offers a gentler, more compassionate remodeling experience for its clients. But even more so, we find gratitude in our broad and diverse group of clients who have embraced our unique approach to Design + Build remodeling. They have been the foundation that helped build our great company.

Exemplifying the motto, “We never forget it’s your home®,” from the outset Harrell Design + Build made its mark by flipping the script on the typical jobsite mentality, providing a kinder, more considerate touch in our client interactions. From the beginning, company founder Iris Harrell instituted jobsite rules that embodied a woman’s sensibility and fell right in line with the corporate motto to respect our clients and their homes. For over three decades, these policies have been a key point of differentiating HRI from the average general contractor.

When Iris founded Harrell Design + Build in 1985, she was one of very few women in the construction industry. Her pioneering and visionary spirit shaped a Bay Area company that educated and elevated those around her – employees and clientele alike. That vision included diverse and deliberative hiring focused more deeply on cultural fit than prior construction experience. Her process of hiring based on one’s potential and ethos has resulted in numerous talented women assuming leadership roles, each of whom have been instrumental in advancing the success that continually carries us forward.

Lisa Sten, CR, CID, UDCP is a perfect example of the vital leadership roles women have held at HRI. And in March 2020, Harrell Design + Build once again welcomed a woman leader to its helm. Lisa assumed the role of CEO upon the retirement of Ciro Giammona, the company’s most recent past CEO who recounted, “My mother raised me as a feminist!” Sharing in Iris’s passion for excellence, Lisa is mentoring a new generation of women leaders to meet this moment, ensuring the future success of HRI while continuing to foster the culture and values upon which it was founded.

Before relocating to the Bay Area from Minneapolis, a mutual acquaintance connected Lisa and Iris, leading to Lisa joining Harrell Design + Build in October 2000. Lisa always wanted to be involved in helping to govern HRI. Over her twenty-year tenure, Lisa has taken on more responsibility and leadership, holding positions as Sales Designer, Sales Manager, General Manager, culminating in her transition from President to the company’s top position as CEO.

“I still embrace our long-standing mission to provide excellent customer service and be our clients’ ‘contractor for life’.” When asked about what it means to be a woman leader in a still primarily male-dominated industry Sten replied, “Harrell Design + Build has an inclusive culture that encourages new ideas and achievements regardless of gender. As Employee-Owners, we collaborate toward a singular goal, providing the ultimate quality and the best customer service to every client.”

According to Ciro Giammona, he stated emphatically that Lisa’s progressive entrepreneurial spirit, deeply-rooted understanding of the industry, and “get it done” attitude are reminiscent of Harrell Design + Build’s founder. “She embodies our company’s innate DNA and deeply entrenched core values. Through her leadership, Lisa Sten continues to elevate Harrell Design + Build’s already high level of quality, design, and customer care to even greater heights.”

Other talented female leaders also play critical roles at HRI. Senior Designer and Sales Coordinator, Gloria Carlson, CKD, UDCP, has worked at Harrell Design + Build for over six years. Gloria prides herself on listening to her clients, understanding their needs and lifestyle, which enables her to provide designs that are appropriate to how they live and the overall design of their homes. She also takes the lead in matching clients to other HRI Designers who then explore remodeling engagements with Harrell Design + Build.

Senior Designer and Design Coordinator, Sara Jorgensen, AKBD, CID, has been a key player at Harrell Design + Build for over 14 years. Sara is a stickler for process and helps guide all of our projects through the critical phases of design development, like feasibility and city plan check reviews. For her own projects, Sara starts with the initial planning stage, commencing with complex code city research. From the schematic floor plans to the design development for the entirety of the project, Sara works from a holistic viewpoint to the smallest of details that create the design’s “wow” factor.

Chief Design + Build Estimator/Specifier, Kathy Paul, has been estimating projects for Harrell Design + Build since 1998. In 2001, Kathy was promoted to Chief Estimator, and over the past 20 years has been leading the estimating team and been instrumental in developing Harrell’s comprehensive approach to developing projects through thoughtful phases from conceptual scopes of work to highly detailed build contracts.

Outdoor Living Designer, Lisa Parramore, APLD, brings a unique set of experience and skills to Harrell Design + Build. Lisa P’s passion for designing indoor-outdoor living spaces enables her clients to embrace the lifestyle for which California is celebrated. Her projects are informed by the special relationship between traditional Japanese architecture and their surroundings, whether it’s borrowing scenery from a distant landscape or creating a lovely courtyard vignette, Lisa P’s creativity is inspiring.

Divya Vijayanandakumar, LEED AP ID+C, UDCP, joined Harrell Design + Build in May 2019, and has already proven herself to her colleagues and clients alike. She takes a practical approach to designing spaces for clients, making sure functionality is weighted equally to design. Her charming personality makes her easy to work with and her practical approach to leading clients through the phases of design make the journey both pleasant and productive.

Harrell Design + Build’s design team offers a heightened appreciation for the finer points of style trends, mixing of materials, color, and cabinetry. Their practical knowledge of the home and inherent female touch affords them the ability to lead clients through a complex journey of design and value.

Despite having one of the industry’s most talented and award-winning design teams, “Collaborating with clients is a philosophy,” explains retired HRI Designer, Genie Nowicki. “If you engage the client in the design process, it’s a much stronger relationship.”

By involving every client in a collaborative process, listening to and understanding their distinct requirements, HRI’s female design leaders provide the love and care clients want, the quality they expect, and the flawless execution for which Harrell Design + Build is known.

As we enter 2021, we are incredibly grateful for our community of clients, many of whom have become friends and serial remodelers. Thank you for trusting Harrell Design + Build to transform your homes and make your vision a reality. We are inspired by the women in leadership roles that carry us forward into the future, and we remain indebted to Iris for the foundational and cutting-edge culture and values upon which she constructed the company. All of Harrell Design + Build’s Employee-Owners uphold the high bar she established for quality, relationships, and client care.

Since 1985, Harrell Design + Build remains Woman Founded, Client-Focused, and Employee-Owned.