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on July 31, 2014 Blog

Whole House Remodel Case Study

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A Real-World Whole House Renovation

For nearly two decades, Chris and Jeff Merry were living in the past. Originally built in 1969, their Palos Verdes home was semi-updated in the 1980’s. Everything was white…unless it was mauve. Each window was outlined in plain ranch molding. A river-rock fireplace façade loomed over the living room. The kitchen and dining area were cramped.

A year before they expected to retire, the couple looked at each other and realized that they did not want to suddenly find themselves spending much more time in this particular house. They also didn’t want to move. With its shady, wide yard and cool peninsula location, their house was perfectly situated. They liked their neighbors and they were dedicated to their church.

They weren’t going to change. So the house would have to.

“But there was a lot we didn’t know how to do and didn’t have time or expertise to do,” says Chris Merry. “We don’t know how to find fixtures, which ones to buy or even where to store them. We know we didn’t want to be the general contractor.”


While they ruminated their options, Jeff Merry recalled that Custom Design & Construction had recently opened a showroom near his workplace; he drove by it several times a week. One Friday afternoon, he strolled in. The Custom Design team was preparing for a consumer seminar to be held the next day. As staff set up chairs and set out materials, they showed Jeff around various kitchen vignettes. He called Chris, and soon she and Jeff were reviewing some of the seminar materials and learning about the design-build process. They were please to hear that a single company could handle design as well as construction and every detail along the way.

Within weeks, their remodel was in motion. The couple moved into a single bedroom as their master bedroom, bath and kitchen were remodeled. A few months into the project, they moved into their new master suite, and the crew had progressed to the living room, family room and secondary bedrooms and bathrooms.

Working with a design team who collaborated and communicated constantly with the construction crew was a relief, says Chris Merry. “There are so many decisions in remodeling,” she says. “We only had to do the fun parts, like choosing granite for our bathroom. Beth [Yuen, a Custom Design designer] would audition different types of materials and finishes to find out what we liked, and then she’d show us three options that all fit in the space, all would work, so we could choose the one we liked best,” says Chris. The streamlined process flowed through to decisions of all sizes. The intimidating floor-to-ceiling fireplace façade was refaced with modern stone. And the design team chose coordinating knobs for the built in cabinets in the family room and adjoining kitchen, ensuring a consistent look.

And the way the Custom staff communicated weekly about the project’s status, with clearly marked milestones and charts, resonated with Jeff, who knows a thing or two about project management as a Project Manager for a major Aerospace company.

With the eight-month project done right on time, the now-retired Merrys are living up to their name. “This is more than we hoped for,” says Chris Merry. “The process was not the nightmare that all our neighbors warned us we were in for, and we are still discovering little touches that have made us just so glad we made the decisions we did.”

Some practical advice from the Merrys for anyone considering a whole house remodel:

  • Choose a company that can handle the entire renovation from start to finish (the design, budget, selections, construction, project management, and finishing touches.
  • Analyze how involved do you want to be with each design and finish decision. Do you want to look at all the options yourself, or do you prefer to choose from an edited selection?
  • Think through your vision for the completed space. Do you want dedicated space for each family member and for specific functions, such as a home office? Or would you prefer flexible, multi-function space that can accommodate entertaining, small groups, and everyday family life?
  • Consider how you want your space to flow into adjacent outdoor living areas.