A decade is a long time in the lifespan of remodeler. While Northern Virginia boasts many companies that have plied their trade for a generation or more, the fact is that the remodeling business-- like most based on contracts-- tends to be perishable. The vagaries of the economy, the ease with which competitors enter the field, the challenges of sustaining a reputation, are just a few of the market realities that make it hard for even the best companies to keep at it year after year.
That said, one must marvel at the optimism when the industry's most prestigious purveyor of best-quality work introduces its first ever “Decade of Excellence” award. To win, according to Director Ken Kanline who developed the Chrysalis awards in 2000, a remodeler must have won at least one Chrysalis every year for the past decade.
“Performance consistency over time has become the critical variable in evaluating remodelers,” Kanline says. “The Decade of Excellence award gets past the question of whether a firm has performed well periodically, and introduces the more relevant long term reliability issue. Our goal is to identify remodeling brands with staying power.”
How many firms in 12 Southern states (ranging from Florida to Virginia to as far west as Texas) have actually received the award?
To date, just one: Michael Nash Design Build and Homes. The 30-year-old full-service firm, headed by president and CEO Sonny Nazemian, has garnered at least one Chrysalis annually since 2009. Moreover, the honors have been conferred in a cross-section of categories ranging from “whole house remodeling” to “additions” to “interiors” and “exteriors”-- plus, “detached outbuildings”, “kitchens”, “bathrooms”, “basements.” Adding rigor, the prize also measures the accomplishment within a specific price range (ie. “Best kitchen under $50,000”). Of the awards captured by Michael Nash since 2009, nine have been national; 19 are category-best in the twelve-state South Atlantic region
“This company's consistent level of success points to a concern for quality within the corporate culture that has made Michael Nash one of the best recognized remodelers in the nation,” Kanline observes. “It's also noteworthy that this acknowledgment comes at a time when many companies are still recovering from the slower economy of the past three years.”
A look at the range and diversity of Michael Nash work in Fairfax County is also instructive. The remodeler doesn't specialize in any particular type of remodeling or price point; rather innovation and creativity are the prevailing constants, a fact that the remodeler's clients readily acknowledge.
Whole House, Big View
“I interviewed several contractors regarding our remodeling goals, but they didn't grasp the big picture” recalls Rima Bitar of McLean, who hired Michael Nash to renovate a 20-year-old-Mediterranean style house that eventually won a string of top awards including (in 2017) a Chrysalis for “best whole house remodel under $300,000.”
The house had “lots of potential”, as Bitar saw it-- much of it was unrealized. A particular problem was the sequence of rooms on the left side of the foyer.
“There was a great view of the pool from the rear of the house,” Bitar says. “But from the foyer, one entered a living room on the left, which revealed a doorway on the back wall linked to a rear office. A powder room in-between flanked right. Overall, the left side of the house was too dark from front to back. Plus, we didn't want a home office, and the powder room was in the wrong place.”
To allow more natural light and visual continuum, the remodeler introduced a structural beam, mounted on vertical supports mid room, and removed the obstructive bearing wall. The vertical supports were encased in visually-sympathetic recessed paneling.
Meanwhile, the entrance from the foyer has been widened and changed to an arch that reiterates existing window shapes.
Throughout, Nazemian advised on everything from structural issues to interior design fundamentals.
“Sonny asked me if I wanted the color undertones to be cool or warm,” Rima Bitar says. “I then realized that cooler undertones would allow me to choose brighter colors as accents for some accessories. This helped us find an appropriate compositional balance, which made all the difference.”
Two year before (2016), Michael Nash won a regional Chrysalis for “Best Residential Kitchen $100,001 to $150,000”. “I had been thinking about improving the kitchen ever since we bought the house, three years before,” Great Falls homeowner Phillip Breddy says. “Since I like cooking, the restricted space was a problem, but then I didn't like the kitchen's aesthetics anyway, so we started gathering ideas.”
A chance visit to the Michael Nash showroom in Fairfax soon ignited Breddy's still-formulating remodeling plans.
“There were lots of useful kitchen displays,” Breddy recalls. “Before we left, I scheduled an appointment with Sonny Nazemian.”
Once Breddy identified the professional caliber stove and hood he wanted, the remodeler developed a space plan that called for shifting the rear elevation further out onto the back deck. The change would accommodate a larger refrigerator and a substantial food preparation island. It also allowed the designer to remove ceiling-flush bulkheads housing plumbing and electrical. The increased headroom provided space for taller cabinets-- a welcome 20 percent increase in storage capacity.
Overall, the new plan unfolds “generously” in every direction, Breddy says. With the food prep island completing one leg in a work triangle that includes a clean-up and the 6-burner gas range oven, the step-saving configuration facilitates all the essential cooking and clean-up tasks.
“It's a place where we can entertain,” he adds, “and it works beautifully for that purpose. But it's also where the kids do homework while meals are being prepared.”
From Patio Home to Spacious Southern Colonial
“I was looking for a larger master bedroom, a guest room , but also wanted a front porch and a foyer,” Oakton's Gina Jones recalls. “The foyer was important in my childhood home (Huntsville Alabama). The foyer is where the house begins.”
A practical problem, however, was the steeply sloping grade immediately outside the existing front door. The more Jones learned about her home’s inherent site problems, the more the search for new square footage became concentrated on the rear elevation.
It was at this juncture that Jones met Sonny Nazemian.
“We re-graded, leveled and re-compacted the whole front yard,” the remodeler explains. “That may sound simple, but the site changes are carefully calibrated. This allowed us to specify deep footings for structural support, eliminating the need to excavate.”
With the site satisfactorily prepared, Nazemian next concentrated on the addition itself, converting the existing front patio into a 14-by-26 ft footprint for a two level enclosure.
The lower level now accommodates a spacious foyer with ten foot ceilings, a first level guest room and a full bath. On the second level, the Michael Nash team co-opted one of three existing bedrooms to form a substantially larger master bedroom suite.
Best yet, the new site plan permits a top item on the wish list: a 25-by-6 foot two level front porch that, Jones says, evokes the graciously welcoming facade of her childhood home.
Inside, the new interior faithfully explores late 18th century decorum in detailing appropriate to several period collectibles and antiques.
The project so impressed other professionals that it won a Chrysalis (in 2009) for best “addition in the $100,000 to $250,000” category. It also won a “Contractor of the Year” (COTY) award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, “It’s the details that make the house so cohesive,” Gina Jones observes.
To give the eclectic architecture a unifying cast, the exterior elevations are clad in cedar shake and painted vivid Wedgwood blue.
“It just works beautifully,” Jones says. “And it feels like home.”
For information, call: 703-641-9800 or visit: http://www.MichaelNashKitchens.com
John Byrd has been writing about home improvement for 30 years. He can be reached @ 703-715-8006, www.HomeFrontsNews.com or email@example.com. Send photos of interesting remodeling projects to: firstname.lastname@example.org