Diamond Certified Companies are Rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise.

  • Why this rating is the most accurate.
  • Our editors gather deep company info.
  • Performance is Guaranteed.


Steve Villa is president of Rafael Floors, Abbey Carpet Center, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 669-4944 or by email.

Steve Villa

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Steve Villa: An Unlikely Ascent

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN RAFAEL — Few people go from sweeping floors to managing operations at the same company, but Steve Villa did that and then some. “I started at Rafael Floors back in high school,” he remembers. “Ron Leach, the original owner, was my next-door neighbor, and he offered me a job in his warehouse. I would come in every day after school and sweep the floors, run errands, and make deliveries. From there, I became an apprentice installer and continued to work part-time through college. After graduating with a degree in business administration, I returned full-time as an administrative assistant. Later, I went into sales and did that for about 14 years until Ron made me a partner in 2005. When he retired in 2015, I took over as sole owner of the business.”

Today, as owner of Rafael Floors, Abbey Carpet Center, Steve says his favorite part of his job is helping customers find the right products for their needs. “Choosing a new floor can be challenging for people, especially since it’s both an expensive and semi-permanent decision. For that reason, I enjoy educating our customers about their options and helping them make wise, informed decisions.”

A resident of Novato, Steve spends his time outside of work on a variety of active pastimes. “I spend the majority of my time outdoors, whether hiking, biking, or playing golf or tennis,” he says. “I also spend a lot of time with my family. My parents and siblings all live in Novato and we’re very close, which is nice. We even like vacationing together.”

After 40 years at Rafael Floors, Abbey Carpet Center, Steve looks back at his unlikely ascent to ownership. “My experience has been pretty unique,” he reflects. “Most people go from one job to the next, looking for better opportunities along the way. I feel pretty fortunate that I was given those kinds of opportunities within the same company. All in all, it has been quite a journey.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: Actually, I’d like to see more of the United States…maybe get an RV and do the Route 66 thing.

Q: What’s your favorite season?

A: I like them all, but I’d probably choose spring because of the new growth and nice weather.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

A: If I’m not working, I enjoy watching sports.

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?

A: It’s a tie between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. I grew up rooting for the Packers.

Q: Do you collect anything?

A: Cars. I have a small collection that includes a 1966 Corvette Stingray convertible, a 1974 Chevy pickup and a 1991 Camaro convertible.

Read more

Wood and Faux Wood Flooring Options


SAN RAFAEL — If you’re thinking about installing a wood or faux wood floor in your home, you’ll want to know the full spectrum of your options. Here’s a summary of these options and their benefits: Authentic wood flooring The authentic wood… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Wood and Faux Wood Flooring Options

Complete Video Transcription:

SAN RAFAEL — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re planning to install wood flooring in your home, make sure you know the full spectrum of your options. Today we’re… Read more

Liam Caldwell is president of Armstrong Carpet & Linoleum Co., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 754-3955 or by email.

Liam Caldwell

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Liam Caldwell: Homegrown Talent

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — When Liam Caldwell started working at Armstrong Carpet & Linoleum Co. as a teenager, he hadn’t the slightest notion that he’d one day be president of the company. “I started here when I was 15, working after school and on weekends,” he remembers. “I did everything from making deliveries to binding carpets and making pads. Even after I went to college, I would return every summer and work at the store.”

After graduating, Liam figured it was time to move on to a new career, but a simple phone call disrupted his plans. “I was considering career options when Steve Balestrieri, the owner of Armstrong, called me out of the blue,” he recounts. “He told me they were looking to expand and needed some help with sales and marketing, and he asked if I’d be interested in coming on full-time. I’d always liked working for Steve and didn’t have anything else on the horizon, so I accepted the offer.” In 2018, 25 years after he first started working there as a teenager, Liam assumed ownership of the company from Mr. Balestrieri upon his retirement.

Today, Liam says his favorite part of his job is delivering customer satisfaction. “I enjoy connecting people with the right products, providing quality service and hearing from happy customers at the end of the job. When a customer calls to tell me that we over-delivered and did an excellent job, that’s a real feather in my cap.”

A resident of Brisbane, Liam spends most of his free time doing activities with his daughters, Nia and Aya. “We enjoy going to minor league baseball games, visiting the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco and going hiking on San Bruno Mountain,” he details. “I’ve also done a fair amount of youth sports coaching. I coached Nia’s soccer team and I’ll probably end up coaching Aya’s team at some point when she’s older.”

In regard to his professional career, Liam says running a successful business involves a twofold dynamic. “As the owner of a company, I need to make sure that both my customers and employees are happy. It’s unfortunate how a lot of big-box stores subcontract everything and treat their labor like it’s a commodity. The reality is, if the people who work for you aren’t happy or invested in the company, they aren’t going to treat customers as well or be as diligent in their work, which means you’re going to end up with unhappy customers. That’s why I always make sure to address both sides of the equation.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Did you play any sports in high school?

A: I was too short for basketball, so I had to play soccer.

Q: If you could take a vacation tomorrow, where would you go?

A: I’d probably go on an Alaskan cruise.

Q: Music or talk radio?

A: I’m about 50/50. I absolutely love music, but I’m also a talk radio junkie—it just depends on my mood and where I am.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?

A: Anything with peanut butter in it.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?

A: It’s a tie between G.I. Joe and He-Man.

Read more

Window Coverings That Optimize Light Control


SAN FRANCISCO — There are several factors to consider when choosing window coverings, from style and material to functionality and even safety. However, perhaps the most significant of all these factors is light control. After all, if you have a beautiful… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: A Crucial Aspect of Window Covering Selection

Complete Video Transcription:

SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: When selecting window coverings for your home, there’s one specific aspect you’ll want to keep in mind. Today we’re in San Francisco… Read more

Tyler Lau is owner of Concord Carpet and Hardwood, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 201-6399 or by email.

Tyler Lau

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Tyler Lau: Flooring for Life

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

CONCORD — When asked how he got started in the flooring business, Tyler Lau says he’s been involved since he was a teenager. “My dad and my uncle opened a carpet store called Floor Masters when I was 17, and I started working there during the summers. After finishing college, I came back and worked in the office, where I learned about sales, estimating and other aspects of running a business. After about 10 years, I took a brief hiatus from the industry, following which I opened my own flooring store in Concord.”

Today, as owner of Concord Carpet and Hardwood, Tyler says his favorite part of his job is seeing the finished product. “I love it when our installers send me pictures at the end of the job. It gives me a lot of pride to post them on Facebook and share the beautiful work we’ve done.”

A resident of Danville (where he lives with his wife, Nancy, and their children), Tyler spends his time outside of work on a variety of pastimes. “I enjoy motorsports like go-kart racing, motorcycling and jet skiing. However, my main hobby is spending time with my kids. We do outdoor activities like jet skiing at the Delta or riding bikes at Carnegie Park. We also try to go to Hawaii a couple of times a year for vacation.”

In regard to a professional philosophy, Tyler believes that true success is the product of slow, steady growth rather than rapid expansion. “I like the fact that Concord Carpet and Hardwood is a small, family business,” he says. “I’m not trying to set the world on fire and become huge overnight. We grow a little bit each year and I’m happy with that. One of the reasons I’ve kept things small is that I only work with people I’ve known for quite a while. It’s not always easy to find good people, so I really appreciate having a staff I can trust and rely on.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Tyler says he’d take a staycation. “My kids are still pretty young, so going on a big, international vacation would be pretty tough. Instead, I think I’d rather just hang out, relax and spend time with them at home. We can save the bigger trips until they get a little older.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?

A: Piatti in Danville.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: I would go to the Philippines and go diving. That’s one of my bucket list items.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?

A: I was a Jawa from “Star Wars.” It was a homemade costume—my dad’s friend helped me make it. It had little red lights for the eyes and everything.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?

A: “Arrested Development.”

Q: What do you like on your pizza?

A: Lots of everything!

Read more

Debunking Misconceptions About Engineered Hardwood Flooring


CONCORD — There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to engineered hardwood flooring (also known as prefinished hardwood flooring). Let’s look at a few and set the record straight. “Engineered hardwood doesn’t contain actual hardwood.” All prefinished hardwood… Read more

Differentiating Polyester and Nylon Carpet


CONCORD — Two of the most common types of carpet are polyester and nylon. While both are composed of synthetic fibers, each carpeting material has unique attributes that consumers should be aware of when making a purchase decision. Polyester Polyester carpet’s… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Comparing Nylon and Polyester Carpet

Complete Video Transcription:

CONCORD — Host, Sarah Rutan: When choosing new carpeting for your home, learning about your options will help you make an informed purchase. To learn about two… Read more

Leigh Bakhtiari is a 26-year veteran of the flooring industry and president of City Carpets, a Diamond Certified company since 2009. She can be reached at (415) 493-8934 or by email.

Leigh Bakhtiari

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Leigh Bakhtiari: Flooring Fashion

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN RAFAEL — After two decades in the floor covering industry, Leigh Bakhtiari continues to employ her passion for fashion by beautifying her customers’ homes. “I approach each job with the goal of making things as fashionable as possible while simultaneously providing a durable, high-performance product,” she says. “When I first got into this business, it was actually pretty boring—every carpet was basically beige and cut pile. There are many more options available today, which makes my job a lot more fun.”

Despite having family ties to the floor covering industry, the primary catalyst for Leigh’s long-term involvement was actually her husband’s. “My husband, Hossein, and I each have a family connection to the floor covering industry, which is kind of coincidental because it has nothing to do with how we met,” she explains. “When we first met, I was working at Macy’s and he was working for his sister in the floor covering industry. After we got married, he suggested we open our own floor covering business, which we did in 1993. More than 20 years later, a lot has changed: we now have five kids and two floor covering stores!”

A lifetime resident of Mill Valley, Leigh expresses her appreciation for the natural beauty of her native locale. “I love it in the Bay Area. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over and I’ve never found a better place. I love all the open spaces, as well as the short distance to the beach and the mountains. Within a four-hour driving radius, you can go surfing or skiing, which is pretty remarkable.”

Outside of work, Leigh enjoys spending time with her family, both locally and abroad. “Besides hanging out together at home and around town, we love to travel together as a family,” she affirms. “In fact, we recently got back from a trip to the Dominican Republic.” Leigh also enjoys skiing, martial arts, following professional sports and going on walks with her dog, Gus. Additionally, she maintains an active participation in her industry by serving as president of her local floor covering association and regional network coordinator for Carpet One, as well as sitting on numerous advisory councils.

In regard to her professional livelihood, Leigh espouses the importance of treating customers fairly and honestly. “I try to treat my customers as if they were friends and family,” she explains. “That’s one of the reasons I feel it’s important to carry products I truly believe in. There are a lot of options out there, but I never want to sell a customer anything I wouldn’t sell to a friend or family member.”

When asked the first thing she’d do if she were to retire tomorrow, Leigh gives a twofold response. “I’d take a nap and then take a trip,” she laughs. “After that, I’d devote some of my extra time to volunteering, probably for a cause that benefits children or animals.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Africa. I’d love to go on a safari and see animals in their natural element.

Q: If you could live in the city or the country, which would you choose?
A: The country. Cities make me claustrophobic, and I like being close to nature.

Q: What was your first pet?
A: A big, black mutt named Alfie. She was beautiful.

Q: What’s your favorite style of music?
A: As a child of the ’80s, I love my throwback music.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Thanksgiving, because I enjoy cooking and spending time with my family. We spend the entire day preparing everything from scratch, set a beautiful table and then enjoy a great meal at the end.

Read more

The Truth About Carpet and Indoor Air Quality


SAN RAFAEL — It’s often assumed that carpet diminishes indoor air quality, but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, studies conducted by The Carpet and Rug Institute show that carpet may actually have the opposite effect and improve indoor air quality.… Read more

Choosing a Quality Carpet Fiber


SAN RAFAEL — Everyone knows style and color are important factors for choosing a new carpet. However, a lesser-known yet equally important factor is the type of fiber it’s composed of. A carpet’s fiber affects everything from appearance to cleanability, which… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Carpet Cleaning Frequency

Complete Video Transcription:

SAN RAFAEL — Host, Sarah Rutan: To maximize the lifespan of your carpet, it’s important to know the recommended intervals for maintenance measures like vacuuming and steam cleaning.… Read more