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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Contractors – Design & Build CATEGORY

Kevin Oliva is a 31-year veteran of the construction industry and owner of California Dreaming Construction, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (707) 200-7469 or by email.

Kevin Oliva

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Kevin Oliva: Building a Dream

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

PETALUMA — Given his natural love of building, when Kevin Oliva got a chance to do it professionally, it was practically a dream come true. “During my mid-20s, I was doing landscaping work, and even though I enjoyed the building parts like constructing decks and fences, I wasn’t really into the planting and gardening aspects,” he recounts. “So, when my friend asked if I wanted to work for his new construction company, I didn’t hesitate. After working for a couple of different contractors over the next few years, I got my license in 1992 and started my own company.”

Today, as owner of California Dreaming Construction, Kevin says his two favorite parts of his job are customer interaction and industry innovation. “I really enjoy working with and getting to know my clients. The other thing I like is the fact that I’m constantly learning. There are always new products coming out and new ways of doing things, so I enjoy staying up-to-date with the ongoing developments.”

A lifetime resident of the North Bay Area, Kevin expresses his appreciation for the temperate local climate. “I love the weather here—I don’t know how people live in areas where it’s always raining or where there’s extreme heat or cold. Also, we have a pretty good economy in the Bay Area, so it keeps us busy as a business.”

Outside of work, Kevin is a self-described car nut and can often be found in his garage, tinkering with his latest project. “I’m really into muscle cars, primarily Pontiac GTOs,” he says. “After working on one, I’ll drive it around for a while before selling it and starting on a new one. I’ve been working my way up to a special edition GTO called The Judge, which I had when I was younger.” In addition to working on cars, Kevin enjoys watching sports (“I love local teams like the 49ers, Giants, Warriors and Sharks.”) and hanging out with his sons, Nick and Daniel. “My boys are really into computers and film, and they’re always working on some new film project. It’s kind of like how I am with cars.”

In his life and career, Kevin espouses the importance of maintaining high standards of quality. “I never have and never will cut a corner when doing a job for someone,” he affirms. “I always go the extra mile to make sure things are done right, because I never want to get a call back. Of course, there will always be minor issues that need to be addressed, but I’ve never had a major complaint about my workmanship, which I think is a direct result of keeping things at a high standard.”

When asked what his life might look like if he were to retire tomorrow, Kevin says he’d spend more time on his automotive avocation. “I’d be at my shop, working on cars. Currently, I wake up early every morning for work, so I guess instead of heading to the jobsite, I’d head to the garage.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Do you have a favorite TV show?
A: I have a couple, both car-related: “Graveyard Carz” and “Street Outlaws.”

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Finnegan’s Marin in Novato. My boys love it, so that’s where we always go.

Q: What kind of music do you like?
A: Classic rock—I’m always listening to 97.7 The River.

Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: Being into cars and motorcycles. I actually used to do motocross racing.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Car parts.

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Advice for a Remodeling Project

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PETALUMA — If you’re planning your first home remodeling project, there are a couple of steps you can take to be more prepared. One is to gain insight from others who have been through the process before. Talking to friends… Read more

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Video: Getting Insight for a Remodeling Project

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PETALUMA — Host, Sarah Rutan: One of the best ways to prepare for a home remodeling project is to gain insight from those who have already been… Read more

Jason Johnson is a 23-year veteran of the construction industry and owner of Home Healing Renovations, a Diamond Certified company since 2013. He can be reached at (510) 456-0986 or by email.

Jason Johnson

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Jason Johnson: Summiting Success

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

BERKELEY — As the son of two construction professionals, it’s no surprise that Jason Johnson was introduced to the industry at a young age. After more than two decades, he looks back on some of the influential factors that inspired him to take up the family trade. “Both of my parents were in construction, but I think my mom’s involvement had a particular impact on me because I found it very inspirational to see her break into a male-dominated field,” he recalls. “I also remember watching my dad dig footings for a new deck and then seeing the finished product just a couple of days later. It was incredible to see something go from a hole in the ground to a complete structure.”

Today, as owner of Home Healing Renovations, Jason continues to have a fascination with the building process. “I like collaborating with my clients to bring their dreams to life,” he says. “In many cases, a client will come to me with a single concept, but hidden within that concept might be eight different needs that must be met. I really enjoy the process of unpacking those and creating a design that provides a holistic solution.”

Originally from Indiana, Jason came to the Bay Area in 2008 and currently lives in Alameda with his wife and their children. As an ardent advocate of environmental sustainability, he says he appreciates the Bay Area’s eco-conscious character. “As a contractor, there are a lot of opportunities for me to do Green remodeling and construction here, which really aligns with my personal values.”

Outside of work, Jason engages in a variety of activities, from spending time with his family to pursing outdoor endeavors. “One of my main pastimes is mountain climbing,” he says. “I’ve summited Mount Shasta twice, and I’m looking at going up to Mount Rainier sometime this year. I also like canoeing, kayaking and hiking.” In addition, Jason dedicates time to political activism and volunteering with young adults. “I do a certain amount of street protesting, mostly for environmental causes, but sometimes for social justice as well. I attend some type of rally at least once a month, and spend a couple of weeks every summer taking young people in the community camping.”

In his life and career, Jason espouses the importance of preserving the environment for future generations. “As a father, I want my kids to be able to enjoy a beautiful planet, and one way I can contribute to that is by making a positive impact with my job,” he says. “Whether it’s conserving resources by reusing materials or designing homes to consume less energy, there are a lot of different ways I’m able to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices in my profession.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Jason says he’d look for his next peak experience. “I would probably climb a mountain in a new location. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska—there are some really beautiful mountains up there.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
A: Climbing a dry glacier on the northern side of Mount Shasta.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The past. I would probably go to the Renaissance—it seemed like such an elegant time.

Q: Is there a book that you’ve found influential over the years?
A: There are two that come to mind: “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman, which has helped my spiritual and personal growth, and “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills,” which pertains to my passion for mountain climbing.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My Batman costume.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Talk radio. I listen to KPFA a lot.

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The Importance of Long-Term Goals in Remodeling

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BERKELEY — While some remodeling projects are relatively simple, others involve multiple phases that consist of consecutive segments leading up to an eventual finished product. In this scenario, it’s important to think about your project holistically, considering both the initial… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Planning Your Design Holistically

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BERKELEY — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you're planning on remodeling your home, you'll want to be sure to design holistically if you're planning on building in… Read more

Jeff Kann is owner of HOUSEworks, a Diamond Certified Company since 2006. Jeff has spent many years developing ways to remove the stress and risks from home renovation projects. He can be reached at (415) 578-9560 or by email.

Jeff Kann

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Jeff Kann: Building a New Path

By Matt Solis, Editor

SAN FRANCISCO – Many construction professionals spend their whole lives surrounded by builders, often learning the intricacies of the craft at an early age from family members or friends. Others come to the job organically from a related industry like painting or carpentry. For Jeff Kann, owner of HOUSEworks, the path to the construction industry didn’t reveal itself until later in life, but once he found it, he knew he was home. “I started HOUSEworks in 2005 after spending 25 years in banking,” he explains. “At a certain point, I realized I wanted to be involved with a service industry that was tangible; that created things you could touch and feel and see every day. I thought I could bring the business experience I gained from the banking industry together with quality craftspeople, and it turned out to be a great combination.”

Jeff says his years of experience in the business world give him a unique perspective on how to optimize the construction experience for his clients and employees alike. “In construction, good administrative and project management is just as important as good building skills. Most people have or have heard stories about remodeling projects gone awry, whether the work took too long or the construction company didn’t keep its promises. Often, these problems occur not because the people doing the work aren’t good at building, but because they don’t have the business skills to deliver the full package. I’m able to position my builders for success because I handle the administrative side and let them focus on the actual work.”

Delivering quality construction projects on time is undoubtedly made easier by the temperate weather of the Bay Area, but Jeff says it’s the housing stock of San Francisco that’s the most attractive aspect of working locally. “The buildings we have to work with are just amazing. San Francisco houses have a lot of character—most of them have been carefully and thoughtfully put together, with good bones that have sustained an incredible amount of use. The people are also fun to work with. They’re generally bright, entrepreneurial types with diverse backgrounds who take a lot of pride in their homes and want to invest in unique projects, which makes it exciting for us.”

When he’s not managing construction projects in the city by the bay, Jeff takes advantage of the Bay Area’s perpetually sunny days to indulge his other passion: golf. “We live in golf’s Mecca—not only can you play year-round, but the availability of beautiful courses is unparalleled,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the outdoors in general, and that goes hand-in-hand with golf. I walk every course I play, and I enjoy the walk just as much as I enjoy the game. Some of my favorite courses are Chardonnay in Napa, Boundary Oak in Walnut Creek and Half Moon Bay Golf Links.”

Jeff also enjoys exploring the Bay Area’s diverse food and wine scene with his wife, Ellie, who has recently started helping him with HOUSEworks’ day-to-day operations. “Ellie stayed at home with our kids when they were growing up, but now that they’re out of the house, she’s joined me in the family business,” he says. “Our son, David, attends Becker College in Massachusetts, and our daughter, Jacqueline, is at Santa Barbara City College. Actually, both of them have spent time working for the company. David usually spends his summers and breaks working for us or some of our trade contractors, and Jacqueline has worked for one of our designers. We’re a family business in every sense of the word!”

When he reflects on both his careers, Jeff points to one attribute above all as a catalyst for his success. “I believe it’s important to listen more than you speak,” he says. “Remodeling is a deeply personal process—we’re inside our clients’ homes, and they have specific ideas or visions about how they want to live in their homes and how they want them to look, so the only way to make that happen is to listen. That’s the most necessary aspect of any type of work.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite sport?
A: College ice hockey. My son plays defense for Becker College, and he played on the Junior Sharks when he was growing up. I’m also really passionate about baseball. I love the Giants.
Q: Have you ever read a book more than once?
A: Yes, Catcher in the Rye. I read it in high school, and then I read it with my kids when they were in high school. It really hasn’t lost its core meaning over the years.
Q: Have you ever had a conversation with a famous person?
A: I sat next to Betty White on a plane and it was sort of a bumpy flight, so we talked to take our minds off air turbulence and travel for a little while.
Q: What’s your favorite fruit?
A: Blueberries.
Q: What country would you most like to visit?
A: Actually, I’d like to travel throughout the United States. There’s just so much I haven’t seen yet, like the Grand Canyon and Snake River.
Q: What’s the best James Bond movie?
A: It’s a three-way tie: The Spy Who Loved Me, Goldfinger, and Live and Let Die.

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How to Get Accurate Bids for Your Remodeling Project

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SAN FRANCISCO — When planning for a remodeling project, homeowners are generally advised to get bids from at least three contractors so they can compare apples to apples. However, when the bids come in, homeowners are often confused and/or discouraged by what… Read more

Designing Your Home for Aging in Place

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SAN FRANCISCO — When planning for a home remodeling project, one thing to consider is “aging in place”: a design approach that anticipates your long-term needs. In particular, it addresses elements of your home you use every day and designs… Read more

How to Take the Stress out of a Remodeling Project

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SAN FRANCISCO — Remodeling can be a stressful process for some people, but that doesn’t mean it has to be for you. To get the most out of the experience and make sure your project turns out exactly how you… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Managing Costs With Home Remodeling

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SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: When planning for a home remodeling project, it’s wise to be proactive about managing the costs involved. Today we’re in San Francisco… Read more

Simon Spark is president of Build SF, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 992-3027 or by email.

Simon Spark

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Simon Spark: An Artistic Inspiration

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — Simon Spark has always been an artistic person, but he never expected to apply his talents to the realm of residential remodeling. “I started working in the construction field to support myself while attending college, where I studied fine arts,” he remembers. “After graduating, I spent the next 10 years working as a professional artist, doing primarily mixed media sculptures and drawings. Eventually, in my mid-30s, I came to a crossroads where I wanted to start a family and needed a more financially lucrative livelihood. So, I got my contractor’s license and went into business doing residential building and remodeling in San Francisco.”

Today, as president of Build SF, Inc., Simon says his favorite part of his job is the choreography of running projects. “I enjoy managing projects and building the right teams of people to ensure everything runs smoothly. It’s a lot like playing chess—you have to make sure you have the right pieces and are moving them in the right way.”

Originally from the United Kingdom, Simon now resides in San Francisco. “I moved to the U.S. for a college opportunity and never left. I lived by turns in New York and Chicago before making my way to San Francisco, where I’ve lived for the past 30 years.”

Outside of work, Simon spends his free time on a number of active pastimes. “I like getting out to the countryside for walks, hiking and cycling,” he details. “I also practice tai chi and enjoy music, movies and, of course, the San Francisco dining experience.” Additionally, Simon enjoys doing things with his wife, Leanne, and their three children, Baxter, Ashley and Max. “We like to go on family hikes and bike rides, as well as attend the kids’ sports and performance events. My oldest son, Baxter, is a theater performer, so we enjoy attending the productions he’s involved in.”

In regard to his life and career, Simon describes how his background as an artist informs his latter-day livelihood. “As an artist, I have a pretty sharp sensibility for design. I’m also good at seeing how feasible a project is from a design standpoint, which is why I like to be involved early in the process. My focus is always on making sure we provide a great design and, ultimately, a high-quality product.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Simon says he’d dive back into art. “I’m certainly interested in re-engaging with that aspect of my life. I haven’t been active as an artist since I became a father and a business owner, so if I retired, I would probably return to sculpting and other art forms.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Have you ever read a book more than once?

A: “And Quiet Flows the Don” by Mikhail Sholokhov.

Q: What’s your favorite movie genre?

A: I’m a bit of a crime thriller addict. One of my favorites is “The Usual Suspects.”

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

A: Southeast Asia.

Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?

A: A dog person.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?

A: The future. I’m interested in seeing how much the world has changed a century from now.

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The First Step to Starting a Remodeling Project in San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO — If you own a San Francisco property and are considering a remodeling project, there’s one preliminary step you’ll want to take before getting a contractor involved: contact the city building department to find out if there are any outstanding… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Why Choose a Design & Build Contractor?

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SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re preparing for a construction project, consider the benefits of hiring a design and build contractor. Today we’re in San Francisco… Read more

Jim Kabel is president of Case Design/Remodeling, a Diamond Certified company since 2005. He can be reached at (408) 256-1949 or by email.

Jim Kabel

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jim Kabel: A Successful Case

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE — Jim Kabel started his career in the high-tech field, but after 25 years in the industry, he was ready for a change. “I was running service and support for a major business group when I decided I wanted to do something completely different—specifically to own and manage a business in an entirely new industry,” he explains. After considering his options, Jim decided his professional abilities would be best utilized in the field of home improvement. “As a homeowner, I’d had both good and bad experiences with home improvement, and I felt there was an overall shortage of quality, customer satisfaction-focused companies to address the needs of others like myself.”

When he came across an East Coast-based company that was offering franchise opportunities, Jim knew he’d found a perfect match. “Case Design/Remodeling had a process for remodeling and construction that made a tremendous amount of sense to me, and I ultimately decided to partner with them, which has worked out very well.” Since founding Case’s Santa Clara franchise in 2004, Jim says he’s enjoyed applying his prior professional experience to another industry. “I like taking the things I learned working for a large company, applying them to a small business and seeing how they work. By identifying the skills that are crucial for this industry and tapping the expertise of high-quality professionals, I’ve been able to take things to the next level.”

Originally from Southern California, Jim eventually migrated to the Bay Area and currently resides in San Jose, where he says he enjoys the city’s characteristic diversity. “In addition to the variety of things to do—from sports and entertainment to outdoor activities—I also appreciate the diversity of the people, as well as the professional opportunities available here. It’s just a very fun place to be.”

Outside of work, Jim enjoys partaking in the many things San Jose has to offer. “As a fan of music, movies and sports, there’s always something for me to do here,” he says. “I like going to see live music, and I’m also a San Jose Sharks season ticket holder.” In addition to local entertainment, Jim enjoys playing the keyboard and participating on his company’s softball team.

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Jim says he’d continue to do things that keep him active. “I don’t know if I’ll ever fully retire, but even in semi-retirement, I hope to teach or consult in some capacity—whatever allows me to stay active and relevant.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite musical group?
A: Chicago.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: Probably the past, just so I could become more educated about certain things that happened in our history.

Q: Do you have a favorite local winery?
A: Duckhorn Vineyards in Saint Helena.

Q: What’s one website you visit on a daily basis?
A: Remodeling Magazine’s website.

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Considerations for Remodeling

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SAN JOSE — When planning for a large remodeling project (or any project that’s design-intensive), consider the following points: Define the scope of the project. Before you begin interviewing designers and contractors, have a clear idea of what you want.… Read more

4 Ways to Augment Space in Your Home

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SAN JOSE — As our life circumstances change, we sometimes find that our homes no longer meet our needs. Whether due to a growing family, kids moving out, senior parents moving in or planning for our own aging in place, the size… Read more

Kitchen Planner Checklist

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SAN JOSE — Planning a new kitchen is no easy task, especially if it’s your first major home remodeling project. Use the following checklist to address the various aspects of your new kitchen. Floorplan: Your kitchen is the hardest working room… Read more

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Video: 4 Ways to Augment Space in Your Home

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Complete Video Transcription:

SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: As life circumstances change, you may find your home is no longer large enough to accommodate your needs. Fortunately, there are a… Read more

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