Dream Team Tackles Luxury Remodels
authors Autumn McGarr
The transition from collaborating casually on projects to opening their own design-build firm was an organic one for San Antonio-based Jana Valdez and her husband Armando. Jana Valdez had been working as an interior designer for 15 years, while Armando Valdez had 25 years of experience as a contractor. Their complementary talents made them a highly effective team, and in 2016 the couple jointly founded Haven Design & Construction.
The couple’s combined skill sets give Haven Design & Construction a unique advantage in the industry. “We work together on projects,” Jana Valdez explains. “Clients love being able to hire one company with one contract to do their job from start to finish – from the design concept phase all the way through to the last details of the construction phase.”
San Antonio is a vibrant and dynamic city – as well as the seventh largest by population in the U.S. – and career opportunities lure many newcomers from other states every year. According to Valdez, many of Haven’s clients are recent transplants.
“They don’t want to live outside of Loop 1604 because it would be such a long commute and they want to have their kids in a specific school district, but there’s not much land left to build on within Loop 1604 in San Antonio,” Valdez explains, referring to State Highway Loop 1604, which encircles San Antonio. “So they begin to explore the idea of remodeling an existing home within the Loop.”
Although these newcomers may find property in the perfect location, they often find that the homes themselves leave a lot to be desired. “I often get phone calls like, ‘We are moving here and we just bought a house within the Loop in a good school district and I HATE it, but there wasn’t anything available that wasn’t outdated in that area to buy! Help me!’” Valdez laughs.
In response to this demand, Haven has come to specialize in luxury kitchen and bath remodels, as well as whole-home renovations. “We love helping [people] turn their newly acquired ‘ho hum home’ into their dream home,” says Valdez.
With Jana Valdez’s design experience and Armando Valdez’s prowess as a contractor, Haven clients can expect a harmonious one-stop-shop experience. Jana Valdez herself is a designer of many talents: “I am both an interior designer and also a kitchen and bath designer,” she explains. “Cabinetry design is not taught in design school, so it’s a trade that I learned after graduating from college. Most designers are either interior designers who select kitchen finishes and materials, but don’t do their own cabinet drawings, or they are kitchen designers who do their own cabinetry drawings, but don’t select any of the finishes and design details. I feel very blessed to have both skill sets.”
The duo’s remodeling process is a team effort. They create the drawings together, and once the plans are finalized, Armando Valdez handles construction and hiring of subcontractors. “I think that it’s also rare to find a contractor as ‘hands on’ as my husband. He does a lot of the work himself on our jobs,” Jana Valdez notes. Selection of interior finishes and materials then falls to Jana Valdez.
The pair’s expertise doesn’t stop at kitchens and baths, either. “Often, people hire us to remodel the kitchen and bath in a home and then we end up painting the whole house, installing all new flooring for the house and replacing all the light fixtures, wall switches and outlets. That’s very common,” says Valdez. Other services Haven offers include interior design services, floorplan design and construction services such as demo and plumbing work. “About the only services we don’t offer are landscaping and roofing,” Valdez remarks.
Worth a thousand words
Every project must, of course, begin with getting to know the client and their specific needs. “I love to talk at length with a client at the beginning of a project to understand what’s important to them and their family and how they use the space…but I have found that many clients have a very hard time describing in words what their design style is,” notes Valdez. “And, when they do, if they use a word like ‘modern’ or ‘timeless,’ it might mean a totally different thing to me than it does to them.”
In order to make sure that she understands exactly what her clients are looking for, Valdez asks that they create an idea book on Houzz or Pinterest and note their likes and dislikes on each item. “Usually, after looking through about 20 photos, I see a theme repeated over and over in the photos and I begin to understand the exact look they want,” Valdez explains. “I can’t tell you how many times I walked away from a conversation with a new client who described what they wanted in words and then I opened their idea book and realized that they want something totally different than what I had in my head. The idea books are invaluable.”
Image-heavy websites such as Houzz, Instagram and Pinterest have been a boon for Haven in other ways, as well. “About a third of our business comes from clients who find us on Houzz or Instagram and then visit our website,” she concludes. ▪