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If you can dream it, Artisan Construction and Design can build it

Remodeled and expanded kitchens add considerable value to a home, Merced contractor John E. Price believes. People love congregating around the kitchen area which has become a home's entertainment magnet.

Price, chief executive officer of Merced's Artisan Construction and Design, has some key tips for those contemplating a major remodeling — if you love your yard, its landscaping, your neighbors and the safety of the neighborhood, then upgrading the home makes sense. Otherwise, buying a brand-new home elsewhere might make sense.

Master bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms also add value to a home, Price says. Large showers with multiple shower valves, hand-held shower heads, soaking tubs, benches or sitting areas are popular amenities, along with custom, built-in furniture-style vanities.

Artisan Construction, which has seven full-time employees, has been in business for 25 years and also does commercial building projects. They center their home remodeling projects around Merced and Stanislaus counties but the commercial jobs can be anywhere in California.

Price says large kitchens have become increasingly popular. That often means knocking down surrounding walls to make the kitchen part of a larger family dining area.

Constructing large food-preparation islands where several cooks can operate at the same time is in vogue. A television can be placed on the other side of the kitchen as people relax around the expanded eating area.

"Kitchens are a congregating place," Price says. "It's just a natural thing to do and has been evolving for the last 15 years. The kitchens are all over the map in terms of size. Islands and peninsulas where people can eat at are very popular now. Gas appliances and cook-tops are popular with our clients. You are not isolated from other parts of the house or separate from the living area."

Manufactured stone, quartz or granite counter-tops resound with today's homeowners, Price says. A kitchen remodeling/upgrading typically costs about $80,000; new appliances contribute about $18,000 or more to the total. A major bedroom remodeling could easily costs $40,000, he adds.

"Most people would like a larger kitchen," Price says. "With today's modern projects, what can the structure bear? Most people would like large kitchens and they want it more open to the rest of the home. Not every kitchen is the same."

Oftentimes, if you can dream it, Price says he can do it and he is reluctant to say a project isn't possible. One of the biggest hindrances is providing load-bearing walls. The challenge is melding construction costs with what the customer can afford to pay.

Curtis and Gaye Riggs of Merced had Artisan do a major remodeling on their Merced home in 1999; Gaye Riggs said the 13-month project was the best investment they could ever make and they still love their 1950s ranch-style home.

Gaye Riggs said Price changed the bathroom and kitchen along with expanding the bedroom suite.

"It is still serving us well. They were very responsive to our needs and were ahead of the curve," she said.

Price says adding on a home office sometimes is a less-valuable project. He said the Great Depression that gripped Merced made people put off remodeling projects.

"The phone is just now starting to ring more," Price says. "People have more confidence in the economy which goes in fits and starts."

Projects typically can be completed in as little as a month while some take three months because of their complexity. The look of Tuscany is less popular now and more simpler, modern design themes are favored.

Price was a dairy farmer with his father-in-law for 21 years. He ended up doing a number of major construction projects at the ranch and ultimately realized construction would be a fun thing to do.

You have to be more creative to be a home remodeling contractor, Price believes. The fun thing about remodeling is every project is different.

— Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.