The Home of their Dreams
Sunstate Home Design LLC turns homes into ‘happy spaces’
When contractors Ricky Duffield and John Garcia found their residential remodeling business growing, it was only a short leap to add a new business, Sunstate Home Design LLC.
The pair founded Sunstate Contractors in 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida, followed by the establishment of Sunstate Home Design in 2018. The businesses are next door to each other, with the home design company offering a showroom of building materials.
“Sunstate Home Design creates the interiors and sells the materials, and Sunstate Contractors installs them,” Duffield explains.
In February 2019, Sunstate Contractors was hired by interior designer Covi Pena-Holbrook to do a complete remodel of a 30-plus-year-old villa in PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. The client, who lived in Chicago, hired Pena-Holbrook to do the design that involved taking the interior down to the studs and completely redoing the kitchen and bathrooms. She requested bids from five contractors and chose Sunstate.
That partnership went so well that afterward Sunstate Home Design hired Pena-Holbrook to come to work for the company as a designer. Now she can help customers plan their kitchen or bathroom upgrades and choose the cabinets, fixtures, flooring and other materials from the showroom. Then Sunstate Contractors does the remodeling work and installation.
“We’ve done everything from a billionaire’s mansion to a small residence,” Duffield says. “We do large homes and small condos.” The companies’ area of service focuses on the Treasure Coast, from Palm Beach to Melbourne, Florida.
Top 2 in Remodeling: Kitchens, Bathrooms
Kitchens and bathrooms are the two rooms that people most often remodel. Many homes in the area are at least 30 years old, Duffield says, so even a high-end home needs some upgrading. “It’s amazing. People move into a house that they paid $600,000 to $1 million for, and the first thing they do is rip out the bathroom. And it goes on from there!”
Owners remodeling the kitchen usually want to knock out walls and include the dining and living area as one big space, says Nellie Garcia, Manager of Sunstate Home Design. When a client starts a project, they may meet with the contractors’ side first to determine an affordable budget.
“Then we bring them over here to the showroom and guide them toward products that fit their budget,” Garcia says. “We show them what they can afford. We have cabinets and other materials for every budget.” Sunstate has remodeled kitchens with budgets from $30,000 to $250,000.
“We make everything special for every client. We’re here to help them no matter the budget,” Garcia adds.
The 1,000-square-foot showroom has samples of products, mostly from mid-range to high-end, says Pena-Holbrook. Restricted to builders and Sunstate clients, the showroom is not open to the public. Cabinetry is by Yorktowne and Design-Craft, stylish cabinets made in the U.S.; Dura Supreme Cabinetry, with top-of-the-line offerings; and many others. Countertop lines include Grothouse butcher-block countertops and Cambria, a high-end quartz with gold flecks, as well as choices in granite and marble. Flooring, fixtures and hardware are also on display.
With Population Growth Comes Opportunities
With Florida’s population growing by an estimated 300,000 people a year, opportunities abound for residential remodeling businesses, Duffield points out.
Typical Sunstate projects have been a $250,000 kitchen remodel in Palm City, a more than $100,000 kitchen, bath and flooring redo in Harbour Ridge and a multi-bathroom remodel in Sewall’s Point. “Now they’re contemplating doing the kitchen,” Duffield says of the Sewall’s Point homeowner.
One of the company’s most challenging projects was a kitchen remodel in a 100-year-old home in Indian River County. The owners, a physician and a college professor, wanted to keep the heart pine flooring, which dated back to the house’s original construction. The design had to incorporate this flooring and the contractors had to protect it while installing new cabinets and countertops.
A popular addition to homes in Florida is an outdoor kitchen. Sunstate Home Design sells NatureKast cabinetry, which Duffield says is a good choice for outdoors. These cabinets are made of PVC but look like wood and are weatherproof. Many homeowners go with high-end countertops in their outdoor kitchens, Duffield says, with granite or quartz recommended depending on exposure to the elements.
The remodeling bug has spread with the popularity of HGTV network, Pena-Holbrook says. Even an owner buying a new house may want to upgrade the interior, because materials will be basic grade unless it is a custom build. Also, many homeowners choose to upgrade instead of moving, she says. “They are settled with their kids; they love the neighborhood. They choose to stay put and remodel. Why go through the hassle of moving?”
Trends in interior design come and go, but in Florida white and neutrals are enduring. “We also see more of a combo of natural elements: bamboo flooring and stone,” Pena-Holbrook says. A new flooring trend is luxury vinyl tile that can be used in the kitchen and also be continued into the bathroom. COREtec, a brand that Sunstate offers, is water-resistant and family-and pet-friendly.
The prevailing design style in Florida is contemporary to transitional, which allows a combination of classic pieces interspersed with contemporary styles, Pena-Holbrook says. “And the coastal look is always popular,” she adds.
Educating clients is an important part of her work. Pena-Holbrook explains. “I ask them if they plan on cooking for the family in their kitchen. They may want a pristine white quartz counter that will stain easily. Something like speckled stone might be more practical.”
Solving Unexpected Problems
When a remodeling project begins, Sunstate Home Design advises clients that there may be hidden problems that will have to be addressed. “We let the client know that when we’re knocking down walls, if something is wrong, they will have to pay for a specialist,” Nellie Garcia says. Leaks or mold may be found behind tile that has been in place for decades. Sunstate Contractors can take care of these problems.
Garcia has experience in working with insurance companies and can help guide clients who are working on a claim to secure money for repair work.
Sunstate focuses on making the customer happy, Garcia says, with regular communication, on-time scheduling and quality work. Pena-Holbrook says that is why she hired Sunstate Contractors on that first project: their accessibility to give information and answer concerns and their reasonable fees.
“They are very good at explaining upfront in a positive fashion the electrical, plumbing and mechanical aspects,” Pena-Holbrook says “They say, ‘We may run into this’ and explain it with thoroughness and clarification.”
Sunstate Home Design has three employees plus the interior designer. Sunstate Contractors has an array of subcontractors who have worked with them since the beginning.
“We get to help customers make their dreams come true,” Garcia says. “People’s homes are their special places. People want to come home and feel happy to be there.”