Meet the nine winners from our Home Improvement Challenge. Their vision, ingenuity, and hard work are sure to inspire your next renovation project.
Dana Liston and David Ellis, Venice, California
Estimated project cost: over $200,000.
It took vision to see the charming 1912 bungalow that lay hidden beneath ugly tacked-on 1980s remodeling, but Dana Liston, an artist, and David Ellis, a licensed architect, had plenty of that. With the help of their next-door neighbor, a general contractor, the couple took the 1,350-square-foot house back to its traditional roots inside and out, creating a light, bright, storage-rich home for their family.
Inside the home, a to-the-studs tear-out was necessary. Outside, a new porch with a gabled entry restored correct proportions to the home. Extending the roofline, replacing the upstairs windows, and adding banisters to the upstairs deck brought the addition in line with the structure's vintage style.
Sonjia and Bob McKelvey, Belpre, Ohio
Estimated project cost: under $14,000
A bland, ill-proportioned facade gets a makeover and a whole new look -- without major structural changes. "It all began when the living room windows started getting milky from losing their vacuum," Sonjia says. All she wanted was a bay window, but her architect son, Tim, pointed out that a bay window could make the house look smaller and shorter. But adding a gable over the new double-height bay window increased the sense of verticality for a grander look.
New cedar-shingle siding, Arts and Crafts-style architectural details, and a curving brick path to the front door completed the transformation to a warm and welcoming cottage. The McKelveys and their son did all of the work themselves, so the cost of materials was their only expense.
Laura and Ray Stukel, Elmhurst, Illinois
Estimated project cost: $50,000
The Stukels were committed to living green even before they bought their 1960s house. They shopped for a home in a walkable location that would allow them to have just one car (a hybrid), and they looked for an existing, average-size house they could renovate rather than investing in new construction. None of their green choices were flashy or high-tech but taken together, the many small steps added up to dramatic results that the Stukels say anyone could achieve.
To help them make decisions about green products and green choices, the Stukels focused on energy efficiency, health, durability/timelessness, and locally manufactured materials, and they created a grid that helped them sort through the many products and the potential payback.
Ann Steenwyk, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Estimated project cost: $50,000-$79,999
Ann Steenwyk wanted a kitchen that functioned better and still respected the aesthetics and style of her 1915 foursquare house. Tearing down a partial wall that divided the kitchen from a hall with a walk-in closet opened up the center of the room and made space for an efficient, multifunctional island with a food-prep surface, breakfast bar, and a range that uses a downdraft vent. Pushing the end of the kitchen out with a 12x8-foot bay added room for an informal family dining area.
Tweaking existing spaces added even more function -- a walk-in coat closet became a pantry, a closet with sliding doors became a desk and "command" center, and a third entry door was closed off to create a mini mudroom at the back of the house. New cabinets, custom-designed in Craftsman style and reaching from floor to ceiling, replaced ho-hum stock cabinets, and new maple flooring matches the flooring in the rest of the house.
Meg Kopald, Shelburne, Vermont
Estimated project cost: $50,000-$79,999
Sharing a tiny bathroom is hard enough for two people, much less three. As Meg Kopald's children, ages 10, 15, and 17, grew, the space seemed to get smaller and messier. She and her husband, Mark Crow, remedied the situation (and surely made the kids happy) by capturing the unused space of an adjacent walk-in closet to double the size of the existing bathroom.
Now twin vanities on opposite sides of the room allow two people to get ready at the same time. Cherry cabinets with open shelving provide storage for items that are used daily. A large, walk-in shower suits the kids' habits better than the old tub and separate shower did, and a half-wall hides the toilet.
Pam Schulz and Clark Dikeman, Culver City, California
Estimated project cost: over $200,000
When Pam Schulz and Clark Dikeman decided to go ahead with the 364-foot addition they'd long planned on, their goal was to make it as eco-friendly as possible. This included using certified sustainable lumber, linoleum flooring, low-VOC paint, solar roof panels, and passive cooling with well-placed windows and doors.
They recycled the 1950s range that came with the house, and Pam searched online to find recycled lumber for the ceiling (the wood came from a local high school's old bleachers). The solar panels generate more electricity than the couple use, so they sell the excess to their utility company, banking credits for cloudier months.
Rick and Jacque Bailey, Brecksville, Ohio
Estimated project cost: $100,000-$149,999
Their daughter's upcoming wedding provided the motivation Rick and Jacque Bailey needed to renovate their backyard. Removing the brick wall that separated a rectangular, formal patio from the surrounding natural area, the couple created a roomy outdoor living space that stretches organically into the surrounding landscape.
Paved with flagstone and edged with meandering stacked-stone walls and planting beds, the new outdoor area includes a grilling island, multiple seating and dining spaces, and a potting shed for Jacque's gardening activities. The new stone fountain masks traffic noise from the nearby Ohio Turnpike. New and relocated plantings, which were chosen to discourage deer and attract birds, blend the new landscape seamlessly into the old.
James Little, Naples, Florida
Estimated project cost: $10,000-$29,999
Interior designer James Little used color to create spaces that reflected his and his partner's different tastes in a unified, coherent, and comfortable way. The flow of color also makes the 1,400-square-foot 1970s ranch house feel larger. Tobacco-color walls and upholstery are livened with blue accents that range from turquoise and peacock in the living room to light, watery blue in the bedroom and bath. Using the same ceramic tile flooring and sisal rugs throughout the public areas also stretches the sense of space.
Jackie Kalin, Valparaiso, Indiana
While her husband attended the Harley Davidson rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, Jackie gutted the powder room, put in new flooring and paneling, had a new toilet and vanity installed, and used her creativity to transform the walls. She glued thousands of individual flat-back glass gems to the walls -- from the wainscoting to the ceiling -- working by candlelight when a storm knocked out power in the neighborhood. To make the tree, she cut mirrors and art glass into irregular pieces. Now the once-dated powder room is a walk-in work of art.