This Cute Cottage Before-and-After Won Our Home Improvement Challenge

See the best before-and-after makeovers—including the winner—from our 2009 Home Improvement Challenge.

These exteriors feature historical styles--from Craftsman to Spanish Colonial -- that say welcome home. See the winning facade facelift and more of our favorites.

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Winner: Suburban Cottage

Home Exterior

A bumped-out gable and shingled siding give this standard suburban house a whole new look that's vaguely reminiscent of Victorian Shingle-style cottages. The double-height bay window lets in more light, which was homeowner Sonjia McKelvey's goal. The careful proportions and character-filled flourishes were the work of her architect son, Tim. A curving brick path and new plantings make the approach to the front porch graceful and welcoming.

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Suburban Cottage, Before

Home Exterior

The original arched window had begun to lose its vacuum seal and was becoming milky, and the 20-year-old cedar siding needed to be replaced. The project grew from there, as husband Bob McKelvey suggested a new garage door with windows to brighten his woodworking shop and Tim persuaded Sonjia to add a potting shed.

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Suburban Cottage, Exterior Overall

Home Exterior

The new roofline over the bay window gives this part of the house prominence over the garage and the facade a focus. A wide porch with broad steps creates a gracious welcome. Instead of the old slender porch post, a knee brace supports the roof and repeats the shape of the brackets on the new gable. The garage gains character from a window in the gable, a carriage-house-style door, and a pergola.

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Suburban Cottage, Window Box

Window Box

The window between the porch and the garage didn't change, but adding shutters made it look wider. A window box and climbing vines add cottage charm.

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Suburban Cottage, Garage Window

Garage Window

Framing the garage window with a built-out gable, stepped sill, and shingle-wrapped casing adds depth and dimension to what had been an uninteresting flat expanse of siding. The new shingle siding also adds texture and interest, but painting all trim and siding the same color keeps the facade from being busy.

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Suburban Cottage, Pergola


Architectural details, such as the pergola over the garage door, brackets and braced supports, and Arts and Crafts-style lighting soften the modern lines of the original house and imbue it with bungalow character. The roofline at this end of the house was extended slightly to balance the new, higher gable over the bay window.

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Suburban Cottage, Bracket Detail

Bracket Detail

The braces supporting the roof and projecting gable aren't actually carved, although that's the impression they give from a distance.

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Suburban Cottage, Potting Shed

Potting Shed

Around the corner from the garage entrance, the extended roofline shelters a new potting shed. It projects just enough from the garage that the McKelveys can tuck the garbage cans out of sight behind it.

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More Ideas: From Split-Level to Craftsman

Home Exterior

Who would believe that this house was originally a 1959 split-level? When Scott and Patricia DeHenau bought the house, they were attracted to the lot and its proximity to the lively historic town of Northville, Michigan. Every architect they consulted about remodeling the dated and not-so-charming architecture suggested they tear it down and start over--until they met Greg Presley of Northville. With his help, they changed the interior floor plan to reflect the needs of their growing family and transformed the exterior to achieve a classic Craftsman bungalow style.

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From Split-Level to Craftsman, Before

Home Exterior ¿ Before Shot

Built in 1959, this split-level brick house had its original aluminum windows and the low-pitch roof, no interior moldings, and the long, low design of 1950s ranch houses. Shag carpeting covered hardwood floors, and the kitchen cabinets had been replaced in the 1970s. Before they moved in, the DeHenaus tore up the carpet, refinished the hardwood floors, and painted all of the walls.

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From Split-Level to Craftsman, Before

Home Exterior ¿ Before Shot

The couple removed all of the exterior brick and tore off the garage that had extended from the right side of the house.

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From Split-Level to Craftsman, Exterior Overall

Home Exterior

With a high stone foundation covering the lower level of the house and a shed-roof bay window centered on the gable end, the proportions of the house seem entirely different -- ground- hugging and horizontal -- even though the roof pitch is in fact steeper. On the left, the couple added a primary bedroom and theatre room.

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From Split-Level to Craftsman, Garage


The new garage retains the same orientation as the old one, but its new L shape accommodates a revised, open interior floor plan that includes a mudroom at the garage entry. An upper-level addition over the garage adds variety to the roofline and about 550 square feet of office space for Patricia.

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From Split-Level to Craftsman, Garage Before

Garage ¿ Before Shot

The old two-car garage repeated the roofline of the main house but sat slightly forward, framing the entry.

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From Split-Level to Craftsman, Front Porch

Front Porch

An evocation of Craftsman style rather than a reproduction, the new front porch features square columns resting on stone piers, deep eave overhangs, false beams, and a king's post truss support. Boxed eaves rather than the more historically correct exposed rafters gives the roofline a clean look.

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From Split-Level to Craftsman, Front Porch Before

Front Porch ¿ Before Shot

The mix of traditional and contemporary detailing was typical of 1950s split-level houses. Here, the wide double doors have country French molding, the board-and-batten accent wall adds a rustic flavor, and the single-pane, floor-to-ceiling windows are pure contemporary style.

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More Ideas: A Friendlier Facade

Home Exterior

With a new pergola-shaded front porch and new landscaping, this 1920s Spanish Eclectic bungalow in Culver City, California, gained loads of curb appeal and space for outdoor living. Homeowners Steven and Jennifer Rogers did all of the work, except for pouring the concrete for the porch and steps.

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A Friendlier Facade, Before

Home Exterior ¿ Before Shot

Turquoise-and-white striped aluminum awnings and turquoise trim were at odds with the Spanish inspiration of the architecture. Overgrown shrubbery added to the unkempt appearance. As soon as they completed the paperwork for buying the house, the couple tore down the awnings and painted the trim brown to blend with the stucco exterior.

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A Friendlier Facade, Before

Porch ¿ Before Shot

Originally, a concrete walkway led to a semi-enclosed landing about 11 inches above the ground. Entering the front door required another 8-inch step up, making the entry awkward if not dangerous.

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A Friendlier Facade

Remodeling in Process

To remedy the awkward entry, Steve and Jennifer designed a raised porch that would be level with the front door. A contractor poured the concrete to Steve's specifications.

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A Friendlier Facade, Pergola

Concrete Porch

After the concrete porch and steps were in place, Steve constructed a pergola from redwood beams. The structure suits the architectural style of the house, shades the front porch, and offers the established bougainvillea appropriate support.

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A Friendlier Facade

Porch Tiles

Authentic saltillo tile covers the front porch and steps in a houndstooth pattern, with 2-inch hand-painted Mexican tiles inset as accents. Six-inch hand-painted tiles embellish the stair risers (not seen here). New beds with drought-tolerant plants frame views of the street.

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