2009 Home Improvement Challenge: Grand Prize Winner and More of Our Favorites

Creativity, vision, and do-it-yourself spirit abound in these examples from the Renovation entries in our Home Improvement Challenge.

Grand Prize Winner: Identity Restored

This Venice, California, house returned to its 1912 roots with a new porch that stretches the width of the facade and a projecting gable that emphasizes the entrance. The second story, added in the 1980s, now looks like it belongs to the house, integrated via a new covering of shingles, correctly proportioned windows, and a deep roof overhang. Vanilla trim accents the sage-stained cedar shingles and siding. Instead of painting the window muntins and sashes the same creamy color, owners Dana Liston and David Ellis painted them an adventurous purple. Up close, it's a fun accent; from a distance the windows become larger, simpler shapes, avoiding a busy look.

Identity Restored, Before

The poorly designed second story and a skimpy overhang above the main-level windows and door obscured the lines and character of the original bungalow.

Identity Restored, Living Room

The old baseboards and beaded- board wainscoting were salvaged and reused to minimize waste and to preserve character. New crown moldings, paneled ceilings, encased beams enhance character further. To add the fireplace, David figured out how to run the flue up through a bedroom closet. Dana saw an old mantel in a yard sale and bought it for $150. The window seat does double duty as a cubby for firewood--maximizing storage space was key to making the 1,350-square-foot house work for a family of four.

Identity Restored, Living Room

The dramatic changes accomplished in the renovation stayed within the original footprint of the house and kept most of the exterior walls and openings intact. New Arts and Crafts-style windows and trim fit into basically the same space once occupied by nondescript double-hung and single-pane windows. A wall of built-in bookshelves includes baskets on the bottom shelves for son Sean's toys.

Identity Restored, Living Room Before

A to-the-studs teardown included removing dark beams hiding the vaulted ceiling over the main-level living areas.

Identity Restored, Kitchen

The kitchen is compact but efficient. Dana squeezed storage space in wherever possible, including a 1-1/2-inch-deep ledge on the backsplashes to hold spices. White cabinetry and trimwork combined with new skylights and interior transoms make the most of light and expand the sense of space.

Identity Restored, Dining Room

The couple retained the original glass doors leading from the side porch into the dining room but enlivened them with a coat of glossy purple paint. They also kept the original Dutch door leading from the dining room to the back yard, but to gain more storage space, they closed in a window on the righthand wall and installed a bank of built-in cabinets with display shelves.

Identity Restored, Bedroom

Ebony-stained bamboo flooring continues upstairs into the master bedroom. Dana added the window above the bed to gain light and air, but closed one on the wall with the dresser to provide more options for furniture placement. The balcony is one of two off the master bedroom, adding light and feeling of openness.

Identity Restored, Bath

Subway shower tiles, small hexagonal floor tiles, a beaded-board tub skirt, and glass-front cabinetry imbue the master bath with vintage style. The wall opposite the built-in dressing table holds twin sinks (not shown). A rainshower shower head hangs from the ceiling over the center of the tub to provide a touch of luxury.

More Ideas: Wide Open Spaces

The 750-square-foot cottage that Catherine Reinhart shared with her husband, Scott Gray, in Eugene, Oregon, was too small for their needs, but they loved their neighborhood and didn't want to move. Setting out to add a little space, they ended up tearing down everything but the west wall and foundation of the original house. The new structure gained an additional 2,050 square feet by pushing up with a second story and out with a new two-story extension. Gabled and shed roof profiles and fiber-cement siding resembling shingles respect the traditional style of the neighborhood, while shades of lime green and natural wood tones blend the house into its parklike setting.

Wide Open Spaces, Before

Typical of houses built after World War II, the Reinhart-Gray cottage was tiny by contemporary standards. The couple built a 300-square-foot guest cottage at the back of the property before beginning renovation so they could move into it during construction. The foundations of the original house received some seismic upgrades and were extended forward, to the side, and to the rear to accommodate the new floor plan.

Wide Open Spaces, Back of House

The L-shape of the addition and expansion now forms a courtyard at the back of the house that blocks noise from the adjacent park while benefiting from the greenery and open spaces. Catherine chose two shades of lime green for the exterior and applied them to alternating walls. From the park, the house is nearly invisible, blending into the trees. Natural-color wood outlines the roofs, walls, windows, and pergola, highlighting the shapes.

Wide Open Spaces, Dining Room

Flooring and trim of recycled lumber give the house warmth and character and helped the couple achieve one of their goals: to use as many green building concepts as possible. Exposed fir ceiling joists over the dining area make the most of the beauty of the natural wood.

Wide Open Spaces, Kitchen

Energy-efficient appliances in the kitchen and countertops made of pressed paper and resin bring green building concepts into the kitchen. The couple subcontracted out the cabinetry to a local cabinetmaker but did much of the remaining construction and finishing work. Catherine shopped online and searched Craigslist to find the best prices for materials and appliances. Her one indulgence was the Towson Gantry sink faucet from Waterstone. It boasts an articulated spout and pre-rinse sprayer with an arm that pivots like a pot filler.

Wide Open Spaces, Pantry

The trim in the kitchen was milled from 50-year-old bleachers from a high school. The couple planed the 16-foot-long bleachers down, and Catherine spent months sanding, plugging, and sealing them so they were ready for reuse. Blackboard paint turns the door into a message center.

Wide Open Spaces, Living Room

One dark chocolate wall provides a focal point for the living room and warms the lofty space. The gas-fired stove supplements the HVAC system, keeping the house toasty even during winter when the thermostat is set just at 60 degrees F.

More Ideas: From Church House to Dream House

A parish house that was about to be torn down to make way for church expansion became the starting point for a family's dream home. When James Magoon discovered that the 1875 parish house of the Old Saybrook First Church of Christ was slated for demolition to make way for a churh expansion, he and his wife bought the structure from the town for $1 and had it moved 500 yards up the road. James designed the alterations and additional spaces, and with the help of family and friends did much of the work to accomplish the transformation.

From Church House to Dream House, Exterior Before

James had local subcontractors excavate the site and lay the foundation before having the parish house moved to the site. Here it's ready to be set on the foundation.

From Church House to Dream House, Interior Before

Removing the plaster walls uncovered the original round arches capping the double-hung windows. Their locations guided the design of the main living areas. Tearing out a drop ceiling exposed the original vaulted ceiling and decorative braces. The braces were removed to make way for new upper-level trusses and were relocated to the new kitchen.

From Church House to Dream House, Entry

New double doors were installed between two round-arched windows to create a two-story entry foyer with stairs to the upper level. The banisters, posts, and finials were created on-site by James and his family in his basement woodworking shop. The arched opening connecting the entry to the living room is a new feature but repeats the arch of the windows. Verde marble provides a durable yet elegant surface for the entry floor.

From Church House to Dream House, Living Room

The living room occupies the width of the original parish house. Custom-made built-in cabinetry crafted by James and his family frame the fireplace, which backs up to a second fireplace in the kitchen. All of the floors were milled on-site from raw white oak, red oak, and walnut boards and laid in place by family and friends. Ceilings are 12 feet high to accommodate the original windows. An arched opening leads to the new kitchen, which is set at a 45-degree angle to the original structure.

From Church House to Dream House, Kitchen

Everything that could be salvaged and reused from the original parish house was put to use somewhere in the renovated residence. The decorative braces from the original one-story structure now give distinctive architectural character to the 16-foot-high ceilings in the kitchen. The design of the brace inspired the shape of the arched brackets supporting the island countertop.

From Church House to Dream House, Breakfast Area

The spacious kitchen includes a seating area in front of the fireplace, an eating area, and a laundry room and mudroom through the angled door. Two walls of windows, skylights, and a decorative half-elliptical window in the end gable flood this room with light.

From Church House to Dream House, Master Bath

The original entry vestibule of the parish house was walled in, leaving only the half-round window showing on the interior. It now serves as an alcove for the whirlpool tub off the master bedroom.

More Ideas: Revitalized Bungalow

At a glance, the biggest change at Heather Morrow's 1925 bungalow seems to be the new paint color. A close look, however, reveals that the exterior is covered in cedar shake shingles instead of the old aluminum siding, the windows and door are framed by appropriately scaled trim, and the brick porch piers have been painted white to match the posts. But that's only the beginning. Inside, Heather undertook a complete renovation, peeling off layers of paneling, tiling, carpeting, and vinyl flooring to get down to the original structure. She then built back its beauty, creating a functional layout and adding a new walk-in closet and second bathroom--all for under $53,000.

Revitalized Bungalow, Before

The charming bones were there, but the 1925 bungalow had been covered with red aluminum siding that masked the original trimwork around windows and doors. Once the siding was removed, Heather had the shingles painted, a new roof installed, and exterior trim painted.

Revitalized Bungalow, Dining Room

The dining room retained its original dimensions, but Heather moved the door to the kitchen to the right and added an arched pass-through to borrow views and light from the kitchen. She had new drywall applied to all ceilings and installed deep baseboards and trimwork to restore architectural character. The hardwood floors in this area were salvageable, so she refinished them.

Revitalized Bungalow, Dining Room Before

This view of the living room looking into the dining room shows the dark paneling that covered every wall in the house. Two layers of carpet had covered all of the floors before Heather pulled them up to discover the original hardwood floors underneath. All of the floors could be refinished except in the kitchen and hallway, where they had to be replaced.

Revitalized Bungalow, Kitchen

Heather completely reconfigured the kitchen, adding storage, an efficient work triangle, and a breakfast bar on one side of the peninsula. The new cabinetry features Shaker-style flat frames with flat recessed panels and brushed-nickel bin-style pulls for an authentic bungalow look.

Revitalized Bungalow, Kitchen

In reworking the kitchen, Heather also reconfigured the old back hallway, carving it into a laundry room with a new back door and a closet for the rear guest bedroom. The peaked arch over the doorway re-creates a feature she discovered in tearing out the old paneling and walls. She repeated it in the cabinetry over the range and in the pass-through to the dining room to play it up as a distinctive design element.

Revitalized Bungalow, Bedroom

Refinished floors and new drywall, trim, and paint transformed the master bedroom. Heather chose a restful, warm neutral for this room and the master bath. Crisp white trimwork runs through the house and ties spaces together.

Revitalized Bungalow, Bedroom Before

As in all of the other rooms, dark paneling covered the walls in the master bedroom, but the original window trim had survived intact. It just needed to be stripped and painted after new drywall and ceilings had been installed.

Revitalized Bungalow, Bathroom

Moving walls and reconfiguring the space formerly occupied by a bedroom and the cottage's only bathroom yielded a master bath and walk-in closet (accessed through the louvered doors) and a second bathroom off the hall.

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