Annual Awards Showcase Remodeling Style

Fort Atkinson, WI— Every good designer has walked onto a job site to see a once-trendy design that, sadly, has surpassed its expiration date. Award-winning designers see these outdated rooms as a blank canvas for a master’s brush.

The Master Design Awards, now in their 30th year, honor outstanding building projects in wide-ranging categories that cover the spectrum of both interior and exterior design. Sponsored by Kitchen & Bath Design News’ sister publication Qualified Remodeler, the contest garners entrants from across the country, who submit photos and project descriptions to be judged by a panel of their peers.

This year’s award winners included some of the best and brightest professional remodeling projects completed between January 1, 2008 and May 23, 2009.

The entries were judged on aesthetic appeal, construction techniques, handling of challenging situations, attention to detail, functionality of the remodeled space, financial/budgetary success and the overall impression of the finished project. Judging took place in 22 categories, from kitchen and bath projects to outdoor living and whole-house remodeling projects. Awards were announced and presented at a ceremony on October 27, at the Remodeling Show in Indianapolis.

Bath Over $50k – Gold Winner

Out of the most common problems spring the most uncommon solutions. This was evident in a Majestic Hills master bath that the Chandler, AZ-based TriLite Builders was called upon to remodel.

Suffering from an overdose of pink, the ’90s-inspired design had, among other problems, a functionless, obtrusive walk-in closet/dressing area, bulky soffits and poor lighting.

The clients wanted to turn the bath – which the designers termed “nauseatingly pink” – into an inviting, elegant, spa-inspired space with improved function and warmth.

A key safety issue also needed to be addressed: There were steps leading to the shower and the toilet, and the clients worried about tripping on these when using the bathroom at night, or when getting out of the tub with wet feet. For that reason, eliminating the steps was one of the first orders of business for this project.

One thing the original master bath had going for it was architectural interest that could be capitalized upon. Existing archways over the original closet area inspired the project’s designer to incorporate similar arches elsewhere: from master bedroom to bath and also from the adjoining office to the master bedroom.

The existing arch now adorns the freestanding contemporary volcanic limestone soaking tub. The tub itself, from Victoria & Albert, was selected both for its style and for the limestone’s ability to help maintain water temperature.

A highlight of the design is the Giallo Santo granite and opalescent glass tile design in the area behind the tub, which resembles a waterfall. These tiles are also found in the tub niche as well as in the walk-in shower.

As part of the remodel, the shower also received a complete upgrade to replace the outdated cultured marble shower with glass doors. A new rain showerhead helps to create the spa-feeling the clients so desired.

The designer specified fixtures from Grohe’s Allure collection, as well as dual china sinks from Xylem for the vanity.

The existing bulky soffits over the vanity and tub/shower area were jettisoned to contribute to a more streamlined simplicity and elegance.

“The symmetry of the new arches and precise layout for the placement of fixtures and the tub niche had our project manager sharpening up his math as well as his carpentry skills,” the builders noted in their design statement. The wall and niche behind the tub had to be framed before installing floor tile and the actual tub. There was no margin for error as the niche was to be 1/4" above the finished height of the tub.

Even with the firm’s expertise, the project was not without its challenges, the builders report. During demolition, an HVAC return was discovered in an area that the client thought was empty space. The new (and already ordered) cabinetry from Mid Continent Cabinetry, had been configured to utilize this space. To solve this problem, the cabinet placement was modified to include making small custom drawer fronts to match new cabinets, which saved money for the clients in that they did not have to reorder cabinets.

Another surprise was found during demolition, when the steps leading up to the tub/shower area were removed. Instead of finding concrete beneath the tile, there was only dirt below. Concrete had to be poured through the window and then bolted to the existing slab.

Plumbing had to be rerouted for the new tub, while wiring had to be pulled for added accent lighting behind the arch over the tub area.

Indirect lighting was strategically placed behind the tub to create a mellow, relaxed feeling. The glaring lights around the vanity were replaced with tasteful sconce lights with framed mirrors to match the vanity cabinets.

To add functionality without interrupting the clean lines of the bath, electrical outlets were hidden inside cabinets, giving the vanity area a more polished look.

The closet dressing area wasted much of the bathroom’s space, according to the builders. Sliding mirrored doors on three sides revealed only 70 sq. ft. of space. For simplicity and cost effectiveness, the mirrored doors from all three sides were removed to open up the existing space for easy access. Entrance to the closet is now to the right of the tub. Utilizing the newly constructed 11' wall behind the tub, the client was able to build in floor-to-ceiling shelves with cubbies for shoes and space for long-hanging garments. The new closet measures 170 sq. ft. – over twice what the previous closet had provided.

Part of achieving a Master Design Award is measuring the financial success of the project. By beating the homeowners’ budget by $2,000 to create this streamlined, elegant, visually interesting space, TriLite Builders took the Gold.

Kitchen Over $100k – Gold winner

Chevy Chase, MD-based Wentworth, Inc. had plenty of challenges when it was charged with the remodel of a poorly designed 1970s kitchen with dated cabinetry, yellowing grout between backsplash tiles, old linoleum floors and uneven construction.

According to Wentworth, the homeowners’ ultimate goal was to gut the old kitchen, maximize the available space and open the room up to the adjacent dining room and rear garden to suit the clients’ “informal lifestyle.”

The result is a kitchen with a light, airy, almost European feel. The designers took their inspiration from the space’s proximity to the home’s back garden. Replacing the sliding glass doors with French doors that opened straight onto the patio was the first step.

To address the uneven and aging structure, the firm newly framed the space to make walls and floor plumb and square. The narrow space, just 11'4"x14', required a careful design to accommodate a new island. The south wall was fitted with 12"-deep, full-height cabinets in a warm off-white tone.

Between the main cabinetry and the ceiling are glass-front boxes for display. Pantry cabinets flank a countertop used for laptops, mail cubbies and cell phone charging.

A north wall accommodates all of the appliances, the sink and a new casement window. The tight space required that the rear door be repositioned, which also accentuates the view of the garden.

Efficiency was the goal for the new center island, which the builders describe as “a comfortable space for breakfast, coffee and reading the morning news.” Its cherry top adds a warm tone that sets off the colors in the wood flooring and complements the natural stone perimeter countertops. Eclectic pendant lights hang above and help to lead the eye toward the garden. The symmetry this style provides is further reinforced with a custom coffered-beam ceiling that accentuates the height and gives a fair amount of high style to an otherwise informal and minimalistic space.

The results, coming in at a budget of $160,000, matched the clients’ goals. The living spaces now flow seamlessly through one another, front-to-back, with the kitchen acting as the conduit to the beautiful rear garden.

Although the space is modestly scaled, the strategic use of natural light combined with appropriately sized elements gives it a very upgraded, spacious feel, the builders note.

“The new kitchen utilizes carefully planned, upscale detailing that gives the home a [unique] sense of understated, practical luxury,” the builders conclude.