Game On

Everybody loves a good competition. Many are drawn to stadiums and glued to their TV sets in spring for baseball, fall for football and winter for hockey. Through spring and early summer, however, the remodeling industry prepares for a different type of competition: Qualified Remodeler's Master Design Awards, which culminates in an awards celebration each fall. (Watch for photos from this year's event in next month's issue.)

Now in its 33rd year, firms throughout the country submitted their best projects in 22 categories. In July, our six judges traveled to Chicago to determine the winners through a blind judging process. They had the option to award Gold, Silver, Bronze, Honorable Mention or any combination thereof for each category. Some categories, such as Historic Renovation, have two Gold winners. This is based on a point system; if an entry had a certain number of points it was possible to have more than one honoree in each level of each category. Similarly, judges had the option to skip the Gold award and start the award process with any of the other ratings.

Judges also gave additional recognition to three projects. Huseby Homes took home Best in Show Less Than $250,000 for its Exterior Facelift project. Allen Associates won Best in Show More Than $250,000 for its Whole House $250,000 to $500,000 project. The Judges' Vision award went to CG&S Design-Build for its Room Addition more than $100,000 project.

Three projects this year received Janus Awards [Gold winner, Detached Structure, Metropolitan Builders; Gold winner, Whole House More Than $500,000, Jackson & LeRoy; and Gold winner, Finished Basement, Finished Basement Co.,]. The Janus Award is based off of Qualified Remodeler's partnership with the Chrysalis Awards, an award that honors residential and commercial remodeling projects nationwide. Those projects that win a national Chrysalis Award and a Gold Master Design Award in the same category receive a Janus Award.

Each year the Master Design Awards highlight varying themes throughout the country, and this year is no exception. More homeowners are looking to be more involved and share more ideas about custom craftsmanship. One of the six judges, Chris Landis, commented about how he saw built-in docks for iPads and an integrated invisible dog fence in a kitchen, presumably to keep the dog out of the kitchen. Landis states it simply, "People are doing more interesting things."

Judge Richard Bubnowski notes a trend toward more efficient use of space and a clever use of materials. "People had limited space in a lot of cases and they were very efficient and clever about how to use it," he says. "People are putting money into smarter solutions and into areas that can be appreciated and have dual-functioning spaces. They took constraints and turned them into opportunities. If you can do that, it'll work in your favor."

As the economy shrinks, so do excessively large spaces. "For the most part, useful, functional investments in remodeling overrode extravagance and overreaching opulence," says Judge Geno Benvenuti. "Aligning functionality and family needs was the general theme.

"Rooms once considered to be the entertainment space, like the living room, are being repurposed into everyday living spaces," Benvenuti continues. "The trend for less big homes but with more square footage for everyday use is changing the basic makeup of the traditional home and giving us [remodelers] opportunities to redo out-of-date living spaces."

Bubnowski agrees about the smaller-spaces trend. "The McMansions and 2-story foyers we saw in the '80s and '90s are a thing of the past," he says. Judge Tim Benkowski commented about how the heavy ornamentation and unnecessary embellishments of the past were becoming less common, further supporting the trend toward more practical, less showy spaces.

More clients also are interested in sustainable materials and energy-saving features. "I don't think every project needs to be LEED certified, but it was refreshing to see that there were those that achieved that status," Bubnowski says. "People are starting to realize small gestures toward sustainability, such as using recycled materials, make a difference. I think that will become the norm." Bubnowski also notes the increasing design trend toward letting in as much natural light as possible.

Although each winning project was memorable in its own right, several judges recall a few stand outs. Benkowski noted a bathroom with a beach and ocean theme. [Gold winner, Bathrooms $30,000 to $50,000.] "Execution included careful material selections that related to the design, which carefully realized the owner's intentions," he recalls.

Benvenuti remembers a concrete house renovation with a contemporary style. [Gold winner, Room addition more than $100,000.] "The vision of the designer and the artistry demonstrated by all of the craftsmen made this stand high above the rest," he says. "I would have been proud to be a part of that group." He also recollects a front portico and dormer addition in classic Georgian architecture that demonstrated design and execution excellence. [Gold winner, Residential Specialty.]

Qualified Remodeler is pleased to present the winning projects on the following pages. In addition, the monthly Master Design Solutions feature draws its projects from winning entries, so look forward to learning more about some of these projects during the next year.