These top-notch winners combine great style with everyday practicality.

Livable, not faddish: Our favorite award-winning remodels pair practical features with enduring design. Credits: Kent Lineberger Architecture, Hubert Whitlock Builders, Cal Mitchener Photography, ACTWO Architects, Platt Builders, Greg Premru Photography, Scott Wilson Architects, and Reed Brown Photography.


We’re suckers for fantastic remodeling projects: gorgeous materials, excellent craftsmanship, and knock-out design ideas that turn up volume on value and enjoyment.

When we saw that “Remodeling” magazine’s 2013 Design Award winners were selected for their “practicality and design restraint,” well, they had us at practical.

Even if the price tag of some of these beauties exceeds your budget — sure exceeds ours! — there are plenty of smart ideas to inspire your own, more modest remodeling project. That’s because the judges focused on livability, not fads.

“They didn’t go for entries that hit all the current trend buttons,” says “Remodeling” Senior Editor Stacey Freed. “They kept asking, ‘Do real people want to live in this house?’”

Bigger Kitchen Without Adding On

Credit: Kent Lineberger Architecture/ Hubert Whitlock Builders / Cal Mitchener Photography


Category: Kitchen remodel more than $100,000

Got a smallish kitchen in an older house? That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. Architect Kent Lineberger unstuck the kitchen in this 1917 house by borrowing adjacent space — in this case, removing walls to convert a pantry and hallway into more kitchen.


Credit: Kent Lineberger AIA, Kent Lineberger Architecture


Takeaways: Even if you can’t expand from a claustrophobic 115 sq. ft. to spirit-freeing 275 sq. ft. like this kitchen did, you can ramp up practicality and gain breathing room with these smart touches:

  • Extra-tall upper cabinets take advantage of unused space, especially in older houses that have tall ceilings.
  • Widening passageways to the kitchen is a breath of fresh air for the whole house.
  • Painted wood cabinetry keeps the space bright and is both modern and traditional — the definition of popular transitional style that’s exceptionally marketable.
  • A single window above the sink replaced with a trio of double-hungs adds lots of light to a kitchen that now breathes instead of wheezes.

Garage: From Flawed to Fantastic

Credit: Andrew Cohen, ACTWO Architects / Platt Builders / Greg Premru Photography


Category: Residential exterior more than $200,000

My building mentor used to say, “Half of construction is knowing what to do, and the other half is knowing how to fix the screw-ups.”

In the case of this 26-year-old garage-carriage house, basic design flaws conspired to rot out siding. What happened? Too-short eaves let rainwater splash around the foundation, eventually causing the decay.

Credit: Andrew Cohen, ACTWO Architects / Platt Builders / Greg Premru Photography


In this case, the fix-it was a no-brainer. ACTWO Architects drew up bigger eaves, extending the overhangs from 6 inches to a weather-beating 3 feet. Crews replaced the older siding, adding a band of waterproof composite siding along the bottom to ward off moisture problems.

Takeaways: Short eaves are common in the northeast, especially for modern and Colonial-style houses. Make sure rain and splashing isn’t infecting your siding with moisture.

  • After a rain, check your siding — splash problems usually show up as sprays of dirt. A shallow trench filled with pea gravel can help reduce splashing.
  • If you’re thinking of replacing old siding, consider rot-proof fiber-cement and vinyl siding.

Secret Storage Space

Credit: Halsey Platt, Platt Builders / Greg Premru Photography


Category: Craftsmanship/detail less than $25,000

We like well-crafted details almost as much as we like trick storage. This project has plenty of both. Challenged to fit an au currant recycling center into the existing footprint of an historic 17th-century Colonial house in Massachusetts, builder Halsey Platt designed a built-in period hutch.

Credit: Hasley Platt, Platt Builders / Greg Premru Photography


What’s cool about this solution is that the hutch backs up against the unused space underneath a staircase. Full-extension drawer glides take full advantage of 48 inches of under-stair space for the recycling center and additional storage.

That hutch is exquisitely crafted, and looks right at home in its historic surroundings.

 That space underneath a stairway is a storage bonanza waiting to happen. Here are more great ideas for under-stairs storage.

The Indoor/Outdoor Connection

Credit: Scott Wilson Architects, LLC/ Reed Brown Photography


Category: Addition $100,000-$250,000

This nicely detailed sunroom addition in Nashville blurs the connection between indoors and out. Designed by Scott Wilson Architect, the traditionally styled, 602-sq.-ft. sunroom puts the homeowners right in the midst of their wooded backyard and opens up the interior of the house to lots of natural light.

Credit: Scott Wilson Architects, LLC / Reed Brown Photography

The structure also creates a sweet, private patio area that’s perfect for lounging and relaxing when weather is nice. Inside the sunroom, there’s a dining area and a fireplace to keep the light-filled space cozy no matter what the climate.

 Matching windows to your climate reduces temperature fluctuations so you’re not having to adjust the thermostat all day to fine tune the degree setting. Plus, you’ll save on your energy bills.

For example, south- and west-facing windows in hot climates, such as the southwest, should have a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) to reduce the amount of heat-producing sunlight that falls inside your house.

The big windows you see here are insulated with argon gas and low-E coatings to reduce heat transfer. What’s right for you? Dial up our article on windows and energy ratings.

Also: Matching patio pavers to the style of your house creates continuity that boosts overall appearance and helps preserves value. Brick and manufactured pavers are traditional; natural stone is more country casual.

Check out all of “Remodeling” magazine’s 2013 Design Award winners.


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