One-Room Wonder Reader Remodel Winners 2013
Let's hear it for the best of the rest: Out of thousands of entries, we selected these five families as $1,000 winners for their marvelous makeovers
Who: Jenn and Kevin Rodgers
Where: Duluth, Minnesota
What they did: Revamped the dated and claustrophobic kitchen in Jenn's Victorian-era childhood home to better suit their new—and quickly growing—family.
Shown: The new U-shape layout gives Jenn Rodgers and son Wyatt more breathing room.
Cabinets, refrigerator, sink, and butcher block: IKEA
Their story: I never thought I'd move back to the house I grew up in. But after living in Brooklyn, New York, with a 1-year-old, my husband, Kevin, and I knew we needed a place with more room. The 1904 Folk Victorian house I grew up in had been empty for six years—my parents had moved out but weren't quite ready to let it go. Selling it to us was a win-win.
So we moved to Minnesota and settled in with my parents in their new place while we finished what we expected to be minor upgrades—replacing cabinets, refinishing floors, installing a new backsplash. But we found a nasty surprise: mold, caused by a leaky ceiling. To be safe, we decided to take everything down to the studs. Then, another surprise: I was pregnant! Suddenly, we had a deadline.
Shown: The tiny kitchen got a gut reno.
Since it was a small kitchen, we wanted to make it feel brighter and more open. We plotted out an efficient U-shape layout for our new IKEA cabinets, appliances, and butcher block, all of which we installed ourselves. In fact, the only work we hired out was the plumbing, the floor refinishing, and the installation of the marble countertops. The stove went where the sink had been, and we reconfigured the windows along that wall to bring in light from both corners. We installed French doors to the deck and closed off a nook by putting in a pocket door to form a pantry. Even though we didn't technically change the size of the kitchen, it felt much bigger.
Shown: Jenn hand-planed old barn wood to make the open shelves.
We moved into the house in the fall, and there was only one problem: Our new 36-inch range was defective, which meant I had a beautiful new kitchen but was cooking on a hot plate. Wary about the reliability of a replacement, I spent the next few weeks scouring Craigslist and found a beautiful Fisher & Paykel for just $800. I immediately contacted the lister and told him our story. But when it came time for our pickup, the terms had changed—in our favor. He wanted to give it to us! We couldn't believe our luck. With the arrival of our second son, Silas, only two months away, it was a welcome break.
Shown: Cabinets built to surround the fridge provide additional storage and conceal the recycling bin.
Looking back, I realize it must have been hard for my parents to watch us overhaul the heart of the home where they'd spent 30 years, but they love how it turned out. The whole house has a new life—but at the end of the day, the stairs still squeak in all the same spots.
Shown: A pocket door closes off the pantry without obstructing floor space. Scraps of butcher block along the sides of the range-wall cabinets create a waterfall effect.
The faux cabinet door on the end of the kitchen's peninsula conceals a new laundry chute, which directs dirty linens straight to the basement laundry room.
A slim-profile cabinet near the entrance of the kitchen serves as a cell-phone charging station and a family message center. Jenn made the bulletin-board frame using salvaged molding.
Jenn spied this authentic slate blackboard, recovered from an old schoolhouse, at a nearby vintage shop. She made the frame with salvaged molding that matches the message center's bulletin board.
Who: Jeff and Laura Tarro
Where: St. Charles, Illinois
What They Did: Turned a plumbing mishap into an excuse to update—and add precious inches to—their cozy half bath.
Shown: To save money, Jeff Tarro turned Douglas fir floorboards into wainscoting, and Laura thought of customizing hex-tile sheets using scissors and hot glue.
Their Story: It's funny the habits you develop when you take on an old house. The downstairs powder room in our Greek Revival farmhouse had a cracked and leaky wall-hung sink as old as the original plumbing. I shut off the supply lines to stop the drip when we moved in, and, before long, it became perfectly normal for us to wash our hands in the kitchen sink.
One day, Laura and I stumbled upon an ideal replacement at IKEA—a narrow oval designed to hang so that it wouldn't eat up valuable floor space in the 30-square-foot room. I had a few days off from my job as a firefighter, so, after three years of living with a broken sink, I promised Laura I would finally swap it out.
To change the sink, I had to remove the cast-iron waste pipe it shared with the tiny vintage toilet, but when I ratcheted off the old pipe, the force shattered the toilet's base. In an instant, our second bath had no functioning fixtures, and I felt like we might as well gut it.
Shown: The broken sink that sparked the whole project was ancient.
I demolished the room down to the framing, which turned out to be Douglas fir 44s, and carved out an alcove under the stairs to fit a modern toilet. We bought back inches for the footprint by flipping the swing of the door and installing a heating mat beneath the tile so that we could tear out the bulky radiator. It took two years, but we finally have a finished bathroom with the period style we love.
Shown: Improvising to stay on budget, Jeff constructed the medicine cabinet out of leftover floorboards and baseboards. The bath's new Douglas fir trim echoes vintage wood floors and accents in other parts of the house.
The Tarros used dead space under the stairs to recess their toilet into a new alcove. Inspired by arched bookshelves in their living room, Laura suggested finishing the niche with a rounded top—perfect for showing off a vase of fresh flowers.
The Tarros' only splurge was on a pair of vintage cast-iron wall sconces from Architectural Artifacts, in Chicago.
Who: Jim and Margee Wydra
Where: Lake Mills, Wisconsin
What they did: Spent years revitalizing a neglected 1880s Queen Anne, bringing its handsome clapboard facade back to life.
Shown: Margee chose the period-perfect color scheme.
Paint: SW 2812 Rookwood Jade (body of house), SW 2816 Rookwood Dark Green (trim), and SW 2801 Rookwood Dark Red (windows and sashes); Sherwin-Williams
Their story: Margee and I have renovated 10 homes during our 36 years of marriage, so we're used to taking on wrecks. Still, when we bought this house, on a handshake deal in 2006, we knew it was a doozy. It had been a two-family rental for 30-plus years, and there had been almost no upkeep during that time. The backyard was so overgrown that you couldn't see the back door—there were 2-inch-thick vines growing all over the facade and even into the interior.
We cleaned it up enough to move in and decided to tackle the exterior first. Other than hiring a landscaper to get rid of the overgrowth, I did all the work myself—everything from putting on a new roof to tuck-pointing the foundation. Margee did most of the research and chose the colors, among many other things. She's the one who drives things forward; I'm basically just the hired help.
Shown: Ugly vinyl siding and a weed-choked yard didn't deter the Wydras from seeing this home's potential.
Restoring the facade took us years. Once I'd pulled off the vinyl siding, I had to replace sills and clapboards that had rotted away. Most of the decorative trim had been cut off, so we visited homes done by the same builder, and I did my best to replicate their details. Before painting, I used a heat gun to strip the old clapboards, then sanded everything down—all three stories—with a 5-inch rotary sander. (It's a great way to lose weight, by the way.) Last summer I finally finished the front porch, which I had to jack up so that I could pour concrete footings.
We relocated when we bought this place, so fixing it up was a natural way to meet our neighbors. Kids used to ride by on their bikes and ask, "Are you ever going to be finished?" Some of them are almost college-age now. We hope to stay in this house for a long time. Next we have to make the interior look as good as the outside.
Shown: Jim rebuilt the front porch by hand, including stripping and restoring the original round columns.
Who: Edward and Penny Thomas
Where: Ayer, Massachusetts
What They Did: Transformed a dark and drafty attic into the luxurious master suite of their dreams.
Shown: Edward built most of the furniture for the bright master suite.
Light switches: House of Antique Hardware
Ceiling fans: Hunter Fan
Table lamp: Pottery Barn
Chair pillow: Pier 1 Imports
Curtains: Bed Bath & Beyond
Paint: HC-111 Nantucket Gray; Benjamin Moore
Their Story: For years, Penny and I slept in a cramped downstairs bedroom as we fantasized about building a master suite in the attic of our 1880s Colonial Revival. Working nights and weekends, we honed our skills as we renovated rooms on the first two floors, slowly working our way up to the crumbling plaster walls above.
Shown: The floorboards were removed and individually planed.
The 800-square-foot space was long and narrow, with 15-foot ceilings, so we worked with a designer to create a floor plan that included a three-quarter bathroom and a walk-in closet in addition to the bedroom. We started by pulling up the wide-plank pine floorboards, so that they wouldn't be damaged during demolition, and saving the original square nails. We hired pros to rough-in the rooms, including running electrical and plumbing lines, and to spray in foam insulation, and I focused on the part I love: fine carpentry.
Shown: A hallway connects the Thomases' bedroom to a bath and a walk-in closet.
Paint: OC-24 Winds Breath; Benjamin Moore
Before Penny and I met, I would spend weekends rewinding episodes of The New Yankee Workshop and re-creating Norm's projects. It paid off: I made nearly all the furniture myself, including the bathroom vanity, a makeup table for Penny, and the dresser in the bedroom's knee wall. To separate the spaces, I built pocket doors and used my router to create details to match our home's original doors.
Shown: By forgoing a tub, the couple was able to fit a large vanity and a makeup station in the master bath.
As proud as I am of all of the carpentry, though, the pine floors stand out as the heart and soul of the entire suite. We ran each board through my planer to strip the surface with minimal dust. We were tempted to reinstall them with a nail gun, but we knew we'd never match the look of the original iron square nails, which were hand-forged by a blacksmith more than 100 years ago. So we hammered each of the 878 nails flat on my workbench and used them to fasten the pine planks over the new subfloor before staining and finishing them.
Shown: Edward made barn-style sliding doors to close off the walk-in closet.
In the final weeks of the renovation, Penny meticulously filled thousands of holes that I'd left in the molding and trim. To complete the space, we painted the walls, choosing a calming gray for the bedroom—a reminder that this is finally a place to relax. After two long years of work, our master suite has become our favorite part of the house. Our only regret is not having started the project sooner!
Shown: The shower, tucked under the roof's slope, feels spacious.
Edward used Google SketchUp to design built-ins for the suite. The couple maximized storage space by tucking this narrow cabinet into the master bath.
Penny designed the couple's bed, which is fashioned from a pair of five-panel doors the couple had discovered in their basement.
Who: Mike Sala
Where: Damascus, Oregon
What he did: Crafted a new cedar deck, complete with a stunning glassed-in sitting room, using almost exclusively recycled materials.
Shown: Mike Sala cantilevered the joists to extend the glass house beyond the deck's footings.
His story: I've salvaged and upcycled for my whole life, so I already had most of the materials I needed to build a new deck when my wife, Kathleen, put her leg through the rotted boards of the old one. I knew how I would make it up to her. During my working years as a glass installer, I'd saved hundreds of patio-door glass panels from the Dumpster, and I thought they'd be perfect for sheltering an outdoor seating area. Oregon weather is unpredictable, so it's nice to go out there and not have to worry about sitting on wet cushions.
The only supplies I bought were five panels of corrugated plastic for the breezeway roof, deck screws, and several 2×8s to replace rotted floor joists. Then I just pulled out my materials and started putting boards together.
Shown: Mike built the original deck 36 years ago, after building the house itself.
I replaced all the rotted posts with salvaged 4×4s, hung new floor joists, and covered them with corrugated steel roofing to create dry storage underneath. All the decking was castoff from my next-door neighbor, and I didn't realize the weathered boards were beautiful clear cedar until I started running them through my planer. I cut them into 4-foot lengths and made modular panels that would be easy to remove when making repairs and cleaning up tree debris.
Shown: The wicker furniture was a Craigslist score, and the paint color is one of a kind: a blend of discarded gallons.
Framing out the glass house was tricky because you can't cut tempered glass—it will shatter. The spacing had to be perfect. I notched the edges of 2×4s to accept the glass, then custom built frames for each panel and set them with foam tape and silicone. I built the roof's ridge out of cedar shingles (lumberyard freebies), and, except for the side open to the breezeway, the structure is watertight. It never really gets hot, since we're on a wooded lot. And in winter, I close up the breezeway with nine more glass panels to keep out the rain and snow.
Using salvaged materials for new construction is like doing a puzzle, but it's amazing what you can create when you put your mind to it.
Shown: The lumber for the stairs of Mike Sala's new deck is from a redwood picnic table that he built 46 years ago.