The 2011 entries to our annual contest were interesting, varied and well polished-whether they were done by professional contractors or the homeowners themselves. In the end, we selected five spaces as winners. Two kitchens were deemed outstanding-a modern version in Upper Arlington and a traditional Bexley redo. Judging bathrooms was, perhaps, the biggest challenge, but in the end we chose one in an 1894 bungalow on the Near East Side.

Here, we share both before and after photos and all the stories of our five winning entries. Watch upcoming issues for more information about our 2012 competition, which will have an April 17 deadline.

DINING ROOM ELIMINATED

Many months passed after Todd and Jennifer Meredith moved into their Jefferson Township home, as the couple considered a former dining room space.

"We don't dine," says Jennifer, an associate creative director at Resource Interactive, a big smile crossing her face. She knew the large, open room near the home's front door wouldn't be used if they situated a traditional dining room suite in it.

Instead, they contemplated its uses. She consulted with a good friend in Salt Lake City who has a thriving interior design business. Then, she set about convincing her husband that they could and would paint the room black.

Jennifer wanted a modern library, done up in black with a glittering chandelier in its center dangling over a round wooden table. She researched shelving and came up with efficient black models from Ikea and added a metal ladder.

It was this well-thought-out plan to replace the home's original dining room with show-stopping black décor that caught our eye when Jennifer submitted a most unique photo for the living space division in Columbus Monthly's Annual Renovation Competition. Even though her living space may vary from our idea of a big, plush sofa and wide-screen TV, after visiting their home we thought it most appropriate that it be deemed a big winner.

She finally convinced her husband that black paint would work-and that took months of the color on a mood board in the middle of the empty room. The couple painted together, and added the shelving-including a slanted space where Jennifer shows off her many shelter magazine subscriptions.

"I am addicted to design blogs and design magazines," she says. With black walls and black shelving, she started looking for an accent color-eventually getting her interior designer friend's approval for green. Window treatments were created from Imperial Trellis drape fabric and a window bench, from Restoration Hardware, has become the resting space for the couple's three pugs.

A collection of books important to Jennifer are positioned on shelves, and a mossy green terrarium created by McCullough's Landscape & Nursery is situated in the center of the table. A small black desk from West Elm is accompanied by a Crate & Barrel metal chair. And a comfortable reading chair from Anthropologie also is nearby.

The biggest challenge of the project? "Getting up the nerve to say 'Honey, I want to paint the room black,' " says Jennifer, laughing.

AN EXTREME FAMILY ROOM MAKEOVER

A Muirfield woman surprises her husband with an elaborate lower level renovation.

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After:

At a comfortable Muirfield home last year, Christine Kaufman teamed up with a local builder to surprise her husband, Matt, with an extensive renovation of the lower level family room.

"It was like an extreme makeover," explains Christine. The expansive renovation was revealed to her husband during a party in the spring of 2010.

A few years earlier, a failed sump pump caused the Kaufman's lower level to be nearly gutted, with carpet torn out and furniture thrown away. Today, the renovated space includes not only a family room, but also a large bar area, a connecting home theater, a wine room and a full bath.

Contractor Jason Phillips's attention to detail and the homeowner's quest for originality makes this space a winner in Columbus Monthly's Annual Renovation Competition's living space category.

On the recommendation of a friend, Christine called Phillips, who had worked for builders during construction of Tartan Fields and had recently branched out on his own. The two had seven or eight meetings before a plan was in place-a broad, open expanse would be redesigned into a comfortable seating area around a fireplace and an adjacent large bar complete with custom birch cabinets, granite countertops and a tap for draft beer.

A wine room was installed nearby and, at the opposite end of the basement, a former toy room for the couple's children was redesigned into a home theater housing a large screen for movies and a Wii, as well as six comfortable leather recliners.

Neutral colors were chosen for the main space and the couple, who are natives of western Pennsylvania, added décor focused on professional Pittsburgh sports teams. The theater area features walls of deep blue, with modern art and double doors that can close off nearby noise.

Soffits were reconstructed and Phillips installed copper ceiling tiles over the bar area, which Christine requested for the new tray ceiling. Moldings hide the lighting that casts a special glow on the copper's texture. Slate tile was selected for flooring in the kitchen area, as well as the wine room and nearby full bath. In other areas, hardwood floors are covered with area rugs.

Indeed, Matt Kaufman was pleasantly surprised with the "man's space" that his wife set out to create.

MODERNIZING THE KITCHEN

Contractor Todd Henning and preservationist Judy Williams update their 1939 Upper Arlington kitchen.

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Just last year, longtime contractor Todd Henning and his wife, historic preservationist Judy Williams, finally had the opportunity to renovate the original kitchen in their vintage Upper Arlington home.

The couple's simplistic approach to create a modern kitchen that integrates well with their 1939 residence led to the selection of their renovation as a best in their category for Columbus Monthly's Annual Renovation Competition.

"I think clean and crispy [design] is the big deal," says Todd, who has spent most of his career as a general contractor for both residential and commercial projects in Central Ohio.

Thus, when it came to the space where he and his wife have lived for 21 years, he knew exactly how to approach it. "All design decisions were made with the idea that everything should look as if the materials could have been used in a 1939 kitchen with the exception of the new up-to-date appliances and plumbing fixtures," he explains.

Teaming up with architect Bill Hugus, Henning says his work was like a huge math problem-figuring inches here and tiles there to make sure that every bit of the space was transformed into a workable living area. In the beginning, 96 square feet were added for a total floor space of 246 square feet.

The result is a large, square kitchen featuring white, custom cabinetry on three of its four walls, granite countertops and white subway tiles forming a backsplash over the sink and stove areas. Appliances are stainless steel, including a Fisher-Paykel stovetop and hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, cooling drawers and more.

Henning designed a center walnut table, in lieu of an island, with the help of carpenter Ed Daniel. The unique, five-by-seven-foot piece features four drawers for pots and pans, utensils and such on the "business side" near the kitchen sink, explains Henning.

Additionally, he worked with an iron company in New Mexico to redesign stools that would fit around the table and provide broad, comfortable seating spaces. Once the iron stools arrived in Columbus, he contracted with Fortner for their leather upholstery. Overhead, unique lighting can be adjusted to accommodate the activities of those seated at the table.

A flat-screen television and integrated audio system were installed and modern art adorns the open wall. A single door to the dining room was enlarged and windowed French doors were added so that the two rooms can be easily divided. Henning and his wife, both always busy with someone else's project, are extremely happy with their new living space. "The new kitchen/dining room remodel has totally changed the way we live in our house," says Todd.

A FAMILY-FOCUSED RENOVATION

Bexley empty nesters Sam and Sharon Koon finally take time to update their kitchen.

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Twenty-three years ago, Sam and Sharon Koon moved into their Bexley residence where they busily reared four children, anticipating the day when they would update their kitchen.

There wasn't much spare time back then, especially to consider a major renovation. But, today, with their four children in their 20s and living from downtown Columbus to Morocco, the Koons couldn't resist the urge to move forward.

The result is a winner as a traditional kitchen update in Columbus Monthly's Annual Renovation Competition. The Koons' kitchen is an excellent example of a renovation that met its ultimate goal of efficient use of space in a grand design.

As time has moved on, Linda-a substitute teacher in the Bexley schools-realized that she yearned for a kitchen where her now-adult children could gather when all were around. "What we wanted was a space where, when they were all at home, we could all talk," she says.

"The project grew," confesses her husband, who is a commercial realtor. He explained that the couple originally set out to replace double ovens that were no longer working. But after builder Steve Heinlein pointed out that all cabinetry along that wall would be replaced in the process due to the modern appliance sizes, the Koons surrendered to the obvious.

Together with Heinlein and interior designer Pam Yost, with whom Sam attended high school, a team was formed to take down walls, replace the kitchen's original herringbone brick flooring, which Sharon loved, and install more cherry cabinetry than Sharon could have ever imagined possible. Today, the woman of the house takes great joy in pulling out drawers and opening cabinets, sharing the efficient storage spaces that were created.

The Koons are thrilled with the square, granite-topped island, replete with cabinets and seating space for two. They love the way the builder shaped a semi-coffered ceiling over the space, and the lighting that Yost recommended for it. With a nearby round table that can grow to accommodate eight and an additional comfortable seating area, the two are happy to spend days and evenings here, watching television and enjoying their views beyond new windows and the home's original breezeway.

A MUCH IMPROVED SPACE

Near east side homeowners acquiesce to a slow real estate market and rejuvenate their only full bath.

Before: After:

After years of living in Grandview area rentals, Beau and Mary Hoy purchased a bungalow in a quiet neighborhood on the near east side, not far from Franklin Park, in 2004.

They spent the following four years making improvements and designing much of the interior around the way they like to live, featuring clean spaces and modern décor. When it came to the home's only full bathroom, though, they made only minor changes. Then, in 2008, as the deep recession started to tighten its grip on the real estate market, they listed the house for sale hoping to move to a larger space.

After several months of trying to sell it, Beau says they took the house off the market and tabled their plans for a bigger home. Instead, they have continued making improvements-this time doing exactly what they wanted in the house where they would continue to live, including a massive bathroom renovation.

Chosen as this year's bathroom winner in Columbus Monthly's Annual Renovation Competition, the homeowners should be applauded for tastefully enlarging a small space and creating an elegant room design now featuring modern fixtures and a soothing décor.

Tones of blue, gray and beige highlight the ceramic flooring from Artwalk Tile Inc., which was designed to look like hardwood. Where a bathtub once existed, the Hoys had a shower built and added a clear glass door created by Custom Glass Designs. A linen cabinet was installed and equipped by Closets by Design. A modern vanity was purchased from Bathgems.com and faucets from Home Depot were selected for the sleek lavatory made of Italian porcelain-glazed stoneware. Work on the project was completed by contractor Albert Rivera of Albert's Remodeling and Repair LLC.

The subtle, clean design is highlighted with art and flashy, colorful framed mirrors over the sink. Today, the Hoys enjoy a luxurious, albeit compact, sparkling new bathroom in their 1894 vintage home.


Sherry Beck Paprocki is the editor of Columbus Monthly Homes.