From Grove City to Upper Arlington to Bexley,this year's Renovation Contest winners make the most of their spaces while adding personal touches that make all the difference.

Three kitchens received top billing in this year's Columbus Monthly Home & Garden Renovation Contest. Of course, each of the upgrades makes a space bigger and more attractive. Beyond that, the tremendous amount of thought and effort put into the design process is impressive. Winning homeowners made the most of their existing spaces by making them more functional, more practical, more user-friendly. The added touches-heated flooring, a window seat, mini blinds between panes of glass-are just icing on the cake.

Another feature these remodels have in common is that although renovations started in the kitchen, they definitely didn't end there. In Grove City, the Dunfords retiled their front entryway to match the kitchen. In Upper Arlington, the Duttons' remodel extended to the living room and was starting to make its way to an all-season room and mudroom leading to the backyard pool. And in Bexley, the Schlueters enlarged their master bath and converted an adjacent bedroom into a spacious walk-in closet.

That's part of the beauty (or curse) of remodeling-you're never quite finished.

AND BABYmakes three

DIY-savvy couple takes on a Midcentury remodel in Upper Arlington

BUILT: 1956

Silestone Quartz in Gray Amazon (against wall) and Seleno (island)

Oak, Panel Town and Floors in
Refinished by Kevin
Stain: Sherwin-Williams Burnished

Maple, manufactured by Miller Heirloom.
Finishes: Wall cabinets, Modern White; island, Onyx

Thermador Professional Series 36" Gas Range, Thermador Emerald Dishwasher, Thermador Combination Convection Oven and Convection Microwave, Samsung French Door Refrigerator with refrigerator

Berenson Vibrato latches and
pulls in Verona

Sherwin-Williams Mega

Cornerstone Carpentry, finished in Modern

As the new owners of a 1956 ranch in Upper Arlington, Stacie and Kevin Dutton were on a tight deadline. Stacie was expecting, and the couple wanted to move in before baby arrived. In January 2012, they accomplished their goal with time to spare. From conception to completion, they finished the project in four months.

The Duttons served as their own general contractors for the renovation project. Stacie used to design and lay out the new combined kitchen and living room area. With help from family, Kevin conducted the demolition, removing knotty-pine paneling, cabinets and dark green tile flooring. "Dad and I did a lot [of projects] growing up," Kevin says.

They oversaw removal of the wall between the kitchen and living room, and with the new expansive kitchen island- which seats six and is full of cool storage spaces and gadgets-a formal dining room no longer exists. They also purchased all new appliances.

They replaced kitchen tile with oak flooring, which matches (nearly perfectly) the original oak floor in the living room, creating a seamless blend of old and new.

"Cooking is very important to us," Stacie says. "We love to eat in and entertain." Stacie also does lots of baking, so she treated herself to built-in features such as a stand-mixer lift and spice drawer.

Kevin likes to homebrew beer, so phase two of the remodel included a wet bar (with inspiration from that serves two beers on tap. The space previously served as a work area. With an existing brick wall, a dark maple bar that matches the kitchen island and muted lighting, the area has a warm, pub-like feel.

In the living room, they replaced cabinet handles, removed more knotty-pine boards and installed an extendable swivel-arm mount so the television can be viewed from either room.

"The end result has proven to be a wonderful, open space, perfect for entertaining friends and family," Stacie says.

A commercial-grade gas stove is situated in the new island, along with more storage space, a two-tiered drawer, a pot filler plus additional hidden storage cabinets under the overhang.

They also incorporated a broom closet and added a window seat, which has built-in storage space that gives the room additional character.

Not many people can say they have too much cabinet space, but Stacie can. Of course, she'll find a way to fill it.

"Everything has a home," she says.

BETTER FLOW,better views

Bexley couple opens up kitchen, modernizes master bath

BUILT: 1950

Kitchen and bathroom
Owner designed, remodeled by Jake Rehl, Rehl Construction.

In kitchen, Flamed Ubatuba granite.
In bathroom, Corian, fabricated by Aaron Hostetler.

In kitchen, Quartz Arena. In bathroom, Beta Vision.

Cabinets and trim
Aaron Hostetler

Bosch stainless-steel refrigerator, microwave, convection oven, range and dishwasher.

Bathroom fixtures, tub

In kitchen and bathroom, Berenson Oak Park Series.

In kitchen, Behr Pale Palomino.
In bathroom, Behr

Bathroom tiles
Kiev Blanco field tile with Penny Round Moss and Martinique accent tiles.

Marble Systems.

Jim and Geraldine Schlueter wanted to do more to take advantage of their midcentury home's wall of windows overlooking the backyard, and they wanted more space and a better flow for entertaining. So they removed an eating peninsula and half of a wall, added a doorway to the formal living and dining room and introduced some shallow cabinets to connect the "keeping room" to the kitchen. In the process, they doubled their cabinet space.

"This better integrates the family space with the kitchen because we do a lot of cooking and a fair amount of entertaining," Jim says. "It helps with the flow when we have guests over."

Contractor Jake Rehl managed the remodeling project that also included a master bath redo. Amish woodworker Aaron Hostetler from Zanesville designed and constructed the cabinetry and trim work in the kitchen and bath.

The kitchen has a contemporary yet understated look that is crisp and clean. The Schlueters achieved this by purposefully choosing satin-finish surfaces for the countertops, woodwork and appliances. The countertops are flamed Ubatuba granite. The surface of the granite is heated, which gives it a rough finish. For the cabinetry and trim they chose quartersawn oak and a custom stain.

"We went with a satin finish in keeping with the contemporary look, but it also blends well with the midcentury geometric design motif with lots of angular elements," Jim says.

Upstairs in the master suite, they converted a closet to enlarge the master bath. They converted an adjacent bedroom into a large walk-in closet that Jim designed with ample shelving, wall storage and a center island. The conversions opened up more space to incorporate an upstairs laundry room.

LET'S STAYa while

Grove City starter home turns into forever home

BUILT: 1973

Kitchen Remodel
J.S. Brown & Co.

Elkay Harmony undermount in Mocha E-Granite.
Moen High Arc single-handle pull-down spout.

Ivory tumbled travertine mosaic, Sonoma Mosuprema Dolce Vita Blend accents, Noche pencil liner.

Venetian Gold Light granite.

Shiloh Cabinetry, square raised panel door, maple with medium stain.

Quickstep Veresque Warm
Apricot cherry planks.

Patio Door
Jeld-Wen Premium Vinyl Sliding Door with blinds between glass panes.

Arched Opening
Custom-built by Matt Rogers

Pantry Shelving
David Troyer, MiteRite Trim

Carol and Russell Dunford purchased their Grove City home in 1973. After 40 years in the same house, their starter home eventually became their forever home. Over the years, the couple contemplated moving but, for one reason or another, chose to stay. And with their newly remodeled kitchen, the couple has no plans of leaving anytime soon.

J.S. Brown & Co. conducted the remodel, installing new cabinets, laminate flooring, granite countertops, a double-door pantry and a deep-well composite sink, which is "immune" to scratching, Carol says.

As part of the renovation, the Dunfords replaced all of their appliances with stainless-steel KitchenAid models, including a flat-top range and convection oven, combination microwave-convection oven, refrigerator and-for the first time-a dishwasher, Carol says with enthusiasm.

The large pantry, with ample shelving and storage space, was another first for Carol. "We didn't have pantries in the '70s," she says.

The kitchen cabinets now extend to the ceiling, giving the Dunfords even more cabinet space-some of which Carol has yet to fill, a problem she doesn't mind.

During the design phase, J.S. Brown selections coordinator Stefanie Ciak showed the Dunfords how they could expand cabinet space and open up their kitchen by eliminating an eating counter as well as a door that led to the hallway. They also opted for an arched entryway connecting the living room to the kitchen-previously separated by French doors-to open up the eating area.

Additional touches that weren't part of the original plan included new sliding glass doors with blinds between panes of glass, under-cabinet lighting, a new chandelier above the kitchen table, recessed can lights, extra electrical outlets and a cable connection.

The hardest part about renovating, Carol says, is knowing when and where to stop. Every time Russell came home and saw the progress, he would say, "If they're going to do that, we might as well go ahead and do this." For instance, they added a new entryway floor to match the kitchen floor for continuity.

Carol says she eventually put down her foot, and is quite content … for now.