The Better Homes and Gardens Home Improvement Challenge contest for 2008 showcased some great ideas to provide inspiration for your next home improvement project. Categories in the contest included:

  • Decorating
  • Organization
  • Kitchen renovation
  • Bathroom remodeling
  • Green projects
  • Outdoor improvements
  • Whole house remodeling

Watch the video above to find out more.


Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re covering projects from all around the house as we feature the winners in the Better Homes and Gardens Home Improvement Challenge. If you want to get inspired, stick around.

You know here at Today’s Homeowner we’re always looking for different ways to help you improve your home’s look, feel and function. This week, we’re on the road here in Des Moines, Iowa, where there’s another group of people that share the same goals.

This is the headquarters of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and we’re about to get the inside scoop on their Home Improvement Challenge contest.

Now, this contest celebrates what people like you do with some of the ideas and tips from people like us. Now, the editor and chief is a good friend of mine, Gayle Butler, and she’s really excited about this contest.

Gayle Butler: Danny, we just love this contest because it’s an opportunity to go right in our reader’s homes and see firsthand all of the wonderful, creative things they’re doing to improve their homes.

Danny Lipford: Now, what about the different categories. I know you have several different ways people can get involved in this contest.

Gayle Butler: We sure do. It’s everything from small energy efficient projects all the way up to whole house renovations and of course our readers love projects in the kitchen and bath because those are such important and hard working rooms in the home.

Danny Lipford: Sure. Well now I know they hire contractor to do some of the work, but a lot of the readers and participants in this contest are really passionate. I bet you see that passion.

Gayle Butler: They’re very involved. Everything from a lot of participation, hands on in the design process, lots of shopping in stores and online to get that great mix of material. A lot of hands on work themselves because they’re just so dedicated to making their home the best it can be.

Danny Lipford: Okay. Now how long has this contest been going on? I mean the magazine has been around a long time.

Gayle Butler: It has been. And we’ve had contests of one sort or another really since the 1930s.

Danny Lipford: Wow.

Gayle Butler: And so we’re constantly seeing how the home is evolving and the new elements that people are bringing into their home, because you know what, when you better your home, you better your life.

Danny Lipford: I agree with you, and I can’t wait to see some of these winning projects.

As you can imagine, there are thousands of entries for a contest like this so, judging them can be a major undertaking.

Amy Panos: We get several thousand entries for our contest each year, which is pretty amazing considering the amount of time people have to put into their entries, and the amount of effort to get an entry in to us, and so we’re thrilled to get that many entries. But it ends up being a very big deal here on staff and a very sort of time consuming thing to do.

We sit in this room and we look at each of the entries in a category. And then what we do to keep things, rather than subjective, to make them as objective as possible, each entry is judged on four categories.

Aesthetics and appearance, the creativity, how well does the room function, and then how well do they use the materials. Then there all tabulated and that’s how we arrive at the actual winners, the people, the people with the highest scores.

Oma Blaise Ford: It is so much fun to see all of the entries in our challenge. We see what real people all across the country are doing in their homes and that is really inspiring for us.

When we’re judging the challenge, we’re really looking for projects that are beautiful, creative and have a little element of surprise to them. And I also really love to see those projects that are more about clever solutions than they are about spending a lot of money, and I think our decorating winners this year really exemplify that.

The large scale decorating winner this year was George Marrone in Aston, Pennsylvania. He did a fabulous job of combining textures and colors and it really blends together beautifully.

Our medium scale winner was Lynette Hasselgren out of Walkersville, Maryland. She was charged with giving her 200-year-old log home a light, airy style. She used a ton of paint and some great color choices, but she also didn’t over furnish the house, making the 1,200 square feet feel less cluttered.

Danny Lipford: This is the test garden here at the Better Homes and Gardens headquarters. What a perfect place to talk about the next category, outdoor living.

Brett and Terri Bennink of Portland, Oregon wanted to add a backyard play set so that their oldest son Conner, who has autism, could get more exercise and improve his motor skills.

One project led to another, and the plan soon became a complete backyard makeover, which included a great new shed and a beautiful patio for the grownups. It’s an investment they say they’re glad they made.

Whether your transforming your backyard or redecorating your den, any home improvement project is worthwhile. Now if you are decorating, Joe has a Simple Solution that might just help you out.

Joe Truini: Not every Simple Solution I show you is going to dramatically change your life. Sometimes it’s just going to cure a common annoyance like pictures and mirrors that hang out of level. So the cure here is really a simple one.

First, remove the frame from the wall. Then go out and pick up a package of these stick on rubber bumpers. And you peel one off and place it at the bottom corner of the frame. Each of the bottom corners. Just like that.

They just stick right on, nice and easy. You don’t need them at the top corners, just the bottom. Now, what’s that going to do, when you rehang the picture, the rubber bumper is going to keep the frame from sliding around and hold it on level.

And also, if you see here, you notice the walls been marked up, and again that’s from the frame sliding around, so then you just need to pull out that nail a little bit, just going to rehang the picture, rehang the frame. I’m just going to check it for level, pretty good right there.

Now the other advantage of putting on the rubber bumper is it creates a little bit of airspace behind the frame so that you won’t have those dust and dirt shadows that form on the wall.

Danny Lipford: This week, we’re looking at the winners in the home improvement challenge. It’s a contest that’s put on by Better Homes and Gardens magazine. We’re in the headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, and one of the many test kitchens they have where they test out the recipes before they make it in the magazine.

Now, before you get the wrong idea; no, we’re not putting a cooking segment in this show or they’d need another host, but what we are doing is looking at kitchen renovation. It’s so important to you, our viewers, and that’s the next category of winners, we’re going to take a look at.

The large-scale winner for kitchens is Tanja Vujic of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her initial plan was simply to remove a wall between her kitchen and breakfast room to add space.

But once demolition began, Tanja could see through the ceiling to the roof rafters, and her plan involved to include a great 16-foot open beam ceiling. The kitchen also got new skylights and a large window to add plenty of natural light.

In Loretto, Tennessee, Emily Kennedy is the medium scale winner for this farm house inspired kitchen. She added three windows over the main sink to bring in the light and bright white bead board on the walls and ceiling to reflect it throughout the kitchen. Arch doorways and an arch alcove for the refrigerator also lend historic character to the room.

Right after kitchens, bathroom renovations are among the most popular home improvement project out there. And we had some great entries in that category. And Allen is right down the road in Ames, Iowa, with one of the winners.

Allen Lyle: Danny, you enjoy that food, make sure you save me some. He won’t save me any. You know, my favorite projects in the home improvement challenge are the ones that take a minimum investment and make a major impact. This is the home of Jacqui Norman, and you’ve got to see what she’s done.

Well Jacqui I got to tell you I love what you’ve done to the bathroom, and I understand it all revolved around the colorful tub.

Jacqui Norman: That’s right, it’s green!

Allen Lyle: It’s green.

Jacqui Norman: We had the choice of ripping it out or working with it. And we discovered it was going to cost a lot of money to get rid of it and replace it, so we decided to love it.

Allen Lyle: Love it, and it actually, it works well, the colors in both sections of the bathroom, the tile even. Now, is that original, because that matches the tub?

Jacqui Norman: Now, a total fluke. It meant to be because we found this at a local home store believe it or not, these glass tiles.

Allen Lyle: Now the floor tile too, this is unusual. I haven’t seen anything like this.

Jacqui Norman: Well, probably because it’s a chalkboard, and we got it.

Allen Lyle: An actual chalkboard?

Jacqui Norman: A slate chalkboard from a school that was ripping them out and we cut them up and used them on the floor.

Allen Lyle: Okay the average bathroom remodel today is six to eight thousand dollars. How much did you spend?

Jacqui Norman: $1600.

Allen Lyle: This is a unique project.

Joe Truini: You know, in any bath renovation, plumbing fixtures are the first things people want to change. They can date a bathroom as quickly as, well, as that old green tub.

The Normans came up with a creative way to work with their tub, but you may not be so lucky with things such as lavatory faucets, so you’ll be making decisions about new ones.

Now even if style is the main reason for making a change, don’t let it be the only factor you consider when you head to The Home Depot.

Of course you’ll want a fixture that’s well made so it will last, but in this day and age you also need to consider water efficiency, and here’s a great example of that. This faucet from Delta is part of the new Lahara Collection.

And besides its cool, casual styling, it has another important feature. This is the first faucet from Delta to receive the WaterSense certification from the EPA, that’s like the water equivalent of the Energy Star designation.

That means this faucet, which delivers 1.5 gallons per minute, is about 30% more efficient than standard faucets, which use about 2.2 gallons per minute. Plus, the integrated aerator in this faucet ensures that you won’t sacrifice performance to conserve water.

So, if a bath renovation is in your plans, be sure to think about function as well as form when choosing plumbing fixtures.

Danny Lipford: Joe’s right, form and function can work hand and hand. Now coming up, we’ll look at the grand prize winner, which is another example of that same idea. But you know some home improvement projects are just all about making the home work better. And in this week’s Best New Product, Jodi has one that’s all about making the home comfortable and efficient.

Jodi Marks: Choosing the right windows for your home is an important decision. One of their greatest benefits is the natural light they let in. Unfortunately, along with that light, you’re also getting harmful UV rays and solar heat gain.

You can always close the drapes, but that kind of defeats the whole purpose of having windows. Here’s a great option. This is window film from Gila, spelled with a “g.”

And it’s inexpensive, and it’s a do-it-yourself friendly option not only to protect your home and enhance the decor, but also increases privacy, which means it’s perfect for the bathroom windows, too. It’s easier than ever to install because of Gila’s easy mount adhesive. You can actually reposition the film to correct any mistakes.

And if you really want to make a difference in your utility bills, try their new heat control titanium film. It reflects up to 72% of sun’s heat, blocks 99% of UV rays, and is safe to use on double pane windows, and is an inexpensive way to block the heat, fade and glare without blocking your view.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re featuring the winners in the Better Homes and Gardens Home Improvement Challenge. We’ve seen some amazing projects but we’re not quite done yet.

At last, we’ve made it to the grand prize winner. This project was entered in the whole house-remodeling category, and it’s the home of Adam and Erin McIntyre.

It’s located in LaGrange, Kentucky, which is just a little north of Louisville, and both Erin and Adam have been trained as architects. And they’ve created a house that’s so beautiful and just full of very unique architectural elements. Their house is very unique, so is their story.

Adam McIntyre: We decided we wanted to move out to the country. Erin and I both grew up in a pseudo-country settings. Had a little some woods to run around in, and we thought that’d be nice for our children.

When we decided to move out here, we really wanted to buy a barn and convert it, and when we couldn’t find one of those, and we did find this piece of property. Like we said, it had a great shape, bad house, great shape.

So what we decided to do is turn it into a barn, added the silo, and wanted it to look like it had been a barn with a silo that had been renovated. So we bought this place and moved out here, and we started working on redesigning the home. In the middle of that process, we got pregnant with triplets.

Erin McIntyre: Kids were born in November, and this place was a wreck. We, when they came home, we were all living in one bedroom, the three kids all in one little crib. And, the two dogs and the cat, the two of us all in one room, and we were there for about a month or two until we were able to spread out into the kids, the nursery, which was much larger.

But we didn’t have a family room or a dining room, so we were using their bedroom as our family room and dining room.

Danny Lipford: If this young couple’s patience and persistence isn’t obvious in that story, it certainly is in this renovation. The attention to detail is astounding. From the sliding barn doors that flank the bedroom windows to the galvanized gutters and rain chain on the front porch. Inside, there are custom iron light mixtures and even a millstone in the center of the silo space.

You know I really admire Erin and Adam’s vision for this home where they’ve used a lot of different types of materials and blended them together very nicely. Good example of that on the interior is where they’ve taken a beaded board and used it here, which is very common in a lot of the older homes.

Then, we have wood walls here that very much look like exterior siding in the way that it was installed. And right above it, a stucco finish, next to it, a smooth, bold wall. Somehow, it all goes together to create a very eclectic style.

But with three little ones, function is just as important in this house as style. The rustic kitchen oozes character. But the McIntyre’s made sure it had plenty of counter space and a huge farm house sink, all made from precast concrete so it can take the wear and tear.

The family room is large and open enough for all five of them, but also has some great built ins included to keep breakables safe from those little hands. The second floor includes a small library, the children’s bathroom, a bedroom for their daughter Ailing, and a very cool space for the two boys.

I love the way Erin and Adam have used some very distinctive colors throughout the interior of their house to give it just that right look, and they’ve gotten a little adventurous here in the boys’ room. And that’s were a lot times you can experiment with the few bold colors to see how they look maybe in the rest of the house.

Now this is the boys’ room. Rory is here and his brother Gray is over on this side. Look at the layout here, it’s pretty neat. Where they have two separate areas but they’re still together, separated just by the archway.

Now look at the distinctive colors. You have a very strong green here, blue here, and it’s all tied together with the white trim. Now if you’re thinking of using some bold colors inside of your house, here are a few things you may want to consider.

Jodi Marks: You know, the paint colors Erin and Adam chose for that room were from the cooler side of the palette. These colors, the blues, the greens and even the purples tend to have a more calming influence. And that was probably a really good idea for the bedroom where the two little boys live and play.

For entertaining areas like the kitchen, the living room, or the den, you might want something a little more active and upbeat. And in that case, you might want to choose the yellows, the oranges or even red to make a good choice for those rooms.

Now the neutral colors and the lighter colors, in general, tend to be ones that will open up small spaces, but they also work to blend different areas well together.

Now, of course the darker colors make a bold statement but they have the effect of making the walls seem smaller or closer together. So what do you do? How do you choose?

Well, trial and error used to be your only option, but now there are some really great tools available, like Color Smart from Behr. Now, we’re at a Home Depot store. And you can go there or you can actually go online from your own home, and you can get inspiration from thousands of colors to select the one for your project.

Now, they’re all arranged in coordinating palettes so you can see other colors that will work well with your selection. Plus, you can even preview your choices on a photo of the room where you’re planning to use them. This really takes the guess work out of picking colors. And while we’re thinking about color, it’s time for Thinking Green.

Danny Lipford: Did you know that your home can cause twice as must greenhouse gas emissions as a car? Some of the major culprits are your appliances, heating and cooling systems and electronics.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to purchase Energy Star appliances for your home. An Energy Star appliance is designed to use 10-50% less energy and water than standard appliances. Little changes like that really add up.

If just 10% of the homes in the U.S. were to switch to Energy Star appliances, it would be like planting nearly two million new acres of trees. Now, unfortunately, like so many other green efforts, it will cost a little more money for these appliances.

So, if an Energy Star is just too far out of your budget, at least consider energy efficient models. You can get some great tips for purchasing these appliance from the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.

We’ve seen some pretty cool projects this week as we’ve looked at a few of the winners in the Better Homes and Gardens Home Improvement Challenge. It’s encouraging to know that there are lots of people out there putting their talents to use to make their little corner of the world a little better.

From small projects with almost no budget to major ones that could take years to complete, home owners are taking the initiative to improve their homes for their families, for themselves, and their communities.

When I see an extensive renovation like this, I see a lot of quality building materials and great attention to detail, and in this particular situation, I can understand how it took four years of hard work and a lot of patience to pull it off. A very worthy grand prize winner.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed seeing all of the home improvement challenge winners we were able to show you on this week’s show, and if you’d like to enter next year’s contest, go to Better Homes and Garden’s website at

Hey, thanks for being with us on this very special Today’s Homeowner show. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week.

The 2007 Home Improvement Challenge was produced by Better Homes and Gardens magazine and sponsored by Behr, Delta Faucet Company, JELD-WEN Windows & Doors, Mohawk, Sealy, and The Home Depot.

Almost every garage needs a little organization, so next week, that’s what we’re dishing out.

If you would like to purchase a DVD copy of this week’s show, visit our website at or call us at 1-800-946-4420.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

Learn More