Milwaukee/NARI Reveals the Secret Ingredient of an Award-Winning Remodel

Aug. 22, 2014

A room is more than just a room when it wins an award. What do gold-award-winning remodels have in common? The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for 53 years, produces the Wisconsin Remodeler Awards each year. Milwaukee/NARI members compared their 2013 gold WRA-winning kitchen projects to determine the one secret ingredient.

Is it the budget?
Are budget restrictions, or a lack thereof, the secret to a top-tier home remodel?

At the lowest price range of $20,000-$40,000, the award-winning kitchen project by Kevin Connor, CR, CLC of Connor Remodeling and Design in Menomonee Falls, shows that a high price tag isn’t necessary to win gold.
Marie Owens of Callen Construction in Muskego shared the details of their gold-award-winning project in the range of $40,000-$80,000.

Carol Johnson of AB&K Bath and Kitchen in Greenfield and Mequon compared the firm’s two gold-award-winning kitchen projects. The first had a budget of $50,000, and the remodel came in under $47,000. The second project was in the category of $80,000-$120,000, showing that projects with a bigger budget also take home gold.

Is it the difficulty level and improved function?
How “bad” is the room that needs to be remodeled? Does the “before” photo decide the quality of the finished product? Is functional improvement a trademark of the best home remodels?

Connor’s project was a renovation of a very small space. The homeowners desired more storage, space for an island, and open views. Removing soffits and taking the cabinets to the ceiling, eliminating an old broom closet, pushing back a wall, enlarging an existing interior doorway for more natural light, and creating a new island, achieved this objective. They also added under-cabinet and pendant lighting.

The purpose of the Callen Construction project was to improve the layout, increase lighting, and add a bar area, all while maintaining the Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian design. The refrigerator, microwave, sink, and cooktop were moved. A dinette table was replaced with a snack bar, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence was seen in the chunky floating shelves and cooking hood. Recessed lights, under-cabinet lighting, and LED lights were added.

The first AB&K Bath and Kitchen project improved the traffic flow of the kitchen to accommodate multiple cooks. They changed the layout of the room to better suit the traffic flow, relocating the refrigerator and dishwasher, and placing the cooking and cleaning components together for the best function. A high-end appliance package was installed, and recessed, under-cabinet, tri-pendant, and centerpiece lighting was installed. The installers worked extra hard and fast to accommodate the newborn that was born two weeks earlier than expected.

The second AB&K project addressed the mundane, dark, builder-grade kitchen with poor traffic flow. Nine inches were added to the cabinet heights, a pantry closet was removed to create more room, the peninsula counter that was blocking traffic was taken out, and a narrow island was added in the center of the kitchen. A large pantry cabinet was added with rollout trays, as well as LED under-cabinet lighting and LED recessed lighting.

Improving the traffic flow of the kitchen’s floor plan, moving appliances and cabinets to maximize space and function, and increasing a variety of lighting styles are all common improvements in an award-winning kitchen remodel, but these trends are not the secret ingredient.

Is it style and beauty?
The beauty of Connor’s project can be seen in the custom maple painted cabinetry with inset doors and the dark stained alder island for contrast. The design features granite countertops, crown molding, and a glass subway tile backsplash. The stainless steel appliances are complemented by brushed nickel cabinet hardware.

Owens’ project features a custom fish tank, granite counters, a deep brown sink, cherry cabinetry, and oak hardwood floors, all supporting the earthy feel and Frank Lloyd Wright look. The large Usonian-influenced cooking hood and chunky shelves add interest, color, and texture.
Johnson’s first project focused on elegance, with Sucuri Granite countertops and complementary backsplash tile, refinished maple wood floors, a curved wood hood over the range, and pendant lights over the new island.

Johnson’s second project has a modern look with textured melamine cabinets in contrasting colors—a dark Takase Teak and a light Pearl White. The kitchen features white and gray quartz countertops and linear patterned backsplash tile.

Contrast is a common trend in these top-quality projects, as are wood floors, stone countertops, and tile backsplashes. But no beauty style or trend is the key to being the best remodel it can be.

The Secret Ingredient
“We listen to our clients needs, desires, and expectations,” Connor said. “We want them to feel comfortable in asking us questions, as well.”

“On our first meeting with the customer, we have the opportunity to get to know one another,” Connor continued. “We discuss our unique customer-focused remodeling process, and how our process aligns with their needs, timetables, and budgets to fulfill their vision.”

Milwaukee/NARI members agree: an award-winning kitchen is all about the homeowner. Each gold WRA-winning remodel is conceived to meet needs specific to the homeowner, with a cohesive design customized to the homeowner’s personal style. The contractor who listens to the homeowner’s ideas, problems, questions, and opinions—and uses his or her expertise and creativity to make that vision a reality—is the contractor who brings home a gold award.

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 740 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.

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