2010 Level Best Awards

This year, the Level Best Awards contest accepted 10 entries from seven local contractors, all members of the Fox Valley Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). After an undisturbed hour of flipping through before-and-after pictures, the deliberation began. Here are the results!

We couldn’t have done it without this year’s judges, who lent their expertise & time to the contest: Bob McKenny, Interior Design Instructor at Fox Valley Technical College; Marge Stammer, Broker Associate at Coldwell Banker; and Trevor Frank, Senior Architect at Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc.


Residential Kitchen $25,000 & Over
WINNER: Studio Kitchens

Staying true to their tag-line, “inspirational kitchen and bath designs,” Studio Kitchens, of Appleton, created a kitchen inspired by their client’s Italian artwork.

The homeowners had a wish list full of color, metals, new appliances, better lighting and more space for fluid operations.

“The contractor was creative in understanding the space,” says Frank. The kitchen was transformed by installing a copper range hood top, selecting an Old World armoire that conceals five feet of refrigeration and freezer, removing soffits and adding beams, widening walkways and increasing kitchen space.

Its most notable revision was chopping out a wall at a 90-degree angle to create a small landing spot.

The eclectic, yet friendly, revamp was well celebrated at the judging table. Stammer loved it for its enhanced character. Frank was wowed by the de-cluttering of the space.

“It’s almost unrecognizable, coming from the dark and heavy original,” says McKenny. “The sensitivity of the colors is well thought out, and definitely not predictable.”


Residential Specialty Remodeling
WINNER: Mosquito Creek, LLC

Creating a backyard family refuge was important for an airline pilot dad, a busy working mom and their family. That is why Mosquito Creek, LCC, created a personal design that included a low-maintenance outdoor deck and a jacuzzi hot tub.

The backyard refuge is accessed two ways: a sliding patio door leading from the family room and a window-turned-door from the master bedroom.

“The contractor took the opportunity to create something new,” says Trevor Frank. “The interior space was rearranged and now the new deck space is accessible from a number of rooms.”

Trim moldings are stained to match the existing interior oak of the home. The customer chose to use the fluted side for a decorative touch. The deck colors are Trex Maderia, which is the redder color and woodland brown. “The dark blending accents the space,” says Bob McKenny.

“One color in the wood wouldn’t have had such a visual impact as it does with two,” adds Frank.

The judges recognized this specialty-remodeling project for its attention to customer demands, conception and craftsmanship, and the creation of a unique living space.

Entire House Renovation
WINNER: Tod Raehl Construction, Inc.

For homeowners who preferred not to give up the loved location of their home atop a wooded ravine in Combined Locks, they called upon Tod Raehl Construction, Inc., for exterior and interior remodels, updates and add-ons.

With the homeowner’s business occupying the lower level, the contractor was determined to keep the homeowners comfortable throughout the remodel.

The remodel included: a new entry tower with a 12’ ceiling and high elliptical opening; an air lock entry with an entrance to the elevator; newly added entrance to a remodeled but existing bathroom; new master suite with “his” and “her” baths and closets; a guest room; a laundry room with storage; and a library with a coffered ceiling, custom bookcases, and custom window and door trims finished in cherry.

“This house transformed from a dated ranch to a Tuscan house,” says McKenny. “It shows that if you have a great lot, why not stay where you are?”

Marge Stammer was impressed by the size of the job and the transformation as a whole. “The contractor solved major issues by bringing the house outward,” adds Frank. This remodel captures the win because of the contractor’s regard to intricate detailing (radiant in-floor heat in air lock entry, marble shower and library ceiling detail) and substantial project scope.


Residential Interior
WINNER: Welhouse Construction Services, LLC

Homeowners often seek contractors that can help them turn an unfinished basement into a livable space. This was the case when Welhouse Construction Services, LLC, was asked to revise a lower level to accommodate two offices, a laundry room, a full bathroom, an entertainment room, and additional storage. The homeowners main request was to make the new lower level feel like an extension of the main home.

Welhouse designed a combination of suspended and sheet-rocked ceilings. They had to make custom rick racking to cover the exposed ductwork creating different height ceilings in many of the rooms. About 1,044 square feet was added to the value of the home.

“Now this room has height, and the skills of the contractors were definitely tested,” says McKenny.


Residential Bath Under $15,000
WINNER: Welhouse Construction Services, LLC

After moving into a home built in the mid-1970s, the homeowners decided the layout and color schemes of the existing master bedroom and bathroom suite were in need of updating.

Originally the bathroom entry was in the master bedroom hallway and had a small shower. The new bathroom was flipped 90-degrees in orientation from the original layout with the entrance now inside the master bedroom. The space was modernized with new cabinets, décor and vanity. The new layout includes a larger walk-in closet to replace the old “his” and “her” closets.

The judges were wooed by the rearrangement of space. “They lost 18 inches in the master bathroom, but it’s worth it for what they gained!” says Stammer. “They went from three feet to four feet (in the shower),” McKenny adds. “That’s makes a world of difference in a shower.”


Residential Bath $15,000 & Over
WINNER: Welhouse Construction Services, LLC

The goal for this bathroom remodel was set right off the bat: make the bathroom modern and appealing while improving functionality as the customers aged gracefully in their home. The homeowner’s inspiration came from a magazine and the contractor made a point to emulate the photo as best as possible.

An unused, full-size whirlpool tub was to be replaced by a walk-in shower.

“This remodel is a faithful rendition,” says Frank. McKenny was fond of the accessibility, built-in bench, grab bars and tile work.

Residential Exterior Under $75,000
WINNER: Welhouse Construction Services, LLC

A couple in their early 90s owned a home in need of updates and additions. A plan was developed to include expanded openings between rooms, and a new master bathroom and sitting room, as well as a full basement under the new addition for additional storage. To keep costs low, designs with few intricate walls were used for simple flow from the original master bedroom.

“It all blends in nicely with the current home,” says Stammer. “It’s a sensible addition.” McKenny credits the contractor for being sympathetic to the character of the home.

—By Alison Fiebig

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