Better Homes And Gardens® presents the Better Home Better LivingT house

by Better Homes & Gardens, Feb, 2005

When you improve your home, you improve your life. That's a promise of the American dream, and we couldn't agree more. A home should be beautiful and affordable, and it should nurture your creative spirit. How do you know? Because you told us. Last February, we invited you to enter your home improvement projects in our Better Home Better Living contest. At the same time, we encouraged you to answer a survey about you and your home. We were thrilled to receive a record 7,791 entries to our contest (watch for results in our May issue), and 59,593 completed our survey. Your responses inspired us. Now, both your entries and your answers will play a major role in the second, exciting phase of our Better Home Better Living program: We're going to build an amazing house.

It won't be just any house. It will be extremely affordable (under $120 per square foot) and scaled for most suburban lots (under 3,000 square feet). It will use innovative materials and technologies that keep costs and maintenance low. The priorities so many of you told us about--a centrally located kitchen, easy transitions to outdoor living spaces, and lots of storage--will be key to the design. And this house will grow with you! Our three-step plan lets you build a small home today and add on later. Sound like your dream home? You might be the lucky person to win it. In November, we'll be giving our Better Home Better Living house away. Go to to enter today!

You told us ...

Nothing excites and motivates you more than improving your home for your family. This was expressed loud and clear in the entries to our Better Home Better Living contest. The volume of entries was a first clue (we literally had mountains in our mailroom). Even more telling was the reaction from the industry professionals who we asked to judge the submissions. One told us he was moved to tears by the stories written by our readers about their family parties. Another said that every one that she screened deserved an award. We agree, but we also know the real reward is the one you feel inside.

For example, Kathy Keelin of Temple City, California, added stone around her fireplace, saving herself thousands of dollars in professional installation. "I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment in doing something myself that I had never done before," she says.

Resourceful mom Jaime Madden of Portsmouth, Ohio, went a different cost-saving route: Instead of tearing out the original 1950s pink tile and fixtures in her bathroom, she worked around them to create a fun bath for her kids. Says Jaime, "What do you do when the second-floor bath has bubblegum-pink everything-pink floor tile, pink wall tile, pink sink, pink tub, and even a pink toilet? You work with it and have a little fun!"

Judith Kulla of Hastings, Minnesota, shared an inspiring description of the joy she finds in decorating for the seasons. "Decorating has been one of the most fulfilling areas of artistic expression for me," she writes. "I delight in taking the opportunity each season and every holiday to totally redecorate my living space. I feel that with a home I have a 'canvas' large enough to fully express my dreams."

And Alberto Lim of Minneapolis, Minnesota, delighted us with the heartwarming story behind his family's kitchen remodel: "We love our new kitchen. It took four months, and we traveled to China and adopted our first daughter during the chaos. It was a mess to come home to, being new parents, but we were so happy we did it. Our daughter, Lily, loves to play and roam while we cook dinner or sit and relax."

No matter the project, cost, or final outcome, your comments pointed to one recurring theme: You embarked on these projects in hopes of making life a little richer for you and your loved ones. Why go to such lengths? Entrant Laura Amrhein of Batesville, Indiana, says it best: "Quite simply, families are the most important thing."

What America Wants....

More than ever, we want easy, doable and affordable ways to make our everyday lives better balanced and more meaningful. And the best place to make this happen is at home. Our Better Home Better Living survey registered your hopes and dreams and helped us create a five-point priority list for the Better Home Better Living house. Affordability is especially important today because the average price of a new home is more than eight times what it was in 1970. Innovation addresses both our practical and emotional needs. We want technology to help us save time and money, and to enrich our lives. And we want to stretch our creative muscles when we decorate, cook, and garden. Design flexibility means having a home that will change with our changing needs. A kitchen-centric home keeps friends and family close. Homes that blend indoor and outdoor spaces not only give us more room to live, entertain, and relax, they also embrace our love of nature.

Thank you, America, for this great list. Our file of ideas, pictures and materials for the house is already overflowing!

Affordable A full 38 percent of readers surveyed said that cost plays a major factor in their home improvement projects. You want the most bang for your buck!

Innovative Sigrid Redpath of Edina, Minnesota, used color in novel, exciting ways. "We were able to use color as a concept that pulled rooms together, that brought warmth and light into our home, and spurred the imagination. These colors make me happy; these colors say this is a home; these colors invite you to enjoy and to imagine," she says.

Flexible Says entrant Mary Zaley of Cary, North Carolina: "I designed with today and the future in mind so that I can live independently in my home as long as possible."

Kitchen-centric More than a third of our contest entries focused on kitchen makeovers and remodels, transforming the kitchen into a more pleasant, family-friendly place to spend time.

Indoor/Outdoor Living "Our outdoor livable space has created not only an exciting place to entertain large numbers of family and friends but also serves as a place for our own personal serenity," says entrant Susan Fritts of Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Watch Us Build It ...

Thanks to you, we now have tons of great ideas for our house project. To help turn those ideas into reality, we've assembled a team of dedicated professionals who are every bit as passionate about houses--and creative living--as you are. Two of our team members in particular are busy laying the groundwork for our Better Home Better Living house: San Francisco architect Toby Long of Clever Homes[TM] and builder Pam Sessions of Hedgewood Properties in Atlanta.

Long has wanted to be an architect since age 8, when he helped his father on construction sites. A father himself now, Long knows the value of smart, imaginative home design and the benefit of wise planning for his--and other families'--futures.

Creating sensible neighborhoods is a top priority for Sessions, whose family-friendly, planned communities in and around Atlanta have won her numerous accolades. It's no surprise that Sessions lives what she preaches--the home she shares with her husband, son, and daughter is right in the middle of her own Vickery Village where her clients are also her neighbors.

We're sure you'll delight in following along on the pages of Better Homes and Gardens[R] and on our Web site,, as our dream team builds on your ideas. And watch for the winners of our Better Home Better Living[TM] contest to be announced in May!

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