Remodeling's annual Design Awards, dedicated to celebrating excellence in design and construction of residential and light commercial remodeling projects, are open for entries. With coverage in the September issue of Remodeling, as well as in our website's project gallery, multimedia features, and social media, the prestigious competition offers an opportunity for professional remodelers to show off some of their most stunning work.

But maybe you're on the fence about entering--or wondering what the judges are looking for when they evaluate projects. We've got you covered! Two of this year's judges, Karmen Hotchkiss and Erik Listou, share with awards program administrator Stacey Freed how remodelers can benefit from submitting their work to design competitions, and what special touches help take a project from runner-up to grand award winner.

According to Hotchkiss, executive editor for shelter-related magazines at Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications, extra attention to detail and livability can make all the difference.

“When I’m out there looking at entries I’m really also evaluating them in terms of consumer publications and the things that make an award-winning design, like really great attention to detail, really great thought going into the usability of a space, and how each element of the design plays into its usability – those make really great award-winning places. I’m always layering in that next step of what do consumers think about this, and is it the kind of space that somebody wants to live in?”

And for Erik Listou, co-founder of the Living in Place Institute in Denver, projects that combine safety features with beautiful aesthetics are standouts.

“For me, one of the important elements is safety—has the design included aspects of safety that will help not only the clients, but future clients? Importantly, integrating that in with a beautiful design; we certainly don’t want institutional looks in anyone’s home. Some 70% of seniors are now looking for safety in design in their homes. When we include our entire population, I think we’re seeing more of a trend toward wanting to stay in our homes as long as possible, wanting to live in place. So when I look at a design, I look at, is this going to be long-lasting. I look at the 100-year plan.”