What makes a winning project? Design that hits high marks in craftsmanship, aesthetics, sustainability, and livability.

While many projects in this year’s crop of 215 entries struck the right notes, 20 stood out as clear winners. These designs, according to our judges, had “internal integrity and stayed true to the elements of [a particular] style.”

In discussing the entries featuring traditional designs, the judges commented that too many had “a little of this and a little of that, and they put it all together and it’s too much,” failing to create “a cohesive design that flows ... and makes sense.”

As in years’ past, the judges looked not only at the projects but at their presentation. Entry binders that told a coherent story through “before” photos and professionally taken “after” photos, easy-to-understand site plans, and a clearly stated problem/solution rose to the top.

The Judges

Amy Gardner:Gardner Mohr Architects, Chevy Chase, Md.

Tom Glass: Glass Construction, Washington, D.C.

Judy mozen: Handcrafted Homes, Roswell, Ga., Tucson, Ariz.

John Rusk: Rusk Renovations, New York, N.Y.

The Awards

Awards entries are organized into 11 categories, with an additional 34 subcategories based on price.

Judges are not required to award a winner in each category, and they have leeway in determining which projects show the highest degree of design expertise and craftsmanship.

In the end, our judges selected 20 projects for distinction: one Best of the Year, five Grand Awards, and 14 Merit Awards. This year, the new category of Residential Exterior had strong competition with 20 entries. Other hotly contended categories include whole-house (47), kitchen (37), and bathroom remodeling (27).

More winning projects from previous years’ Design Awards:

2011 Remodeling Design Awards

2010 Remodeling Design Awards

2009 Remodeling Design Awards