Most people are realists. If they enter a contest, they might spend a few minutes daydreaming about how nice it would be if they won, but they are simply taking a shot. They don't really "expect" to win, so they certainly don't count their chickens before they are hatched.
Later, when they get word that they had one of the winning entries, it is generally mildly shocking, but a thoroughly pleasant surprise.
That was certainly the case with the three winners of the Daily Herald's recent Room for Living interior makeover package. They saw the notice for the contest, looked at the rooms in their home and decided to give it a try because without help, they knew their homes would not improve anytime soon, thanks to a lack of funds or time or both. In total, 114 people entered the contest this fall.
Cindy and Jim Walk of Fox Lake were the winners of the living room makeover, valued at more than $8,000. They won $4,000 in furniture from Steinhafels in Vernon Hills, $2,000 in lighting from Littman Bros. Lighting in Schaumburg, $2,000 in floor treatments from Yonan Carpet One in Rolling Meadows, a Bright Source table lamp from Lifespan Brands, a $100 gift certificate for holiday decor from Treetime Christmas Creations in Lake Barrington and painting services and paint from Alger Decorating of Palatine.
In her entry letter, Cindy wrote: "We have two special-needs kids, with no time or money to update. Our couch is broken and we made a computer desk out of two-by-fours. Our living room is so small we don't know what to do to make it more functional and organized."
The Walks were thrilled to hear that they had won.
"We enter stuff all the time but never win," Cindy said.
"We have been through a lot of hard times, so the value of this prize to us is so much greater than the value of what we are actually receiving. Our couch is broken in two places. We bought our chair at a garage sale. And the area rug on our floor came from Home Depot about eight years ago, and it is stained from our dog and children," she said.
Jim works in information technology and Cindy is a stay-at-home mom to their daughters, Madison, 13, and Alexa, 4. Madison is on the autism spectrum and has ADHD. Alexa has Down syndrome. They have lived in their 1,000-square-foot ranch for 14 years.
"We bought everything before our youngest daughter was born. That is when I elected to stay at home and now only bring in minimal income from doing some day care at home," she said.
The Walks are hoping to get a child-friendly, spill-proof sectional with a recliner or a chaise lounge at one end. They also need a chair that rocks so they can soothe Alexa. In addition, they hope to purchase a television console for the storage of toys.
As for the Littman Bros. package, they hope to use it for a new ceiling fan, some wall sconces and possibly lighting in their adjoining dining room. Cindy is also eagerly anticipating getting a new area rug from Yonan Carpet One, a Bright Source table lamp and freshly-painted walls in a lighter color than what she chose years ago. The Treetime gift certificate will also allow them to buy a few new holiday decorations.
"We are still in shock. The fact that we won really hasn't sunk in yet, but we couldn't be happier and are looking forward to making over our living room," Cindy said.
Betsy Lewis of Batavia, the winner of a bathtub/shower makeover, is equally amazed at her good fortune. Gradual improvements of her three-bedroom 1950s ranch have been made over the last 14 years, but one bathroom had escaped renovation and, consequently, no one wanted to use it, she admitted.
"When I saw the announcement of this contest in the newspaper, I took a photo of the bathroom and figured I would give it a shot. But I was shocked when they told me I was one of 15 finalists and even more shocked when I won," Lewis said.
The old bathroom features a vintage pink bathtub and aging white floor and wall tile. It definitely needs some attention.
"My bathroom is ancient, from about 1950, with the pink tub and old, cracked grout between the tiles. I am unable to tackle this much-needed project without your help!" she wrote in her entry letter.
Lewis is the co-director of the Batavia Nursery School and she teaches prekindergarten. Her husband passed away five years ago.
Lewis said she is looking forward to Bath Planet installing a new tub/shower base and the new wall surround, which will go right on top of her existing tile. She plans to choose white or some other light color. Her prize package, valued at $6,500, also includes paint and custom painting services from Alger Decorating of Palatine, new chrome plumbing fixtures, a corner caddie, a chrome shower rod, new flooring from Yonan Carpet One Flooring in Rolling Meadows and even a Bluetooth-connected body fat scale from Lifespan Brands.
"I am really excited because I have also been wanting to replace the toilet, which I think is original, and the old cast iron pipes in the bathroom. Now that I have won this package for the rest of the improvements, I can probably pay to replace those old pipes and the toilet," Lewis said.
"And when my daughters and their families come in to visit, they will be thrilled to use the new light and airy bathroom I have planned," she added.
Lisa Piagari of Mount Prospect won the interior doors makeover package, valued at $2,500 and provided by HomeStory Chicago. She also received a $100 Treetime gift certificate for holiday decor.
Piagari has lived in her split-level home for 14 years and her interior doors are hollow, flat-panel doors painted white and hand-decorated with everything from cartoon doodles to fuzzy pompons by her tween and teen children.
"Their rooms are their personal spaces, but now I am ready to spruce things up and class up our hallway. I like to keep the house in good shape and those doors are definitely an area where we need improvement," Piagari said.
"I am just thrilled! The new doors are a dream come true. As a just 'give it your best' DIY home improvement person, this was a project I was not looking forward to. Taking the doors off the hinges? No problem. Painting the doors? Surely! But rehanging the doors? Ugh!" she continued.
Piagari, a dietitian at a long-term care facility, plans to replace up to six original hollow, flat-panel doors with multi-paneled white doors that will make her home look more up-to-date and classy.
"Believe me, I am all over this! I can't wait and I can't thank the Daily Herald enough for giving members of the community the opportunity to spruce up their homes," she added.