Room for Living winners enjoying upgrades

Three Daily Herald readers are “living the dream” since they received big upgrades to their residences over the winter. All had written in during our fall Room for Living contest and sent photos of “problem areas” within their homes.

These readers were ultimately chosen to win specific packages from our generous sponsors, worth between $2,600 and $6,500.

Bathtub makeover

Barbara and Al Ksiazk of South Elgin love their new $6,500 walk-in shower installed by Bath Planet of Chicago, based in Streamwood. Barbara has medical problems that were making it nearly impossible for her to safely get in and out of their old tub and the Ksiazks were worried every time she took a shower.

“We are in our mid-70s and need to convert a bathroom with a tub into a shower with handicap grab bars and seat,” Al wrote. “My wife is handicapped and it is very difficult to get in and out of the tub. Both of us have fallen in the tub and it is very dangerous. We are on a fixed income with no extra money to fund such a project. We would greatly appreciate any help.”

  Al and Barb Ksiazk recently had a new bathroom tub surround put in with bathroom makeover through the Daily Herald Room For Living contest. Rick West/

The Ksiazks' appreciate their home upgrade and say it came at a needed time.

“We put together the letter and our daughter helped us take the photo and submit it. Barb has had this disease for five years and has been disabled for three. Her condition seems to get worse every month. In fact, when the shower was installed, she was in the hospital after suffering a stroke,” Al explained. “But it was a great treat for her when she returned home.”

Barbara worked in a women's clothing store and Al at the Bradford Exchange before retiring several years ago. They have two children and seven grandchildren.

“It was a total shock to everyone that we won this. Now we encourage everyone to enter these contests because maybe you will win, too. The Daily Herald came through for us and Bath Planet did a very professional job. They were fast and quiet and done in four and a half hours, including hauling out the old tub,” Al recalled

“This new shower is wonderful,” Barb added. “Now I look forward to showers again and the bathroom just shines. I like to show it off to everyone who visits. We are ecstatic.”

“At Bath Planet we're always looking for new ways to 'do the right thing' for our clients,” said Evan Thompson, vice president, sales and marketing. “Whether it's installing a walk-in tub for a senior client so they can stay in their home longer or tearing out a mold-ridden tub for a family that has been experiencing health issues. We never get tired of hearing from our clients that getting a new bathroom made them fall in love with their home all over again.”

Bath Planet offers stylish, cost-effective, low-maintenance acrylic bath improvements that can even - if the homeowner chooses - install right over the existing ugly wall tile and chipped or faded tub or shower for maximum cost-effectiveness and minimal mess.

Living room makeover

Bree Hagestedt of Schaumburg, a single mother with a 7-year-old daughter, needed new furniture for her living room. The furniture they were living with was third-hand and no longer served their needs.

She won the living room makeover package valued at more than $5,000, provided by O'Reilly's Furniture and Amish Gallery of Libertyville and Acanthus Design Group of Barrington. She also received a $100 gift card for holiday decorations from Treetime Christmas Creations in Lake Barrington.

Hagestedt, a barber in Streamwood, wrote that, being a single mom, finances have always been tight, “so I have not been able to get out of this hand-me-down furniture stage. The couch has actually been handed down twice - from my grandmother to my mother, and now to me.”

“My 7-year-old daughter and I would love to have furniture to call our own. I would love to have a cozy space and have it not look like a resale shop. I definitely need help decorating!” she continued in her letter.

Michael Walsh, owner of O'Reilly's Furniture, said that it was very pleasant to work with Hagestedt and her mother when they came into the store.

The Hagestedts chose a comfortable gray chenille three-cushion sofa and two-cushion love seat with lower backs, clean lines and squared-off arms, as well as a swivel, gliding easy chair in a coordinating Yontz-patterned fabric with touches of black, gray, silver and blue.

The throw pillows on the sofa and love seat match the upholstery on the chair. They also chose a curved black wood entertainment center on 4-inch legs and a coordinating rectangular coffee table.

Since then, Hagestedt added short little black end tables given to her by a friend of her mother at each end of the couch, and her parents gave her new vinyl flooring for Christmas, allowing her to tear up the old carpeting.

“My apartment now looks completely different from what it did before!” Hagestedt said. “And Debora, the designer, helped me cover the ugly wall unit air conditioner when it is not in use by putting a shelf under the unit and then buying a canvas painting and leaning it in front of the air conditioner.

“It all looks so nice! I am so happy,” she added.

Prior to their O'Reilly's visit, Hagestedt and her mother worked with Debora Watson, interior designer with Acanthus Design Group, who made suggestions about the furniture they should choose to maximize their budget with O'Reilly's Furniture.

Replacing the carpet with luxury vinyl flooring was also her idea, as was the suggestion for hiding the unsightly air conditioning unit with the shelf and artwork.

  Cynthia Porters of Rolling Meadows won new doors from HomeStory in the Room for Living contest. Joe Lewnard/

Interior door package

Cynthia Porters wrote an application letter that earned her $2,600 worth of interior doors from HomeStory Chicago for her Rolling Meadows home.

Talking about her doors, Cynthia wrote: “We placed these doors about 30 years ago back when dark wood was in. The hallway is so long and looks so dark, it would be nice to lighten it up some. Most of the closets doors are also the dark stain and some closet doors have sheets hanging over them. Please help us lighten up this house.”

And Cynthia got her wish. She was able to replace six old doors in her hallway with white doors equipped with black levers and hardware. The door frames and baseboards are still stained but she says she is considering keeping them that way. She likes the look.

“The new doors make the hallway look so much lighter with the beige walls. It looks really nice,” she said. “The installation only took two hours and it really transformed our house. We are very pleased with the results and are still shocked we won.”

Porters' feelings about the transformation are typical, said Chris Dufton of HomeStory Chicago.

“We encourage people to update the look and feel of their home by replacing all the interior doors in their houses. Our design experts can help you find the perfect door style to match your home's decor. So, swap out ugly, flat-paneled doors for custom-fitted molded doors and transform the style of your house in one afternoon,” Dufton said.

“Door replacement is now the fastest and easiest way to change the look of your entire home. Relax as our door experts digitally measure your existing door frames and upload those measurements to a manufacturing facility where your new doors are milled to fit your doorways. Your doors are trimmed, sanded, primed and painted with professional-grade paint for a factory finish. Doors are then shipped to the HomeStory Chicago store and installers transport them to your home and install them within just a few hours,” he said.

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