U.S. Winner: Stefanie's Own Little Sanctuary Bathroom

Starting with a space that was “kind of awful” and “pretty disappointing,” Stefanie transformed her 1930s bathroom into the sanctuary of her dreams. Gone are the mismatched tiles and clunky old fixtures, and in their place is a serene mix of whites and grays that set the mood for luxuriating in her gorgeous clawfoot tub. Stefanie’s choice to go with different styles and materials of tile adds interest and delight, while the restricted color palette keeps it calming. The functional upgrades--heated floors, a custom-built vanity to maximize storage-- were worthwhile splurges for a space that “washes away not just dirt but the stresses of the day.” With a total renovation like this one, the inconvenience of it all can be tough, but Stefanie’s tip for surviving is to “imagine that smile on your face every time you’ll walk into your made over room.” We didn’t have to live through the remodel, but we’re sure smiling at the results!

U.S. Winner: I-Lin's Serene Sleeping/Storage Solutions Bedroom

Faced with an even tinier-than-typical narrow New York City bedroom (just 6 feet wide!!), I-Lin managed to pack a lot of function into the small space, while simultaneously making it feel larger and more serene. His first solution was to build a platform bed, creating storage where space is often wasted. A desk space acts as storage for art supplies, and the formerly unused vertical space above became a second, lofted bed area (an IKEA hack!) that can host guests and store more artwork. When square footage is short, vertical space is a commodity not to be wasted, and I-Lin’s space is a masterclass in making it work. Like he says in his entry, the room is very white but doesn’t feel empty, and the vertical lines are grounding. The ingenuity displayed by I-Lin is exactly why we all love small spaces-- they’re the challenges that result in the biggest of wow moments.

International Winner: Daniele's Bedroom Sanctuary

Daniele purchased this Prague home, and had a small budget left to furnish the bedroom. In just three days, belongings mixed in with some IKEA hacks and came out as a “fresh and airy” space that makes us want to curl up and sip coffee in the four poster bed. The organic touches like the plant and the antler lamps bring in the outside, while the striking photographs add personality. The dark curtains, throw, and stripe in the bedding balance the white walls and ground the space. IKEA eagle eyes will spot some familiar pieces, which makes this bedroom all the more enjoyable; it’s real and achievable, yet absolutely magazine-worthy, as several readers pointed out. In fact, this is Daniele’s own philosophy-- “you don't need to spend a fortune to make something nice.”

International Winner: Ariel's Bright Dining & Sitting Room in Military Housing

Despite living in military housing, Ariel and her husband have made their temporary digs their own. With a mix of IKEA, thrift store finds, and family heirlooms, the place feels like them and fits their lifestyle. Not afraid to make changes (that can be reversed if necessary), Ariel removed an old accordion door that separated two rooms, and the flow is much better for the way they live and entertain. From the party-ready bar cart and the colorful collection of pillows to the molding-framed gallery walls and the charming beaded chandelier, the space hardly feels like cookie cutter, military-grade housing; personality shines through. And that’s Ariel’s takeaway-- No matter how short or long you live in a place, it’s important to have pride in your home.

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