The fall season means a lot of things here in Chicago: the warm weather begins to turn chilly, colors start changing on the trees, and for bungalow owners, the end of October means they might have a Driehaus award or honorable mention in their future!
I thought I’d do a quick write-up of what it was like submitting my project in 2017 (and 2019), for anyone who may be on the fence about the process (I was). In fact, I was on the fence about it until October 29th last year. I was dragging my feet, didn’t really know what to submit, nothing seemed finished or good enough (are projects ever truly finished?!), and nothing seemed up to my standards, but I had done the work so I thought… why not, I’d look into it.
I combed through the previous submissions obsessively for weeks (all amazing, btw), and I just didn’t see how my entryway project fit within the caliber of work already presented. All of the projects looked like BIG projects. Even the small ones looked huge and amazing. Not feeling like I had anything to lose, I decided to just go for it.
The rules are pretty simple: your bungalow needs to be in the city and your project needs to be completed in the last five years.
Here is the process I went through:
I began by reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading the rules and judging criteria. They’re not that complicated, but I wanted to make sure I understood them. You can read them for yourself here. The rules are pretty simple: your bungalow needs to be in the city and your project needs to be completed in the last five years. Not began in the last five years… completed. That’s a big difference!
Read through the categories carefully, because there might be one specific to the project you actually did, like window restoration.
Next, I decided which category I was going to enter my project into. This was actually harder to figure out than I thought it would be. I felt like the categories where pretty broad and up for interpretation (which is a good thing), but a few key indicators finally helped me narrow it down: I had definitely improved one aspect of my home (installing tile in the entryway and coat closet because, hello! Chicago weather) and my project cost less than $5,000 to do (you can read about how much it actually cost here). Small project category for the win!
My advice: read through the categories carefully, because there might be one specific to the project you actually did, like window restoration.
The more photos you take, the more opportunity you have to edit down and show the best aspects of your project.
After choosing a category, I cleaned and staged my entryway and had a little photo shoot. I recommend submitting good quality photos (at least of the ‘after’) because they really help sell your work. A few wide angle shots of the project and then a couple detail shots as well. To be considered, you must submit at least one before photo and three after photos, however, there is space to upload 10 photos (and I am on team take-advantage-of-the-extra-opportunity)!
My advice: the more photos you take, the more opportunity you have to edit down and show the best aspects of your project. Carefully consider the angles (is your reflection in a mirror somewhere?), lighting (natural, if you can), and focus (blurry or grainy pictures are so annoying). If you’re not comfortable, ask a friend with a decent camera or cell phone to shoot it for you in exchange for a couple beers (I will be that friend if you want).
Once my ‘after’ photos were ready to go, I began the hunt for ‘before’ photos. This did not go well.
Once my ‘after’ photos were ready to go, I began the hunt for ‘before’ photos. This did not go well. I always think that I take before photos when in reality… I never do. Luckily, my husband (literally the worst photographer in the entire world) had taken some shots of the demo, and I had taken some shots months before the demo.
If you’re going to do projects, don’t underestimate the power of a good before photo.
My advice: go back in time and take a ton of ‘before’ photos. Take photos when you first move in. Take photos before you even swing a hammer or paint. Take all the photos. Buy a new external hard drive specifically for ‘before’ photos. If you’re going to do projects, don’t underestimate the power of a good ‘before’ photo. Once you return to present day, kick back, plug in your external, and select from four terabytes of ‘before’ photos. You’ve got this.
Or if you’re like me, desperately scrounge for ‘before’ photos and then thank your husband for providing you a couple blurry and weirdly tilted pictures of the demo (how did you even get that angle?!) while you dig through your old-as-dirt 4G external for those before-the-demo photos of the wood flooring you uncovered. Being extra resourceful, I was also able to find some “before-the-before” shots of the pink tile we ripped out upon move-in, through the old real estate listing of our home (very lucky).
I think I submitted about three or four ‘before’ photos and the rest were ‘after’ photos. I definitely took advantage of being able to tell the whole story or the project in 10 images.
I checked, re-checked, double-triple-checked everything and… hit the ‘submit’ button!
Then came the even more difficult part… talking about the work! Some of it was easy (we did all the work ourselves) and some not so easy (I tend to ramble, in case you couldn’t tell by this “quick” blog post that is over 1,000 words). I described the project from start to finish, why we chose to do it, and the total cost, because that was also one of the criteria for the category I entered into. Then I checked, re-checked, double-triple-checked everything and… hit the ‘submit’ button! And that was it!
I do not recommend waiting until the last minute. It’s the worst idea.
I would also like to note that I did all of this last year on October 29th. I do not recommend waiting until the last minute. It’s the worst idea. In fact, if you’re even entertaining the idea of submitting a project this year (I highly recommend it)… start now! You have a little over a month, so begin gathering those photos, finish those last little details, and start putting into words why you started this project, what it means to you, and what you’ve done to accomplish it. You have nothing to lose, and, by the way, did I mention, you could actually win money?!*
If you’re interested in submitting your bungalow project for the 14th Annual Driehaus Awards, please head over to the Chicago Bungalow Association for all of the official details and rules!
And in case you’re wondering, I won’t be submitting anything this year. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’m in the middle of restoring the trim in my office. That project probably won’t be finished anytime soon, but I’m hoping to have at least one project to submit next year (and yes, I’ve gotten better about taking ‘before’ photos after last year’s fiasco). So, if you’re like me and deadlines really motivate you, but you also like to take your time, the awards are a good way to do that… so plan for next year! Take your ‘before’ photos now, take photos of the process, and keep a log of the cost, your plans (or how they change), and your reasons for doing the project in the first place. You will be glad that you planned ahead.
I write a lot about the CBA, but in the age of internet advertising that we live in, I feel compelled to mention that this blog is 100% ad and profit free and I am not affiliated with the CBA in any way, or compensated by anyone for my opinions.
All opinions are my own and I share them because I love bungalows and the community they create. And honestly, what good are experiences if you don’t share them with others? Architecture, research, education, history, and advocacy are some of my favorite things ever, and they just so happen to all collide with bungalows in a very kismet way. -Tracie
*I don’t recommend doing projects specifically for the money, because there is no guarantee you will win. If you do win, however, it’s a nice bonus to a job well done.