'F' for Freebies Elsewhere

Social Space Makeover Contest Finalists

I’m working with American Express to give away 150,000 Membership Rewards points and a custom Making it Lovely design plan. We’re looking to help people make over their social spaces; the spaces where they spend time with family and friends. Nearly three hundred people entered (here was the original call for entries), and it was no easy task for me to narrow them down to just ten finalists. There were poems and haikus, letters from non-persons, clever videos, photos with funny captions… it was a pleasure to receive so many wonderful entries (thank you)!

Below are the finalists’ entries. I tried to even the playing field by giving everyone the same photo/video space (500×750 pixels), and approximately the same description length (this symbol […] means that I edited the comment for length). Many of the finalists have additional photos and information, so I’ve included a link to them (and also to the original comment) with each.

Now it’s your turn to vote! The winner will receive 150,000 Membership Rewards points and a custom Making it Lovely design plan to help guide them in redoing their space. The second place winner will also receive a prize: a $100 gift card to The Home Depot. So here we go! The finalists, in no particular order…


Our front porch is a great place to eat dinner with friends, hang out after the kids are asleep, or just sit and watch the world go by. Unfortunately, it also has almost no furniture, a lot of peeling paint, and an ugly front door.

We’d love help making it into the beautiful space we know it could be – private enough for a cup of coffee on the glider, public enough for neighbors to stop by and chat any time.

Megan’s photos
Megan’s original entry

Mary Sue

“My name is Mary Sue & my original 50’s kitchen needs help! It has some really cool features like the original stove with a pullout range, and porcelain & chrome counters. My family of three spends lots of time in this tiny room cooking and dancing. It lacks some features (i.e- a dishwasher!)… We would love your help making it modern!”

Mary Sue’s photos
Mary Sue’s original entry


I’ve wanted a “silver bullet” since I’ve been in 4th grade, I dreamt of adventures, entertaining and camping out in style…my goal was to buy one by the time I was 40. Well, last year I turned 35 and decided there was no better time to get started than now. […] Let’s just say I’ve bit off a bit more than I had to chew, if you know what I mean.

Come to find out, this little aluminum camper needed more than paint, cute curtains and adorable prints from Etsy. I started the project by needing to replace the entire undercarriage steel cross beams, we’re talking major welding work. Currently she is completely gutted and now is the fun part of putting her back together.

Charity’s blog post
Charity’s original entry


We could really use your help with the totally outdated LR in our new (old) apartment (just closed last week!). It’s a great space — will be the perfect LR/DR space for our growing family (2yo daughter + twins on the way!). But we have absolutely no mojo (or resources) left to design it to the fullest potential. We’d LOVE to have this major to-do off the list + host a proper housewarming/baby shower there later this summer.

Lisa’s blog post
Lisa’s original entry


When my husband and I bought our house 6 months ago, It came with a lovely covered back patio and pergola that I immediately fell in love with. I thought it would be so easy to find my own inner Nicole and make my house as cute as you’ve made yours. But my back patio is in desperate need for help. Here is why you should pick me:

My husband has nowhere to put his lawn equipment other than on the back patio. My son has a zillion outdoor toys that are ugly eyesores. We’ve been trying to save for a garden shed as a storage solution, but we are not there yet.

Jayna’s blog post
Jayna’s original entry


Help! We’ve been remodeling the inside of our home for the past 2 1/2 years but have totally neglected the outside of our home – including our front patio that has a lot of potential but is just barren and boring! When we had our daughter Zoey 10 months ago we really stopped all work on our home and now that she is getting close to walking we want to spend more time outside with her and entertaining friends and family but have no place suitable to do so (our backyard is even worse than this, with a death trap back porch!) […]

Heather’s blog post
Heather’s original entry


The room I have that needs your intervention is my living room. For (oh goodness) 7 years we’ve had my husband’s grandparents floral couch/chair set and I long for grown-up furniture. This space connects to our kitchen and is our main social area.

I also have 2 beautiful danish modern chairs that I inherited from my grandmother (I included a link below to the type of chair they are) in our basement that simply need new fabric on the cushions. Didn’t want to pick that out until new furniture was in the works to coordinate.

• Nicole’s photos here and here, chair here
Nicole’s original post


Hi Nicole! My husband and I just bought our first home early last month. It’s in a great location, but the upstairs… the upstairs needs love. Industrial carpeting, old paneling (poorly installed), and unsafe guard rails. It could be a GREAT social space for us and our friends, particularly during the rainy months– we live in Oregon, and the rainy months are MANY. But right now? We’ll leave the door upstairs closed.

We discovered WOOD FLOORS under the industrial carpet, so now we just need to put the funds together to sand, stain, and refinish the floors (and some pieces of furniture)! We’d have a GREAT space. There also is the possibility of having some exposed beams from the roof. So exciting!

(and as you can tell from our blog, oregonkaisers.blogspot.com, we’re not afraid of a lot of projects and elbow grease!)

Jessika’s video
Jessika’s original entry


HELP! We’ve been in our house for 3 years and I have no idea what to do with this room! It’s our entry living room (we mostly use the family room) and I hate that this is what people see when they first enter our house. We have our old college sectional which is disemboweled, an old C&B rug that’s seen better days and that’s IT. Please help!! I am at a loss as to what furniture, rugs or curtains to buy- I need you Nicole!! It’s a blank canvas and I need your artistic vision (and those AE rewards points!) :)

photo and Amber’s video
Amber’s original entry

Capitol Jams

My husband and I live in a 1 bedroom condo with our nearly 15-month-old daughter. I love our apartment for many reasons, not least of all for it’s open floor plan where we do most of our living. It has a lot of great style with the maple floors, exposed beams and the exposed fir (original firewall) that makes it look a little bit like a ski lodge meets loft. I love some of the personal and handmade touches: the knitted pipe cozy to the left of the window and the fabric book slings on the radiator covers come to mind.

[…]We don’t get much natural light with the big window and being on the ground floor of our building, and we’ve never known how to bring in more lighting into this space. The toys are a little out of control, and while we love the mid century furniture, the red chair in particular desperately needs to be replaced or needs to have fresh upholstery. While most of our home is pretty child-proofed, the shelves under the window are a slight nightmare – stacked and unkempt books and forgotten items, as well as a HUGE stereo that doesn’t function as it is designed […]. Besides a couple of sad looking bolsters I made for the couch, we don’t have any pillows and really need some help with accessories that would work in this space.

Capitol Jams’ photos
Capitol Jams’ original entry

So there you have it: all ten finalists! You can cast one vote for your favorite below. The voting period will end Friday, June 17 at noon CST, and the winner will be announced next week.

(Good luck and congratulations to all ten finalists!)

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  • Rachel
    June 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Many of these spaces already look pretty cute. Can’t wait to see who wins and what you pick out, Nicole!

    • Making it Lovely
      June 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

      I tried to choose a good mix of spaces! Some are looking pretty great already, and they just need a few things and finishing touches. Others… need a bit more help. ;)

  • NicoleD
    June 13, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I am ridiculously excited! Wow. Love reading all of the entries, too. Thank you!

  • Christy C.
    June 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I would LOVE to see how Charity’s project turns out with a little Making it Lovely Magic.
    But Heather’s patio is just so primed for something fantastic!!

  • Mary Sue
    June 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

    WOOT! So exciting!!! Everyone has such cute spaces too! Can’t wait to see the results!

  • Ellen
    June 13, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Since we didn’t make it as a finalist, we’re pulling for Charity and her camper! I’d LOVE to see that made lovely!

    • Jenn Kemper with Stella & Dot
      June 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      how great that you guys applied! we’d love to see some making it lovely magic in our friends home!!!! there are some other great finalists, too. perhaps we should see what we can design after our combined years of reading about nicole’s adventures…

  • we are finalists!! « heather and mike’s goings on
    June 13, 2011 at 11:35 am

    […] got news that we are finalists in the Social Space Makeover contest sponsored by Making it Lovely and American Express! We are so honored and thrilled to have been one of the top 10 finalists out […]

  • StarletStarlet
    June 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Congratulations for all the finalists!!! Everyone space has such potential. Too bad we can only choose one – I have three in mind already that I’d want to see fully transformed with your style, Nicole!

    Good luck, everyone!!

  • Amber
    June 13, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I am so excited to be a finalist!!

    Here are some more pictures of this space that I should have submitted earlier:


  • joanne
    June 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Zoey needs a safe place to play outside and be with family. The back is worse then the front. I hope Heather can win the money to make the front and back of the house a fun and entertaining place for family and friends. Cannot wait to see what can be done with the space if she wins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jayna
    June 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you Nicole!! Im so excited that you picked me to be a finalist!! If nothing else, its a thrill just to have been picked! Best of luck to everyone

  • Kate
    June 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Please Pick Heather’s outdoor space! The bones of her space are so cool and I want to see a finished product!!!!

    Mary Sue, I am jealous of your awesome vintage stove and countertops!!!

    • Mary Sue
      June 13, 2011 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks! I agree! Hopefully one day I can get the stove in shape! Currently only 2 burners & the top (kinda) work! I can’t bake in it because it the seals are bad & it loses heat very quickly haha!

  • Charity
    June 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    THANKS NICOLE & Making it Lovely! Myself and my little “Amelia” the Airstream Camper are honored to be part of your contest. She is truly a diamond in the rough and with a great design plan, a few fun accessories, we will be hitting the open road in no time at all!

    I invite all of you to track her progress on my remodel diary at http://ameliatheairstream.blogspot.com/

    Thanks again Nicole. Cheers to amazing design on the road!

    • puck
      June 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm

      Voted for you, Charity! Fellow Airstreamer here. I posted on your blog, but it is not showing up. Here is a link to my 1967 Airstream “Eleanor.” My favorite thing is the “Tiffany Box Blue” interior package we got. ;)


  • Ali
    June 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm


    Fun contest! Can’t wait to see who wins! :)

    What is your back yard eating are looking like these days?

    Okay, needed your thoughts on our covered back porch that faces our pool what type of affordable table and chairs would your suggest! I loved to have an extra spot to seat guest for eating this summer without everyone dripping back inside on my carpet! I’m on a tight budget but, would love a high end look! :)

    ~ Ali

  • Ali
    June 13, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    One more thing…any suggestions for an outdoor clock that helps me keep an eye on the time so I know when to reapply sunscreen on my kids and their friends!?!

    I would need at least 6 chairs for dinner but, would love a big table that would seat more like 10~ our family of 5 and another family of 5.

    ~ Ali

  • Jessika
    June 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    This is so exciting! Thank you so much for what you do on your blog, Nicole. Inspire inspire inspire! Thank you!

  • Jessy
    June 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I vote for Mary Sue!

    • Mary Sue
      June 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks so much! We could really use it!

  • AnnW
    June 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    This is going to be a hard one. I need to read them all again. Some of these could be quick fixes if they don’t win, like the attic bonus room. Will you let us give advice to the losers?

    • Amber
      June 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      I can only speak for myself, but if I don’t win (and it looks like Heather is leaving all of us other finalists in the dust) I would LOVE any suggestions- preferably from Nicole because I LOVE her style, but I am so lost and desperate that any help would be fabulous :)

  • Martha
    June 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Capitol Jams – i like the small space!

  • Cherie
    June 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    How sad! Poor Amber is lost and doesn’t have a clue, folks!
    Really, anyone who covers that beautiful window up for three years with that deplorable couch needs a touch from the Master’s hand. Nicole would steer the hopeless Amber out of her destitute of design state into, well, something much better. Thank you Nicole for sharing your points!
    BTW, I do not know Amber. Just sayin.

    • Amber
      June 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      :) Thanks! I really am lost without a clue. And you are so right about the window and couch combo- something else needs to be done!

  • amy purple
    June 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I picked Heather because the outside of that house is adorable and i’d love to see what becomes of their outdoor space.

  • Jessica
    June 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I had to vote for Charity! I, too, have loved Airstreams since I was a wee lass!

  • Ana
    June 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I recognize Heather’s house in South Austin. Must’ve seen the listing photos when it was for sale. I’d like a fellow Austinite to win, but it’s hard to choose which project would benefit the most from Nicole’s help.

  • Brett Alderman
    June 13, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I hope that Heather wins. Both the front and back porches look like they have so much potential. Congrats to all the finalists!

  • help me win a patio makeover! » Eclectic Images Blog
    June 13, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    […] to be chosen as top 10 finalists out of the almost 300 entries!! PLEASE PLEASE vote for us! Click this link and scroll down to vote for “Heather” If we win, we get 150,000 American Express points […]

  • Laura
    June 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    What a hard decision! They are all great spaces that I’d love to see Nicole make lovely.

  • Ros
    June 14, 2011 at 7:49 am

    I cast my vote for Lisa. She will definitely need to maximize her space with twins on the way. Good luck Lisa.

  • JeanK
    June 14, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Charity has my ‘dream’ in progress .. I can’t wait to see how her new silver bullet turns out! She has places to go and PEOPLE to see (and many new places to park her ‘home’ and enjoy this wonderful country of ours. East West North South ..GO CHARITY1

  • Linda Goepfert
    June 14, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I vote for Lisa. With a 2 1/2 year old and twins on the way, she could use all the help she can get!!!!

  • Amy Korland
    June 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I will vote for the cute pregnant lady, Lisa.

  • Rebecca
    June 14, 2011 at 9:28 am

    GO CHAIR! Live the Amelia dream! How exciting!!!

  • Michael Simon
    June 14, 2011 at 9:41 am


  • Mary Simon
    June 14, 2011 at 10:19 am

    GO LISA!!!!!

  • Bob
    June 14, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Gotta go with Heather. You can tell that she will do amazing things with that front patio space just by looking at her entire house blog. She and her husband have done an awesome job, all while being pregnant and then having an infant around. WOW!!!!!!!!!

  • Megan
    June 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I’m voting for Megan:).

    • Megan
      June 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Aw, thanks!

  • Dianne
    June 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I like all the selections. BUT, I go “weak in the knees” for an old Airstream. Hope you win because i can’t wait to see what Nicole has in store for it.

    go Charity!!

  • Sandra Runge
    June 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    …the cutest family I know and they deserve to win this fantastic competition….go Sonja, Lisa and Don……you are the cutest family to win this….big hug from stuggitown….

  • Danielle
    June 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm


  • Lindsey
    June 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Umm hello, poor Nicole has had that godawful floral couch set for 7 YEARS. No brainer, imo. (and no, I don’t know her or any of the other entrants, but that space is seriously depressing in a way that none of the others are, and that fireplace has such potential!).

    • NicoleD
      June 15, 2011 at 10:22 am

      Thank you, Lindsey! We love our living room, but the couch set does cast a dark shadow on everything :)

  • Heather Banks
    June 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I am so honored to have been selected as one of the finalists, there are so many cool spaces! Capitol Jams has an awesome mid century look to their space and remaking an airstream is a dream of mine as well! Our fingers and toes are crossed and if we are lucky enough to win, we can’t wait to show off what we end up doing on our blog (hopefully in time for Zoey’s 1st birthday party in late July!)

  • Kristen
    June 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I vote for CHARITY!!!

  • Fredericka
    June 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    I voted for Jessika just because she put a sign saying ‘dom dom dom DOM’ on her stairs. Seriously. I love that.

  • Lisa
    June 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm


  • Carl
    June 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm


  • Kelsey
    June 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm


  • Jo Ann Glah
    June 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Charity has been a gifted and talented young lady as far back as i can remember. When she would visit at my house she could organize any group into a show or play of some sort to entertain any one present. Charity always does things 100 % . Charity has my vote

  • Randi
    June 15, 2011 at 7:08 am


  • Mary Trentham
    June 15, 2011 at 7:56 am

    I vote for Heather. Heather’s taken that house from That 70’s show to tasteful mid century modern. Can’t wait to see that great patio!

  • Vince
    June 15, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Wanted to vote for Lisa, but I’m not sure how to vote. Can you help me?

  • re
    June 15, 2011 at 8:19 am


  • Tom
    June 15, 2011 at 8:21 am


  • Janny A.
    June 15, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I voted for Heather. I would really like to see what you can do with that space!

    • shellasaurus
      June 15, 2011 at 11:02 am

      Heather for sure! That patio has such potential!

  • Lisa hazen
    June 15, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I vote for Charity!

  • Making it Lovely
    June 15, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Wow, I’ve been watching the survey results and it’s a close call between the top four finalists so far! There was a clear frontrunner at first, but now the gap is closing. I wonder who will win!

    • Mary Sue
      June 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      This is nerve wracking haha! Everyone is so close & has such cute spaces!

      • Mary Simon
        June 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

        Go Lisa!

      • barbara ferenzi
        June 17, 2011 at 12:41 am

        Mary Sue,

        I”m Cheryl’s aunt & I know how much it cost’s to redo a kithen. I’ve been trying to for years. lol ~ Seriously, I wish you luck in winning the contest so post LOTS of pictures on facebook for all of us to ooh & ahh! GOOD LUCK! Barbara

    • Mary Simon
      June 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm


  • lindsey
    June 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I vote for Mary sue!

  • Mary Guerrero
    June 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I vote for Mary Sue!!

  • Michael Guerrero
    June 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Mary Sue!!

  • Lisa
    June 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the nomination, Nicole! And for all the support folks!!! Everyone’s spaces/challenges are so interesting — it’s great to be a part of it :) Keeping our fingers crossed…

  • rachel
    June 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I vote for Amber!!

  • Erin
    June 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm


  • Jessica B
    June 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Go Mary Sue!! U have my vote good luck

  • marisa
    June 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm


  • Heather
    June 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I vote Mary Sue!

  • Chris
    June 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I vote for Charity……….

  • Maggie
    June 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I vote for Lisa!

  • amanda
    June 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I vote for Mary Sue. Good luck everyone :)

  • Grace
    June 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Mary Sue!

  • Janaya
    June 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I vote for Mary Sue

  • Jewely
    June 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Voted for LISA! Good luck to all…

  • Don
    June 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I voted for Lisa! Pregnant with Twins! new home! small space! come on she needs all the help she can! VOTE LISA!!!!!!

  • Sharon
    June 15, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I voted for Charity! Very unique creative different project! What a bold yet fun project for a young woman to take up!! Thumbs up!!

  • Heidi S.
    June 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    That was a tough decision! In the end I thought that Heather’s space showed a lot of potential and was different than what I have seen before. Although I thought that Charity’s project was very cool in its own way! My husband dreams of us getting an old airstream.

  • Krista
    June 15, 2011 at 4:25 pm


  • Katie
    June 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm


  • Frank
    June 15, 2011 at 6:21 pm


  • Connor
    June 15, 2011 at 6:21 pm


  • Jack
    June 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    LISA!! My whole family is rooting for her, twins on the way getting this space done would be huge for her!

  • READY, SET, GROW! GARDEN UPDATE « Retroranchrevamp's Blog
    June 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    […] I personally would love to see what they can do with her outdoor space. If you agree, vote for her here. […]

    • David Diaz
      June 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      It is without a doubt an opportunity well deserved by Lisa and her husband! With twins on the way, it will be double costs without having planned for it. Lisa’s family needs the award twice as much as anyone else!!

  • Karen S.
    June 16, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Mary Sue! I choose you!

  • shan
    June 16, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I vote for heather!

  • Andrea C
    June 16, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I vote for Lisa!!!! She deserves a little extra care while carrying twins!!!! Good Luck

  • Zach
    June 16, 2011 at 8:22 am

    How could you not love a Silver Bullet?
    Charity for sure!!!

  • Amy
    June 16, 2011 at 9:01 am

    It couldn’t go to a more deserving person! Good Luck, Lisa! I miss you!

  • Brittany
    June 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I voted for Mary Sue! I’m all about restoring vintage spaces. Good luck, Mary Sue!!

  • Sandy Chelko
    June 16, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I voted for Mary Sue!! Love you’re stove and counter top. Good Luck!

  • Mary Simon
    June 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Lisa has TWINS on the way. That means DOUBLE everything. The other people can save up some money and take their time, Lisa is on a little bit of a time frame. Good luck to everyone, but Lisa should get this!

  • Sandra Runge
    June 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    LISA LISA LISA LISA LISA LISA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Martha Stewart
    June 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Go Lisa!

  • Lamilo1562
    June 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I vote for Nicole. I too long for grown-up furniture and a comfortable space. I also have a chair just like that one.

  • Mary Simon
    June 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Can you imagine trying to re-do a space on a budget with a child and two TWIN NEWBORNS. YIKES. GO LISA!

  • Rebecca Adkins
    June 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm


  • Sheri
    June 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Voted for Mary Sue!

  • joanne
    June 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I vote for HEATHER!

  • Liora
    June 16, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Mary Sue all the way!

  • Jennie Page
    June 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I vote for Lisa

  • Helena Marriott
    June 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm


  • Queen_bee101
    June 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I voted for Mary Sue. Good luck!

  • Josie
    June 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm


  • sara
    June 17, 2011 at 12:50 am

    I vote for Lisa!!!

  • Sue Ann
    June 17, 2011 at 5:34 am

    I vote for Lisa!

  • Lynn Winter
    June 17, 2011 at 6:11 am

    i vote for Mary Sue

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