One word came up again and again at the Builder's Choice judging this year: honesty. Clean, simple design with a straightforward focus is what looked fresh this time around, whether the project was a rugged custom home in Texas hill country, a production prototype in the Hudson River Valley, or a North Carolina loft complex sandwiched between a silo and a gas station.

Builders, architects, and developers also kept things honest--and inventive--when it came to such variables as land planning and working within tight site constraints. Long gone are the days when designs can spring up from a blank, unencumbered plot of land. In North Carolina, for example, a site hemmed in by retaining walls and an existing development forced a condo complex to be centered around a refreshing quad-like courtyard. In quirky Carmel, Calif., a steep--and minuscule--infill site led the architect to stagger and stack 20 townhomes. As a result they look like they've evolved over time and fit perfectly into their surroundings.

For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, more projects garnered double awards. And, carrying on a tradition started last time around, the judges came up with two overall winners: Home of the Year (a beach cottage that beautifully exemplifies clean, honest design) and Project of the Year (a mixed-use community that's both site sensitive and great-looking).

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Indianapolis, IN.