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).

Home of the Year/Grand Award: Russell Cottage

Project of the Year: Santana Row

Grand Award: Warwick Grove

Grand Award: Row 8.9n Urban Rowhouses

Grand Award: Wood Residence

Grand Award: Viejo Carmel

Grand Award: Fiore, Plan Two

Grand Award: 9th Street Lofts

Grand Award: La Costa Glen

Grand Award: West St. Mary's Manor

Grand Award: Legacy at Museum Park

Grand and Merit Awards: WaterColor

Grand Award: Alexander Court

Grand Award: Jefferson at Carlyle Mill

Grand Award: Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club

Grand Award: Bellewood of Dunwoody

Grand and Merit Awards: Rivermark

Grand Award: The New American Home, Plan B

Grand Award: Chouteau Youth Center

Grand Award: Ivy Wreath, Residence 1X

Grand Award: Oak Alley and Cherry Hill Village

Merit Award: 21st Avenue Lofts

Merit Award: Surrey Farm

Merit Award: Private Residence

Merit Award: Echelon at Uptown

Merit Award: Cape Fear Station, The Couple's Cottage

Merit Award: Evans Farm, Pinecroft with Loft

Merit Award: Palmilla

Merit Award: The Cotswolds

Merit Award: Private Residence

Merit Award: Private Residence

Merit Award: Junior Achievement's Exchange City

Merit Award: Sisters of Notre Dame Residences and Offices

Merit Award: Birkdale Village

Merit Award: Manor House at Kerrigan Ranch, Residence 5

Merit Award: The Lofts at Historic Albuquerque High School

Merit Award: Shankle Residence

Merit Award: Silo Lofts

Merit Award: Craig Gardens

Special Focus Awards

Meet the Builder's Choice Judges

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