by: Vern Uyetake, Nicole DeCosta is a reporter with the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings, and is coordinator of the weekly Homes section.

Your house didn't twirl from a cyclone and fall from Oz one day. It was most likely crafted for that lot, the Northwest weather and has undergone some changes throughout the years - a baby's room became a sanctuary for teen heartthrob posters years later, and is now used as an exercise room, or something.

At some point you trusted someone within your home to fix something or make a room better, or to professionally unglue all those glossy heartthrob magazine pictures. (Note to dad: I'm sorry about that, they were a good band).

But how do you find skilled contractors? References from friends? The Internet?

Because I am organizer of the Homes section in the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings, I was chosen to judge the Boothmanship Awards at this years Home Improvement and Remodeling Show held at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland that took place Sept. 27 to 30.

Hundreds of new construction and home improvement companies filled exhibit hall D to meet with potential customers, display products and answer questions.

And it seemed to be working.

Put on by the Oregon Remodelers Association, the event was a hit again this year.

In the Northwest, our homes are our livelihood, our warmth and our shelter from the cold and rain for nine months out of the year. We spend so much time inside our homes, they should look nice. They should be comfortable. They should be inspired by our personality.


Sure. Why not? With small booths, medium sized booths and enormous displays with hot tubs, fireplaces and what looked like a jungle set from Indiana Jones, the show offered a little bit of everything.

Cloth dividers contained each company, like live advertisements. Some also sheetrocked walls, hung pictures and installed countertops, while others brought in plants, fountains and flooring samples. And then there were the ones who brought in portable trailers that they drive to job sites.

As I meandered through the rows of booths with the two other judges, I took note of which displays I was drawn to.

Coming from a family of Realtors, interior designers and a mom who moves furniture around every month or so - love the new zebra carpet, by the way - I consider my upbringing an extension of my education of the home industry.

As a judge, I was not only interested in which booth looked the best, but which people I connected with. Did folks seem happy to be sharing their products? Were they engaging in conversations with visitors? Knowledgeable about their product?

Or, were they gnawing on a sandwich complaining about their wives? (Yes, I witnessed this.)

Did the people seem interested to talk to me? Could I envision them working on my home project? What did their booth say about their company? Do they care about their presentation? Do they even know their name? (One company demonstrating bathroom tile cleaner couldn't remember.)

So, what makes a good booth?

Sure, legible signs, pamphlets with company information and friendly employees are helpful, but a good booth is up to the homeowner to decide. As judges, we really had little to discuss after rating each booth. The clear winners stood out, and tons of the booths could have also won honors. It was an impressive showing.

If a company makes you feel comfortable and you enjoy their services it seemed worthwhile to grab their business card and contact them. The home show is kind of like dating, I guess. There are options, and you don't want to feel obligated to a company you aren't in love with.

Check out home tours - date around, play the field, so to speak - until you find your match. If you are going to complete an extensive house remodel, you might as well make a friend during the process.

And you can start at next year's Home Improvement and Remodeling Show.

Someday I'll be a homeowner - and hopefully sooner, rather than later, I'm acquiring way too much hand-me-down furniture.

And at that point I probably won't be walking around the Home Improvement and Remodeling Show with a clipboard, rating booths.

Instead, I'll be gathering information from the many home companies that can offer ideas to make my sanctuary - and my most important financial investment - special. Like, a built in karaoke room with a raised stage, lights, oversized television screens and only musical selections from Aerosmith.

Okay, okay, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Nicole DeCosta is a reporter with the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings and coordinates the weekly Homes section.

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