Two years after Dream Home win, a local couple looks back

Story Image

Stowe House. Courtesy of Eric and Catherine Makstenieks

Eric Makstenieks and his wife, Catherine, have never considered themselves skiers, but when the Hinsdale couple learned they’d won a fully stocked mountain lodge in Stowe, Vermont, they had no objections. HGTV awarded the stay-at-home dad and his family the coveted Dream Home over 76.5 million other entries in 2011. Two years later, the Makstenieks say they’re grateful for the experience, and though the couple sold the property in April of this year, they’re confident they made the most of their brush with residential fame.

“We wanted to at least keep it for a few years, which we did, and we thought it would be fun to go out there with family and friends and get to know Vermont,” Catherine Makstenieks said. “So we did that and then we decided that given the distance — it’s a long way from Chicago — and it’s not terribly easy to get to, it just made the most sense to put it on the market.”

Dream Home contest winners often end up selling their prize. Batavia resident Don Cruz won a lakefront Texas mansion through the program in 2005 and sold it in 2008. Between taxes, upkeep and other expenses, maintaining the homes is costly. The Makstenieks said they, along with their two young children, visited the Stowe house about 10 times. When they weren’t in town, they rented the 3,400-square foot, three-bedroom out.

Skiing never made it to the top of the family’s activity list. Most of their visits were during the summer, Eric Makstenieks said.

“It’s a neat area for hiking and mountain biking and tubing on the river,” he said. While winter views from the house’s floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked Mt. Mansfield, Makstenieks said he preferred the foliage of the warmer months. “It was honestly like being in a tree house.”

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the experience was the opportunity to share their winnings with the city of Stowe, Catherine Makstenieks said. The family provided stays at the house as auction prizes at fundraisers benefitting local causes.

After winning the contest he had been entering for years, Eric Makstenieks said saying goodbye to the house was difficult. As for future dream vacation destinations: that kind of planning is up to the couple.

“[HGTV] sort of told me that I couldn’t win anymore,” he said.

No matter what, Eric and Catherine agree the Stowe house would be hard to top.