HGTV announces winner of 2021 Smart Home in Naples
Becky Dolan is still shaking off the shock of winning HGTV's Smart Home in Naples.
While she entered the 2021 sweepstakes daily, she never thought she'd actually win.
Over the years, Dolan said she's entered plenty of other HGTV giveaways, including ones for its Dream Homes and Urban Oases.
Still, the mom of two from Seattle entered this year's Smart Home sweepstakes daily, hoping for the best.
"I have been doing this for a while," she said in a phone interview. "This time, it came through, which is really exciting."
After surprising her with the news a few weeks ago in an ambush, HGTV officially announced Dolan, 51, as the winner on Wednesday.
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As she prepared to take new family pictures by a student photographer, crews from HGTV, including the home's interior designer, unsuspectingly descended on her with microphones and cameras, from behind a wall of wine barrels, leaving her a little overwhelmed and a lot in disbelief.
"It's real, but it's not real yet," she said.
Her husband, Jerry, 56, had a favorite word of the day after learning his wife — and family — won the sweepstakes this year.
"He just kept standing there saying: 'Wow, wow.' It was really great," she said.
Dolan said this home couldn't have been more perfect for her, meeting everything on her checklist — and a whole lot more, as if it was designed with her in mind.
The ranch-style home is in a private-cul-de-sac next to the Eagle Lakes Golf Club, which sits out east where U.S. 41 turns into a two-lane road, minutes from Marco Island.
The lucky winner describes it as a nice cross between comfortable and innovative.
"I just look at the house and feel calm. The colors and the location, Naples, it's just stunning," Dolan said.
Then there's the artwork and other carefully chosen decor — and of course, the many smart home features, which she's still learning all about.
"I'm just in love with it," she said. "I just can imagine myself there."
She and her husband have seen the home once since winning it. It was a quick trip, she said, and she's looking forward to future visits, when she can not only spend more time in the home, but enjoy everything Naples has to offer, including its beaches and tropical surroundings, which can't be found in Seattle.
"It's a beautiful, beautiful city," she said. "It's so easy to fall in love with Naples."
Her first visit was the first chance she had to stick her feet into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
"If we didn't have an airplane to catch," she said, "I would have been there for a really long time."
In an email a few months ago, the home's interior designer Tiffany Brooks said the Naples area emerged as a top choice for this year's location for several reasons.
"When we saw that Naples was named the #1 Happiest and Healthiest City in the U.S. by Gallup for the fourth straight year, it was an easy decision to call it home to this year’s HGTV Smart Home," she said.
Including the latest Smart Home, Brooks has designed six of them for HGTV, which is part of Discovery, Inc.'s family of brands.
Naples fit with this year's overarching goal of choosing a place where the winner could "enjoy all aspects of life year-round and truly live well," she added.
"Naples is known for its stunning natural beauty with one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and world-class beaches. It offers tons of outdoor activities, outstanding golf courses and shopping and dining all right on the coast," Brooks said.
In the design, she said, she "really honed in on Naples and its link to wildlife and its casual luxury vibe."
"I captured all of this primarily through the use of color, pattern and texture," she said.
One of the activities Dolan looks forward to most is kayaking, one of her passions.
As for the home itself, her favorite part is probably the full-service smart kitchen, which includes a breakfast area, as well as a hydroponic garden in the pantry.
On the other hand, she said, her husband loves the home's main bathroom, with advanced technology and bold looks, so she's glad there are other ones.
"My husband can enjoy the shower. He's infatuated with the shower, so I'll see him sometimes," she quipped.
Their kids, Joey, 18, and Kate, 20, are just as shocked as their parents, still taking in the win too.
While her son's eyes light up over the technology in the home, Dolan said her daughter has already envisioned relaxing on the lanai and enjoying outdoor barbecues with family and friends.
Asked if the family might relocate to Naples, Dolan said she's not sure since she and her husband are still working and their kids are in high school and college.
"It's a big opportunity, with lots of different possibilities for us," she said.
The prize package she won is valued at more than $1.1 million.
Besides getting the newly built 2,600-square-foot home, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a two-car garage and all of its furnishings, Dolan won $100,000 from LendingTree and a 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, which she's claimed as her own.
"It's kind of my dream car," she said.
As for the money, Dolan said she's not sure how her family might spend it just yet, including whether it will be used for more practical purposes, for fun — or both.
Local builder Mayor Construction built this year's Smart Home.
Dolan's entry was randomly drawn from more than 106 million — the highest number in HGTV Smart Home history.
A native of Seattle, Dolan, a former teacher, currently works as a development and community professional at a local school, serving children ages 3 to 11. Her husband is a support representative for Doosan, a heavy equipment manufacturer, requiring him to travel often.
Asked when she might visit her Naples home again, Dolan said: "If it was up to me, this weekend."
That would be tough, as both of her kids are about to start in-person school again.
Now that she's been officially announced as the winner, Dolan said she's happy she can share her good news with family and friends.
"Now, I can tell everyone," she said. "This is the best secret I've had to keep quiet for a little bit."
She and her family feel blessed and grateful as this year's winners, especially in such tragic and hard times, spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think this shows that there can be some hope," Dolan said. "Good things still keep happening."