Darien-based Stephen C. Gidley Inc. recently earned a Gold Award in a national design contest for the firm's work on a residential remodeling project in Wesport.

The award was presented by Qualified Remodeler magazine. The Master Design Awards is the premier national contest for residential redesign firms, and presents awards in 22 categories. The Darien design firm took home a gold award in the outdoor living category for a $450,000 remodel that included adding three decks and a 900-square-foot pool on what was once a steep-graded, wooded area.

"It was a three-year project," said Stephen Gidley, the company's president and CEO. "It's not really a typical project, since most people won't do a project this big."

Over the course of three years, the design firm blasted rock and removed 18 trees to "turn a wooded area into a showroom masterpiece," while replacing the roof and remodeling interior rooms to create a new environment inside the house.

The result is "a symbiosis between mother earth and the outdoor project," and a "marriage between the house and the raw, wooded lot.

"It's a special project," he said. "We were able to create a living, family and entertaining environment out of a raw, wooded, snake-infested hillside."

His job, which he described as "taking something outdated, that isn't working, and putting into the client's life, something that really excites them and works for their family," excites him on a daily basis.

"You see clients lives transform. You make room for kids to come into their lives, or remodel after kids leave the nest," he said. He enjoys helping families create an environment to suit their needs.

The award was the cherry on top of an already-rewarding project.

"It's probably the most prestigious outdoor award you can win," he said.

The firm has won several state and national awards in the past for other intensive projects, but Gidley's business focuses on more than just major design overhauls, he said.

After growing up in Darien and graduating from Darien High School, Gidley stayed in town. His company has been based in town for 41 years, moving to its current location on Post Road from 43 Tokeneke Road five years ago.

"About 40 to 50 percent of our jobs are in Darien," he said. "Our roots are here. People know us here. It's important for us to work in town."

Times are slow for Gidley this year, due to the economic climate, which is why he was so thrilled to receive the award, he said.

Million dollar projects are a little more scarce these days, he said. But his company works on projects of all sizes.

"We give equal attention to details, whether we're doing a whole job, or just painting a house or repairing gutters," he said. "We're happy to do anything for anybody in Darien."