Laura Martin looked up during a staff meeting Tuesday morning at Foerstel Design to see her husband Scott coming through the front door. He was followed by a video crew, leading Martin to think he was playing some kind of prank on her.
Then she spotted cable television host John Gidding walking toward her, holding a microphone with an HGTV logo.
"That's when I lost it," she said later.
As Martin and her co-workers screamed, Gidding told her she was the winner of the HGTV Dream Home 2014 Giveaway: a 3,200-square-foot home minutes away from Lake Tahoe, $250,000 cash from Quicken Loans and a 2015 GMC Yukon Denali.
The home is valued at $1.8 million, while the SUV is worth $77,000.
"Oh my God. Oh my God. This is so crazy," Martin said, hugging Gidding. "Out of all of those millions of people I won?"
"Seventy-seven million," Gidding said, while Martin's co-workers clapped.
The custom-built home, which comes fully furnished, looks out on the Sierra Mountains from Truckee, Calif. The first floor is split into two wings divided by an outdoor space with two gas fireplaces. There's a master bedroom on the first floor, and two additional bedrooms and a home theater room on the second floor. A private deck overlooks the backyard of the third-acre lot.
Scott Martin was lured to the scene by a call from his wife's boss, Tom Foerstel, saying that Laura was being honored at work. He was asked to come to the presentation.
Gidding and his HGTV crew approached Scott after he parked his car next door at the Northwest Bank parking lot.
"I thought they were coming to tell me I couldn't park there," he said, laughing.
Scott was stunned when Gidding told him about the home.
"Oh wow," he said.
"That's why we're here," Gidding said, grinning widely. "So you're winning this, too. Congratulations, Scott."
The fake meeting was scheduled for 11 a.m. Gidding and his crew tried to hide their presence as they made their way around the Foerstel building on Front Street.
Linda Whittig, Foerstel's creative and web manager, saw the videographers through a window looking out on the alley and almost spoiled the surprise.
"There's a camera crew going down the alley. What's going on?" she said she told her co-workers. She thought maybe they were here in advance of this week's Treefort Music Fest.
Whittig said she was overwhelmed to learn that Laura Martin was chosen to win the home and the other prizes.
"I can't think of a nicer person to have this happen to," she said.
He said Laura is always optimistic, never complains and will do anything for the business.
"I'm really fortunate to know her," he said.
It was hard, Foerstel said, to keep the prize winner in the dark. He received word a week ago and was asked to help pull off the surprise.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done," he said.
"We're avid HGTV watchers. If our TV is on, it's on HGTV, practically, or DIY," Laura said after the announcement. "I thought, gosh wouldn't it be great if we won something like that."
This year's house was the best offered in the giveaway's 18 years, she said.
"It spoke to me. It was beautiful. It was the right size. It was gorgeous," she said.
Laura entered the contest every day between Dec. 27 and Feb. 14.
"It became such a habit for her, it was like taking a daily vitamin," Scott Martin said.
Laura looked at photos of the home and its floor plan every day, she said. Even at work, if she was on a phone call or some other task that didn't require her visual attention, she would gaze at the photos.
"In my mind, I have touched every object in that house," she said.
The Martins will get to visit the house next month. HGTV will announce them as the winners of the contest on a show that will air April 11.
THE COST OF WINNING
Many of the past Dream Home winners have opted to take a cash prize instead of their home or have ended up selling the home after a few years, at least in part due to the burden of property and income taxes.
If they decide against taking possession of the home, the Martins could opt for an alternate prize of $1.1 million in cash, along with the original $250,000 and the Yukon.
"I want it to be the house that all of my family comes to: my cousins, my uncles and aunts, my mom and dad, my kids. I want everyone to be able to come in for holidays and vacations. I just want it to be where they want to go," Laura said.
The 2013 winner, Carole Simpson, of Columbia, Tenn., has already listed her home on Kiawah Island - 21 miles south of Charleston, S.C. - for sale. The 2,972-square-foot home is listed at $2.4 million.
The Martins will be responsible for paying 39.6 percent of the total value of their winnings to the Internal Revenue Service in taxes, said R.C. Sisson, a certified public accountant in Boise who is not connected to the sweepstakes. That adds up to $831,600 alone, according to Statesman estimates.
They will also owe 13.3 percent on the value of the home to California, according to that state's tax website. Idaho will collect 7.4 percent on the cash and the value of the SUV, Sisson said.
"It's going to be a pretty hefty tax bill," said Sisson, with Chigbrow, Ryan and Co. "When you get in the higher tax bracket, it adds up."
Whittig suggested the couple could opt to stay in Boise, use the Lake Tahoe home as a vacation home and rent it out when they're not using it. That might help pay the income taxes and property taxes.
Not everyone who won past homes through the contest has been a big HGTV fan, Gidding said. It was gratifying, he said, to see that Laura Martin watches the network's shows.
"Laura turned out to be the perfect winner," Gidding said.
John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell