Part of the fun of the Luxury Home Tour is wandering through one of the high-end custom homes to see how the next room will top the last one.
Take the 7,500-square-footer in Edina. The $2.995 million French-style estate has a secret passageway between the kids' bedrooms. And a sunroom with a massive stone fireplace. And a walk-in wine cellar that holds 500 bottles plus a nook for wine tastings. The home is one of nine in this year's tour.
Steve Fox, publisher of Midwest Home, helped organize the annual showcase of opulent living 11 years ago.
"Custom home builders wanted to differentiate themselves from the mass market," he said. "Their homes are for a specialty subgroup of clients who are looking to spend at a higher price point for more custom finishes and luxury amenities."
Due in part to the struggling housing market and the sputtering economy, the number of homes included in the tour has dropped from 15 last year. But Fox remains upbeat about the tour. "Given today's housing market reality, it's a successful tour," he said.
Most aren't spec homes, instead they were pre-sold and designed for specific homeowners. K.C. Chermak, president of sales and marketing for Pillar Homes, described the $1.4 million Wayzata house his company built for a local couple as "mountain lodge meets lakeside cottage." The walk-out rambler combines the owners' affinity for Montana-style architectural details with the look of a quaint Lake Minnetonka cottage. The lodge-style lower-level retreat has rustic wood "you want to scratch your name into," said Chermak.
Other homes feature large outdoor entertaining rooms and indoor sports courts. Another trend in upper-tier homes: The media room is no longer a separate designated space but is becoming part of a multi-use entertainment area that often includes a bar, game room and family room, said Kelle Lang Staats, director of marketing and design for Creek Hill Custom Homes, which has a $1.149 million house in Plymouth on the tour.
Over the past few years, Chermak said more luxury homeowners are going a little greener and stressing quality over quantity.
Buyers care about good indoor air and water quality and want to conserve energy.
"And square footage is definitely coming down," he said. "People would rather put money into features that make their home memorable."
But it's not coming down that much. The smallest home on the tour, described as "modest in size," is 4,300 square feet.