Favorite room: "Bridging room."

Created by: Marty and Joey Berens.

The back story: Marty Berens has always loved lake life, harking back to his childhood when his family had a cabin in the Brainerd area. When he and his wife, Elaine, came across a home on Long Lake in Dassel, Minn., it was just what they were looking for. Less than an hour's drive from their home in Shakopee, it offered that up north feeling. Just across the lake "there's not a development. It's all pristine woods," Marty said.

They decided to make the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house into a cabin. But the house, built in 1962, needed a spruce-up. Luckily, Marty, a commercial architect for 30 years, liked to take on residential remodeling projects in his spare time. And son Joey was also studying to become a commercial architect at the time.

"I was definitely influenced by him," said Joey of his father. "There are pictures of when I was 3, 4 years old with my plastic hammer next to him." Joey has since graduated from North Dakota State University with a master's degree in architecture and is working for a Minneapolis architecture firm. "I had a lot of respect for it and found the same love for architecture in my own life."

Dark and gloomy: The most significant project they tackled was the family room, dubbed the "bridging room" for how it connected the main house to the garage. The dark room had a 6-foot-wide sliding door and a masonry fireplace, but lacked a built-in heating system and other mechanicals.

"A glorified breezeway is probably the best way to describe it," Marty said.

Still, the Berenses saw its potential. "It had good structure within the floors and we didn't have to add any foundation or support because I could use engineered lumber to expand the floor plan," Marty said, noting that the fireplace was worth saving.

Weekend warriors: Joey took the lead in the design and the father-son duo both played a heavy hand in the demolition and remodeling. For Joey, the vision became clear as they assessed the space.

"We would throw ideas around the dinner table and the idea of making it this big, open, front-facing space out to the lake where it would have tons of light coming in and reflect off the walls really kind of stuck," Joey said. "From there, it was developing it."

The two spent long wintry weekends over six weeks getting most of the work done.

They gutted the space and hand-framed the room's shell. The decision to brush a semi-gloss natural finish over the plywood walls and ceilings they installed was no afterthought. "It gives a lot of reflection off the lake and the sun," Marty said. "It's a very warm room with all the wood."

The room is taller and wider now, with a 12-foot wall of glass that includes transom windows and multiple sliding doors leading to a new deck overlooking the water. "Rather than having a typical rail and spindle type deck, we chose wire rails," Marty added. "Again, we were thinking about ways to maximize views of the lake."

Keeping it casual: For finishing touches, an Ikea sectional and picnic-style table set the tone for the social and casual nature of the hangout space. "We wanted to make it a playful space and enjoy the backdrop of the lake," Marty said.

The new favorite room: Furnished with a lounge area and a dining nook, the bridging room is now where the family likes to come together. "It's really become both the family area where we've got entertainment, TV and it's also our primary eating area," Marty said. "It's central station and then the vaulted ceiling and sliding doors give us this grand view of the lake."

Budget: Marty estimates the project tallied $20,000 to $25,000, with the most significant costs coming from hiring out electrical and mechanical work.

New favorite memory: And if you ask Marty and Joey, the time spent together was priceless.

"I've been actively remodeling for years, but my son was focusing on school and friends and all that stuff. While he's helped out with projects in the past, this was the first time where he could play an active role," Marty said. "I mean, anytime you get an opportunity to do something with your son — you'd be crazy to pass it up. I mean, it's just family stories and family memories that you're going to have forever."

Joey seconds that notion.

"It was just fun to be able to work next to him instead of on the sidelines," he said. "We have pictures of us out there in January framing when there's snow falling on the ground and, while it did definitely suck in the moment, it's really fun to look back."

My Favorite Room is an occasional series showcasing improved home spaces, as submitted by readers. If you have a favorite room, send a snapshot or two, along with a brief description of what makes your room special, to myfavoriteroom@startribune.com.