Not so long ago, soaring two-story great rooms with massive two-tiered windows were all the rage in upper-bracket homes. But after buying and living in their Italian villa-style home in Tonka Bay, Terri and Mark Walker thought the super-high ceiling just resulted in wasted space.

"We never sat in the great room because it felt stark and cold," said Terri. "The room was hollow and echoed."

Another design element — a second-story open catwalk suspended above the great room to offer dramatic views of Lake Minnetonka — also made the space feel far from cozy.

Built as a spec house in 2005, the Walkers' home boasted plenty of square footage and amenities — but the boxy neutral interiors lacked pizazz and architectural detail, the couple said. "Overall, we wanted to improve the functionality and style of the home — and make it more livable," said Mark.

So the Walkers enlisted Amalia and Todd Goldwasser of Amalia G. in Victoria. Over five years, the design-build couple executed several makeover projects, including a coffered ceiling in the great room, a crisp white master suite and a clubby game room. The Walker residence is one of three "Dream Remodeled Homes" on the Remodelers Showcase and among 88 homes open for inspection and inspiration next weekend across the Twin Cities.

Masterful makeover

The Walkers tackled their wide-ranging home enhancements in phases. To warm up the too-tall great room, Todd and Amalia designed a cherrywood coffered ceiling. "When this home was built, people wanted open spaces," said Todd. "We're going back to more comfortable cozy settings, which are defined by using cohesive elements."

This design solution was multi-beneficial, as it also created a floor for an expanded master suite above it. "Our master had dark wood, a poor layout, and it never felt like there was enough light," said Terri. The Goldwassers designed a new bedroom, a spa-style bathroom and a home gym using the additional 480 square feet gained from the "wasted space" above the great room. And, as a bonus, the Walkers have a panoramic view of Lake Minnetonka sunsets from their bedroom. "Before we could only look out this window from the catwalk," said Terri. "Now the bedroom has the best view in the house."

A wall covered in upholstered panels above a matching custom bed is the showpiece of the room. "It adds texture and a modern touch and fits the scale," said Amalia.

The Walkers at first had reservations about the bedroom suite's nearly wall-to-wall white modern interiors, which were a dramatic contrast to the traditional darker-toned decor on the main floor. "But it's a beautiful room and fits with the rest of the style of the home," said Mark. "Amalia blended the European look with modern materials and technology."

Extreme game room

The Walker home didn't have a basement, so their "rec room" was on the second floor above the garage. "It was big and empty and felt like a bowling alley," said Terri. "It needed some cabinetry." Amalia and Todd gave them much more.

The makeover involved knocking down the walls of two long under-utilized closets on each side of the room. In the new recessed spaces, they designed a handsome velvet-covered banquette surrounding a game table. On the other wall, they built an electronic gaming station. There's also a billiards table, a curved wooden wet bar and a theater room with an 8-foot movie screen. The Euro-style furnishings range from an English tufted leather sofa to velvet draperies.

"We have the Super Bowl party here," said Terri. "And I love to host holidays."

The secret to a successful remodeling project is in the dozens of details, according to the Goldwassers. "No detail is too small or too large. Every one is important, whether it's the architectural components, the layout, the furnishings or the flow of the finishes throughout the home," said Amalia. "They're all an integral aspect of the completed project and how people feel about their home."

The Walkers had advice for others contemplating extensive, lifestyle-changing home renovations.

"If you can, do the remodeling in phases," said Terri. "The cost is always a big deal. But it gives you time to think about the next step and how you really live in your house."

"Before you jump in," added Mark, "have folks like Todd and Amalia walk you through their ideas."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619