The challenge: A 1937 brick European villa-style home, a block from Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) in Minneapolis, had plenty of architectural character but was due for some updates.

Homeowners Christine Tran and Mark Sun decided that the first phase of their project would involve remodeling the owners' suite, which included a bedroom, bathroom and closet.

The existing bathroom was tiny and chopped up. The couple had to walk through the closet to get to the bathroom, which was covered floor-to-ceiling with worn yellow tile — and lacked counter space or storage cabinets.

"The bathroom was super outdated, and we take showers, not baths," said Tran.

Closets were small and sparse — typical for most older homes. "I have lots of clothes and shoes, so a walk-in closet was really important to me," Tran added.

Finally, the big bedroom had wasted space and didn't connect to the outdoors.

The design team: Architects David O'Brien Wagner and Jody McGuire, SALA Architects, Mpls., 612-379-3037, Construction by Urban Rebuilders,

The solution: Wagner took his cue from the owners' desire to "take these classical spaces with high ceilings and terrazzo floors and furnish them with a modern sense of style," he said.

Since the bedroom was large, Wagner's design plan reconfigured the existing square footage in a more efficient layout.

To gain space for a larger bathroom, he shifted a small "frame wall" 4 feet over. "Our intent was to work with what we had," he said.

In the bedroom, Wagner designed a bed built into the back of a furniture-style "closet box" to fulfill Tran's request for a generous-sized closet and dressing area. The bed now faces an original bay window with views of the backyard.

"There's a nice composition of bed, built-in nightstands and shelves in darker wood," he said.

Finally, he closed off an "awkward" doorway that led to a public hallway and stairs.

Mystery box

"When you step up to the closet box, it transforms your experience and gives you a jewel box feel," said Wagner. "It makes it special and unique." The closet box is clad in a combination of warm white oak and Douglas fir insets.

The pair of closet doors on each side of the bed "pocket and pivot" to keep everything out of sight. Inside the spacious walk-in closet are sections for hanging clothes, built-in drawers, lots of shelves and a mirror.

Old meets new: The contractor stripped off the dark red wallpaper and painted the walls a crisp white. The timeless terrazzo floor was kept intact.

Pampering bathroom: Wagner opened up a doorway, which had been inexplicably closed off, between the bedroom and the bathroom.

A new sliding door leads to the remodeled and expanded bathroom, featuring double sinks and a big glass-enclosed step-in shower.

The double-sink Cambria-topped vanity and cabinets are raised off the floor on black lacquered legs for a "leggy and elegant look," said Wagner. The polished steel feet are a nod to Art Deco.

Fresh white oversized subway tiles wrap across all four walls — "a contemporary take on tiling a space," said Wagner.

The original windows are framed in black lacquered wood, forming a strong contrast to the white walls.

"The bathroom feels like a spa with the heated bluestone floor and glass shower," said Tran.

Hip to be square: Metal square shapes in sconces, doors and cabinet hardware create a clean-lined aesthetic. "They were a big splurge, but worth it," said Tran.

The result: Wagner "right-sized" an owners' suite that didn't flow, and created an attractive, functional space. "We found a careful balance between respecting this beautiful house and blending classical architecture with modern furnishings," said Wagner.

Favorite feature: "All my friends are jealous of the walk-in closet when they come over," said Tran. "Now I have a place to store all my clothes."

Like the look?

The home in the East Calhoun neighborhood is currently on the market. Jake Kuiper, Keller Williams Realty, has the listing.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619