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What to consider for master suite additions
Master Suite
This client expanded their existing master suite by doing a ground-level addition.

There is no problem with simply sprucing up a master suite by upgrading the furniture, bedding and paint if the space is working well for you. However, we do not feel it is a good investment to put “lipstick on the pig” if you are lacking the space or layout required to actually qualify for a master suite.

We define a master suite as a bedroom, generous closet space and a private bathroom. If you need to create such a space in your home, this is when an architect should be included in the project. Depending on your house and its existing floor plan, you may be able to move some walls to capture space to create a master suite. A common scenario is reconfiguring an adjacent bedroom and/or bathroom to become part of the master suite. While losing a bedroom is significant relative to property value, providing a lovely master suite is usually a reasonable financial trade-off.

If all the existing space in your home is being used, an addition will be required to meet the goals and needs of the homeowners in terms of a master suite. Working with an architect will help you determine the best location for the master suite.

Main level bedrooms are popular now as homeowners of all ages are projecting into the future, embracing the concept of “aging in place.” This arrangement uses the upper or lower floors for children’s or guest bedrooms, but keeps the master suite (and the laundry) on the main level to allow a couple or individual to function in the home without being obliged to use stairs.

One of the challenges of this type of addition is how to access the new master suite. Clearly, you should never have to walk through one room to get to another, but you also don’t want to enter the master suite off the kitchen or mud room either. The flow of the entire house needs to be considered to make the revised plan work seamlessly.

Lot size will figure into the decision of where to place the new master suite; some lots are too small to accommodate an addition on the main level. This leaves putting it upstairs or downstairs. While we generally do not think of basements as being appropriate for master suites, we have worked with creative clients who have created wonderful lower level retreats. Ceiling heights are usually set on the main level (unless you want to tear the whole roof off and rebuilt it), but basements can be dug lower and windows and window wells can be enlarged to provide a spacious, light-filled environment. Combined with the fact that well-constructed lower levels are quieter, cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, you may want to think out of the box regarding this location.

Many people have romantic notions about a master suite on the upper level. This option often allows you to take advantage of views not available from the main level. It also requires a new staircase, and these take up more room than you may think. Often a bedroom or some other room on the main level will need to be sacrificed to provide space for the new stairs. If you are considering adding a partial second story just big enough to accommodate the new master suite, be sure you work with an architect to assure that it doesn’t look like your addition fell from the sky and landed randomly on your home.

A gracious master suite is a must for a home to be competitive in today’s market, and it has become essential for most American families’ 21st century lifestyles. Whether it is architectural or interior (or both), design is critical for such a project. Make sure you get the results you want for your house and your family by planning wisely before you call the contractor.

(Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.)