Rethinking the Master Suite Floor Plan

Master Suite Area

Last winter we sought to simplify construction as a means of reducing costs.  At that time, the study was a slab-on grade attachment to the MBR.  It had a unique foundation, roof shape and ceiling.  We moved the study into the main footprint and roof structure of the house.  We kept the same total square footage by reducing the length and increasing the width of the home’s west wing.  A second walk-in-closet morphed into BR 1, which helped for appraisal purposes.  These changes not only reduced construction costs, but also improved the floor to exterior wall ratio (more floor, less outside walls is more energy efficient), easing our path to attain the Passive House standard.   Here’s the resulting floor plan.  Hancock lumber has built and delivered all the main floor exterior and interior wall panels according to this plan.

Outer wall panels deposited on main floor deck

We had walked on the main floor deck.  It’s hard to define spaces before the exterior walls are erected.  Still, Lynn was convinced we’d made the house too small.  I felt some of the same uneasiness; the 2,100 square feet main floor area plus basement seemed small.

Most of the outer panels of the double stud walls have now been installed.  (Stay tuned for my upcoming posting on erecting double stud walls!)

Even without the the interior walls, we now have a better perspective of space.  Architectural plans painstakingly drawn on paper are becoming a physical reality you can see and feel.  It was a visceral experience gazing through the gigantic south facade window rough openings down onto the river ~40′ below.  Small boats slowly ply up and down the water from the marina located next door.  What a spectacular view!  Lynn and I once again felt reassured about the total square footage for the house.

Except for the master bedroom area.

The redesign last winter had shrunk the MBR.   At 10’3″ in width and 12’5 in length, the MBR would never elicit raves about spaciousness.  We had rationalized the little awake-time spent in the bedroom.  We neither read nor watch TV in bed.  We had rejected making the room wider by taking space from the adjoining family/dining rooms.  Expanding the footprint for the main floor meant adding cost and unneeded space in the basement below.  With a 7′ wide king size bed, I figured we’d still have a bit over 3′ of walking space around the bed.  We’d place the rest of the bedroom furniture in the large closets, included the room labeled as BR 1 which would serve as Lynn’s closet.  With the large south windows overlooking the river, and the glass twin pocket doors to the adjacent study, I reasoned (read convinced a still skeptical Lynn) that the master bedroom would feel bigger that it really was.

Lynn between MBR and Study

Reality trumped theory when I placed tape on the floor deck to mark the bedroom and study boundaries.  We stood there “feeling” the space.  Lynn is pictured standing between the window framing for the MBR and the study.  The MBR felt tiny, and the king size bed would overwhelm the space.  Rather than making the room look larger, the mammoth south facing window opening perversely accentuated the narrowness of the room.  A near melt down ensued.

Composure regained, we talked about alternatives.  The simplest approach was to simply delete the wall between the master bedroom and the study but still furnish the combined 19+’ wide space the same way.  I figured the cost of the already built but now unneeded interior wall separating these two rooms would be more than offset by not buying the two glass sliding doors, using a single vs. two ceiling fans, etc.

Then an old axiom from my Navy career kicked in – finding one flaw exposes the remaining analysis to further consideration.  I disliked the single walk-in closet across the hall from the MBR – an awkward situation if BR-1 was occupied.  The other walk-in-closet-cum-BR-1 was really too big to use as a closet.  At the time, we were pressing to get the drawings to builders for pricing, and no better solutions seemed available.

If we are going to tinker with interior partitions, could we also fix this awkwardness?

Revised MBR suite plan

Yes.  Here’s the revised floor plan we devised with our architect Chris Briley.  The former study and MBR are combined into a single room.  The larger MBR is now more appropriately sized for the calibre of this home, and gives us more flexibility for furnishings.  BR-1 swaps positions with the walk-in closet.  That provides a larger walk-in closet in its rightful position – attached to the MBR.  It also converts about 25 square feet of hall space into room space.  We will use BR-1 as the study.

Chris pointed out the downside: BR-1 as a study is a bit smaller than before and no longer has a commanding river view.  Are we OK with that?

I used to spend a lot of time in the study in our current home in Virginia- often working evenings and weekends from home.  Thankfully, those days are now in the rearview mirror.  The study also housed our large collection of books.  Our two desktop computers were the electronic hub of the house.  But times have changed.  We prefer reading e-books.   Notebook computers, I-Pads and WIFI let us do nearly all computational tasks – emails, web searches, finances, video and photo management, bloggin’ (!) – from the comfort of any room inside or outside the house.  The study for us is more a document processing area, no longer frequented.  We’re OK with demoting the study from its prime river view to the north side of the house.

Cost?  The revised floor plan means a change order, but costs should be minimal.  The interior wall panels are simply nailed together without sheathing.  They can easily be disassembled and rebuilt on site to the new floor plan by the framers.  This change does highlight the downside of factory built walls when plans change.

We solved the MBR dilemma, and in the process fixed flaws in the floor plan.  The revised master bedroom suite layout now makes much more sense.  Too bad we didn’t catch this in the design stage; glad we fixed it now, rather than later in construction, or worse, lived with it.

This entry was posted in Green Building, Passive House, Passive Solar Orientation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rethinking the Master Suite Floor Plan

  1. Lou Ampas says:

    I was reading your blog posts on the GBA website and thought you may want to hear about the recent experience my client and I have had with Thermotech.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>