My client’s wish list for a remodeled master suite in the upper Northwest Washington, DC neighborhood of the Palisades included an enlarged bath and dressing area and bumping up the ceiling to create a tray ceiling. Unlike many clients, they were not particularly looking for increased daylighting, however the wife definitely wanted to lighten up the heavy feel of the Spanish carved furniture and heavy drapes. Another problem she wanted fixed was the tight and awkward entryway to the bedroom.
As is my practice, unless required, I prefer to work within the existing footprint — which was quite do-able in this home. The 1950’s split-level had plain vanilla rooms with small baths. In order to acquire the space for the enlarged master bath and dressing area, we appropriated closets near the existing small master bath and a 1970’s addition that had been used as a sewing room and closet for the husband. With three daughters now grown and out of the house, a bedroom was re-purposed for the sewing room.
Even though the husband was concerned that the room was small, we actually moved the bath wall 9” into the bedroom. We also enlarged the doorway and moved it toward the right. A niche right as you enter, see picture above, will eventually house a small floating valet cabinet and mirror. We reduced the width of the doorway into the new dressing area and the windows in the dressing area and aligned both with the new entryway. Rather than bump-up the ceiling into the attic – which would have cost $30,000 to $40,000 because of the extensive structural changes to the joist and rafters – we added a 6” high soffit around the entire room and opened up a tray ceiling in the soffit. We left the soffit lowered to distinguish the passageway to the bath and dressing area from the bedroom proper. In the “After” Floor Plan, the dotted lines represent the edges of soffit and the hatched walls indicate the walls that were added or changed.
These combination of changes – that actually reduced the size and volume of the room — created a feeling of greater size and openness. We also used color to make the bedroom feel larger – the hallway is a dark color which gives a sense of compression in the hallway and expansion as you walk into the room. The soffit is painted a darker color than either the bedroom walls or ceiling. Again – a sense of compression and shadow leading to areas of expansion and light. With the structural changes, the coordinated and deliberate palette helps the space feel larger.
The dressing area provides a quite generous 4 feet clear area between the cabinets. We provided a mix of hanging and folding space – open cabinets and closed cabinets; shelves and drawers. While not going overboard, we also provided some customized accessories. The one that seems to be the biggest hit are the 2 pullout luggage shelves. When pushed in the overnight bags are stored out of the way. When pulled out, they are just the right height for packing with clothes conveniently nearby. We also included valet rods and pull-out tie and belt racks that take up otherwise unused room within the cabinets.
We paid a lot of attention to lighting throughout the master suite. We used LED cove lighting in the tray ceiling and low voltage recessed lighting in the soffit – first to highlight further the path to the bath and dressing areas, second for individual reading lights over the bed, and third to highlight artwork and as wall washers.
In the bath was used a combination of ceiling washers and task lighting (see “Enlarging a Master Bath”)
In the dressing area, we used “warm colored” fluorescent lighting at the top of the cabinets and, in a different finish, as sconces on either side of the mirror (see image of dressing room)
Finally, as part of the master suite remodel and additional work at the home, all the windows in the home were switched from double-hung windows to casements. Casements are much easier to open and given better ventilation. To get a better proportion but to limit costs, we used replacement windows but with a custom vertical divider so that they look like double casements. These lines increase the modern feel that the homeowners desired.
All images courtesy of Braitman Design/Build