The most luxurious custom homes today feature master suites in which homeowners need only walk down a hallway to receive the same experience they would in a day spa or health club. Complete with calming colors, mood lighting and the ultimate in luxury amenities, homeowners are pampered in the comfort of their own home.
Master suites are more than a bedroom and bath. Today’s homeowners expect amentities such as his and her closets, a sitting area, exercise room, serenity garden, massage room and possibly even a personal pool. “The master suite has moved away from being just a bedroom — that is a thing of the past. We are expanding them to be a lot larger, a lot more luxurious, and we are upgrading a lot of amenities,” says Christina Heller, president, T&T Interiors in Naples, Fla.
Specialty rooms are considered part of the master suite if they are accessible through the bedroom. “You might go through the master bedroom to get to the bathroom, to get to the spa. You have to go through the master bedroom to get to all the other spaces,” says Phil Kean, owner and president, Phil Kean Designs, Winter Park, Fla. The master suite can also be defined with its own wing of the house.
As with any custom product, designers are faced with the challenge of determining which luxury amenities fit a client’s lifestyle. “Homeowners are focusing their attention on livability, comfort, convenience and definitely beauty. It’s important to have a lot of conversation during the design phase to ensure we understand how the home-owner will use the master suite,” says Nancy Morrison, owner, Benchmark Custom Luxury Homes, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
In a survey conducted by the American Institute of Building Design, 50 percent of respondents reported that tubs are being omitted in lieu of larger showers, walk-in showers and higher-end showerheads and controls. “We choose custom higher-end products with more character to create a better aesthetic feel. We don’t do a basic 5 ft. tub, but we will do 5½ ft. or 6 ft. [tub] if space allows,” says Jon Yorgason, registered master builder, president, J. Edward Homes, Boise, Idaho.
Because most of Heller’s clients are business men and women for which she’s designing second home, the inclusion of luxury amenities is even more crucial. “It’s so important because they don’t have a lot of time to relax, so having the amenities available to them whenever they want is key,” she says. “We do a lot with home technology and remote controls to make their lives simpler while they are here.”
In the bedroom, Yorgason focuses on making it warm and inviting. “We dress up the trim area around the windows and create accent lighting with soffit boxes. Throughout the master suite, depending on space, we will make the bedroom oversized with a sitting area. I always look at how to make it comfortable with the HVAC such as creating a specific zone for the master suite separate from the rest of the house,” he says.
Increasingly, larger master closets are eliminating the need for dressers and other similar furniture in the bedroom. “Decorative furniture is used in the master bedroom, such as armoires, oversized beds, chaise lounges, couches and bistro tables,” Morrison says. “Master closets have to be large and well laid out for organization. Sometimes we create separate closets with packing islands and hidden security safes.”
Another consideration for the master closet is to know if the homeowners plan to include their washer and dryer in the master suite. If this is the case, additional storage is needed for soap and laundry supplies.
Storage in general should not be ignored in the master bath. “It’s great for each person to have their own personal storage in the bathroom such as their own linen tower. Women love apothecary drawers in the makeup areas so that makeup is organized and close at hand,” Morrison adds.
Lighting in the master suite can be designed to offer homeowners many different scene options. “We often do lighting around the perimeter of the room with soffit boxes and low-voltage spotlighting above the bed that can be controlled by both sides of the bed. The lighting in the home needs to be on dimmers to establish moods or so you can adjust the lighting,” Yorgason says.
Natural lighting is another important component to consider. The AIBD survey results show that 37 percent of respondents are putting more emphasis on natural lighting. “I like to give the clients as much open lighting available because most of the houses down here are on the water or preserves. We want people to see as much of the environment as we can,” Heller says. “I love using privacy treatments that can block out lighting in case they want to sleep in or have options such as a sheer covering so it’s soft and illuminates the room nicely.”
Keeping with the spa environment so many homeowners want, calming and soothing colors such as neutrals, greens and spa blues are used in these spaces. “I like to use glass walls in the bathrooms for the green glass color. I like natural materials with lighter colors such as painted or stained woods,” Kean says.
With such a large area, it’s important for designers to consider traffic flow and to design for two people in the space even if the client is single, which can add to the home’s resale value. “The room needs to be designed big enough for walking space on either side of the bed, as well as at the end of the bed. You also need to focus on the access from the bedroom to the vanity area. You want to make sure there is plenty of room for higher traffic flow,” Yorgason says.
In the Know
At the end of the day, the biggest key to designing a useful master suite is knowing the client. Some designers put clients through an interview process to learn how the client will use the area, and what furniture they plan to put in the space. “The key to design is to determine what [characteristics] will reflect their personality the best,” Heller says. “A lot of times master suites can be too feminine. I like to remember that I have a gentleman client who might like a larger chair.”
Kean emphasizes the importance of the designer knowing the products and educating clients. “Listening to the client’s needs is critical. Designers need to educate them and ask what is important and what’s not important. You might have a family with young children so they want the space to be a place where children can be involved. Other people are empty nesters who want huge fireplaces in the bedroom; it depends on what the client wants,” he says.
Most of the designers Residential Design & Build interviewed said designing a master suite is not difficult when good communication is present. “As important as the room has become, you don’t want the homeowner disappointed that an amenity wasn’t included because the option wasn’t brought to their attention,” Morrison adds. “I’d rather have them say no to 100 items than say they wished we included one that we missed.”