The most difficult part of this renovation project was working through the redesign of the master suite. The goal was to provide a welcoming rest area, a well-organized his/her grooming center and personal space for the homeowners. The stone construction of the house, as well as the master suite’s location at one end of the structure, made it impossible to accommodate all of these requests in the existing space.
Once again, the concept of “what iffing” – thinking through various possible space solutions before settling on the project’s direction – was useful in evaluating the possibilities of this second floor area.
When the existing floor space was deemed just too small, the owners considered creating a walkway from the master suite to one of the four bedrooms to create a suite. Unfortunately, this was not a good “resale” idea.
The third consideration was to increase the square footage of the home by adding living space above the first floor study. Sometimes, an exterior addition is the best solution to a renovation dilemma. Key concerns are property plot lines that dictate the distance from the property line to any structure, the impact on the mechanical system in the home (how you’re going to heat and cool the new space), whether the plumbing can be affordably relocated and if there’s enough water heating capacity in the existing system to support the new bath.
In this structure, the addition was the best solution. Several versions of a new bath plan were considered. Option one used the new space for the closet so that plumbing piping would remain in the existing master bath location.
This concept resulted in a nice closet, but a pedestrian – and small – master bath. Everyone agreed that to justify the expense of an addition, the new space needed to be devoted to the new bathroom.
After a jobsite conference with the plumber, it was determined the piping could be moved. Three new plans were considered. All included both a well-organized shower with a relaxing air bubble tub. Separate his and her vanity locations were planned in each. The toilet was incorporated in its own compartment in all of the plans. A major difference in the plans is the bathroom’s relationship to the closet space and bedroom access.
The Bath Plan Selected
The owners ultimately selected Option No. 4. This solution was chosen so that a tub was positioned below the window with the key view. The two vanities placed opposite one another worked for this family.
A key reason for the selection of this plan was the open space behind the tub and shower. This space could be allocated to an exercise room, a quiet library or a private home office. There are many ways to use this small, inviting master suite special area by keeping it part of the bath.
In this traditional house, the bath is contemporary. Dark brown colors in ArtCraft cabinets and oversized Italian tile are contrasted with white TOTO fixtures from the Lloyd collection. Mosaic glass tiles tie these elements together.
Considering multiple solutions for a single project can be time-consuming and confusing if not approached with an organized review process plan. The extra time investment will result in finding the best solution tailored to the client’s requests, while overcoming construction or space constraints.
A design retainer fee should always be charged for such extensive planning. Securing construction costs before completing the design process helps avoid wasting precious design time on solutions that simply cannot be afforded by the client.
Lastly, presenting the plans in complete room overviews with all related furniture noted will assist in ranking the benefits and drawbacks of each proposed solution. I hope the project discussed in this article helps designers approach the planning process differently when struggling with difficult spaces. On this project, the completed rooms were worth the effort.
Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, is a well-known author, designer, speaker and marketing specialist.
A member of the NKBA Hall of Fame, Cheever gained prominence in the industry early on as the author of two design education textbooks. She manages an award-winning design firm, Ellen Cheever & Associates, and has been part of the management team of several major cabinet companies.
This article is part of a quarterly series of “Designer’s Notebook” articles, which will continue to run throughout 2007 exclusively in Kitchen & Bath Design News.