Master on the Main

In the 1970’s a group of architects, designers and engineers began to develop a series of guidelines meant to revolutionize the design of our cities, towns and homes.  They sought an approach to design that would make the built environment more useful to more people for a greater period of time.  They gave voice to the concept of Universal Design.

Now, here we are forty years later and you probably have never heard of Universal Design and you probably don’t care to now.  So I’ll spare you the history lesson, but I will say that even if you haven’t heard of it, you are seeing the concepts of Universal Design infiltrate your home.

Master Bedroom Addition on the Main Level
One of the most commonly requested additions onto a home is the addition of a master bedroom and bathroom located on the main level.  Homeowners have begun to realize the benefits of such an arrangement.  They see the value of having a bedroom space that is accessible without going up or down a flight of stairs or one that is removed from the other bedrooms to provide privacy.  They see what designers who ascribe to universal design concepts have seen all along; that a home with accessible living and sleeping spaces has a much greater appeal to a much wider audience.

This is why most new homes being constructed in the United States have a master bedroom suite on the main level of the home.  It makes good sense and serves a family well through all seasons of life.  For example, when a young family moves into a home, they typically want all the bedrooms grouped on the same level of the house so the parents have easy access to the children.  They also realize that when they have overnight guests, it is best for the guests to be removed from the sometimes chaotic nighttime rituals of young children.  A separated bedroom on the main level of the house is perfect for guests and for aging grandparents to use while visiting.  When the kids have grown and developed their independence, the parents often find that some separation is good for everyone and they move into the main level bedroom suite.  Planned correctly, this main level master suite can also make late night sneak-ins and sneak-outs more difficult.  Finally, when the kids have moved out and now send monthly stipends to their cherished parents, the parents can remain comfortably in their main level bedroom suite.  They don’t even have to heat or cool the upstairs until their children and grandchildren arrive for a visit.  When they do arrive they all get to stay upstairs and the parents maintain their privacy and sanity in their main level bedroom.  Sounds great, right?  Well, this client thought so.

Master Bath Addition on the Main Level
Curbless Shower is Accessible
Here is an example of a renovation project to add a master suite onto the main level of the house.  The homeowners wanted a master suite on the main even though they have a young child whom they want to be near right now.  So this new bedroom suite currently serves as the guest suite for visitors and occasionally a retreat from a snoring spouse.  The bedroom is open and airy with a vaulted ceiling and timber beam accents.  The bay window helps to flood the space with natural light.   

The adjoining bathroom is designed for two.  The double vanity is spacious and provides great storage space.  The walk-in closet is accessible from the bathroom and the shower floor is recessed to allow a zero threshold entry.  The skylight provides natural lighting while maintaining privacy.  Multiple shower heads and a built-in bench seat in the over sized shower provide a soothing place to just sit and relax.

Master Suite Addition
Bench Seat for Relaxing
Everything the homeowner needs to live and thrive in this home for years and years to come has been provided.  This simple, yet well designed addition will serve the needs of this family both now and in the future.  It is a design that is customized to the personality and character of the homeowner, yet it takes advantage of universal design elements that can be applied to most any project you have in mind.


  1. As a design professional with more than forty years of experience, I am the embodiment of Universal Design and it has been my specialty for the past 15 years. I applaud your dedication to Universal Design and I wish more designers would. To me, it is the best way to design for future family needs, resalability, and any other reason for designing this way. I have written an entire chapter on Universal Design in my book "Practical Home Planning for the Twenty-First Century." I look forward to having a dialog with you about how we can promote Universal Design in the public sector so that as many people as possible can see the advantages. Thank you for your post.

    1. Mr. Shard, thank you for your compliments. I agree that Universal Design strategies are under utilized in the residential market and that the aging population is finding out all too quickly why. I incorporate Universal Design into all my projects and educate my clients along the way. I also teach at a course at Furman University through their OLLI program that focuses on ways to incorporate Universal Design strategies into existing homes to provide a home where seniors can live independently for a longer period of time.

  2. I just posted the above comment. It was impossible to publish it by selecting a profile, so I selected "Anonymous," the only profile that would publish. I wonder if anyone else has that issue. So I am identifying myself here. Thank you.
    Steve Allen Shard, AIBD
    Certified Building Designer and Author of "Practical Home Planning for the Twenty-First Century."

    1. I have noticed that Blogger makes it difficult to leave replies. Thank you for identifying yourself.

  3. Your blog is awe-inspiring. I have found many new things. Your way of staging is also fascinating. You have elected very incredible topic. I appreciated it.
    Home Decor Tutor

  4. She really listened to what we wanted and came up with a design that made sense -- both for the house and for our daily use. diy ideas


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