Master Suite Addition: Top Features

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By: Oliver Marks
Published: December 18, 2009

Some master-suite amenities are must-haves; others depend on your taste, your lifestyle, and your budget.

Planning a master suite addition ( can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. There are countless decisions to be made, from how you lay out the space, to what amenities you include, to the fixtures and finishes you select. You want a master suite that reflects your style, but you also want to make the choices that maximize your investment dollar. Here’s a guide to the features that matter.

The basics of a master suite

A typical master suite addition is about 400 square feet overall and includes a spacious bedroom, a bathroom with a walk-in shower, separate soaking tub, double-sink vanity, and a walk-in closet. With midrange finishes, such as ceramic tile and solid-surface countertops in the bathroom, the project costs an average of $104,000 and returns about 65% at resale, according to the 2009-2010 Cost vs. Value Report ( from Remodeling magazine.

An upscale master suite addition is bigger–650 square feet–and includes a sitting area in the bedroom, complete with custom built-ins, a fireplace, French doors leading outside, even a hospitality center with a wet bar and refrigerator. The bathroom is more luxurious, too, with multiple body sprays in the shower, a separate toilet area, a soaking tub for two, and twin sinks, each with its own vanity. Instead of solid surfacing and ceramic, the countertops and floors are stone. According to Cost vs. Value, a project of this scale averages $226,000 and returns 56% at resale.

It all starts with a good layout

When you’re scouting for ideas (and later, when you’re talking to your contractor or bathroom designer) it’s easy to focus on the details of tiles, faucets, and light fixtures. But a successful master suite addition starts with creating a space that feels like a retreat–and for that, you need to build in a sense of privacy. For example, you can buffer your suite by locating the master closets where they’ll provide a sound barrier between your private space and the hubbub of the house.

And since the suite is your reward, it’s nice to locate it where you’ll have prize views of the outdoors through plenty of large windows. But think about what those windows will face. Where there are neighbors nearby, Portland, Ore., bath designer Martha Kerr recommends placing the windows about five feet above the floor, so you can enjoy the views without worrying about pulling the shades every time you undress.

Think also about whether you’d prefer a separate bedroom and bathroom or a more open floor plan, in which the spaces flow together. An open plan can make the rooms feel bigger and more luxurious–but it can also invite humidity and odors into the bedroom, so you’ll want an extra-powerful ventilation system if you go this route. Even if the bathroom is walled off, it’s a good idea to isolate the toilet in its own room or alcove, so two people can use the space at the same time and still retain some privacy.

The must-have amenities

No master suite should be without these features:

A large shower. An enclosure that’s at least 36 by 42 inches provides space for two bathers. It should have a zero-clearance door so you can walk right in and a bench where a woman can sit to shave her legs. Cost: $3,000-$5,000

A generous walk-in closet ( Make it at least 7 by 10 feet if it’s just for her, 10 by 10 if it’s shared, which gives enough room for clothes plus a spot for a comfy chair to sit in while getting dressed. And you’ll want built-in organizers with well-designed compartments for easy access to all your wardrobe items. Cost: $3,000-$8,000, depending on the organization system you choose.

His and hers grooming stations. Each should have its own sink, mirror, and counter space. Cost: $2,500-$5,000

Upgrades worth considering

If your budget allows, you may want to ratchet up the indulgence with these features:

A deep soaking tub. Often with water or air jets, this is part of almost everyone’s dream bathroom. But it doesn’t make the must-have list because in reality, these pricey tubs rarely get used. “If you’re truly a bather and have the space and the budget, it’s a great feature, says Corvallis, Ore., architect Lori Stephens. “But if not, it’s the first thing I’d cut.” Cost: $3,000-$5,000

A private patio (for ground-level master suites) or balcony (for those higher up). Serves as a secluded outdoor room for watching the sunrise or sipping champagne under the stars. For privacy screening, use evergreen shrubs, lattice, or fencing. Cost: $3,500-$6,000

Radiant floor heating ( in the bathroom. Hot water circulating in tubes under the tile or stone is an efficient way to heat the space, and you’ll never have to put your bare foot down on a cold surface again. Cost: $1,500- $3,500

A sitting area with a fireplace. The ultimate indulgence of your own cozy spot to read a book or meditate, far away from the chaos of the house. Cost: $3,000-$6,000

Maximize your return on investment

The sky’s the limit as to what you can spend on a master suite. After all, bathrooms are expensive to build, and when you’re outfitting your own private oasis, you’re likely to want upscale fittings and pricey finishes. But if you keep the layout uncluttered, stick to simple, high-quality bathroom fixtures, provide plenty of light, and use natural materials like stone and wood, you’ll create a serene space with a spa-like feel that is sure to maximize your project dollar.

A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He’s currently restoring his second fixer-upper with a mix of big hired projects and small do-it-himself jobs.

Reprinted from HouseLogic ( with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Copyright 2009.  All rights reserved.