Master Bedroom Ideas - Update

A new master bedroom suite is a common requirement for homeowners looking to build an addition to their homes. We discussed a few general concepts in our previous blog post about the proper size for a master bedroom.

We recently visited a completed project with a bedroom like one shown below. This design gave the client a comfortable 15’-6” x 12’ bedroom space with a long, open walk-in closet behind the bed. This is one of our favorite closet designs because the open bed wall makes the room feel bigger and allows more light into the room. We don’t have to close off an entire section of the bedroom to house the closet.

Master bedroom floor plan

This first image shows the floor plan with dimensions and some simple notes. You can see the dimensions at the top and the side of the room showing the overall width of the structure, the location of the windows, the thickness of the walls and the interior dimensions between the walls. There are also some dimensions shown inside the bedroom that give a better approximation of the length of the bed wall and the openings at each side.

3D view from our design software. This is an actual representation of the current floor plan.

The 3D image is taken directly from our design software, so we (and our clients!) can always access a 3d view to confirm the floor plans are going to create the space we are expecting.

And here’s the final built product! This project was a new construction home but the principles would be the same for any home renovation.

Home Addition - One Project Start to Finish - Design Development

This is part five of a series of posts that will attempt to tell the story of one project from beginning to end, from concept to completion. It is based on a typical home renovation project in Montgomery County Maryland, but many of the issues convey to most jurisdictions throughout the United States.

Part 1: Inception
Part 2: An Actionable Plan
Part 3: Site Assessment
Part 4: Schematic Design
Part 4B: Design Changes

Design Development

Design Development is a refining phase which takes us from Schematic Design to the beginning of Construction Documents. During this process the design becomes more detailed and major decisions points begin to occur.

The structural system is one of the major decision that should be resolved by the end of Design Development. Will the first floor be built over a crawl space or will it be a slab on grade? Will the new foundation be Concrete Masonry Units or Cast-in-Place Concrete? Will the floor framing be dimensional lumber such as 2x12s or will it be an engineered product like Plywood Web Joists? There are pros and cons to each of these decisions and there typically isn’t a right or wrong answer. While these items might not necessarily affect how your finished space looks, they definitely impact how the project is actually constructed.

Material finishes is another major decision that should be discussed, if not mostly resolved by the end of Design Development. You might not know which actual floor finish you want, but choosing tile, wood or carpet at this point will drive some of the structural and architectural decisions we have to make. You don’t have to choose your kitchen cabinets at this time, but if you know you want a 72” double vanity in your master bathroom, Design Development is the time to confirm that decision so we can be sure everything fits and that plumbing and structure can be coordinated.

As the design becomes more solidified, the drawings you will be presented with will become more detailed and less sketchy. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still make changes if what you’re given isn’t exactly what you want. Sometimes as the drawings and structural systems become clearer new challenges and opportunities present themselves.

Home Renovation Ideas: Exposed Joist Ceiling

Exposed Joist Ceiling

A stylish home renovation idea for your new project could be an exposed joist ceiling. We covered this briefly in a previous blog about design changes, but it’s a great topic to discuss further.

Leaving the structure exposed is a bold architectural move,  that in many cases can be the defining design element of a space or building. Some famous examples are the Pompidou Center in Paris (Renzo Piano + Richard Rogers), Hearst Tower in New York (Sir Norman Foster) the Beijing National Stadium, aka Bird’s Nest (ai WeiWei and Herzog + de Meuron) or the Capital Aikikai dojo in Silver Spring, MD (Mangan Group Architects).

Architects discuss exposed structure as a design element philosophically, by referring to the honesty of the design. The skeleton wants to be revealed so to speak, so that the building is not hiding anything. To be honest, the structure and other materials of a building should be represented in their truest nature. This idea was formally presented by the British architecture critic John Ruskin in his 1849 book, The Seven Lamps of Architecture.

For your project, leaving the ceiling joists exposed is a great way to define a special space or increase your ceiling height. Plus, it looks really cool.

As with most cool design elements we tend to work in, actually achieving an exposed joist ceiling is not as simple as browsing Pinterest and sending the pictures to your contractor. The three main concerns we have with this design are Code, Aesthetics and MEP.


In many jurisdictions the International Residential Code is the document with which your project will have to comply. On the topic of exposed structure, or more specifically, Fire Protection of Floors (Section R302.13) the code allows exposing the structure of the floor above if you keep it to a small area (less than 80 sq. ft), have sprinklers, or use 2X10 lumber or bigger. This basically means you can’t use a plywood web joist as your design element. You must use dimensional lumber or engineered wood beams.


Given the above, the first decision should be what structural material to actually use for your structure. We particularly like the look of lumber, but you will need to choose high-quality boards, likely graded #1 or higher. Do you want to paint them? Stain them? Trim them with a nicer veneer?

You also have to consider the rest of the building materials you will see. The plywood that is probably going to be used for the subfloor above isn’t meant to be seen, and won’t look great. It will probably have painted on brand names or other identifying marks. This exposed area, between the joists, could be finished with drywall, beadboard, reclaimed wood, sanded plywood, the list goes on and on.

There is also the issue of how the structure itself is supported. Normally the 2nd floor joists will sit on the 1st floor walls, but you can’t leave this area exposed for a few reasons, insulation being a primary concern. You could use joist hangers to hang the floor joists on an architectural grade beam but you will need to pick an architectural grade hanger…these are also not items that are generally built with the intent of being displayed prominently.

MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing):

Do you need to get any pipes, wires or ducts across your ceiling where you intend to leave it exposed? That could complicate things. The easiest solution would be to route any plumbing or ductwork  to avoid your exposed ceiling area. Ductless mini-split HVAC systems are becoming very popular, and can help resolve this issue. You could also choose to run any ducts parallel with the structure. Check out how we did that at our Mangan Group Architects Studio.

Plumbing pipes need to be insulated, and there is not a great way to make this look good.

Electrical wiring should not be exposed either, but can potentially be hidden above your ceiling finish material. As mentioned above, you can finish the space between the joist with a number of different materials. If you add some 1x3 furring strips before attaching the ceiling finish you will provide yourself a channel for routing the needed electrical wiring.


As you can see, lots of thought has to go into actually creating that exposed ceiling look. With proper planning and an understanding of some of your limitations there's no reason you can't create this in your project too. Comments? We'd love to hear your thoughts!