Laying it all out.

We have recently had what amounts to a master bedroom reality check.

It came in two parts. Up until now, what to do with our master bedroom and bathroom has been in an amorphous ‘We’ll have to figure that out some day’ state of flux. We can’t afford a major remodel for a while yet, and the master suite has been through various potential metamorphoses like moving it upstairs, or sideways, or any other number of possibilities.

And then our lovely realtor Samira came to dinner, and listened patiently while we tossed one wild house scheme after another at her, to gauge her response.

She heard us out, enthused over our various ideas, and then held her hand up. ‘These are all fantastic possibilities,’ she said, ‘but what you have to remember is that you are remodelling a small house in Belmont, not a mansion in Atherton.’

Ooooohhkaaay. Gotcha. Work to make the best of what we have, minimize structural changes, and basically: KISS. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. Wise words.

No grand schemes and over the top visions of what might be, then: we figure out how to make what we have work better and look prettier. Master Bedroom Reality Check Part One: it stays where it is.

Which brings me to Master Bedroom Reality Check Part Two. Actually, this emerges from the dismal truth that our bathroom has developed a serious case of leaking tile behind the shower.

Uh oh, leaking shower problem

And not just ‘we need to replace the grout and caulk’ kind of leaking, ‘disastrous soggy drywall and nasty damp smell’ kind of leaking. The kind where the wall moves when you push on it, and the existing tiles hang trembling by shreds of remaining thinset. Eeeesh.

Ewwww … and eeeesssshhh

While we were hoping to able to put off doing anything to the Master bedroom and bathroom until we could afford to do the whole thing at once, this leak (and the soggy drywall behind it) means we have to do something about the bathroom, pronto.

Before the dreaded black mold starts to grow, and/or the frame of our house starts rotting.

The downside of having to do this now is that I will be ripping out drywall and tile, and redoing things that possibly might have to be done again once we do the big master suite remodel. Which is highly annoying and potentially very wasteful.

Somehow, I can’t quite bring myself to do that. Suddenly, the final layout of our master suite has become a matter of urgency. We need to figure out a workable layout for the awkward space that is our master bedroom and bathroom to make our ‘in the meantime’ repairs fit within our longer term plans. Which is Master Bedroom Reality Check Part Two.

Before I get into exactly how we might do that, I thought you might appreciate a small reminder of what the master bedroom looked like when we bought the house.

Before: Gotta love those mirror tiles on the wall.

And not forgetting the autumnal-toned floral wallpaper

One of the things I did before we moved in was to remove the mirror tile and wallpaper, and patch and paint the walls.

After painting

Then we moved in, and apart from hanging clothes in the closet and some art on the walls, not much else has happened. And that is the way it was going to stay until our major upgrade.

However, the failing tile in the bathroom, and wishing to avoid doing, then redoing, the tile in the bathroom, has meant that our final plans for the master suite needed clarification.

I recently posted about finding Homeplanner to use to play with layouts for your remodeling projects (check out the floor plans above). While it is a fantastic tool, it only actually allows you to have 1 project and 3 saves before you have to start paying for it.

Which limits what you can do. Especially if you have a ‘what if I … ?’ brain like me. And you are a cheapskate. Like me.

Since then, I have discovered a completely free online design tool called Autodesk Homestyler (check it out here) that allows you unlimited saves. It pays its way by using particular branded products for its doors, windows, furniture, etc, which is a little limiting, if you are using it as an end-use plan you can print out and hand to your contractor.

As my contractor is me, this makes it the perfect tool for my use. I can manipulate the floor plan to my heart’s content: try things out, figure out the flow, and whether there is enough room to do something. Muck around with different options, without worrying about the final details. Because you know whatever windows, or vanities, or doors I use, they are coming from 2 potential sources: Craigslist or a Salvage yard. What I need is flexibility to try out ideas, not a final solution. For me, Homestyler is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. Lovely.

So I have been tooling around in Homestyler figuring out what to do.

I started by making a plan of our existing layout. Here it is:

Current layout of bedroom, bathroom and office

Pretty crazy, huh? Another one of those funky asymmetric spaces that are a feature of this house.

The beloved’s office is B.A.D. Totally landlocked between our bedroom, bathroom and the family room. No external windows. This is what it looked like before we moved in:

Office before

I wont show you what it looks like now. Just imagine the beloved’s desk and multiple monitors and piles of stuff work everywhere.

Suffice to say it is one of those ‘what a great idea, let’s stick a wall here and we can make an office’ kind of rooms, which are actually pretty dire in design terms. And even worse in reality.

Fortunately we have room in the basement, and our next major house project will be converting it into an office and laundry room. More on that as it happens.

So, the beloved’s office is going, and that space can become part of our Master suite.

Which is just as well, as our bedroom is TINY. Literally a Bed Room. A room with a bed in it. Period.

Admittedly, it probably doesn’t help that we have an enormous bed. We were so relieved when it actually fit in the room when we moved in. Here is the bedroom as it currently is:

It’s actually really hard to take photos of, as there is no room in there. At all.

A priority for us is more room in the bedroom. We take it as given some walls will be moved around. Luckily none of the ones we might move are load-bearing. It will be a matter of some lumber for framing and a bit of drywall. Worth the effort for an improved space.

Our first major decision was to leave the bathroom where it is. Keeping the plumbing in the same location is a huge saving cost-wise.  We also decided to get rid of the bath, and replace it with a shower enclosure. The bath is small, shallow and nasty. The only possible reaction to thinking about taking a bath in it is to shudder. Dramatically. With distaste. Call me fussy, but sitting in a puddle of a bath with your freezing knees tucked up next your ears just isn’t appealing somehow.

The best thing about getting rid of it is it frees up some space. Believe me, in our minute bathroom any space we can claw back is a bonus.

Plus, and here I kick my toes in the dirt and look embarrassed, we actually already bought a replacement shower enclosure. Yesterday. BEFORE I did any planning. Ahem. What can I say? Craigslist find. Total, absolute and utter bargain. Now we have to plan around it.

So, the bathroom staying where it is, less the bath, is a given. The rest of the space is up for grabs.

The next consideration was our wish list: Non negotiable was more room for the bed. Somewhere to sit in there would be nice, too. Plus, a walk in closet and a double vanity (if possible).

Tossing those thoughts around in my head lead to this first idea:

First ideas

Move the closet from the Master bedroom into the beloved’s office, and demolish the wall dividing it from the bedroom. Instantly add 3 feet to the bedroom. Make  a walk-in closet, and a separate closet or shelves in the office, following the line of the bedroom wall to disguise the diagonal wall.

Move the bed across, get rid of the wall between the bedroom and the office, remove the too-narrow-to-be-of-any-use stupid linen closet, and move the bathroom door so it opens off the bedroom.

This layout is a no brainer. It makes the most of what we already have, with minimal changes to walls.

And then my ‘what if I … ?’ brain kicked in.  Because having a walk-in closet AND an extra separate closet is really not such a brilliant idea. With a few minor tweaks, you could have ONE walk in closet in that space.

Then I came up with this one:

The next plan …

Much better. By notching the wall in (dog-legging it) the bathroom around where the linen closet is now, it opens the bedroom space up more. The minus here is that this move means our new shower enclosure wont work in this layout.

But it gives us LOTS of storage room in the larger walk in closet.

I decided to put the bathroom door back where it currently is, so you can walk straight from the bathroom into the walk in closet to get dressed.

Only, then I thought: in this plan, our closet is bigger than our bathroom. So what if I moved the entry door a little to the right, making the closet smaller and the bathroom larger. And this plan emerged:

My favorite …

This plan has the added bonus of being able to fit a double vanity in the bathroom. And by moving the wall next to the shower across, we can keep the shower enclosure we bought yesterday. Oh yeah!

There is more structural impact in this plan, with more wall moving, but on balance I think it could be worth it.

Then I showed all my plans to the beloved, including my favorite. Which he looked at and said that he didn’t like the dog-leg bathroom, and this was what he had in mind:

The beloved’s plan for the master suite

Hmmm. Trouble in paradise.

I get that this would give us the maximum space in our bedroom, and given how tight it is in there now, I can totally understand the impulse to not close anything in. But it is the quality of that space that concerns me.

I think his plan gives us this kinky-wall asymmetric dead space in front of the closet, for the sake of gaining more bedroom space.

Which I really don’t like. Our bedroom would be one weird multi-facetted space, with angles and pockets, and strange spaces you can’t use. What is worse is that the ceiling is multi-layered, too, with lower bits for the ducts for the HVAC upstairs. Check out the crazy ceiling in the current office:

HVAC duct work makes for crazy ceilings

So if we went with his idea we would have crazy walls and a crazy ceiling. Ugh. Not exactly restful on the eye.

Besides, I think my dog-leg wont read like a dog-leg when you walk through the space, because it is matched with a dog-leg in the closet on the opposite side. It will read like the bedroom space opening up as you enter it.  Into the hall, room opens to the bedroom, then widens further. Giving the illusion of more space.

He doesn’t like how my plan means entering the bedroom up a hallway. I don’t like that his plan gives us LESS usable closet space than we currently have.

Our closet is already as crammed as possible.  Only a man would think you could make do with LESS closet space. And someone (who is not me) in this relationship tends to hoard things … just sayin’. Not really sure how he we would manage with less.

You get the picture? It just goes to show what a tricky space we have to work with.

What we HAVE agreed on is that we perhaps haven’t struck the perfect plan, yet. And that we should defer any decisions until his office is moved.

Then we I will take out the wall between the bedroom and the office space.  It will be quick and messy, but totally worth it.

We can live in the opened out space, and theoretically what to do will become clear.

I am sure he secretly thinks that once I see it opened out, it will convert me to wanting the maximum space possible, and come around to his plan. Bless him.

I’ve said it before, and no doubt I will say it again: men are experiential learners.  I know that once we take that wall out, he will realize what a mess the space will be with all the corners and angles and pockets and wasted space, and uppy and downy bits of ceiling, and he will opt for my cleaner-lined design.

Besides, there is one really important fact-ette in my favor that hasn’t occurred to him, yet. A thing that will dawn on him sooner or later: he is currently standing directly between a woman and a potential walk in closet.

Once he realizes that he will know he has no hope.

Until then I will stand back, and let him think about it. And I will think about it, too.  Eventually one of us will come up with a plan that we can both live with. I am hoping we wont have to resort to taping sheets in the space to represent walls. But if we have to go there, we will.

The good news is that I know that – whatever we decide to ultimately do with our bedroom – what I am about to do with the bathroom won’t go to waste.

Which is a huge relief. And for the moment, that is all that really matters.


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