Easy Owners’ Suite Space Steals

16 min read Don’t have an owners’ suite in your modest mid-century home? Want one? Let’s talk about how to make that happen.

Did you know that there’s a right and wrong way to add an owners’ suite onto your house? Well, if you care about costs, there is! Today, we’re going to talk about how you can effectively steal space for an owners’ suite in and around your mid-century house – whether you’re just expanding your closet space a little or adding a whole new wing. 

So, what do you do when your space seems too snug to fit a true owners’ suite…but you still want one? First, don’t panic. You actually have a bunch of options. Even a modest sized mid-century house has room you can steal to gain a few more crucial feet or inches for a sweet, private space inside the existing boundaries of your home or by pushing out beyond it just slightly.

Before we go to far … I have to ask! Are you registered for the Mid-Century Owners’ Suite Clinic. Tweak and improve your existing Owners’ Suite – or learn how you can fit one into your home – in this super-valuable, action-packed Two Hour LIVE Workshop on Sunday August 6th.  

Don’t wait: Get the clinic at the early bird price – a 60% discount!!

Where to steal that space?

OK … if you’re wondering where you can go find space for an owners’ suite in your home … there are a couple of spots to look first

Borrow a bedroom

To stay within the footprint, look for under or poorly use space you can steal. Can you nab a few feet from the adjacent bedroom closet and add storage elsewhere in that room? Is there an over long or oddly placed hallway to commandeer?

You might even consider taking over that entire adjacent bedroom – resale be damned – if that fits your life better than multiple used rooms. There are all sorts of sneaky space steals just waiting for you to notice them!

Build in the basement

You can also look low – if you live in a region where basements are common. A basement might be the perfect (private) spot to tuck in a gorgeous owners’ suite. Adding a right sized and beautifully designed egress window is often enough to create a spa-like suite. 

Push out (the right) Addition

Small additions are also a great way to create the just-so space you need. They key to controlling cost is keeping plumbing inside the existing footprint as much as possible. Look for a bedroom with a side or backyard connection and you also open up the option to create a private outdoor area that you can step right into.   

Here’s a concept for tucking a new bath and hall into the (former) smallest bedroom to create a new owners’ suite with great access to the back yard … without disturbing the existing man floor bath!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • Where to snag the space you need for the owners’ suite you want. 
  • How to design a cost conscious addition. 
  • Some surprising ways to find space in even the snuggest homes.  

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Resources to steal space for an owners’ suite:

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And you can always…

Read the Full Episode Transcript

If you don’t have an Owners’ Suite, but you want one for your mid-century house today, let’s talk about how to make that happen. Did you know for example, that there’s a right and wrong way to add an owner’s bedroom onto your house? Well, if you care about costs, there certainly is. And whether you’re just expanding your closet space a little or putting a whole new wing into your home. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can effectively steal space for an owner’s bath in and around your mid-century house.

Hey there, welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host, Della Hansmann, architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast, you’re listening to Episode 1305.

If you’re looking for inspiration around owner suites, then I want to point you to a wonderful resource.

We’ve just been on a kick of documenting and making a publicly available case studies of our past owner suite modifications for mid-century homes. And we’ve got them all collected on the show notes page for this episode. So check out midmod-midwest.com/ 1305 to see case studies of a bunch of different adding on and improving on existing owner suites for mid-century homes to get your creativity flowing.

Last week I was talking to you about storage in primary bedrooms, in owner’s bedrooms. And many of the examples I shared were houses that are actually already very generously sized. That doesn’t actually make a designer’s life as easy as it sounds, because sometimes, it’s awkward to fit a few things that are necessary into a space that’s only just large enough or not quite large enough to do two things at once.

And it’s hard to pare away excess square footage in a way that feels useful and meets all the other existing elements of the home, the rooms, windows, doors, closets, etc., smoothly. So what do you do though, when your space is too snug, this is a far more common problem for most of my listeners when you have a space that’s too small rather than too large, but you still want an owner’s bathroom and owner suite.

Don’t panic because there are a lot of things you can do. And even a modest sized mid-century house has room to get you a few more crucial inches, feet, or a sweet private tucked away space inside the existing boundaries of your home, or by pushing out beyond it just slightly.

Today I’m going to talk about examples of houses that start out very small, and where we will be able to carve out a little space to create a luxurious private owner suite for the new owners. Because I’m going to be talking about examples. I have these all shown as case studies that you can link to from the show notes page.

In some cases, you don’t actually need more room for an owner space, you don’t even need to add more features, you just need to divide up your space more effectively. I’m thinking of a recent project a California raised Ranch, where we didn’t need to add any square footage or even add a bathroom to create an owner suite. We simply needed to reallocate the space that existed.

Although our scheme three did reconfigure the bedroom to expand the bathroom and add space for a soaking tub to make a true owners’ bath. We really only showed that to the client because they wanted to see what it would look like they knew they wanted to spend most of their budget in the kitchen but still get more feeling of privacy to their personal bathroom.

This was because their house had a long hallway that walked from the social areas to the private ones, and then had access to two bedrooms and a bathroom that were shared from that hallway. You then turned a right angle and went down another public space hallway past a private bath that was right next to the main one, a closet and then finally into their bedroom. Strangely as he walked down that hallway to get to their bathroom, and passed an awkward series of closet doors that were treated more as linen closets.

The space just didn’t really work out it didn’t feel like it had the owner suite that it actually should have. Now that might have been an intentional choice by the original owner to take the pressure off perhaps multiple teens living in the house who all needed to use the bathroom to get ready in the morning to put the second bathroom behind a closed door. But that didn’t work well. For these new owners.

There are a couple without kids who liked to have guests over and didn’t want to have a confusing number of access points to their private space. All we needed to do for them at the end of the day was relocate the door for their bedroom to the end of that second short hallway so they could go through a door and be in their own space immediately. They could walk from their bedroom to their bathroom without worrying about greeting any guests. And as a follow up, tearing out some of those extra linen closet storage space and putting in a smooth line of built-ins all the way along that hallway turning into a bench by the window to give them a sense of more places to put their things and leading them into their bedroom from the newly place door.

This is actually something I considered in my own home much smaller and without a second bathroom, but just to increase the access of my room to its various adjacent closet spaces. Right now I have just outside the door to my bedroom, a linen closet and my bedroom which is the owner’s bedroom has two small two foot wide cloth sits on almost opposite corners of the room, which really makes it hard to place furniture. I’ve often thought about moving the door to my bedroom to make the linen closet the second closet in my bedroom. And actually just removing the footprint of the existing closet to have a wider entry vestibule wouldn’t give me my own bathroom, don’t get me a larger, more spacious bedroom with the same amount of storage, and more privacy and wide open space.

Now, if this is something you’re thinking about thinking about changing closet spaces, it’s not always easy, but it is sometimes worth it to try to carve out a little more breathing room in a snug house. And this is also where you want to think about your budget, and your available skills or the skills of your team. Sometimes it’s easier than others to move walls, doors, closet, framing and finished carpentry.

For example, I’m just kicking off a project with clients who had to remove every bit of drywall and with it all the finishes trim hardware, doors and more in order to remediate some truly pervasive asbestos Darn it. But this means they will be able with relatively little added work to reconfigure their interior spaces. Moving a closet once you’re down to the studs isn’t any harder than rebuilding it from scratch. So that will prove a lot easier to them to think about moving the spaces around their bathrooms than it will for example to move the bathroom where they would have to get into plumbing work that’s unnecessary if they want to change the placement of those spots. Now, I’ve just told you, it might be easier to move closet doors than plumbing.

Sometimes it’s easier to keep your buildings in place. If you don’t need to change the arrangement of closet doors and framing and flooring in your bedroom and storage areas, it might be more important to change the layout of the bathroom to make that work better. You might choose to move or even add a bathroom. But even then the placement and the way you do it can make a big difference to the level of cost and difficulty. So if you want to create an owner suite from nothing, and you don’t want to expand the footprint of your house, one easy thing we talked about last week is to take over an existing bedroom and make that part of the owners’ space.

In many cases, you can do this by actually leaving the larger bedroom intact and then taking the two smaller bedrooms of a three bedroom house and knocking them together. This leaves the original primary bedroom as the bonus bedroom on the main floor. Now if you’re worried about resale value, oh no and losing a bedroom. I have a couple of notes on that.

First, the demographics of homebuyers are changing. Not everyone has 2.5 kids and a dog when they move into their mid-century house in an inner ring suburb. A lot of people are single when they buy a home or childless couples who want to live in their home forever as a pair or retirees downsizing into a smaller space. So don’t feel like making personalized correct choices for you won’t work just as well for someone else who’s buying a house feeling the same frustrations you have about your house right now.

Also a note, when you’re adding bedrooms or maintaining bedrooms, that’s a great idea for resale value. But more bedrooms also can raise the assessed value of your house. So think about taxes as well as resale when you consider these questions. Or if you need to remove a bedroom on the main floor, add it back in the basement, if you’ve got one, I’m going to be talking about basement bedrooms, both as guest spaces and as teen spaces and as potential owners’ bedrooms in a later episode.

But think about it this way. If you’re living in a house alone, or with one child on the main floor, and you’ve got a third bedroom, which right now is designated as your guest space. Wouldn’t it actually be more pleasant to have someone who’s not part of your family, when they come to stay for perhaps a while in a space where you can say goodnight to each other and then each have a little quiet time on your own floor to go about your own rhythms Rather than inviting them to share you and your child’s family bedroom and bathroom rather as you go forward. Just a little thought.

So this actually came up in one recent project we had a perfect example of a non-traditional family as our design goal. In this case, we weren’t designing a house for childless couple or a family for kids. This is a house for an older woman returning to a home she lived in an earlier era of her life, then as a parent with small kids now in her grandparent era. The solution we came up with for her was that she might live in this house alone for a while and then she might need an adult child or a caretaker to move in with her or visit extensively to check off on and provide care for her. Possibly that adult caregiver would not even be a member of her family but someone else hired to provide the work.

So in this existing house that had three very snug bedrooms on the main floor, a shared full bath and a powder room. We knew that layout was not going to cut it. Even too familiar adults don’t necessarily love to share a bath. And certainly none of the spaces were particularly accessibility friendly. So assuming that she could live most of her life on the main floor with ramp access from the outside, we set about knocking two of the smallest bedrooms together in order to create a larger wheelchair friendly space with wide doorways. Plenty of open maneuvering room and easy access to a generous, accessibility friendly bathroom just for her.

We cut a three quarter bath out of the existing powder room and left one bedroom besides hers on the main floor as a guest space, a home office or project room, etc. And then we created a matching sized although not necessarily matching accessibility friendly, second primary sweet on the basement level, with a bedroom private full bath sitting area and expanded windows for proper daylight and safe egress to make two separate adult spaces that could be occupied by people who either did or did not share family affiliations, but still didn’t want to spend every waking moment together.

Anyway. This example really speaks to the possibility that if we hadn’t had those extra bedrooms to sacrifice upstairs, we could also have thought about those three really quite snug bedrooms as all kids’ bedrooms, and for another family. Another goal put a generous and private owner suite away in the basement. And before you think, Della moving to the basement, from my bedroom for my owner’s bedroom, What a crap deal.

Remember, an egress window that brings in fresh air and safety also brings in daylight, it doesn’t need to be that plastic half circle minimally viable object. Done Right. egress access Windows can be beautiful retaining well stepped views, showing you plantings and giving you like to the sky without looking straight across into your neighbor’s bedroom windows. Once it’s designed properly, a basement owner suite might be your dream scenario. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Okay, so we’ve talked about how you can add in owners’ space on the main floor or possibly create an owner suite in your basement, there’s the third place to find space to make an owner suite if you don’t have it, and that is with a small addition. But here’s the trick to it. You don’t want to simply draw your dream bedroom bathroom scenario and pop it into the backyard touching the house along one wall. That’s not the best way to make a budget friendly owner suite. The real secret to a cost effective owner suite edition is to put only the bedroom into the new space.

You don’t want to run extra plumbing out over unfinished area if you can possibly avoid it instead, in the Midwest, where you’re building is over a basement in middle America where you’re building over a crawlspace etc. Even in California where you might be on a slab, you want to keep your plumbing in the footprint of the original house and have only a bedroom that pushes back.

Here’s the ideal scenario, you’re looking for a bedroom that already faces the backyard or to the side yard, and that shares a wall with the existing family bathroom. So you set your new owners’ bathroom against that shared bathroom wall for short plumbing lines that connect into existing supply and waste removal pathways. Probably your new owner’s bathroom won’t be the full size of the bedroom you take over. So you can decide whether you want to use that extra space for a walk by closet, or simply have a smaller than bedroom addition off the back of the house.

So the new bedroom space you put in has sort of one foot in the existing footprint of the house and maybe pushes out the wall by only six or eight feet. Again, the smaller the addition, the simpler the addition, the more affordable this project is. One layout I love to try in this space is if you have a walk through door to the space to get a straight shot along the interior bedroom hallway or circulation area towards a window. Walking towards light is always a great design move.

And as you walk along this intentional internal owner suite hallway you have on your left or your right, the new owner’s bathroom set. Passing by it to a generously sized dressing area that provides a backboard for the new owners’ bed to look out the same view that you’re walking towards, or possibly the owners bed is perpendicular to that and gives you a crisscross view to that walk into the bedroom out to a small private backyard area.

The benefits of a small addition are many, not the least of which is that you’re creating while you get a new bedroom. You’re also getting an L shaped inner courtyard, a corner in your backyard for a patio deck or porch. This can be a wonderfully comfortable private space that’s seen by none of your side yard neighbors and also gives you direct access from your owner’s bedroom to step right out into the backyard with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. Beautiful.

I propose this in a number of home updates to in particular come to mind. In one really early mid Midwest project, we were able to create a sort of an interior courtyard by proposing two small additions that both pushed off at a particular angle from the existing house Gable. One allowed for a slightly larger den stepped down at grade level and one pushed back a bedroom that was able to expand along with a larger roofline than just the bedroom and give a covered porch patio space out on the side.

In a more recent project, we were able to take a house that actually had an existing owner suite but again, it suffered from that early mid-century owners weed problem that it had an almost unusably small bathroom. It was at the front of the house and that became the A pleasant, separated guest suite, and they pushed off the back of the house again to create a lovely corner privacy L and this house had already been built on a corner lot, so we didn’t really have much of a backyard feeling by pushing out a small addition they were able to create a much more private feeling for their backyard.

And we were able to put in a lovely open plan bedroom with plenty of built in storage space, and yet keep the new owners’ bathroom over the existing crawlspace footprint so it was easy to add, plumb and modify. So here’s the bottom line when you’re looking to steal space for an owner’s bathroom or just expand the owner’s bedroom. You want this to be as functional but also as easy to do as possible. And look mid-century houses are easy to add on to cross Gable is a sturdy and easy to put on form that will feel natural as soon as the materials are whether it into place. When you look at the Google Map for your neighborhood, you can see that probably most of the homes when they were originally built, particularly as they were early, were a simple straight rectangle.

Now they’re ELLs, C’s and z’s with all of the additions that have been put on forward and back through the years. But to make your life easier, think about the plumbing. When you’re sneaking in a new plumbing bathroom tried to tuck it close to ideally sharing a wall with existing plumbing. So back it up to your family laundry area, family bathroom or kitchen. In a basement finishing project try to stack the new bathroom underneath or near some existing upstairs wet area.

Now pop over to the show notes page to see a whole bunch of case studies of how we’ve improved on and added on to owner’s bathrooms for a mid-century Master Plan clients that can get you excited to plan your own update. Or if you need some help to solve a tricky space planning problem. We’d be delighted to add the challenges of your project to our future case study collection. Catch you next time mid mod remodelers.