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This master suite is an exercise in lightness and symmetry. Seen from the bedroom, the bathroom's free-standing tub takes center stage

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Introducing a new master suite into an existing house is an opportunity to create a contained space with an ambiance all of its own. When there is provision to raise the height of the existing space and flood the suite with natural light, the sense of retreat is even more pronounced.

This was the case when architect Jim Fraerman introduced this master suite to a substantial family home built in the 1980s. The original, modest-sized master bedroom had been on the ground floor. An under-used space on a corner of the first floor provided the owners with the opportunity to create a generous new master suite alongside their children's bedrooms on this level. The addition comprises a tall master bedroom, his-and-hers walk-in closets, a mezzanine loft used as an office, and a master bath.

"A key factor in this addition was being able to literally go through the roof in terms of maximizing available space," says Fraerman. "We removed both the attic trusses and the roof, stretching the height of the house to dramatic proportions." Everything was then designed from scratch, with an emphasis on light, symmetry and openness."

The suite's mezzanine inhabits the new-found space, and is walled on three sides by glass, flooding the areas below with sunlight. The open design of the staircase leading up to the office space, with its wire balustrades, helps facilitate light play down into both the bedroom and the passageway connecting to the master bath. Walls of the master suite are white, to further enhance this sense of airiness. The bedroom carpet is also in an off-white and the bathroom has white marble mosaic floor tiles.

"The main level of the master suite is laid out with an emphasis on symmetrical lines – the bedroom at one end and the master bath at the other," says Fraerman. "A connecting passage is flanked by spacious his and hers walk-in wardrobes.

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"Seen from the bedroom, with the frosted glass bathroom doors standing open, the freestanding tub takes center stage. To further its impact, and the sense of lightness, the tub is backdropped by two adjacent, identical windows."

The windows are set into a wall finished in cherry wood, which provides a natural feel and a dramatic contrast to the pristine white of the tub.

When entering the bathroom, everything is set evenly off to the left and right of the bathtub. His-and-hers vanities in quarter-sawn cherry are placed to either side, just inside the door. Their wood finish matches the cherry wood used on the staircase, the bathroom feature wall and also the cherry wood bed base and inset shelving found in the bedroom.

A toilet cubicle and shower stall are also set to either side of the tub on the far wall. Adding to the uniform look, both the shower stall and toilet enclosure are finished in the same material as the vanity tops – a distinctive, richly veined marble.

Looking back along the passage from bathroom to bedroom, a fireplace is centrally placed on the far wall. The natural glow of the fire provides a welcoming element from this perspective, much as the tub does when seen from the bedroom.

"The placement of built-in elements such as the fireplace and the bedroom's recessed shelving were carefully considered from the outset," says Fraerman. "Integral to this design is achieving a sense of peace and serenity for the owners. Both the balanced layout, right down to the light fittings, and the light flooding down through the mezzanine level's glazed walls contribute to this.

"But perhaps the suite's most alluring element is the sheer luxury of spatial volume afforded by the raised roof. Metaphorically speaking, standing in this space, the occupant's heart is lifted as well."

First published date: 08 June 2007

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Credit List

Architect Jim Fraerman, AIA, ALA, Fraerman Associates Architecture (Highland Park, IL)
Interior designer Gail Plechaty, Real Simple
Builder H/S Builders
Tub Balneo-Sanos in white by Bain Ultra
Vanity Calacatta Gold marble
Cabinetry Custom quarter-sawn cherry cabinets by Hunt & Sons
Basin Ladena by Kohler
Faucets Dornbracht
Shower fittings Newport Brass 990 series in chrome
Wallcoverings Custom quarter sawn cherry
Tile flooring Polished Carrara marble mosaic
Shower and toilet enclosure tiles Calacatta Gold tiles from Belstone
Toilet Toto
Staircase Cherry with stainless steel wire posts by Adams Stair
Accessories Towel stand and table from Waterworks