Northwest Renovation Magazine

A Home Improvement Magazine

We spend at least a third of our lives in a single room. We turn there for comfort, refuge, and daydreaming. So why don’t we give more thought to our bedrooms? Not to get too personal about it, but it may have something to do with our private and public selves. We give our all to impress and entertain others, so the kitchen and other main floor rooms get our primary focus. But the bedroom is private, and if no one else is going to see it, we may think it unworthy of our attention — to our own detriment.

Top: Enlarging the front dormer and adding a shed dormer off the back only added to the impressive character of this Arts and Crafts home. Insert: Exterior of home before the dormers were added.
Top: The new master bedroom layout makes the most of the available space. Insert: The original master bedroom was awkward and had no proper places for the furniture.
The rear dormer added enough room for this new spa-like master bathroom, which includes a deep stainless steel soaking tub, large walk-in shower, and a semi-private water closet.
Left: The owners gained a walk-in closet and a full dressing area with ample storage space. Right: The original closet lacked headroom and was inadequate.
The existing bathroom (right) served as the master bathroom and was reconfigured into an efficient, child-friendly bathroom (left).

Years ago, I house-sat for my boss, a woman I appreciated for her professionalism, generosity and confidence. Alone for the first time in the home, I explored and admired its rooms, until I reached the master bedroom, which was mine for the stay. The room itself was uninspired, and small, barely accommodating the bed, two nightstands, and a dresser. With the lack of storage, miscellaneous items had been crammed under the bed. One had to walk through an open jumble of a closet to reach the dark, cramped bathroom. I was dumbfounded that this busy woman, who gave so much of herself in her daily life, would appropriate so little for herself in the way of a restorative retreat.

Most homeowners don’t set out to buy a home with a knockout master suite. They tend to focus on the bigger picture of location, lot, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the appeal of the kitchen. But over time, the need for a true retreat can become imperative.

When the owners of this 1924 story-and-a-half bungalow first purchased it, they were impressed by the cozy Southeast Portland neighborhood, the large front porch, overhanging eaves with brackets, original hardwood flooring, and beautiful wainscoting. They didn’t anticipate that the 2,100 sq ft home would eventually become too small for two busy adults and their growing family, even after adding a 1,000 sq ft guest suite in a basement conversion.

With the birth of their third child, the couple decided that the home’s three bedrooms were inadequate in number, placement, and layout. The two children’s bedrooms were insufficient with the birth of the new baby, and also because the owners wanted to use one of those rooms for a home office. Also, the master bedroom, which was housed in the finished attic, was at an uncomfortable distance from the main-floor bedrooms of their young children. Finally, the sloping ceilings and poor layout of the attic bedroom made for unworkable spaces, awkward ceiling heights, and a cramped feeling overall.

Not willing to give up on their home, the owners investigated what it would take to add another bedroom and bath to the upstairs. They called the design team at Craftsman Design and Renovation, a local design/build firm, and after just a couple of initial meetings, decided to move forward with a major second floor renovation. They were particularly thrilled to learn that the home’s second floor could accommodate two additional children’s bedrooms and a bath, as well as a more luxurious master suite.

“The main design challenge was to add more room without destroying the integrity of the house,” says Wade Freitag, owner of Craftsman Design and Renovation. “We added full-width dormers to the front and back, with the front dormer being broken up with a small, stepped-out gable. This added more square footage while preserving the proportions of the home.”

Enter the master bedroom now and the rest of the world melts away. The private suite consists of an ample sized bedroom, a separate dressing area with loads of customized built-in storage, and a spa-like bathroom. Chelly Wentworth, senior designer at Craftsman Design and Renovation, says, “It’s extremely rare to have a private suite in a home of this era, let alone two separate closet areas, room for a desk, and a separate tub and shower.” The key to adding such amenities in an older home without changing the footprint? “Masterful space planning,” says Wentworth.

While the dormers added 330 sq ft, an impressive redesign was also necessary to allow for the many improvements, including the additional two bedrooms and bath, a better landing at the top of the stairs, and a wider hallway with a large linen closet and a bench containing a concealed laundry chute.

For the clients, the surprise was not just how much space could be added without changing the home’s footprint, but how much more the new space enhances the entire home, as well as their daily experience of a welcoming, restful space of one’s own.

Craftsman Design and Renovation is a full-service residential design-build firm in Southeast Portland, OR. They have won numerous awards for the design and renovation of older homes, and have been providing outstanding design, craftsmanship, and service in the industry since 1995. Contact them at

Stacy Green is the writer behind Green Ink and writes about home improvement, small businesses, the environment, and travel. Contact her at

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