Bedroom – Comment Summary to June 10 (PDF)

  • James Scott

    One thing I find odd about NA homes is the “must have” feature of a closet. Even if the closet is so tiny and completely useless we overlook the incredible resources and costs utilized building this fixture into each room.

    In the homes I’ve stayed in Germany and England there were no closets. Each room relied on wardrobes and other portable storage. Often this was supported by a central closet accessible by all occupants. And the money and resources that can be saved in the construction of each home is incredible.

    Below I’ve posted a link to a web site in Germany. Scroll through some of the home plans. I don’t think I saw a built-in closet in the bunch. It would be interesting to hear other comments.

    PS Anyone notice anything else missing?

  • CL

    I agree with James.. this would allow the occupants of a house to modify their clothes storage needs as required through different stages of their lives. Also, maybe our closets don’t need to be as large as we think… maybe it’s time to extend the slow concept to how we dress where we could replace quantity with a few well selected high quality pieces.

    I think that the other item missing in the German plans are garages.

  • Brian Jewett

    I disagree. I think built in closets can remove a lot of clutter from the bedroom. Actually, I think they should be bigger and include the functionality of dressers as well. Ideally a good walk in can serve as a dressing area with every thing you need openly accessible at arms length including mirror and laundry baskets. With all this consolidated behind one door, the bedroom is a much more cozy and relaxed space. Freestanding wardrobes will only have about 75 or 80% of the storage of a built in floor to ceiling closet occupying the same amount of space.

    Now, what really think are useless are these giant bath tubs! ;-)

  • Paul C

    In you third pitfall example you expressed your dislike of a commonly seen bedroom entry approach. Specifically, the entry where one side of the closet is directly opposite the bedroom door. Can this approach work if a little more space is provided? I think when the space is equivalent in dimension to the hallway on the other side of the door, then yes it can feel constricting. An additional foot can change that sense. Curious to read other views on this. As well what about the notion of pulling the door out of the bedroom slightly(attached). I appreciate it takes away from the “refined form” aspect of the bedroom but functionally there might be some benefits. (i.e. takes the door swing a little out of room, provides wall space for electrical, can help reduce the visual length of a hall)

    Adding to the wardrobe conversation, I think they are a good alternative provided they are sized accordingly. They can offer more flexibility, can help make a smaller room seem bigger and can tie a number of furniture pieces together. Adding to the list of important bedroom features: the specifics of the window(s). For example, if the bedroom is intended for small children, safety concerns should be taken into account (i.e. sill height, opening width, etc)


  • Carrie

    I would take advantage of the the far wall and create two built in wardrobes on either side of the window. Also creating a bench or desk between the two. There would still be room for a small dresser or vanity where to current closet is if you downsized the bed. Looks like it is a queen in a room designed for a double.

  • Jeffrey

    I agree with the principles you are espousing, but many of the examples assume closet doors that open out as opposed to sliding doors or curtains as door. You also assume a nightstand is required on each side of the bed, but that isn’t necessarily true in every room, nor is it the only way to get a small space of storage one can acccess.

  • Elizabeth

    I’ll weigh in on closets too. I like a decent sized (not huge) closet, but a walk-in closet or dressing area does not appeal to me at all. It has a messy feel to me, even when tidy. I’d also want a bedroom to accommodate a dresser, which provides a surface for flowers, sculpture, a photo etc.

    Lighting design is also an important bdrm feature: able to be bright or dim, with switches at the door and bedside.

  • Michael Hrytsak

    I attended a course at the University of Calgary (Health in the Built Environment) with Prof. Tang Lee. He suggested that closets were necessary in keeping toxins captured by our clothes from the outside world (pollution, drycleaning chemicals,…) away from us during our most vulnerable time, that is, when sleeping. He went further to suggest installing small exhaust fans in closets to carry fumes, etc, away particularly for individuals who have gained sensitivity to the chemicals in our daily lives. Any thoughts?

  • John Brown

    A good discussion on the merits of closets. Although I can see James and CL’s point about devoting more space to the room itself, I would come down on the side of built in closets.

    When properly designed, they can effectively “disappear” in the wall while providing either acoustical separation between rooms or insulation buffer on an outside wall. I do think that the trend to walk in closets is a waste and that this space could be much better re-apportioned as living area.

    I would also agree with Brian that dressers and other kinds of storage can also be built in to closets in order to free up even more space within the bedroom itself.

  • Paul C

    Maybe another aspect of cookie cutter NA housing that should be reconsidered is how the “bedroom” is usually provided in only one form/fashion. That being a standalone separate room. The attached images and link are from a home in Toronto designed by Studio Junction Inc. which suggest an alternate approach.


  • John Brown


    Yes, it is possible to detail the “closet at the end of the door” condition in a nice way. Adding more space is important. I also would consider adding a display shelf or small bookcase facing out so that the end wall doesn’t look so leftover. I also like you detail for the bedroom door. We try to do that whenever possible as it reduces the swing of the door into the room and provides a little more privacy. It also provides a convenient place for the light switch.

  • Terri

    My first thought on bedroom design is to be sure to have a buffer between bedroom and bathroom/kitchen/living room. A fridge cycling on and off all night can be an annoyance to a lighter sleeper.

    So, I like the buffering aspect of a closet that’s built in. I’m not crazy about bifold doors, though, and as someone else noted, sliding doors are a possibility. I’d say that walk-in closets are usually too much wasted space and generally messy inside; however, with only one door to close, that door might more often BE closed, thereby removing much clutter from the room. (Perhaps it’s because of needing to frame only a single door that these walk-ins got so popular in cookie cutter houses–much quicker and easier to hang than a series of bifolds.)

  • Doug Roberts

    When it comes to bedrooms I like, if possible, to have:

    1) them very separate from the guest-friendly parts of the house (including the guest bedroom, if possible) — this separation is easier to achieve in a 2-storey house, but more challenging with a bungalow;

    2) windows on 2 walls so that you can have a breeze flowing through the bedroom even if the bedroom door is closed for privacy;

    3) them located well above ground level so that windows can be left open without creating a security concern;

    4) a window facing east to catch the morning sun;

    5) a built-in closet with a well-designed organizer to reduce the need for dressers; and

    6) LOTS of electrical outlets so that regardless of where you decide to put the bed you can plug in your clock radio and bedside lamps without having to use extension cords or even having the cords visible (this is a real pet peeve of mine — why are builders always so stingy when it comes to electrical outlets? — don’t try to guess how the homeowner might want to arrange their furniture, just put outlets EVERYWHERE!).

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I’m with Doug on the outlets everywhere! Simple to put in at construction time, hard as an afterthought.
    I love natural lighting. One thing I hate is using full lenght curtains to cover up a window so that the neighbors can’t see in. Where did your benefit go? I’d suggest clearstory windows for walls that will have line of sight issues. Maybe even specking some kind of frosted glasing for the lower section of a double hung window.
    While we are at it for the topic of cross ventalation, keep in mind that higher openings will draw out the heat of a room better just due to convection. This could be done simply with double hung windows that open both top and bottom.

    For future “Room by Room” segments, I hope you’ll cover staircases too.

  • H C

    What are the key issues when designing a bedroom?
    We need to separate what we should be doing in a bedroom and what we should not be doing. Like John said they are personal and intimate rooms. Bedrooms are for sleeping, dressing and accessing the ensuite bathroom, if present. They are not for reading, working, watching TV, and most often not for homework (with exception see below*).

    A bedroom should include: bed, windows, window coverings, space for dresser and bedside tables, mirror (if no ensuite) and closet (my North American bias). Ideally there is no place for TV, computer, desk, fireplace or seating area. The marketing term “owners retreat” used to describe the oversized master bedrooms necessitates adding things like fireplaces and seating to use up or justify the excess floor space.

    In bedrooms where the lack of view or overheating due to South exposure are an issue then I suggest raising the window to the upper third of the room. You would still get light and air but you would be able to place the bed against that wall and like Paul C’s comments it would be safer for small children.

    There must be a door between the bedroom and the ensuite for sound and light containment, especially in homes where one person works shift work. For this reason the master bedroom should be as far as possible from the main living areas.

    *To accomodate homework in a child/teen bedroom designed to accomoate only a single bed the ceiling height should be raised to accomodate a loft type bed with a desk and task lighting below.

  • Deborah McP

    I’d like to second that motion by Doug Roberts: that the ideal fenestration is 2 windows for ventilation with one facing east for morning sun.

  • Louis Pereira

    Paul – i was pleased to note your posting from StudioJunction’s design. That’s one of my favourite house designs…ever! The small bed in the photo in fact, functions as a co-sleeper which is directly adjacent to the Master Bedroom. If the baby/toddler wakes at night, the parent simply opens the sliding doors to tend to the crying child.

    As for commenting on closets, i just finished designing a house that utilizes free-standing closet systems instead of built-in closets. This provides a much more flexible space for a growing family with a couple of young kids. This is especially true as John points out in the video for children’s bedrooms. The shared bedroom in this example (attached) can transform as they get older by introducing a dividing wall while being able to relocate the closets.

    The precedent by Sandell Sandberg Architects illustrates another interesting (and possibley inexpensive) way to accommodate more storage.


  • James Scott

    I remember seeing a similar concept at FL Wright’s Oak Park home and studio a few years ago. The children’s bedroom was one open space with the intention that it would be divided as the children got older and were in need of more private space. I believe that there may have been two separate doors already in place for that very occasion. Sorry I am not able to find any floor plans or images.

    I’m afraid not everyone is a fan of Mr. Wright but I would definitely say a worthy site to visit when in Chicago. Oh, and the Ginkgo shading the back yard is just awesome.

  • Eden

    On the subject of windows, what is considered the right height and size in a bedroom – if they are too high it effects the architectural design from the exterior as well? What about placement of windows in a room – centered if space is best?

    I would love to see staircases covered. I have a staircase in the corner of the house and it seems very inefficient for effective space planning.

  • Brad W

    Louis – it looks like SSA could carve out a niche designing cruise ship staterooms :).

    Of course, all manner of custom creations can be made and are all worthy ideas. But most homes are stick framed and drywalled.

    I think John did an excellent job describing a standard second or gueat bedroom. I think the master bedroom should be treated separately.

    It is wishful thinking to hope for two windows in a typical bedroom. In many new condo projects, windows are not required in bedrooms anymore.

    As to the closet debate, I favour the closet for all the reasons John cited plus cost. I also tend to like walk in closets again for cost reasons. And if it gets messy inside you can just close the door. Better that than having the mess in the bedroom itself. Freestanding closets of any quality (ie. not IKEA) are expensive.

    One other thing regarding closets…How about using floor to ceiling doors? One advantage is access to the upper part of the closet and other is room usage conversion – the doors can be removed and the closet easily becomes part of the room.

  • James Scott

    Definitely many pros and cons for the closet. I suppose it comes down to lifestyle for many of us.

    Brad’s suggestion for the use of floor to ceiling doors is certainly for consideration.

    Earlier I asked if anyone who had looked at the German home plans noticed anything else that was missing. I don’t think I saw any attached garages (maybe a few carports). I have read that the US has 40% more vehicles per 1000 people than Germany. I wonder if the amount of stuff we cram in our closets is similar?

  • Cat

    I don’t have a TV in the bedroom, but I know tons of people that do. Should that be a requirement? Do you need a place for a TV?

    In previous exercises John has talked about what happens when one person gets up in the middle of the night or morning to go to bathroom and how it’s nice not to wake other person in the bedroom up. So, not having bathroom door open so that light shines on bed. And having the closet in an area away from the bed. Certainly would be better that way.

    Being American and accustomed to built-in closets, I come firmly down on the side of closets. In our area, that is actually what distinguishes a 2BR/study from a 3BR — whether the 3rd room has a closet or not. Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether the closet is useful for not. Sliding doors on closets are fine, but the disadvantage is that it generally means that you can only see half of the closet at a time. As someone without a basement, and without a ginormous garage, I believe that you can’t have too much closet space. Maybe I just need to invest in some freestanding wardrobe/closets.

    We had a lot of discussion about having a place to sit down and remove boots in the entry hall, but isn’t that also important in the bedroom/dressing area?

    Light control and noise control are essential. Particularly for me, noise control. I don’t want to hear noise from other rooms in the house, and I don’t want to hear noise from outside.

  • Kevin


    If a bedroom is clearly intended for a child, do you still see the minimum required dimension to be 10′? I have looked at that as an ideal but a 9′ kids bedroom dimension seems perfectly reasonable to me and could reduce the overall size of a house or free up space for other areas. What do you think?

  • Terri

    Brad, I like your suggestion of floor-to-ceiling closet doors. I have a room with a closet along one wall and no doors (because they weren’t installed before I arrived), but out of necessity, I’ve never installed doors because that space has become part of the room–part storage space and part furniture space. It’s not ideal, but not all bad either. So for those that don’t like closets, just take off the doors!

  • Leo

    Hello everyone,

    I would like to take a certain degree of issue with the criticisms about bedrooms having a lack of light exposure. While it would certainly be ideal to have a lot of light in every room in the house, this is not always reasonable. One must sacrifice either considerable interior space and/or density of housing in order to accomplish this. My feeling is that if one has limited sun exposure, it is far better to sacrifice the bedroom than the main living spaces. A bedroom should be for sleeping and storing clothing and personal items. Neither of these functions necessitate a lot of light. Also, in terms of family function, I think having people populate the living spaces is more conducive to a functional family unit rather than having people holed up in individual bedrooms (I don’t have teenagers yet…my opinion may change) so again, I think the priority should always be on maintaining light to the common areas, at the expense of the bedrooms if necessary.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I’m with you on bedrooms for sleeping and encouraging kids to live in the public spaces. I’ve got kids from 16 to 19mo and they mostly spend their days in the public areas and we all like it.

  • ersie

    I live in Switzerland and I will say that the basic idea of a built-in closet in the bedroom is a great one. The execution of this as I’ve seen in most US homes I’ve visited leaves much to be desired, but I think relying on free standing pieces of furniture is not a solution I particularly like. I would recommend built-in closets with doors that are as large as the space enclosed so that all of the contents are visible and easily accessed. Sliding doors are okay, well-supported full-height hinged-doors are better if there’s enough room.

  • Oscar B. Morales

    Hello Brad,
    I’ve recently started going through old segments of Slowhome Desin Minutes. I’ve tried to read all of the comments and this one from you;

    -In many new condo projects, windows are not required in bedrooms anymore. – Has intrigued and buffle me.

    I have gone back and read all of the recent Codes (I am in Massachusetts) BOCA-1984 – IBC 2003, 2006, 2009, IRC 2003, 2006 and CMR 6,7 for Residencial One and Two family. None of them exclude windows from a Habitable space, which includesa sleeping areas. They actually dictate, minimun size of bedroom, pecentage of natural light and ventilation as well as minimun of operable window requiered.

    I am wondering what you meant to say by the above statement. I can see that you are always dead on many of your comments.

    I would love to read your comments on this.


  • Brad W

    Hello Oscar – a couple of comments
    1. building codes vary by municipality – I am from Toronto but we have seen windowless spaces in condo projects in Chicago for example
    2. different rules apply for residential one and two family than condos
    3. sometimes developers get away with having a bedroom with no windows by making an opening high on a wall or using large sliding doors to capture light from an adjacent room (typically the living room)
    4. motivation – smaller entry and mid level hi rise condo units are narrow and only have a window at one end so the developer would like to locate the living spaces (kitchen, dining and living) there and not share this space with a bedroom

    Slow home likes to a window in every bedroom.

  • Anonymous

    Hello Brad, thank you for replying. It forced me into seeing your original comment in a different light. I have gone and done some more research, and would like to share the following. Please understand that I am doing this to be able to inform myself as well as to understand your comments.

    I did revisit all of the applicable codes to my area; I do understand that it varies in different municipalities; New England States are notorious for having conflicting codes, even from town to town, within each state.

    Regardless of the code used, how old, one and two family residential and the code that covers multifamily and commercial architecture the codes are similar, the only way that I see for this to work (code wise) is to follow the section that defines “adjoining rooms”, which in the long run do not exclude natural light and ventilation, but invokes several guidelines that need to be met, in order to comply with code.

    Because of this the only sleeping arrangement that would work, would be a studio apartment, similar to a hotel room. One big open space with sleeping and living together

    I know that there are developers that will get away with a lot of things that might not meet code and that in cities like Chicago, New York, Boston; we do find examples of habitable (sleeping) areas that do not meet either code or sensible design.

    For this I am glad that we do see sensible design ideas and guidelines, such as those found in Slow Homes.

    Than you again,