The Treehouse: Master Bedroom Remodel – Phase One


By Gabrielle. Drawings by Tierney Conner Design Studio.

I’m super excited to be sharing this post with you today, because it means progress is being made! Last fall, we met an architect, Erin Conner, who is a parent at our elementary school. We loved her work and right away asked her, and her business partner/fellow architect, Anne Tierney, to work with us on our Master Bedroom.

They did the initial drawings (pictured here) right away, because they knew we were hoping to get the remodel done before Christmas. They came over with their awesome laser measuring tool and made a note of every little angle — and they helped me problem solve a couple of instances where I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to do. But alas, I couldn’t make the pre-Christmas timing happen on my end. As I mentioned, it’s been tricky finding a contractor! So I’ve been sitting on these drawings, waiting to share them with you until we had a contractor in place and could actually move forward.

But the good news is: We’ve got a contractor! Which means I can finally start talking to you about this awesome Master Bedroom & Bathroom Remodel. And first up, I’m sharing the fabulous drawings.

Above, you can see the floorplan as it exists now, and below is the floorplan as it will be after we’re done (click on the floorplans if you want to see them bigger):


Here is a list of the major changes:

1) The toilet is currently in it’s own room with no sink, accessible from the stairway landing. I’m not sure what to call that. A 1/4 bath? We’re adding a sink, so that it can be an independent half-bath.

2) As it stands now, to access the Master Bathroom, you enter through the stairway landing. We are going to close that landing entrance, and add an entrance from the Master Bedroom instead.

3) In the Master Bedroom, there isn’t a good wall for a queen size bed, so we’re extending one of the current walls. I’m super excited about this! It means that when we wake up, we’ll be facing the giant windows and greet each day with a full view of the trees.

4) Right now, the shower is in one room, and the sink is in another room (and the toilet, as I already mentioned, is in a third room). We are going to reconfigure this in a very different way. The Master Bedroom will have a door that leads to a walk-in closet (which is great, because closet space is very minimal in this house!), and the room that currently has the sink, will now have the sink, the shower, and a toilet. Which means we’ll now have a full bathroom, only accessible from the Master Bedroom. This will be a major improvement! And it means The Treehouse will be have 2 1/2 bathrooms instead of 2 bathrooms.

5) Lastly, we’ll be adding more privacy to the Master Bedroom. You can’t tell from the drawings, but currently, the doorway wall leading into the Master Bedroom doesn’t extend all the way to the ceiling. We’re going to fully separate the space. I know that’s hard to picture — I think I should do a Periscope and give everyone a video tour!

Oh my. These drawings make me unreasonable happy. I’m not totally sure what it is, but I’m guessing it has to do with the fact that I’ve had these changes in my head for ages and ages, and I start and end each day in the Master Bedroom. So I end up thinking about this remodel way too much. And mostly, I can’t wait to see this space transform! When I see the drawings, it starts to feel real!! I love looking at them. In fact, every time I see the Erin the architect, at school pickup or dropoff, I have to hold myself back from hugging her. Hah! I really love working with both Erin and Anne — they have been super easy to communicate with I appreciate that they both understand the realities of family life and can offer insight accordingly.

I’m calling this phase 1, and the next phase will be going back to Tierney Conner to get started on the engineering drawings so we can get a permit from the City of Oakland. While they are working on the engineering drawings, I’ll be picking out tile and faucets and flooring and paint. I’m pretty excited for Phase 2! But I admit, I’m feeling intimidated about picking out the bathroom fixtures — I haven’t worked on a bathroom remodel for 15 years or so!

Okay. I’d love to hear all your remodeling advice. If you’ve been in this phase and have any tips, I’m all ears! Also, do you have a bathroom feature that isn’t common but that you love? If you were taking on something like this, would you want to do the interior design yourself, or would you hire it out or use an in-store design service? Anything else I should be considering at this stage?

P.S. — You can find all the Treehouse posts here.

55 thoughts on “The Treehouse: Master Bedroom Remodel – Phase One”

  1. So exciting to see your plans. It sounds like it is going to be a fantastic space! I am interested to see what you end up doing in regards to hiring a designer or doing the space yourself. We just moved into a new house and are in the early stages of planning a bathroom/closet/master bedroom redesign and I have been going back and forth on ideas for months. Because it is such an important space (you said it – we start and end the day here) I am so worried about making a mistake that I am going to have to live with every day. Hiring a designer seems like the best bet, but I have never used one so I am a little intimidated by the process.

  2. I love (other people’s) remodels! I wonder with your time in Europe – would you consider a towel warmer in the bathroom? I know its quite common. They are such a luxury! or… what about a bidet? :)

  3. I’m sure your architect is amazing and this will be lovely!

    However, is there any way to trade the location of the new closet and the master bath? It looks like you’re already doing some pretty major plumbing relocation. I just feel like it would be way nicer to walk from your room directly into the bathroom instead of having to go through the closet to pee.

    Just a thought…

    1. Good question, Katie. I actually chose this configuration for 3 specific reasons. One is that I was trying to simplify the plumbing changes, and with this configuration, the new toilet backs up to the existing toilet plumbing, and same goes for the shower. So we only have to relocate the sink plumbing.

      Second, there’s a big window and a skylight in the space that will be the full bathroom, and I want all that great light for the bathroom vs. the closet.

      Third, I prefer the closet closer than the bathroom. Probably partially because that’s how my parents bedroom was designed so it’s what I grew up with.

      1. It is most definitely cold enough in Oakland and the greater SF Bay Area to warrant radiant floor heat. (Winter nights here are usually between 40 degrees to high 50s.) Many new homes in the Bay Area have them.

  4. So exciting! I LOVE reading about remodels!! We just finished our master bath a few weeks ago so it’s still fresh, and makes following yours even more interesting :)

    Although we didn’t do it in our bathroom, I second the recommendation for the under-floor radiant heat. It really is awesome. Also, I’ve found success getting high quality fixtures for less money when I buy online. I did that for our vanity (which included sinks, counter, and mirrors!), lights, shower door, and some of the tile, and our contractor was very impressed with all of it. Finally, I’m in love with our shower door. We went with a frameless sliding door that looks really lovely–highly recommended if the space in front of the shower door is small (ours is across from the vanity and a swing door would have taken up too much space).

    1. I’m kind of nervous about trying the radiant floors because I haven’t lived with them before and don’t know if I would love them. But currently, there is no heating in the bathroom, so it would make sense to at least look into them!

  5. I LOVE remodels. All 3 of our bathrooms need one but the kitchen needs it most.

    Anyway, please consider getting a wall mount faucet vs counter mount faucet. Just think how much easier to clean and less gunk around the faucet.

    Not necessarily this look but just as example. If we can swing it, all of my sinks will be wall mount. A girl can dream….

  6. I have to say, you will LOVE LOVE LOVE adding that extra half bath. It’s such a luxury when you have a large family.

    My only suggestion is to make the door going into the closet a pocket door. Why waste all that valuable wall space with a swinging door?

    I love the new design. I can’t wait to see how you lay out your closet.

    1. Not to completely put down Tamara’s idea re: a pocket door (if that would work well for you, great!), but: As an architect I’ve had a ton of clients suggest pocket doors like they are such an obvious solution. However, they are 1) more expensive to install due to the framing requirements within the wall, and 2) notoriously difficult to maintain in good working condition because of the interior track hardware.

      1. I second the concern about the pocket door. I’m an architect too and I do love a pocket door, but they can be very hard to maintain and they are tricky at intersections of walls like you have there. Regardless, in the situation above, you would not really save that much space – you still have to walk into the room and you need space for that. Even if you didn’t have a door and put a curtain up (as an example) you would not be able to put anything on the wall where the door was.

        1. We have two pocket doors in the current space (on the toilet room, and between the sink and shower rooms). One of them comes off its track once in awhile, but I don’t mind, because I appreciate the space that’s saved!

          Pocket doors are so convenient (in theory), that it seems like someone would have solved the hanging mechanism. If you’re an inventor, and looking for ideas, here’s a need to can fill! : )

  7. We are currently in the finishing phase of our master bath remodel (for the second time in 3 years!!! – the first tile job was HORRIBLE – make sure they level the floor properly before laying tile, and don’t use pebble rock for the shower floor, looks cool, but hurts your feet after awhile). We just got back from Europe and I am in LOVE with their toilets!! No tank or base to the toilet, just the seat portion mounted to the wall. Seriously, what my clean-freak-mind dreams are made of. We are using black hexagon tiles for the floors and so far, I’m loving the look. Design it yourself, this is what you’re great at.

    1. I second the no vote for river rock–there is a ton of grout and you have to reseal it often as water can collect around the times around the drain and deteriorate. I cannot wait to rip mine out!

  8. Congratulations on having the floor plans done and being able to move on to the next phase! As an architect, it makes me SO happy to see other people using architects to do remodels like this. I love to promote our profession and to help people understand how getting an architect involved creates solutions you never would have thought about on your own, solutions that eliminate existing awkwardness, and solutions that add value to your home !

  9. This post couldn’t have come at a better time! (well, for me) My family is just beginning the process of a “master plan” for our SF home remodel. We’ll be doing this in stages (unless we win the lottery) and are meeting next week with the architect to talk about priorities and wish lists. We’ve never actually undertaken such a big project and I feel better already watching you go first. :) Somehow all our friends seem talk exclusively about how stressful and daunting remodels are – thanks for focusing on the creative fun and exciting potential of it all.

  10. Ah Gabby, I feel in a funny way that perhaps we both live in the same house if it can be described as hidden away, surrounded by trees, tons of windows and LOTS of crazy but lovable quirkiness. Our new house sounds a lot like yours in the wonderfulness and the strange and unique design challenges and upgrades that would be very helpful. I loved this post because of it’s sense of reality. On TV and in blogs it may seem like a family buys a new house and a month later it’s totally overhauled and looks like a magazine, but in reality it takes a lot of time, reality checks and sometimes mistakes to figure it all out. I realize now our house will be an ongoing project for years and I am getting very okay with that. I love it as it is and fall in love with it more and more as it starts to look and feel like OUR house and less like someone else’s old house. Best of wishes with your new project!

    1. Oh. I hear you! I have been taking my sweet time with our renovations. We want to own this house for a long time and want to be really thoughtful about the improvements we’re making. Though sometimes, I just want to have everything done and marked off my mental list!

    1. Those forums are fantastic! When we redid our bathroom, there was someone in the forums who was able to tell me if the whites of one company’s sink would match the white of a toilet made by a different company. Amazing, and so generous.

  11. I’m loving seeing a lot of architects – especially women architects – that read and comment on your blog! I live in a small area and women architects are scarce. You have a great sense of style and space. I would trust your instincts. The new design looks lovely and I hope you really enjoy the new space. I hope it is a short-lived renovation. Good luck!

  12. One thing I resisted despite my husband’s insistence and now LOVE is a heated towel bar. Our towels are always fresh and dry–plus warm towels are completely awesome. If you’re doing electrical work anyway they are not costly. We have a Warmrails brand and it’s $160 on Amazon. We had a timer installed so it is not on all day but only for a few hours morning and evening when we are most likely to use it. I will never be without one again!

    1. I’m intrigued by your timer suggestion! We had a towel warmer in France and almost never used it. I wonder if it was on an auto-timer if I would love it. Something to think about!

  13. Exciting! As you always seem to do, keep thinking positive. Remodels are definitely roller coaster rides of emotions and being without a bathroom and bedroom during the process will be a challenge.

    It is a tough call on how much to do yourself vs. hiring an outside professional. I think you need to find the right balance since you probably have a good idea of what you envision, but may need another person to validate and help make your vision a reality. I am also an architect and find that personal remodel projects (I just finished #3) are very challenging. It is not easy to be the owner and the designer when resolving eventual problems that arise during construction. Sometimes having a person who is more neutral to represent you, can be a real asset to be between the contractor and the owner.

    Regarding the design, I second the following suggestions:
    – Consider swapping the new closet and bathroom locations. My initial thought when I saw the new plan was “too bad they will have to walk through the closet to get to the bathroom”.
    – Highly recommend using a wall-hung toilet (and sink) to save space. Especially in the new half bath which looks tight. Geberit produces fantastic in-wall tanks which are available in the US.

    Nice to haves…
    – Yes to the heated towel warmer. Either electric or hydronic radiant.
    – Yes to the radiant heat under the bathroom floor tiles. You can install an electric mat or radiant water tubes if you have a boiler for radiant heat elsewhere.

    Can’t wait for an update and photos of the process.

    1. I love the idea of wall-hung toilets, thanks for the brand recommendation!

      You’re the second comment to suggest switching the bathroom and closet. Maybe I’m crazy, but I much prefer the closet closest to the bedroom. For me, having the bathroom separated from the bedroom a bit feels like an extra dose of privacy.

  14. My parents recently remodeled a bathroom in their home and changed a tub/shower combo to a glass enclosed shower. When they tiled the back wall they added shelves in between the studs. I can’t wait to be in a house where we can do that in our own master bath. The shelves eliminate the need for clunky organizers or bottles all over the floor. Plus they are easy to keep clean.

    And radiant heat floors are awesome!

  15. My best remodel tip for Bay Area folks is to check out the Heath tile overstock listings. Heath tile is amazing, hand made and pricey. They update the tile selection in the overstock warehouse every Friday and if you see something you want you can head to the small overstock warehouse in Marin. So much fun to snag a great deal on such a high quality product. Even their seconds are very beautiful. Also the warhorse is at the same location as the gorgeous, and inspiring Heath store.

  16. I think it would be worth it to hire a designer. Like you said, you haven’t done a bathroom design in 15 years – most of us don’t do it that often, and it’s worth it to work with a professional.

    I design for a living, and here are my tips:

    You have the layout set, and that’s a huge part of the design process. Next is to get a cabinetmaker to design the vanity.

    Then, go to your local plumbing supplier and pick out your faucets, sink, toilet, etc. My advice is that this is the place where you can go more trendy (faucets n0t sink and toilet!), because it is much easier to change out a faucet than tile or stone.

    Keep your tile and stone timeless and have fun with plumbing fixtures and lighting.

    Practical advice:

    Put a waterproof recessed light in your shower. Do sconces on either side of your mirror rather than over the mirror, and put a recessed light over your sink (make sure it hits the drain rather than the top of your head!). If you decide to do 12×24 tiles on the floor, do them in a 1/3 offset for interest. Don’t cross vendors for plumbing fixtures unless you choose chrome – brass and oil rubbed bronze vary wildly between manufacturers. White or marble tile are timeless and will never go out of style – keep it simple with tile and stone. White is always right!

    Good luck and best wishes for your renovation!

    1. I love your lighting tips. Especially about making sure the light hits the drain, and not your head. Light placement in a bathroom can make a big difference!

  17. Radiant heat n the floors! We have a second home in a historic district. It was built in 1865 and didn’t have heat in the stone dormer rooms. We also added a kitchen addition with a mudroom and couldn’t get ductwork through the interior 2 foot inch stone walls. We put in radiant floors and they are heaven. They save money on the heating bill and there is a fight to get to sleep in the rooms with the radiant heat. You will love them. Heat on Your feet make everything warmer and the heat rises!

  18. Radiant heat floors… We live in a little starter ranch and about 20 years ago a past owner put them in. They are heaven! We set it to a good normal temperature and leave it on all winter. When it gets turns off the difference is huge, even though we set the temp between 75-80 degrees. We lived in a house that was very cold and the freezing tile from the lack of heat in the bathroom made things painful! You won’t regret it.

  19. Radiant floor heat for the win! We just put it in our master bath and our mud-room and it’s a game changer. Warm shoes! And no more cold shower exits!! The additional cost is relatively small for huge, luxurious gains.

    Also, we LOVE the Kohler Katalyst shower head we just installed (we have the Purist model). Air induction shower heads (there are a variety of brands making them now) are awesome, they save water while maintaining great water shower pressure.

    But before you pick a shower head make sure to go to a bathroom show room where you can try a few out for yourself!

    And when selecting light fixtures, make sure to check Etsy. We just bought a whole bunch of beautiful made in the USA lights on Etsy and I just love them. Plus buying directly from artisans enabled me to have the lovely natural brass fixtures I wanted at a small fraction of what some of the USA lighting boutiques charge. Plus delivery was FAST (vs. 6 weeks for the ones I ordered from Schoolhouse Electric).

    Etsy is a great source for towel racks and toilet paper holders and all that too!

    Have fun!

  20. Hello, another architect weighing in on the walking through the closet to access the Master Bath. I like your thought that the view and windows are better in the location you have chosen for the bathroom. Is there room in the closet to add doors in front of the clothes perhaps mirrored French looking doors that are sliding… So that it’s not like walking through all your hanging clothes and shoes to get to the bathroom. But more of a closet dressing room? Just a thought. Have fun, looking forward to your final product!

  21. I just completed a major house renovation. I have two pieces of advice:

    1. Hire a designer. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a renovation and they can help you decide on all your finishes, appliances, paint, etc. He/she can narrow down hundreds of choices based on your style and budget. Saves you time and money.

    2. Enjoy the experience. Our family of 6 spent 4 months living out of our music room with a fridge, “pantry”, dining table, microwave, toaster oven on a 6 ft. folding table with no running water. We have a lot of hilarious memories of our time in that room.

    Good luck!

  22. Raised basin sinks are lovely, but if it is too small, water gets everywhere. Really think about how you wash your face before choosing an unconventional sink. Also, have fun shopping!

  23. So the house we’re renting in England right now has lovely modern renovated bathrooms even though it’s 200+ years old. And my very favorite thing is that the tile floors in the bathroom are heated. It. Is. Awesome. From what I hear, it is not very expensive to add radiant heat under the tile floor, but I love having the warm tiles under my feet on a chilly morning. I will add this feature to every bathroom I ever renovate for the rest of my life!

  24. This is probably a stupid question…but what is that circular drawing titled DN? Is it a spiral staircase?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top