Master Suite Design Celebrates Outdoors

The one-of-a-kind master suite in this Prairie-inspired luxury home designed for Seattle’s 2006 Street of Dreams promotes an indoor/outdoor connection. Big windows, access to several outdoor living areas and a rustic palette of finishes including a timber-frame ceiling and fabulous faux stone shower build drama in this award-winning home.

April 01, 2007

Faux Naturale
Street of Dreams Home

Inspired by the rural beauty of its Pacific Northwest setting, the design of the owner's master suite in this 7,606-square-foot, Prairie-inspired luxury farmhouse brings the outdoors in with rustic wood finishes and a one-of-a-kind, grotto-style master bath.

"The whole idea for this space was to create a really grand volume," says architect Curtis Gelotte of Curtis Gelotte Architects in Kirkland, Wash., who designed the Sammamish, Wash., home for Seattle's 2006 Street of Dreams. The bedroom, closet, dressing area and master bathroom are all organized under a common vaulted ceiling that envelops the entire suite, reaching 24 feet high at its summit. "When it comes to master suites, the goal is to create as memorable a space as the budget will allow."


The home sits near the top of a hill and overlooks a small lake. "For this project, we really wanted to keep the master suite on the main floor and use large windows and doors to promote the views," says custom builder Joel Glass of Design Guild Homes. "We also wanted to encourage the concept of outdoor living by establishing a direct connection between the master bedroom and a large rear terrace that spans the width of the home."

The Bellevue, Wash.-based company builds an average of eight multi-million-dollar custom residences, as well as one to two spec-built homes, annually. "Because this project was developed as a show house," says Glass, "it was important to incorporate all of the key elements that turn buyers on in this market into the master suite." This included an informal, comfortable ambiance; a separate sitting and reading area; a fireplace; a high-end master bathroom; and a tall ceiling.


To install the overhead sprinkler system required by code, the team ran water lines over the top of the beams and placed the sprinkler heads within.

Arranged for Excitement

About 60 percent of Gelotte's clients — primarily move-up and luxury home buyers — prefer to have the master suite on the main level. This $4.3 million home's L-shaped floor plan is organized around two principal zones on the first floor that feature timber-frame construction. Three secondary bedrooms are located above an attached, three-car garage that forms the base of the "L," making the unrestricted ceiling height in the home's key living areas achievable.

In the master suite, for example, the solid walls that define the transition between the different zones — sitting room, bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet — end at the 10-foot height so the impact of the volume ceiling is not diminished. "Because it was personal space, we still wanted it to feel warm and cozy in there as well," says Gelotte. The ceiling's wood-paneled finish and exposed timbers feature several shades of stain chosen to highlight the beauty of the different species. The variation in color provides enough contrast between the elements to bring down the overall scale of the room without sacrificing visual excitement.

Although the open design of the master suite is one of its most dramatic features, it serves a more practical purpose as well by capturing every bit of available light in a climate known to be stingy with its sunny days, the architect says. Exterior walls contain as much glass as possible, including fixed lower windows topped by transoms, French doors that open to an outdoor deck and terrace, and numerous clerestory windows.

To maintain acoustical privacy between the bedroom and master bathroom, a ½-inch-thick glass partition serves as a sound barrier between the top of the wall and the ceiling peak between the two rooms. "It was very important to keep the space light and bright," says Gelotte. "This glass wall allows someone in either room to enjoy the beauty and expanse of the entire ceiling but eliminates sound transmission between the bedroom and bathroom."

Roughing It in Style

The unique design and finishes incorporated into the master bathroom complement the indoor/outdoor theme that characterizes the rest of the home, Glass says. A skylight brings in natural light while a massive folding door in the rear window wall opens to a private, open-air garden.


A wall of glass visually connects this master retreat’s outdoor-themed bathroom and its private, open-air garden. A small trough on top of the custom shower, above, provides a reservoir to boost water capacity when necessary.

The true focal point of the space, however, is a massive boulder-enclosed shower that features 13 shower heads, including four "rain" heads, six separate body sprays and a hand-held spray. The back wall of the shower, which is visible from the master bedroom, features a waterfall that cascades from additional water jets disguised between the rocks. Fiber optic lighting incorporated into crevices in the stone ceiling illuminates the shower's interior.

"The first thing that you see when you step into the master bathroom is this great stone shower, which is totally unexpected," says Gelotte. "It is a very dramatic surprise element that people just loved."

The stone is made of sculpted concrete applied over a hollow form and is half the weight of what true stone would be. Glass says it was still necessary to beef up the flooring structure in the master bathroom to handle the additional weight. Drainage capacity also had to be increased to handle the extra water flow that comes with operating the shower. "We worked very closely with our plumbing contractor to get this right. We estimate that, with all the heads turned on, the flow rate is about 38 gallons per minute. That's a lot of water at one time," he says.

The bathroom also features a negative-edge soaking tub that offers hydrotherapy and aromatherapy functions and fills via a side spout incorporated into its stone surround. Three 75-gallon water heaters supply all of the home's hot water needs.

Optimized Storage


A ladder helps reach the upper tier of the suite’s walk-in closet that is intended to display seasonal items.

The two-story space created by the master suite's volume ceiling is put to more practical use in the walk-in closet and dressing area, where the builder created two levels of custom-built, white oak storage shelving that hangs and extends 16 feet high. The upper storage areas, accessed by a rolling, library-style ladder, can help reach rarely used personal items or seasonal clothing.

"People really loved the feature of the additional storage space," says Glass. "Most of our clients prefer this over having a secondary laundry room in the master suite."

The closet also includes space for a small sitting area overlooking a second privacy garden. Clerestory windows and a skylight provide natural light for the entire space.

Completed in July 2006, the home received five top Street of Dreams awards including Best Craftsmanship, Best Master Suite and Best Architectural Design.


Faux Naturale

This shower is a total 'wow!'" says Design Guild Homes' Joel Glass of the stone enclosure in the master suite. The shower measures nearly 10 feet square and contributes to the outdoor ambiance that makes this master bathroom so unique.

Although the rock used to craft the shower stall and the surround for the oversized soaking tub looks like the real thing, the rock is actually an artificial formation from Seattle-based Turnstone Construction, a company that specializes in fabricating rock formations of all types using carved concrete.

Turnstone's original clients were zoos and museums across the country, says John Fulford, founder and owner of the 10-year-old company, but regional custom residential and commercial work makes up 85 percent of customers today. Applications for residential work include indoor and outdoor pools; ponds and water features; wine cellars; spas that resemble hot springs; decorative interior rock walls; and foundation cladding.

"Incorporating rock into residential construction serves as a strong architectural approach," says Fulford, "and really brings a good balance against wood or masonry finishes. The most important element of a successful installation is to make sure that it really looks natural."

The process begins with the creation of a clay model that represents the composition of the full-size finished product. The rest of the fabrication process takes place on site where rebar is hand-shaped into the approximate form of the finished structure. Next, a backing is applied to the form that holds a layer of sprayed-on shotcrete. Texture and a color coat are also spray-applied using a compressor pump similar to the one used with shotcrete.

"This is a very dense plaster mix of sand and cement that can be hand sculpted until it hardens," says Fulford. "The finished product is really a work of art. Quite often people have trouble distinguishing our product from the real thing."

"This project was exceptionally challenging because of the number of penetrations in the rock for the individual water jets and fiber optic lighting elements," Fulford continues. "Openings like this have to be carefully worked around because part of our process requires the spraying of concrete. It can be very difficult to keep elements like this clean and free of material buildup." The custom formations for this bathroom took approximately 4 weeks of on-site work to complete.

Street of Dreams Home

Style: Prairie-influenced farmhouse

Location: Sammamish, Wash.

Total Square Footage: 7,606

Architect/Residential Design: Curtis Gelotte Architects, Kirkland, Wash.

Builder: Design Guild Homes, Bellevue, Wash.

Interior Designer: Valley Furniture & Interiors, Redmond, Wash.

Major Products Used: CABINETRY: Baywood Cabinets

COUNTERTOPS: Slab granite



FOLDING DOOR: NanaWall Systems

Comments on: "Master Suite Design Celebrates Outdoors"


This Month in Custom Builder


Benjamin Obdyke has expanded its line of flashing with the addition of a liquid-applied product


This floating staircase elevates an already grand entrance hall in more ways than one.

Overlay Init