‘Master bedroom’ fades away as politically incorrect

The “master suite” is being phased out — not from our homes, but from our lexicon.

The Washington Business Journal surveyed 10 major Washington-area homebuilders and found that six no longer use the term “master” in their floor plans to describe the largest bedroom (with its own bathroom) in the house. They have replaced it with “owner’s suite” or “owner’s bedroom” or, in one case, “mastre bedroom.”

Why? In large part for exactly the reason you would think: “Master” has connotation problems, in gender (it skews toward male) and race (the slave master).

Enter the owner’s suite.

“I imagine it’s not only a more accurate description but also a more politically correct term of art,” said Steve Nardella, senior vice president of operations for Winchester Homes Inc.

Either way, the “master suite” has been linguistically shoved aside.

Winchester, Pulte Homes, NV Homes and Ryan Homes (both under the NVR Inc. umbrella), Van Metre Cos. and D.R. Horton Inc. have all replaced “master” in their floor plans, some more recently than others.

Richmond American Homes, Shulz Homes Corp. Sekas Homes Ltd. (in some of its models) and Quaker Custom Homes LLC continue to employ the word “master” in their designs.

In general, said Grant Johnson of Sekas Homes, “we’re using owner suite, but sometimes it will come through as master.”

Over time, “master” will be filtered out entirely, he said. The change is “just working through the industry, and finally, bingo, we got it.”

Randy Creaser, owner of D.C.’s Creaser/O’Brien Architects PC, said he ditched “master” in the early 1990s in his home designs. He vaguely recalled a few lawsuits brought against builders over the phrase. Pulte spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga said Pulte made the shift maybe three or four years ago.

Word of the change is now reaching the resale market, where “owner’s bedroom” is most commonly used in higher-end listings, said Brian Block, managing broker for McLean’s RE/Max Allegiance.

“The terminology has more of an upscale tone to it, particularly in some of the really large homes that truly have a large bedroom, sitting area, enormous walk-in closets, and lavish bathrooms,” Block wrote in an email. “Owner Suite conveys a sense of being distinguished, having ‘made it’ or ‘arrived’ rather than the everyday ‘Master Bedroom.’”

Lorraine Arora, vice president and managing broker of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Springfield and Kingstowne, said older brokers tend to use “master,” because that is what they’ve always used, while the younger agents “want to be more politically correct.” Her office, she said in an email, is split between the two terms.

A quick, terribly unscientific poll of Washington Business Journal homeowners found none who could recall a real estate agent referring to the “owner’s bedroom.” It was “master” across the board.

Now, about the name “Redskins.”

Update:

Here are a handful of examples where “master bedroom” has been replaced. If you dig through every floor plan from every Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland developer, the master is still to be found. But for the most part, it is fading away.


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