Separate But Equal Bedrooms

I just finished an intriguing article in The New York Times (via Metafilter) about the changing face of the bedroom:

In a survey in February by the National Association of Home Builders, builders and architects predicted that more than 60 percent of custom houses would have dual master bedrooms by 2015, according to Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president of research at the builders association. Some builders say more than a quarter of their new projects already do.

As somebody who’s starting to think about building a house, it’s an interesting trend. We’ll want to sell the house we build–should it have two master bedrooms? We’re not going to sweat it, but that number of 60% does seem really high. I guess the National Association of Home Builders has some self-interest in inflating the number, as it implies larger houses and more money for them. On the other hand, if they built a bunch of houses that buyers didn’t want, that wouldn’t help them. So, I’m guessing there isn’t too much spin in that estimate.

This quote struck me as worrying:

Occasionally, the need to separate does have to do with sex. Professor Rosenblatt said one older woman he interviewed said she had her own bedroom because, “I’ve paid my dues. I’m old enough that I don’t want to have sex at 1 a.m.”

Ouch. “Paid my dues”. If that’s how you think about it, maybe you want to, I don’t know, go with separate lives instead of separate bedrooms.


  1. I’d love to live in a place with “separate but equal” master bedrooms. Not because I think my spouse should have their own bedroom, but because I don’t have, or want any sort of live-in spouse.

    I pay a little more rent so that I can get the larger bedroom in my apartment. I bet my roommate would appreciate a bigger room, though.

    Sometime in the future, she & I are looking at buying a place together. Neither one of us can afford to buy on our own in an area that we’d actually want to live in, and we also have no interest in living with someone just so that we CAN… therefore, the perfect solution is for us to go in together and buy a place.

    But the bedroom issue is a squishy one. I’m not sure what we’re going to do about that. 🙂

  2. I think that the trend is probably relate to a few things:

    1) More single older in-laws, plus high costs of building & zoning mean that it is more practical to put an elderly relative in their own large bedroom space where they can also have their own sitting area and bathroom, but not have to be cooking for themselves, etc.

    2) More people from cultures where adult children (couples) live with the parents of one side, in the same house or unit. Separate living units isn’t as common in many other cultures. I’ve seen either recently married adult children (or child) plus spouse in their parents home, or older parents living with their adult children, helping with grandkids.

    3) Single young adults are boomeranging back to the house of mom & dad, or not leaving as young as they once did.

  3. It’s better. I went to a talk last year about housing in Victoria by someone from the urban futures institute and they said that in the core municipalites and an interesting point made was that even though there is a housing crunch there are alot of family-sized houses in the core with just one or two people living in them. It’s tied to older couples and seniors staying healthier, being able to live independantly longer.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that if having 2 masters will encourage better higher density use of homes, then it’s a good thing…

    … that said I wouldn’t cherish the thought of living with my mother again. 😉

  4. This is an interesting idea. While I’ve been a monk for 10 years, I know that I can never sleep well in the same bed as someone else. It’s never worked for me.

    Don’t forget the possibility that the NAHB could create spin and just hope people will buy into this. On the other hand, it might actually be a way to save marriages/ relationships – having separate bedrooms. I know a couple who stayed married and yet slept separately for 15+ years. (Ultimately, it didn’t help these people, but it could help others.)

  5. Darren, the problem with having two master bedrooms is that it will lead to separate lives among a couple. They will tend to start sleeping apart, then living apart in the same house and then living apart completely. Cause when you think of it, sleeping in the same room is a compromise on space & privacy. You have to be really comfortable with someone to have them share your bed. And that comfort is called love.
    But why ask for trouble and build two master bedrooms. A home office is another thing altogether and I would go for it.

  6. I find it very sad that people are so close minded and rigid about this issue. Of course a person deserves a room of their own. When I was a child I had my own bedroom. Why is it that our culture thinks that when you become an adult you need less privacy and less space than you needed as a child? I’ve always been in favor of my own bedroom even though I’m very happily married. I might sleep there and I might not but it is the principle involved of having my own space where I can keep the light on until 3am or leave my clothes strewn around and not impose my habits on my best – friend. As for sex – again, why is our culture so focused on the idea that sex happens in a bed, at night? My spouse and I like to sleep at night. Day light hours are the time when homo sapien was programmed to have sex. The only reason why our culture has sex at night is because our religions have attribute something furtive and sinful to it.

    Amy Sandridge

  7. I’ve got to agree with Amy. I’m a college student and after having lived with a roommate all year (the first time I’ve had to share my only living space with another human being) I’m not interested in having to share a room that way for a very long time. The thought is horrific. She was my best friend, but she was moody, she went to sleep much earlier than I did so I was always waking her up, and spending that much time in the same enclosed space will drive anyone crazy and it drove both of us fairly nuts. I’m trying to move off campus and one of my problems is that the house I’d like to live in requires 4 person occupancy for a 3 bedroom house and I can’t find people willing to share a room.

    Additionally to be noted: my mom went back to college a couple of years ago. She’s still in college. Now, in our house we have living room, kitchen, bathroom, my room, my brother’s room, my dad’s office, and my parent’s bedroom. Of all those places would you like to tell me where my mom can have her own working environment to set up her computer and printer and read and work uninterupted after having taken care of everyone else all day, gone to work, gone to class, and finally come home? There wasn’t really anywhere.

    Personally, I like sleeping in the same room as another person, knowing somebody else is alive and breathing, but the thought of sharing a singular confined living space–maybe it’s not so bad in a house as it is in a dorm–still sounds fairly horrific at the moment. Maybe someday but certainly not now.

    Also, Amy makes a good point about sex (I also don’t see sex as having anything to do with wanting a seperate bedroom or not); the religious background/past of our culture points very firmly to sex being sinful or wrong somehow. We’re a fairly sexually repressed society, ESPECIALLY females, but I’ll leave off on that since that’s not the topic of this article.

  8. i’m on the other side of that “no thanks” story – my husband has zero interest in sex (10 years now) and i’ve just recently stopped trying to fight that – counselling, doctors, etc, nothing has helped and no, there is no 3rd party or alternate sexual orientation involved – he is what they are now calling the fourth sexual orientation: asexual. I would love my own bedroom now. Apart from the privacy, I don’t feel the need to put up with the irritants of sleeping with a snorring, jimmy-legged hulk if I can’t use the time I am awake to actually have some fun. I’m taking the first step of separate beds in the same room and will see how that goes. Unfortunately, this is not a situation of my choosing but love runs deep and in order to stay together, i see no other way to proceed. Room mates after less than 20 yrs is depressing but at least I will get some restful sleep.

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