Why You Won't Be Hearing The Term 'Master Suite' On Real Estate Shows Anymore

Watching a house tour of any home renovation or search reality show, you'll hear the same basic names for spaces that we've all become accustomed to. For instance, there's the "Jack and Jill bathroom" that adjoins two bedrooms, or the open concept kitchen. Flex spaces incorporate multiple uses into one room — like the office/guest room/playroom.

Likewise, the term "master suite" commonly referred to the main bedroom used by the home's owner or owners — until recently. Take the most recent season of Netflix's "Dream Home Makeover" starring Shea and Syd McGee for instance. The home design gurus now call the main bedroom the "primary suite." There's an important reason why you will hear the largest bedroom in a home being spoken about this way now. 

And it's not just on TV that the term "master suite" is gone for good. Real estate listings are moving toward removing the term all together as well (via U.S. News & World Report). What spurred the trend of moving toward the term "primary suite?"

Well, "master suite," "owner's retreat" and other similar terms are just downright offensive in the minds of many.

Current events have forced commonly-accepted terms front and center

Given all we've been through as a country, the growing sentiment around the term "master suite" is that we can do better.

The Black Lives Matter movement is largely to thank for us as a society questioning a lot of previously commonly-accepted practices and terminology. "Master suite" is one such term that evokes a very dark period of history and doesn't seem to have a place in our modern vocabulary (via House Beautiful).

The first use of the term can be traced back to a home listing in the 1926 Sears catalog, long after the abolition of slavery, and according to multiple sources (via ABC 7 News and U.S. News & World Report). 

But whether describing a bedroom as a "master suite" is linked to slavery or not, the reference is painful nonetheless. As such, HGTV decided to advance their vocabulary in describing the biggest bedroom in a home.

"HGTV recognizes that language matters and we made the conscious decision to use more inclusive terms in our content," the network told House Beautiful, adding the new acceptable terms are "main" or "primary" bedroom.

Not everyone is on board with changing the term

We still have work to do, even with HGTV's commitment and that of show's like "Dream Home Makeover" to do away with the term. As ABC 7 News reported in 2021, a little less than half of real estate listings on Zillow still incorporate the wording "master" to describe a bedroom.

And, House Beautiful talked to home design firms that pushed back at the notion of the term "master suite" being offensive or necessitating change within the industry. Even celebrities are offering their thoughts on the discussion, with John Legend reacting to the Houston Association of Realtors' choice to no longer refer to the largest bedroom as a "master."

In 2020, the singer tweeted, "Real problem: realtors don't show black people all the properties they qualify for. Fake problem: calling the master bedroom the master bedroom. Fix the real problem, realtors" (via Yahoo!).

And as @properties co-founder Thad Wong told the Chicago Tribune the same year, altering this word won't make systemic racism go away. "But if it's a word that is negative for any group, I don't know why we wouldn't put effort into changing it," he added.