Interior Bedrooms in Your San Francisco Home – The Pros and Cons

Posted On: October 6, 2022
By: Matt Fuller

Meet the Interior Bedroom

It’s pretty well known that real estate professionals; developers, builders, and agents can be optimistic and exuberant when marketing their properties. A layout I’d never seen in two decades debuted around 2015 at The Rockwell, a condo building in Lower Pacific Heights.

Residence 901 was the first two-bedroom layout I’d seen marketing an interior room with no exterior windows but a glass door. The implicitly approved-by-the-city habitable sleeping area, allowed the developer to market the home as a two-bedroom home. It was the debut of what I’ve come to call: the Interior Bedroom.

Our experience is that if you show up at a home listed for sale with two bedrooms without some advance notice, you might feel the home was over-marketed and that you just viewed a one-bedroom +den layout.

What is an Interior Bedroom?
A traditional bedroom has a:

  • closet
  • window that is exterior/light-well/operable for natural light
  • solid door that can be latched and locked closed

An interior bedroom has a closet, but:

  • there are no windows
  • there is a glass door that may or may not allow latching/locking is the only natural light/ventilation source for the room


An Interior Bedroom in San Francisco with no exterior window


What Do Building Regulations Say About Bedrooms
It’s more about what building regulations and codes DON’T say about bedrooms. The definitions are nebulous at best and leave lots of wiggle room. The San Francisco Building Code:

  • does define a bedroom, but in such a highly technical and poorly written way that it is difficult to use in everyday life (see below).
  • does contain several various definitions for a “habitable sleeping room”, confusing the issue even more.

Subject: Definition of Bedroom
Effective Date: 5/09 (Revised 1/14, 10/17)
Planning Code Sections 207.6 and 207.7 require a minimum percentage of two- or three- bedroom units in certain new developments. In order to implement these requirements, it is necessary to define a “bedroom.” Section 102 defines a bedroom as “a ‘sleeping room’, as defined in the Building Code.” However, the Building Code does not contain a single definition of “sleeping room.” Rather, it – along with the Housing Code – contains several varied definitions, many of which relate to technical issues traditionally dealt with by the Department of Building Inspection (DBI). Therefore, a bedroom shall be defined as any room that meets all of the criteria for a bedroom or sleeping room in the Building and Housing Codes, except that for the purposes of the Planning Code a bedroom must be fully enclosed from floor to ceiling, and any room using a wall less than full ceiling height (i.e. a “pony wall”) to separate it from other rooms shall not be considered a bedroom.

San Francisco planning says anything that SF DBI could call a bedroom, under the varied definitions of a sleeping area, will be counted as a bedroom, as long as the space is enclosed with full-height walls from floor to ceiling with no cutouts or openings.

Maximize Your Interior Bedroom
What are the do’s and don’t around sleeping in a room without windows? With less access to direct sunlight, your body may need some more cues about what time of day it is. Our bodies love natural light and here are some tips on how to live your best life in a room without windows.

Maximize Air Flow
San Francisco building code may require passive vents or active fans in new/newer construction to help air flow through a home. In addition, you can ventilate your room even if it has no exterior windows. Open the bedroom door and any other windows that are available in your home. Place fans strategically to facilitate the circulation of air through your home and the room. Start by opening things up for 15 minutes at a time. This process will allow help keep air circulating.

Fan Thyself
This is a great way to ensure you get plenty of fresh air and remain comfortable from dawn till dusk and through the night as well. Fans help circulate the air in the room, keeping it fresh. For maximum benefits of a fan, make sure not to place it too close to you or pointed it directly at your face.

Purify the Air
If possible, invest in a good air purifier for your interior bedroom so that it stays nice and clean with fresh air coming through regularly. There are many types of filters available, depending on the size of your room and needs.  A good air purifier will have a HEPA or MERV filter. These filters are made from synthetic fibers that trap up to 99% of pollutants from the air. They remove at least 99.97% of particulate matter, both larger and smaller than 0.3 micrometers in size. Some good purifiers also have activated carbon filters that help absorb odors and gases that can disrupt sleep.

The best way to determine what makes a purifier good is by looking into how many pollutants it removes, how easy it is to use, and its features such as odor absorption for improved quality of sleep.

Consider A/C 
If you want to ensure the room is as cool as possible, an A/C unit will do the trick if your home doesn’t have air-conditioning already. Confirm what is allowed with your building rules, and that an installation wouldn’t blow air directly on people or disrupt any airflow in the room. A/C is a substantial investment that can help you control the exact temperature of a room. While more expensive, this can be a great idea for anyone who has trouble enjoying a room without lots of cooling.

Invest in a Great Bed & Mattress
If you’re a restless sleeper, invest in a comfortable bed and mattress. It is important to feel relaxed when we sleep so that our muscles can fully rest themselves from the day’s activities. Relaxing will also release tension that keeps us up at night! A good pillow will also help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. Invest in a pillow that is easy on your neck, as this may reduce tension making it easier for us to fall asleep with less discomfort or pain from muscles being too tight.

What makes a good mattress? There are entire websites dedicated to that, so keep doing your research and consider one made from materials that have been tested as not irritating. The material should also not keep too much heat, so it’s not keeping your body warm during the night. It’s also important to consider the weight of a mattress. A heavier or denser foam is going to be less supportive of your back and more likely to cause pain in certain areas of your back. This is one way that what makes a mattress good is different for everyone—find out what is best for you.

So… Is It A Bedroom?
Buyers, ultimately, will answer that question with their purchase contracts and pocketbooks. In my experience, most buyers do not consider an interior bedroom to be equivalent in value to a traditional exterior-facing bedroom. Let us help you find the right house with the right amount of bedrooms, interior or not. Hit one of the buttons below to chat with us.

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