7 Steps To Creating The Perfect Master Suite

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Potential was about the only thing to love when we moved into our current home. A Victorian semi which had previously been converted into three bedsit flats, it was in desperate need of some major TLC.

We lived in the house for several years before making any major changes, and I’m really glad that we did, because we found that what we wanted altered quite a lot over time. Once we had lived in the house for a while, we understood much better how we used the space and what we wanted from it.

Moving from a two to a five bedroomed house meant that we had lots of extra space to play with. When we began our search for a new home, we were originally looking for three bedrooms with a possibility to create a fourth by doing a loft conversion.

When we found No.80, it was nice that the existing third floor of the house already had two rooms. But at first, we couldn’t work out how to use them, and they were nothing more than a dumping ground.

We had one room that contained a couple of clothing racks, suitcases and a bit of stung-up washing up line that we hung more clothes on. The other one didn’t really have a purpose, although after our second baby arrived and we made our guest room into a nursery, it got pressed into service when people occasionally stayed over.

There was also a deep landing that held a couple of bookcases and a desk that we never used.

We always knew we were going to do something with the space eventually, so we held off decorating properly. Our initial thought back when we moved in was to use one room as a dressing room, and the other as a kids playroom.

Once we actually had kids though, we quickly realised the obvious - that you don’t want their playroom located on the top floor of the house where you can’t keep an eye on them!

Things actually fell into place when we reconsidered the downstairs layout and decided to add an open plan kitchen/family room to the back of the house. With extra space on the ground floor for the kids to play, the idea of creating something just for the grown-ups on the top floor took hold.

How Do You Design A Master Suite?

Did you know that we actually spend almost a third of our lives in our bedrooms?

I think in my case, that’s probably even higher, as there’s literally nothing I love more than watching Netflix in bed, and I’m often up there super early!

Master bedrooms should always be a little oasis of calm - an escape from the madness of life. As house building trends have changed over the years, it's now pretty much essential to include an ensuite bathroom - this is standard practice for new-builds, and renovators of older homes are finding more value in sacrificing a box bedroom to create space for an ensuite.

Starting from the position we were in, we decided to reshuffle the layout to make the existing space more suitable for our needs.

After a discussion with our architect, we decided that the best use of space was to add a full length dormer to the rear bedroom to open up the space and make it more usable, and to subdivide the front bedroom into two parts. Slightly over half would become an ensuite bathroom, while the remaining space became a dressing room.

This also allows us to still list the property as a five bed if we ever come to sell it, which was important to us as we didn’t want to affect the value. The wasted space on the landing we partitioned off to make a large walk-in storage closet, accessed from the bedroom. We worked around the existing staircase and the position of Velux windows in the front bedroom when deciding on a layout which made sense for both our needs now and potential resale.

Of course, if you’re doing a self-build or a loft conversion from scratch, you’ll have a lot more flexibility in terms of the layout. And if you’re working from an existing space, then you could think about reclaiming space from another bedroom, hallway or storage closets to increase the size of room and make an ensuite possible.

1. Plan Out Your Ensuite Bathroom

You don’t need planning permission for most loft conversions or to add an ensuite bathroom into your existing house (and thank goodness, because our experience with getting our designs green-lit was nothing short of a nightmare). But you will need Building Regulations approval - you can apply via an independent inspector or the local council.

The existing plumbing arrangements also have a big influence on what you can do within budget - while things may be technically possible, they will be a hell of a lot more expensive and complicated if you don’t work with what’s already there.

In our case, choosing to locate the ensuite in the front right corner of the house meant that there was already piping in place for the waste and the water in this location a floor below (where the ensuite for our current second floor bedroom is). The further away from the waste pipe you want to locate your ensuite, the more difficulties you’re likely to find - you may have to chase out walls from the rooms below or have all the floorboards taken up.

When it comes to design, I like to think that you can get a little more creative when it comes to your ensuite. It’s a more private space where you can make a statement that might not feel right for other more public areas for the house. In our case, we wanted to make a space that felt quite grown-up and luxurious.

Much as we adore family life with all its colourful chaos, this is a place in the house that is more for just Mr A-F and I to enjoy. It was important to us to include a bath, as we both regularly chill out in the bath to relax. In the end, it proved easier for us to take the bathroom as the starting point for a design and then use that to inform elements of the bedroom, than doing it the other way round.

2.To Open Plan Or Not To Open Plan?

There’s a big trend to create your master suite ‘hotel style’, which basically means a layout where the bedroom and bathroom are open plan.

Although this can make a space look quite big and impressive, there are some practical considerations, like building a privacy wall for the toilet -  you do NOT want that staring at you from the bed! Some people choose to do a semi open plan with a partition or a half wall to screen the bathroom, or simply position the bed so it's facing away from the bathing area.

For us, we decided to fully enclose it, with a door from the master bedroom. We considered going jack-and-jill with another door into the dressing room/ second bedroom, but this would have limited us too much - ‘losing’ a blank wall to create another doorway would have meant no space to fit a freestanding bath plus a separate shower, which was what we wanted.

3. Create Zones In Your Plan With Lighting Or Flooring

If you do choose to go fully open plan with your master suite, you’ll need to think about how best to zone the space, so that you can mark out separate areas within the room - this can be achieved with your choice of materials and textures. You could also opt for a level change - even a single step down between the spaces can separate them.

Either choose a contrast or opt for things such as continuous flooring that runs throughout to give a more cohesive look. For me, I like carpeting in a bedroom as I find it more cosy. So we chose a plush grey carpet for the bedroom and dressing room, a grey-and-white stripe for the hallway, and varnished wooden flooring for the bathroom.

Thinking about the lighting scheme can also help you to 'zone' the space, especially if its more open plan. We decided we liked the more intimate feel of pendant lighting in the bedroom and dressing room, but for the closet and the bathroom we wanted more functional spot lighting. We also chose to add a dimmer to the bathroom lights, so we can choose to have them down low if one of us is relaxing in the bath.

4. Think About How You Will Use The Space 

A master suite is the ultimate luxury, and it has to be designed around you and how you use the space. For us, having a dressing room was an important part of it as we both have a lot of clothes! We needed lots of full length hanging space, and some for shoes and bags.

By making the third floor landing smaller, we also achieved the space for a large walk-in storage closet in addition to the small dressing room, meaning we could keep bulkier items out of sight and make the dressing room geared around our current clothes.

We had to think through the implications for some choices, and ended up going in a different direction than we originally considered.

I initially wanted a juliette balcony in the bedroom. However, when we spoke with the builder, we realised that it would limit the bedroom furniture we could have, as the doors would need clearance to open. That meant less clear wall space for furniture, as most of the other walls already had doors or windows.

And although we look down on a lovely view of gardens, treetops and a waterway with ducks and swans paddling past, , there is quite a road behind all that, and I knew the noise meant we probably wouldn’t choose to have the juliette open, even on hot summer nights.

In the end, our builder thought it would be more practical to add in a really large window so we still got the wow factor in a more functional way. This also saved us about £2,000. Don’t be tempted to add in features that you won’t use, as this will ultimately be a waste of money. Good design is functional as well as beautiful.

5. Let There Be Light (....And Power) 

Planning well in advance what lighting you want for the space, and where the power sockets will go is really important, as it will affect the whole layout and usability of your master suite. Lighting can have a transformative effect, so use that power.

We opted for pendant lights throughout, with plenty of power sockets for lamps, as I prefer to use those to create a more relaxed feel than an overhead light.

In the bathroom, I chose a multiway light to give slightly brighter illumination and more functionality, so I could see well enough to put on my makeup in there. Choosing where the power outlets went also determined where our bed needed to go in the space as well, which has a knock on effect on the other soft furnishings too.

6. Add Some Colour And Style

With the basics determined, you can then begin to focus on the style and mood you want for your space.

As we have two small children and both work full-time, finding the opportunity to go to interior shops and just browse felt pretty impossible. Instead, I found a lot of my ideas through the magazine Living Etc, which showcases some amazing design, and from a great interiors place called Margo & Plum, based at The Engine Yard at Belvoir Castle which encapsulated the feel I wanted. You know when you walk into a place and you love it so much you want to move in? Yeah, that!

Once you have this initial spark, Pinterest is a really useful tool for exploring things like colour palettes and furnishing options. We order most things online, so I also found creating mood boards on Canva to be key. It allowed me to visually pull together reference and shots of furniture or fittings I was planning to order and check that they all worked well together.

For me, I found it easier to choose one key piece, and base the rest of the scheme around it. So, in the ensuite, Mr A-F actually sourced a really amazing black crocodile freestanding bath.

When something is so statement, you want the other elements to complement it. So that piece inspired the choice of a soft, light grey for the walls, a matt black shower and taps, and a sink unit and shelves which mixed solid acacia wood with black frames and a couple of brass details.

Once the bathroom scheme was chosen, we turned our attention to the bedroom. Our taste runs more to restful, calming schemes than anything too bright. I liked the idea of going for a deep, inky blue on the walls. The room has one huge window plus a couple of smaller ones, so it's very light and that meant it could take a deeper shade.

I loved the idea of navy - there’s something romantic and heritage about it, but it's also quite rock and roll. We knew it was a colour that might have been used when the house was first built in the 1900s. Plus, it reminded me of the night sky.

7. Don’t Forget The Personal Touches

Once the colours are in place, it's then all about the design details which make the space personal to you. These are the moodboards I created for our master suite - one for the bathroom and one for the bedroom.

For us, it's important to reflect the house’s Victorian heritage at the same time as making it modern. We’ve both always loved design references which mix historical elements with elements which are more unexpected, perhaps even a bit humorous.

We knew that we wanted to include some Cole and Son patterned wallpaper, which we have used in other places through the house. The ‘Procuratie Con Vista’ design with it's architectural pillars and cheeky monkey details felt very us - especially after I saw a monkey lamp at Margo & Plum that we had to have.

We added a couple of accents in blush pink, like an upholstered velvet bench and cushions on the bed, as it contrasts beautifully with the deep blue.

We had also bought a huge solid mahogany bow-fronted chest of drawers at auction a year or so prior which we wanted to include, and I also knew I wanted a French style corbeille bed, an over-the-top feathered light fitting, some of Ink and Drop’s cheeky historical portraits and a neon sign to feature in the finishing touches.

We still have a few things to buy before the room is exactly how we want it, so I look forward to sharing a proper tour of the new space when everything is done!

1 comment

  1. Does anyone know what the colours are in the pic on number 6?