A Chic Master Suite
Urban chic meets Southern charm in a master suite built for comfort
Teenagers need privacy and space—two qualities that Carolyn Marsel's suburban Chicago home lacked. But rather than create a kid's retreat that would lay dormant once daughter Ande graduated from high school, Carolyn decided to build a refuge that she and her husband, Gary, could escape to when Ande entertained and could continue to enjoy long after their daughter left home.
Working with Bud Dietrich of HFD Architects and McElligott-Smith Builders, the homeowners tore down the master bedroom addition they had built 14 years earlier and created an expanded suite in its place.
Carolyn, an Alabama-bred artist, wanted the 1,000-square-foot addition to combine the edgy urbanity of a Manhattan loft with the genteel charm of a Southern country home. Dietrich complied, pairing high ceilings and exposed brick walls with tall, transom-topped windows. Generous moldings evoke a sense of history, while an illuminated cove set 2 feet below the ceiling lends human scale to the bedroom's lofty dimensions.
Carolyn and Gary requested separate closets, but Dietrich thought a wall punctuated by twin doors would look too commonplace. So he concealed the closets behind a row of mirrored doors, only two of which actually open. A see-through fireplace anchors a sitting area at the foot of the bed and also opens to the master bathroom beyond, so Gary can read by the fire while Carolyn gazes at it from her tub.
The spacious master bathroom appears more quaint than clinical. "I wanted it to look like we took an existing room and retrofitted it to be a bathroom," says Carolyn, who floated the claw-foot tub at a rakish angle and scattered tribal rugs atop the dusky oak floor. Vanities look more like tables than built-ins, with skirted undersides in lieu of cabinets. Mirrored wall panels conceal shelves packed with toiletries and towels.
Since the house lacked an adequate powder room, Carolyn suggested incorporating a new powder room into the master suite. The resulting compartment can be closed off from the rest of the master bathroom when company calls, or linked to it to give Carolyn and Gary two toilets.
The owners are so content in their private retreat they have been known to linger there for hours. "Ande has to come and check on us," Carolyn says with a laugh. "I think she just wants to make sure we're not coming out anytime soon!"
To give the master bathroom bygone appeal, the owners utilized old-fashioned materials and avoided built-ins, making the room look like an existing space that had been retrofitted to become a bathroom. Here's how:
1. Reclaimed brick covers two walls, while a third is fitted with mirrored doors designed to conceal storage.
2. Tribal carpets top oak floors for a more furnished look.
3. Wall-mounted sconces augment discreet recessed can lights.
4. Pleated skirts under the vanities make the tops look more like tables.
5. A reproduction claw-foot tub floats jauntily in the corner, making it look like an afterthought.
Adding Warmth Through Materials
Natural finishes, toothy textures, and varied patterns give the master suite vintage charm and the feeling of a space that has been assembled over time.
1. Just like in the bathroom, reclaimed brick in an array of colors adorns the wall behind the bed, rooting the room in the past and providing a rustic counterpoint to gleaming mirrored doors.
2. To give the room a relaxed, "accumulated" look, homeowner Carolyn Marsel blended furnishings in different styles and finishes, and introduced pattern with area rugs and a quilt.
3. Cove lighting wrapping the room sheds soft illumination after dark.
4. Silk drapes add texture to the windows.
5. Hardwood floors lend warmth underfoot.
A spacious master bedroom suite added to a 1949 ranch house on Chicago's North Shore gives the owners a private retreat from teenage gatherings and a powder room that can serve both guests and themselves.
What it Took:
-- Tearing down the old master bedroom wing and building a larger suite in its place.
-- Inserting a powder room at the suite's entry, with one door leading to the home's public spaces and another to the master bathroom.
-- Installing a two-sided fireplace between the bedroom and bath.
-- Using salvaged brick, trim, wood flooring, and surface-mounted lights to make the addition feel like an existing structure that had been retrofitted.
-- Adding transoms, French doors, and a skylight to compensate for a windowless south wall that faces the neighbors.
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