Mastering the Bedroom
Vail CO, Colorado
Last Christmas, more than a dozen people stayed with Alma and Ken Wiegand in their three-story, 6,000-square-foot second home in Breckenridge. It was their first holiday season in the house, and although showing off a custom dream home to family and friends is half the fun of having it, that doesn’t mean the Wiegands didn’t occasionally want an escape.
Like many homeowners, they found rest within the walls of their luxury master suite.
Few areas of the home elicit the same visceral, homey feeling as the place we lay our heads each night. For many Rocky Mountain homeowners like the Wiegands, the master bedroom is worth the time and money required to make it incredible.
Lynn Fritzlen, principal of Fritzlen Pierce Architects in Vail, says the master bedroom and the kitchen vie for being the home’s most important rooms in the eyes of many of her clients.
“A lot of people say, ‘I want my bedroom to be a complete, total sanctuary from the world,'” Fritzlen says.
How that’s achieved, however, depends on the person.
“Sanctuary”: It’s a word that resurfaces time and again when homeowners, architects and interior designers describe what makes a master bedroom stand out.
“The master bedroom is where my husband and I go to escape all the activity of the rest of our lives,” says Beth Slifer of Slifer Designs in Vail.
Just as the Wiegands retreated to their third-floor suite to take a break from holiday guests, many homeowners want a master bedroom that leaves the rest of the world behind – and architecture plays a major role in that effort.
“Separation is key,” says David Brown of Stryker Brown Architects in Aspen. “Privacy is key.”
Sometimes, homeowners take this idea to the extreme, having the master suite constructed as a completely separate building, Brown says. One Aspen home he designed has a master suite about 20 to 25 feet from the rest of the home, connected by a glass corridor that gives the sense of walking through the woods to reach it.
Even within the main structure of the home, architects can achieve physical – and acoustical – separation of the master suite by placing it alone on an upper floor or away from the main centers of activity.
“People do like a quiet bedroom,” Fritzlen says. “We just all come to the bedroom thinking that it’s a respite.”
Various architectural and design elements within the master bedroom also contribute to the room’s sense of sanctuary, and therefore make it a standout.
One fairly common addition in the mountains is a fireplace, often with a few plush chairs posed before it.
The Wiegands’ master bedroom features a remote-controlled, gas-powered fireplace on a hearth raised about 2 feet off of floor level. The extra height allows the couple to see the fire flickering while lying in bed. “It’s just very cozy,” Alma Wiegand says.
Carrie Wolfer, interior designer for Anne Grice Interiors in Basalt, says some of her clients strive for Zen-like tranquility with indoor water features in the bedroom, such as a soft-flowing waterfall.
The centerpiece of any master bedroom – the bed itself – can also affect the feeling the room gives its inhabitants.
“A four-poster bed always makes the room seem more dramatic and more like a fantasy,” Slifer says. “If you have the space and the ceiling height, it’s just fun.”
Though much of the master bedroom’s decor depends on personal taste, in general a standout room uses high-quality fabrics and finishings – everything from sky-high thread-count sheets to heavy, wrought iron or brass doorknobs.
“In the resort market … detail is everything,” Fritzlen says. “It brings the warmth and heart to the design.”
Lighting is one detail that can elevate a bedroom from good to great, says Tracey Egolf, founder and principal of Egolf Interiors Inc., in Breckenridge. Using different layers of light – such as accentuating artwork with brighter light, and using more, smaller lights around the room’s perimeter – can even surpass the colors and textures of a room in its ability to contribute to the mood, she says.
“I think lighting is really important,” Egolf says. “And it’s often overlooked.”
Another big detail not to forget is the practical purpose of the bedroom: sleep.
“The mattress needs to be perfect,” Slifer says, “and it is well worth an investment of several thousand dollars.”
Aesthetics aside, some outstanding master suites offer amenities that make them almost independent living spaces, Fritzlen says.
More than once, she’s heard from clients, “‘If I don’t have to, I don’t want to come out of my bedroom until 11 o’clock in the morning,'” she says.
For some, this may include a workout area or spot to do yoga. A coffee maker and even a small refrigerator are logical suite-as-abode additions. Flat-panel televisions – or several, in more extravagant suites – are also common, Fritzlen says, as are desks to keep tabs on work.
Given all the possibilities to keep homeowners entertained without changing their pajamas, a little restraint is necessary to avoid detracting from the room’s primary purpose as a restful place, Brown says.
“Everything one can do to reinforce solitude, quietude and respite is the goal,” he says. “I think more often than not, it’s a goal for simplicity.”
Architects and designers do have a few tricks to help homeowners walk the line between fancy and functional. One nifty compromise in the debate whether an in-suite television is convenient or obtrusive is a flat-panel TV that doubles as a mirror, Brown says. When not in use, the set is a designer-framed mirror hanging on the wall; turn it on, and catch highlights from the Broncos game or a see who gets voted off “American Idol.”
Homeowners can even find televisions that are concealed at the foot of the bed in a chest, which, with the push of a button, opens to entertain.
Experts also can help a productive room remain restful by paying careful attention to layout. A desk used for work, for instance, probably shouldn’t be within easy view of the bed, Fritzlen says.
“Looking at your desk can actually cause you stress.”
Crafting an eye-catching master bedroom requires some forethought from the person, or people, who will call it their own.
“People just have to realize what feelings they really want,” Slifer says. “What’s going to put you in the mood that you want to achieve?”
The answer is very individual: Slifer finds peace in a mostly white room with cornflower blue accents, while one of her clients wakes each morning to a hot pink room with lime-green accents.
Once homeowners have an idea of what they want, architects and designers can help guide them to making their dream master bedroom a reality.
“It’s always a discovery process,” Egolf says.
Bringing together the right vision, architecture and design, any homeowner can have a master bedroom worthy of the ‘s’ word.
“You like it to be comfortable and have a lot of features that are conducive to relaxation,” Wiegand says. “I guess it’s kind of a sanctuary.”
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