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Country Master

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on May 5, 2010

We are nearing the end of the inside tour. Over 10 weeks, I've led you room by room through the 100-year-old original farmhouse, into the new addition and all the way down the hall. Today's journey brings us to the master bedroom (I'd love to show you more, but if you keep on going, you'll end up in the fields!).
Country Master

There are many takes on the ultimate spot for the master retreat, and there's no one right answer in design or architecture. It all comes down to personal preference, lifestyle and planning. When thinking about a house overflowing with guests and family, and a place that would be the ultimate home for the long haul (and best suited to people of all ages), I opted for a master situated on the ground floor (for easy access), as far away as possible from the hustle and bustle and noise of the gathering rooms in the house and in a location that literally made you feel surrounded by the natural landscape. Here's my take on what makes the ultimate country retreat.

Embrace The Outdoors

After blocking out the overall plan of a space, my next step is to imagine how it can be used throughout the day and night. With a room that has exterior walls on three sides, it seemed only natural to harness the views to maximum effect. A minimal bump-out window box on the south provided room for big windows with views over the rolling field (and no concerns about privacy since it faces the back of the property). Two narrow panes flanking the bed offer glimpses to the west, and a small pair of square windows frame up the fireplace on the east and let in the sunrise (since the east looks out to the drive, these windows are tucked up high off the floor to prevent any indecent-exposure issues with unexpected visitors). I'm always looking to include windows on as many sides of the room as possible, but I prefer to orient sizes and styles for maximum effect when in the room. My goal is to frame the view and create interesting sightlines without going overboard on costly windows.

Country Master Bedroom

Build On A Bold Stroke

Of the many goodies I unearthed at the antique show, my jumping-off point for the bedroom scheme was a quilt. Everyone has their shopping weaknesses, and textiles have always been one of mine. When I saw a bright, bold and cheery floral-patterned quilt in the most unusual colour combination, I felt compelled to purchase it and design the entire bedroom around it. Marigold yellow and pumpkin orange haven't been known to be my all-time favourite colours, but I gratefully embrace the opportunity to experiment whenever possible. You may not always like where I'm headed and think it might not be right for you, but the way I look at design is: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. After 12 years of designing rooms on TV, I have to continually reinvent and try new things (if I kept on doing the same thing, it wouldn't make for very exciting programming).

Reach For The Stars

When you've got high ceilings, why not stretch the limits of height and do something dramatic? At the beginning of my antique market day, I spied with my little eye a lovely carved bed. Since it was the beginning of my hunt, and the bed was pricey, I opted to keep on roaming and see if it remained the winner toward the end of the day. I never let myself splurge on something very expensive at the beginning of the day, for fear I might run out of money by the end of my journey. By 3 p.m., no one else had scooped the bed, and the dealer was ready to part with it for 33 per cent less than he wanted at the beginning of the day, so I happily splurged on a superb centrepiece for the room. I've never designed a room with a four-poster bed before, but the airy feel of the room seemed to welcome this decorative element. If it's the master bedroom you're decorating, why not mak

Country Master

Get Two For One

Over-scaled floral prints are a fave decor element of mine (I'm certain you've noticed). These big prints generally have a multitude of blooms within the overall pattern, and also boast a variety of colours. If you're thinking about having chairs upholstered in an over-scaled print, be sure to think about how you want to manipulate the fabric. It's best to look at the fabric rolled off the bolt so you can choose which bloom or portion of the pattern you want to centre on the seats and backs of the chair. Never one for too much matching, I chose to put one of the four flowers on each seat and back so both chairs are different. His and hers or two for one: Either way you look at it, it's a great way to embrace a beautiful patterned fabric.

Mark Your Calendar

Everyone has days that they like their job and days they don't. I occasionally have what I refer to as I love my job days. You probably think every day in my creative empire is filled with joy and fun, but that's thanks in part to the editing process that turns 21 hours of raw footage (not always scintillating) into 21 watchable fast-paced TV minutes. A never-fail adventure for a great day is quickly approaching, so get out your calendar and mark May 29 in red pen. It's the annual Christie Antiques Market in Dundas, Ont., and it's one of the best days in the whole year. Last spring, I dragged our entire crew through acres of fields filled with beautiful antiques, fabulous accessories and great deals on a sunny Saturday, and ended up with a truck literally bursting with enough furniture to fill a house. Wear comfy shoes and sunscreen, bring a hat and a happy spirit, and you'll meet a dynamic cast of characters that have come from far and wide to show you their wares. The thrill is in the hunt and you never know what you'll discover. Just remember that it's absolutely okay to ask for a better price, but these dealers are just trying to earn a living and can only go so low. In case you're wondering if you'll have to compete with me for bargains this year, I'd love to be at the show, but will be celebrating at a friend's wedding instead so have fun on my behalf.

Country Master

Rough It Up

I panelled, wainscoted, chair-railed and detailed every room in the house with some sort of traditional country-themed wood detail, and experimented with a multitude of patterns and applications to give each room its own decorative flair. Once I knew that the overall scheme of the master bedroom incorporated fine antiques and pretty things, I wanted to introduce some texture to play up the rustic setting. A few years ago, I found exterior plywood panelling that is grooved to look like wide barn board. It's sold in 4-by-8 sheets and costs a small fraction of solid pine tongue-in-groove. To contrast the high vertical proportions, I ran the panelling horizontally, then stained it in an opaque oyster tone. Sometimes strolling the lumber aisles can turn up a cool idea, so get out there and look for inspiration.

Fire Up A Fantasy

I enjoy balancing the save and splurge elements of a project. Throughout the building design and construction process, I tried to stay ever mindful of the overall budget. I like simple, natural materials, installed with care and pride. Instead of select and better wood floors, I requested No. 1 common cherry planks. They came with knotholes and irregularities, short boards and a wide colour range. I saved more than a few dollars per square foot over the price of primo-grade floors, yet you'd never know any sacrifice was made thanks to a great installing job. I can't say the savings I captured through the panelling or rustic-grade floors were enough to offset the entire cost of a wood-burning fireplace, but I can tell you that every little bit helps. When I see gleaming, beautiful hardwood floors accented against rough-sawn panelling, and hear the crackle of a roaring fire in a room filled with pretty antiques and decorative details, I know I've carved out my own ideal of country heaven.


All fabrics: Schumacher available through Bilbrough www.fschumacher.com | Four-poster bed, quilt, mirror, twig table: Christie Antiques Show www.antiqueshowscanada.com | Upholstered chairs and bench: Sarah Richardson Design www.sarahrichardsondesign.com | Bedside lamps, red floral vase: Around the Block www.aroundtheblock.com | Bedside tables, orange wood box, bench: Chair Table Lamp 416-934-1021 | Chandelier: Decorum Decorative Finds 416-966-6829 | Fireplace mantel, antique toy horse, door hinges: The Door Store www.thedoorstore.ca | Marble fireplace surround: Elite Stone www.elitestone.com | Rug: Elte Carpets www.elte.com | Duvet, pillows: Sears www.sears.com | Mattress, sheepskin: IKEA www.ikea.com | Art and framing: D & E Lake www.delake.com | Hardwood floor supply and installation: North Country Wood Floors www.ncwf.ca | Doors: Napa Valley www.napavalleydoors.com | Fireplace: The Fireplace Shop www.thefireplaceshop.com | Building design: Robinson Residential Design Inc. www.robinsonplans.com | Paint Colours: Para Paints 1-800-461-7272 Walls: Sun Hat P5120-24 Ceiling: Meringue SR73

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