A master bedroom’s spaces within the space
Photographed by Greg West, Produced by Marsha Kusczak - A structural column became the focal point for designer Patricia Finn, who created three distinct spaces in one.
A stark white structural column in the middle of a room could pose a challenge for some decorators, but not for Patricia Finn of Finn-Martens Design in Beverly, Massachusetts. Finn, one of 16 interior designers participating in the Museums of Old York’s 2013 Decorator Show House, faced that very problem in the home’s master bedroom, where an isolated column did little to enhance the space. By turning the column into the focus of her design, she redefined a lifeless room as a warm and inviting place.
The decorator show house, which benefits the educational programs and historical preservation conducted by the Museums of Old York, gives designers from around New England the opportunity to transform a room and visitors a chance to gather ideas. The 24th annual show house, called Secret Cove and located in a historic area of Kittery Point, Maine, offered calming views of the Piscataqua River.
In particular, the master bedroom needed reorganization. When Finn walked into the room for the first time, she noted that it had ample square footage (nearly 500 square feet) but felt disconnected from the water beyond the windows. “The orientation of existing furniture did not connect to the home’s best feature—the proximity and view to the river,” she says.
Finn knew immediately that a traditional bedroom layout with the headboard against the wall was not going to work. She decided to take a different approach by floating the bed in the center of the room against the structural column, thus creating three distinct spaces in one. By arranging the furniture in groups, she ended up with a sleeping area, sitting area, and media area, in addition to the en suite bathroom and adjoining screened porch.
The designer was not allowed to change certain aspects of the room, including the fireplace surround with colonial detailing and the bathroom vanity and floor tiles. She also had one self-imposed rule to “eliminate anything that does not have a purpose in contributing to form and theme or function.” Other than that, Finn simply followed her passion for blending the natural with the man-made and ensuring that a space fulfills its function properly. The function of the master bedroom was to “provide a restful, relaxing atmosphere—a space that instantly calms,” she says.
Envisioning an exotic, Bali theme, she chose a color palette of tans and browns that would make show house visitors feel as though they were on vacation. “I’ve found that at tropical island resorts, the line between outdoors and indoors is more blurred than we typically think of in New England. Considering the fact that the master bedroom had its own private porch with hot tub furthered that thought,” she says.
In order to accomplish her design goals, Finn first addressed the structural column. “What does not work is ignoring the structural column in the middle of the room,” she says. “Rather than pretend it’s not there, I would make it a focal point.” She clad the column in mahogany to conceal the white colonial trim and electrified it so that she could attach sconces to it and give the room height (the lack of ceiling lights made the ceiling seem low). After that, Finn flanked the column with two woven wood blinds, each 54 inches wide by 100 inches high, which created textural separation between the room’s distinct spaces and incorporated the natural world into the design.
After placing the bed up against the partition, faced toward the porch and the Piscataqua, Finn set up a television-viewing area on the other side of the partition and a place to sit, read, and unwind in the corner. She warmed up the walls with handcrafted, block-printed wallpaper from Farrow & Ball, an English company, and filled the space with many natural elements, including cotton, linen, wool, unpainted wood, and a mix of real and permanent (faux) botanicals.
The toughest parts of the project for Finn were the bathroom and porch. Since she could not remove the existing bathroom vanity because it contained plumbing and electricals for the radiant heating under the floor tiles, Finn opted to change the laminate countertop to quartzite and added a sleek nickel sink and faucet from Designer Bath in Beverly. The creative teak flooring she used to hide the original floor tiles is actually designed for outdoor use, but it enhances the island resort feel. She covered the bathroom walls in silvery leopard-print wallpaper, also from Farrow & Ball.
The porch was a challenge, it looked like a drab white box and the hot tub did not blend in. Finn integrated them into the bedroom by painting the area below the windows the same tan as the bedroom trim, installing a contemporary ceiling fan with bamboo blades, bringing in rattan and teak chairs, and dressing up the hot tub with an abundance of tropical plants. The porch plants and other furnishings came from Artefact Home|Garden in Belmont, Massachusetts.
To complement Finn’s use of natural elements, the outside of the house remained understated to optimize the views. The original, mature plantings were retained according to the homeowners’ wishes, but trees were pruned and beds redefined, says Maya Travaglia of Charles C. Hugo Landscape Design, which dealt with the landscape. Since the master bedroom and main living space, including the kitchen, dining area, and porch, were on the home’s first floor, it was especially important to tame the gardens and let the river scenery shine.
Finn says the key to organizing any space, whether outdoors or inside a house, is good design. “My design philosophy can be applied to any room, of any size,” she says. To achieve a restful and comfortable space in your own master bedroom, she recommends keeping furnishings clean-lined and purposeful, paying careful attention to both task and accent lighting, avoiding unnecessary clutter, and limiting busy patterns and bright colors. Just a pop of color in the form of a pillow or vase allows you to change it out easily.
The show house bedroom demonstrates how an imaginative and organized plan can transform several unique areas into one refreshing space. “The most pleasing spaces are not simply a matter of money,” Finn says. “They all start with a design. And a good design incorporates color and texture and form and function, all to enhance the experience and reflect the people who occupy that space.”