Oh-so-nice master retreats

Photographs by Ashley Fraser

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Sonya Kinkade and her husband, Darryl, love to escape to their master bedroom and ensuite.

When stress builds or the teenagers get too noisy, grown-ups hide out in cosy retreats. They turn on the fireplace, turn down the lights, soak in the tub and snuggle under the covers.

If fancy kitchens of granite and Gaggenau appliances are for the gourmet cook, then the master bedroom and ensuite are sweet retreats for parents escaping the hurly burly of teenagers and yet another trip to the hockey rink. They are also fine escapes for a lazy Sunday morning, with coffee and books for extra company.

Holidays put another layer of fatigue on families, which gives parents a good reason to close the door, switch on the fireplace, flick on the television and sink under layers of comforters. “Honestly, on Christmas Eve, we like to sit downstairs by the Christmas tree and have a glass of champagne,” says Sonya Kinkade, an interior designer, mother of two girls and one boy and wife of residential and commercial renovator, Darryl Kinkade. “We like to sit back and say we’ve done it again. Then we head upstairs. It’s where I like to escape to, especially on Sunday mornings with my magazines,” says the designer, who has been renovating their two-storey home in Richmond, Ont., for the past seven years.

The master bedroom is a study in compromise. Darryl picked the manly dark wood furniture. She tolerates it, as well as and the television, because there is a frame around the edge and it disappears into the wall. He accepts her girly chandelier.

Area carpets warm up the hardwood floor and a fireplace adds warmth when the snow is falling outside. “I would like to get a fridge to hold wine so I don’t have to walk far,” says the owner of Sonya Kinkade Design, who adds, “the key to any successful master getaway is to layer the bedding, to be warm.”

Colour is also good for the master bedroom, says Kinkade, who ramped up the warmth and romantic appeal of a country home on the Big Rideau with liberal helpings of a rich red. “It’s not in your face red because that wouldn’t be relaxing. It is more muted.” The red also contrasts nicely with the hardwood flooring and rich bedding.

In town, she prefers more neutral colours on the walls, letting shots of colour in the bedding fire up the warmth appeal.

In another part of town, a technology entrepreneur and his wife can lie in their king-sized bed and watch the lights across the river flicker or turn over and watch the flicker of their gas fireplace.

There are times when the lights across the water look like Manhattan. “Except, it’s really Aylmer and the water is the Ottawa, not the Hudson,” says the entrepreneur, who likes to retreat to the master bedroom to read on couches set in a turret or relax in a steam shower in the ensuite, which has its own spectacular view of the Gatineau Hills.

His wife likes to soak in the free-standing tub, set under a dome in the middle of the ensuite, a few feet away from a curved bank of windows. Many might mumble, “exhibitionists.” That would be wrong because there are no neighbours, just water, says Friedemann Weinhardt, owner of Design First Interiors and the professional who worked with the couple to reconstitute the river-front house.

“There is also a film on the windows, so we don’t need blinds and curtains,” says the owner, who says he often has to pinch himself to remember he is lucky enough to own a cottage-house with a long beach frontage on the Ottawa River in urban Ottawa. The couple’s teenage sons have bedrooms on the same level, but located in a separate wing, which gives them some much-appreciated privacy.

In yet another part of town, Yvonne and Robert Bateman hired designer André Godin to design a sprawling stone and stucco home with a private retreat for these parents of three teens — two girls and a boy.

“Christmas is a big deal for us,” says Yvonne Bateman. “It is a busy house. Last year, there were 22 for dinner. There will be the same this year. Sometimes we just have to get away.”

They like to retreat to their main floor sunroom for a glass of wine or, in the summer, to the garden off their master bedroom. But when the snow is blustery, the two turn on the television and the fireplace, which is set into a wall of walnut panelling. “It is our little escape. The master is still a work in progress, yet we like the quiet.”

The ensuite is perfect, she says. “There is a big soaking tub and a shower.”

When it comes to planning the romantic master and ensuite there are some basics to consider, according to a clutch of top designers.

First, pay attention to lighting, says Gerry Towns, veteran sales representative at Marchand Electric. The worst thing is high-intensity light. Everyone looks older, says Towns. Fluorescent is very unflattering for all ages, he says. Look for layered lighting, maybe a funky chandelier, pot lights, wall sconces and dimmers, lots of dimmers.

Also have a remote control within reach when you are in bed. Matches would be good to light the candles, because that’s the best lighting of all when it comes to ambience and romance, says Towns.

Flickering candles and champagne add to the romance in Sonya and Darryl Kincade's master bedroom.

The same philosophy of layered lighting and flickering candles works for romance in a bathroom, says Towns. A second chandelier adds its own helping of romance, he says.

Pass on old-fashioned heat lights in the bathroom and invest in heated floor tiles and heated towel racks. “There is nothing better than warm feet after getting out of the tub or a shower and nothing better than rubbing down with warm towels or putting on a warm housecoat.”

If you are in a renovating mode, then get funky with red tiles, says Lauren Connolly, a designer with Astro Design on the west side of the city. Rubinet offers a wide range of colours and finishes for funky faucets to shake things up. Get ready to pay because these high performers start at $508.

Free-standing tubs were big winners at the Housing Design Awards held earlier this year, says Connolly. Yet Gerhard Linse, a veteran designer, warns it’s important to leave enough room, a couple of feet, to clean away accumulated grime. Not very romantic, but it is practical.

The ultimate addition to a bathroom, besides a huge walk-in shower with chunky glass, is a therapeutic unit. It’s a relaxation spa, offered by Vedana and available at Astro Design. There are five styles of therapy, from light to sound and pricing starts at $6,625.

After a therapy session, it’s time to trip back to bed by the fireplace and watch the snow falling outside. Who says Ottawa is the place fun forgot?

Connect with Sheila Brady |sbrady.brown@gmail.com