5+ Tips To Turning Your Master Suite Into A Retreat

master suite after

DIY project expert Kate Sullivan shares her experience of creating a bedroom and bathroom that properly reflected the adults in her home. The goal: a sophisticated, restrained and zen retreat.

PHOTOS BY J. Alan Paul Photography & ‘Before’ pictures courtesy of Katie Sullivan

When it comes to home design, there is nothing more personal than a master suite. With this in mind, we set out to create a bedroom and bathroom that properly reflected the adults in our home. The goal: a sophisticated, restrained and zen retreat. To all of our family and friends who are scratching their heads, please keep in mind the goal was based more on “aspirational” ideals of ourselves, rather than “realistic.”

pretty domesticated kate sullivan

Kate Sullivan

It all started with the color. My husband, Daren, found a bedroom he liked on that featured brown paint and colorful accents. I’m more of a dark and moody, or cool-toned whites kind of gal, so brown was on the very bottom of my options list. While helpful and definitely opinionated, Daren is rarely over-the moon about an idea, so I decided to give it a go and considered it a design challenge. Who says I’m not flexible?

master suite before

Master Suite Before

pretty domesticated kate sullivan

Master Suite After

The truth is, he promised me he would personally repaint if I didn’t like it. Plus, I got final say on the color and picked an earthy, cool-toned brown by Sherwin Williams called “Backdrop.” A few weeks after the paint was on the wall, I still wasn’t convinced. As you can see in the before pictures, the paint color and our mix-and-match furniture was not creating a relaxing, zen-like experience. I knew a little, or a lot of styling, was needed if we were going to make it work. We started with the furniture.

Remember: Texture, Texture, Texture

While the rooms in our home vary, we are pretty consistent about one thing. We pick a design feature to be the focal point and then pick the remainder of the items to complement it. That’s just our style. It’s not the only way to design an aesthetically pleasing room though, however, for our bedroom, that meant we picked furniture that let the walls shine. I, unsurprisingly, picked furniture in white and in soft wood tones. While these are my go-to colors, monochromatic and neutral can be quite dull.

master suite after

While we wanted a bedroom that was serene enough to fall asleep in, we definitely didn’t want a room that would bore us to sleep. If you want to keep things interesting, you want to make sure that the bed and linens along with the decor in the room are all heavily textured. This helps keep the eyes moving across the room, despite the lack of color.

TIP: Don’t be Nervous To Take A Risk, But Stay True to Your Style

Notice I said a risk, not multiple risks. In our case, we went with what I considered an unconventional paint color and balanced it with neutrals. While bright accent colors could have paired nicely with the walls, the overall look wouldn’t have felt like us. At the end of the day, I want to close my eyes in a room that feels like mine, not a really glamorous hotel, even if I can appreciate its beauty.

Bring in the Light

Windows aren’t the only way to bring light into a room. Our bedroom’s only window faces northeast, so while we get a little morning sun, the room is never glowing with natural light. To remedy the situation, we flanked the bed with mirrors, which opens up the room. To create even more of an impact, we nixed the standard, shaded table lamps, and hung intricate, crystal pendants instead. Placing a mirror behind a light source maximizes the light’s reach while creating an almost magical effect.

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We didn’t stop there. We spread light throughout the room to create a layered look. This gives us a range of lighting options.

master suite light

Visit my blog,, for all the details on how we installed rope lighting and crown molding to our coffered ceiling.

Use Personal Touches

After the walls were painted, furniture assembled and mirrors hung, it was time for my favorite part–art and knick-knacks. We filled the walls with personal photos and sentimental art.

pretty domesticated kate sullivan

While not inappropriate to be viewed by the general public, the art in our bedroom is more intimate than what we have throughout the rest of our home. For instance, the painting of the girl by Clare Elsaesser gives me visions of my daughter a decade or so from now, and the shots above the bed capture us getting to know her when she was a few days old.

bedroom decorations

TIP: Use Boxes to Hide Clutter

We store all our phone chargers, remotes, etc. in boxes throughout the room. This is particularly handy for our bedside tables, which lack drawers.

master suite boxes

TIP: Mix Silver and Gold

I may be on the wrong side of history on this one, but I firmly believe you can mix metals.


When it comes to our master bathroom, I get asked two things. Adults ask if it is hard to clean and individuals under the age of 12 ask if we’ve ever had a water fight in it. The short answers are yes, and not yet, but that is a fantastic idea.

bathroom decoration

Layout – Titan Homes
Cabinetry – Wendt Custom Cabinets
Tile – Floor to Ceiling Carpet One

His and Hers

One of the things I love most about our bathroom is that we have our own vanities and tons of storage. After sharing a single basin sink in our past residence, we appreciate the upgrade.

his and her bathroom

The Shower Room

It goes without saying that our shower is unique. It’s really best described as a shower room. The idea for the layout came about years ago when we were globetrotting across Europe. A few of our hotels had wet rooms and from a design standpoint, we loved it.

master bathroom

When we built our home in 2014, we told Titan Homes our vision and they came up with the layout. We went classic with the finishes, choosing marble and retro faucets with hopes that the selections will stand the test of time.


Builder – Titan Homes
Tile – Floor to Ceiling Carpet One
Tub – Ferguson

Despite the large amount of grout that needs cleaning, I would pick the same layout again if given the chance. As a parent of a young child, the room is extremely functional. For instance, I can shower and bathe my daughter at the same time or she can play in the dry tub while I shower. What’s the very best part of the setup? When the water fight finally happens, there will be little to no clean up.

TIP: You Can Hang Art in the Bathroom

The bathroom is often overlooked as a space to display art, but it is something you should consider.

pretty domesticated kate sullivan

If the room is humid, your art should be covered by glass. Canvas paintings aren’t forbidden, but be careful where you hang them. If you’re nervous your bathroom is too wet, stick to reproductions.


For full details on where to get the décor featured and for more home tips and glimpses into my family’s daily life, visit my blog at

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