Daily Herald
Interior designer offers tips to turn a room into a master retreat
By Deborah Donovan | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 10/2/2010 12:01 AM

Once upon a time a designer was very happy with her bedroom, and in fact with her whole, small house. The decor with occasional whimsical touches fit her personality.

But when Prince Charming arrived on the scene, it was time for changes.

Yes, the house could be expanded, especially with a great screened room overlooking the adjacent park.

And here's a touch of real life in this romantic scene: The bedroom now must suit two adults - and, of course, be gender-neutral, not too girlie or too masculine.

Mary Susan Bicicchi says it was not difficult to redecorate the master bedroom in the Clarendon Hills home they both loved to incorporate the taste of her new husband, Bruce Wibright.

"We both like a cleaner, uncluttered look - transitional," said Bicicchi, whose LaGrange-based company is Interiors by Mary Susan. "He lived in France, traveled a lot and brings to the table an appreciation of gracious living."

And while this designer knows the master bedroom is often the last room in a house to be decorated, she thinks that's a big mistake.

"It improves the quality of your life," she said. "It's your retreat where you can reconnect. It's the heart of your home."

One of the first issues was color.

"We talked about it," said Bicicchi. "There's so much black and white in our house. Should we paint the bedroom a color? But we ended up with black and white.

Wibright, who works in human relations for a large company, remembers one important request he made when the decorating started: a place to stack books on his side of the bed.

"She definitely provided space for that," he said. Each member of the couple has a black and white bedside chest with an open space for books below the two drawers. Bicicchi designed these, and she can have them made through her studio in any Benjamin Moore colors or in wood finish.

"We love to read together," she said. "I think my reading has increased at least 50 percent since we got married."

And the chests are topped with glass and can hold coffee or wine as well as reading lamps for a "dine-in bedroom."

As with her clients, Bicicchi gave Wibright three selections whenever it was time to make a decision because she thinks having too many choices can be overwhelming.

"I treated him like everybody out of respect," she said. "I never assumed."

Pre-Bruce, her bedroom was decorated with red and butterscotch "more vibrant and Bohemian feeling."

And here are examples from their bedroom that give tips on decorating a bedroom for a couple.

•"It starts with a great bed that you never want to leave," she said. And Wibright chimed in that the bed itself was among his contributions.

•"Right now I am loving bamboo sheets. They're green and reasonably priced and feel great," said the designer. She likes layering a bed, but puts her duvet under the coverlet for a cleaner, more contemporary look with the black-and-white quilted bedding she found at the Merchandise Mart.

•The hand-felted throw is a Mary Susan signature addition.

•The body pillow - an option if either member of the couple does not want a lot of decorative pillows - should be as long as the bed is wide. In this case that's 60 inches.

•The white headboard is padded and curvy, lines that Bicicchi thinks add a lot to a bedroom.

•A bench at the foot of the bed offers a place to sit for chores like putting on shoes. Also since there is no footboard, the bench serves the important function of keeping the bedding from falling to the floor. She likes a bench to run the width of the bed, and it can also be a chest to provide storage.

•Make the lighting sexy. The couple chose glass bedside lamps and a ceiling-mounted bowl-shaped fixture because Bicicchi finds transparency sexy.

•The bedroom is 12-by-13 feet, so Bicicchi used tricks to enlarge it. The drapes on both walls treat little windows as if they were big ones. And she likes fewer pieces of larger-scale furniture in a small room, such as the bedside chests and the bench.

•The drapes with their strong graphic design remind Mary Susan of the work of designer Emilio Pucci. They keep out even a sliver of light, which is important for the couple's sleep habits.

"It makes the room cozy, warm and inviting," she said. The additional feeling of warmth they provide makes up for the lack of a rug.

•While men say they don't like a lot of flowers in their decor, touches of flowers and candles are important in the master, says Bicicchi.

•The colors don't have to be neutral and should suit the couple, especially the woman, she said. For a fair woman, she might suggest a palette of pale green and caramel. And she has used aqua frequently in bedrooms - perhaps to pick up the color of the woman's eyes.

•Many couples like their rooms sexy and tailored, keeping the trims and prints under control in the name of gender neutrality. But sometimes even the husband prefers an ornate look.

•And Wibright noted one important joint decision:

"We made a conscientious decision to take the television out. We decided to eliminate it in this room to make us focus more on each other."

His wife adds: "We're the stars of this room."