House Tour: Creating A Master Bedroom En Suite

We have lived in this house for eight years now and it’s fair to say that it has undergone a number of changes. This is partly down to the nature of my job and partly down to getting it wrong. Although perhaps there is no “wrong” maybe we should just call it changing my mind. Frequently.

painted in Mylands Threadneedle with Spruce Things Up by Dowsing & Reynolds
Painted in Mylands Threadneedle with Spruce Things Up by Dowsing & Reynolds

However, while I may change my mind on the colour quite often, one thing I am pleased to have got right is the layout in our bedroom and bathroom. So I thought I would share how we did it, along with some images of the newly painted bedroom, which, I’m happy to say finally feels right. To the point where I actively look forward to spending time in there rather than just going in to read a book and go to sleep.

When we moved in eight years ago the house was divided into two rental flats so we had a complete blank canvas as it was all awful. The master bedroom is big – about 16ft by 13ft or 5m by nearly 4m. The big question how to make the best use of the space?

blinds by Abigail Ahern in collaboration with Hillarys Blinds
Harkness gasoline blinds by Abigail Ahern in collaboration with Hillarys Blinds

The most common thing is to put wardrobes in each alcove but they’re never quite big enough and usually have to stick out beyond the depth of the fireplace which, I always feel, detracts from the fireplace and can make everything look a bit squeezed. Then I remembered a friend’s house we had stayed in in New York which had storage behind a false wall and decided the room was big enough to take that.

So that was the first thing we did and it achieved two things. One,  it meant the bedroom was automatically tidier as all the clothes and clutter sit behind that wall, so the sleeping area is calm and two, it created so much more storage than we would have had with wardrobes in the alcoves and a chest of drawers elsewhere in the room.

The next part of the dream was an en suite bathroom. We decided to steal the bedroom next door so we closed its entrance from the landing and knocked a hole in the wall that lined up with the end of the wardrobe area. This means you have a natural passage along the wardrobe into the bathroom next door.

Now estate agents may tell you it’s a mistake to get rid of a bedroom and, in some cases it is, going from six or five to five or four bedrooms is fine. Going from three to two – if you are creating a fabulous two bedroom property with two bathrooms that feels really luxurious and a bit penthouse can also work. The tricky one is going from four to three. Because lots of families want four bedrooms and there’s a shortage of them on the UK market. So if that is what you have and this is what you want to do then it’s worth considering if you, or any eventual buyer, could create a fourth bedroom in the loft for example. You don’t have to do it but it’s good to have an answer at the ready.

view from the wardrobe
view from the wardrobe

And bear in mind that this isn’t a hard and fast rule – different areas will have different markets and requirements. A mistake in one town might be a selling point in another. All I would do is consider how long you want to live there and how you live. Because you need to decorate for the people who live there now and not the ones who may want to buy it in ten years time.

walls in downpipe by farrow & ball
walls in downpipe by farrow & ball

And they may well change it anyway. We once sold a house to a couple because they loved the shelves and fireplace we had installed in the sitting room while the newly redecorated bathroom was also a selling point. They sold it ten years later and had ripped out the fireplace and moved the bathroom. Which just goes to prove my point about decorating for you and not what you think an eventual buyer may want.

ensuite bathroom at
ensuite bathroom at

So, back to the bedroom. We created a large ensuite bathroom, which is always a pleasure to use. Which leads me to another point. We often leave the largest space as the bedroom and try and shoehorn in a tiny bathroom when in fact a bedroom, if you can leave clothes elsewhere, needs only a bed while a large bathroom will always feel luxurious and a bit hotel.

So think about space as a whole and work out how you might be able to divide it up to create, maybe, a small sleeping area, some good clothes storage and a great shower room. And while we’re ripping up the rule book it’s also worth deciding if a big shower will feel more luxurious, and be more used, than a small shower and a bath. It’s your house.

rouen bed by sofas and stuff in bottle velvet by linwood fabrics
rouen bed by sofas & stuff in bottle velvet by linwood fabrics rug by Wendy Morrison

Space decided upon, then the decor really is up to you. And while I have never once had any doubts about our layout, we have been round and round with the colour scheme. It began all white with some purple wallpaper, which was luxurious and flocked and matched a wall in the bathroom. But while I still love the paper, we should have been bolder with the colour and yes – feature wall.

Then we replaced that with some silver paper which was never quite right. I had wanted that paper for years and when we were redoing the room we bought it without really considering if it was right for the space. It wasn’t. So we decided to paint the walls. Anyone who has read the book will remember the pink paint saga. It ended up being grey.

rouen bed by sofas and stuff in bottle velvet by linwood fabrics green paint spruce things up by dowsing & reynolds
rouen bed by sofas & stuff in bottle velvet by linwood fabrics green paint spruce things up by dowsing & reynolds

This is partly because, as Sophie Robinson said in our podcast grey has become the easy default colour and the one we turn to when we don’t know what else to do. But it’s not just grey that is hard to get right; in that south-facing room all the pinks we looked at turned peach or coral in the golden light. Pavilion Grey was lovely and warm with the natural wood. But it was cold with the silver wallpaper. So we changed it. Again. Anaglypta is about £20 a roll and you can paint over it as often as you like. We chose that lovely dark green from Dowsing & Reynolds and finally I felt we were getting somewhere.

rouen bed by sofas and stuff in bottle velvet by linwood fabrics green paint spruce things up by dowsing & reynolds
rouen bed by sofas & stuff in bottle velvet by linwood fabrics green paint spruce things up by dowsing & reynolds

Green and grey is a lovely combination but I came to realise that I didn’t want grey in the bedroom after all. It was back to pink. But which one? Salvation came in the form of a new shade. Threadneedle by Mylands has a sight violet air to it, which means it doesn’t go peach in the southern light.

Finally that room is right. I know that because I find myself going to bed early and reading for longer so I can be in there. And returning to it during the day to sit on the bed and enjoy the colour.

It’s been a long road but I wanted to share this story so you know that even the so-called experts don’t get it right all the time when it comes to colour. Layout I can do. Colour…. well it’s tricky isn’t it?


Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Love your house. Elegant but still warm. Brilliant idea that false wall/wardrobe and the door straight back into the closet from bathroom. I agree about doing it for yourself rather than for someone who might buy in the future.
    I see Enid lay on your floor plan! Is nothing sacred.

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one changing decor multiple times! I’ve been having a nightmare with my bathroom renovation due to strange light coming from the only roof window. I’m now on my 3rd and hopefully final change of tiles!

  3. Brilliant – love it all … but particularly smiling at your ski boots on the top shelf (that’s going in my future ‘to do’ note book)’ … they look fab in grey! Oh, talking of ‘grey’ and paint … have you seen this delicious and unusual shade of paint called ‘Cavepool’ by Thorndown paint – ? Might be interesting for your ‘next change of mind??? Cheers Emma

  4. Just have to ask how your other half takes all of these changes. I guess it is easier as this is your job. I want to add more colour to our relatively newly built house. My husband looked at me as though I was mad when I suggested this! When I arrived back from a recent trip to Italy the house just looked too bland. We live in Sweden and at this time of the year I think a bit more colour in the kitchen and the living room would make them both feel so much more cosy.

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