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The Globe and Mail

How to tackle the challenge of a lower-level bedroom

We recently completed construction of a four-bedroom home in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. Designed as a redoubt for baby boomers, the home presents its main floor as its major selling point. It's well considered, with plenty of entertaining space, and an office, master bedroom and second bedroom.

But it was the lower floor, with its two guest bedrooms, walkout basement and covered patio, that was our challenge. The goal was to head off any sense of isolation, to create in the spaces a sense of invitation and luxury. In the larger of the two rooms - my favourite - we pulled it off. Here's how.

The big idea

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The bedroom sits on the northeast corner of the floor. With French doors that open onto a private patio, we knew the room had the potential to function as a boutique hotel within the home. The trick would be to deepen the room's natural air of seclusion.

Our challenge was structural: A huge bulkhead cut through the room's ceiling line, a reminder of its basement-hood. And also fiscal: As often happens, the lion's share of the design budget had gone to the common rooms and master suite. We had to get the guest rooms done cheap.

The big spend

To make the room feel like a luxurious state within a state, we had to underscore its distinctness from the larger home. This required a "statement" element, one that could harness the room's atmosphere while drawing the eye and (with luck) distracting from the bulkhead.

The solution was to wrap the walls in light, neutral wallpaper. Lowering the colour contrast between wall and ceiling, we achieved a soft transition that successfully washed out the three-foot intruder. (A darker paper, by cutting around the bulkhead, would have sharpened its silhouette.) And the paper's soft hues and feathery pattern created a co-operative backdrop for the furnishing and décor to come.

Why spend $2,500 on wallpapering when you could simply paint? People recognize rooms with distinctive wall treatments as special parts of a home. The last thing you want guests to feel is that they're sleeping in a converted alcove off the garage. Paint in a room with awkward lines, or where natural light is scarce can look flat and feel unconsidered.

The big save

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With most of our budget spent on wallpaper, frugality came to the fore. The most obvious area for savings was the bed. Rather than purchase a complete bed, with side rails and a footboard, we bought a stock headboard and had it custom-upholstered. At $1,200, it gives a full measure of elegance for about half the cost.

The bedside tables were another great win. Okay, they're not actually bedside tables; they're Ikea dressers, chosen for their girth and functionality. In so large a room, we felt it was more luxurious to take up space than to economize – and the dressers' six large drawers provide abundant space for a visiting couple to unpack and get organized.

The twist

The colour scheme in this room – a heady mix of linen, plum, grey blue, champagne and gold – is an unusual one for us at Kelly Deck Design: We tend to favour more monochromatic or cool neutral schemes.

The key in combining cool and warm colours in a scheme is making sure to use several layers. This balances your composition. Without the echo of ground (the wallpaper) and an accent (a cushion), a key element such as our blue chair couldn't locate itself.

After the wallpaper, we started with the icy blue grey of the headboard, and to prevent the scheme's feeling insipid we layered on rich colours to give the room weight: steel blue for the Euro bed cushions and accent chair, deep plum for the curtains. After these, we added patterned fabrics – a graphic cushion on the chair and a bright floral one on the bed. Together, these pieces speak in an edgier, more eclectic voice than the room's other pieces.

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The lighting and accent pieces – on either side of the bed we went with overscale lamps – are what ground the room and make it grand. Beside the chair, we put two elements, a crude reading lamp and polished gold accent table, that bespeak, in equal measure, elegance and imperfection.

Exactly what's required to make a guest room authentic and welcoming.


Chair: Kelly Deck Design with fabric from Van Gogh Designs,

Side table: Costello iron table by Arteriors, The Cross Decor & Design,

Floor lamp: Parrish by Arteriors, The Cross Decor & Design,

Table lamps: Ellington grey weathered wood lamp by Arteriors, The Cross Decor & Design,]

Nightstands: Nyvoll three-drawer chest, Ikea,

Wallpaper: Pattern eh60408 by Wallquest, Crown Fabric & Wallpaper,

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