Go wild for your home

As her new book hits shops, Mad About The House blog­ger Kate Wat­son-Smyth gives Gabrielle Fa­gan a peek in­side her own ut­terly stylish rooms

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - INTERIORS -

Kate Wat­son-Smyth’s known for her witty, down-to-earth ad­vice on cre­at­ing bril­liant in­te­ri­ors, which she shares through her award-win­ning blog, Mad About The House. Now, the blog’s in­spired a new book of the same name — and in it, a com­plete guide, she re­veals how to iden­tify your own per­sonal style, and cope with colour choice con­fu­sion, and gives easy-to-fol­low tips on de­sign­ing and fur­nish­ing ev­ery room in the house.

Here, Wat­son-Smyth, who has hands-on-ex­pe­ri­ence of most decor chal­lenges — she’s ren­o­vated four houses and runs an in­te­ri­ors styling con­sul­tancy — opens the doors to her own home, and re­veals how to work her magic in your own in­te­ri­ors too ...

Cre­ate a show-stop­ping en­trance

You might not think it — as it’s of­ten clut­tered and unin­spir­ing — but the hall’s the most im­por­tant room in the house: “It’s cer­tainly the first place any­one sees and, as such, sets the tone for the rest. It needs to be both wel­com­ing and fun, prac­ti­cal and pretty. You can af­ford to be bold with your dec­o­rat­ing choices here.”

Prac­ti­cal floor­ing’s es­sen­tial. “I have white painted floor­boards (you can in­stantly see the dirt and clean it). My stairs are spotty. A deep bur­gundy car­pet with large ivory spots (‘Dotty Dam­son’ by Al­ter­na­tive Floor­ing). They truly make my heart sing ev­ery time I come home. You can have stripes or flow­ers, if you pre­fer. I’ve painted the back of the front door a bur­gundy shade, which goes with the stairs and stops the hall be­ing a com­plete white-out.” QUICK FIX: Choos­ing a dark colour for hall walls will make the other rooms lead­ing off it seem brighter, and make a state­ment. Dark shades also won’t show in­evitable scuff marks from all those hands, bags, boots and bikes com­ing through. Think navy blue, dark green or char­coal.

Whip up de­li­cious decor touches in the kitchen

Soften the harsh­ness of hard sur­faces and straight lines in a kitchen with tiling or glass: “This is a room you’re go­ing to be in ev­ery day. It needs to re­flect your per­son­al­ity and make you happy. In­tro­duce some pat­tern (and colour) to the splash­back. Think en­caus­tic, Delft or geo­met­ric de­sign tiles. Lay plain metro tiles in a brick or her­ring­bone for­ma­tion and add coloured grout or con­sider glass for tiles, which these days comes in lots of colours. In short, have some fun.

“An­other op­tion’s a large piece of foxed mir­ror. This has the dark spots and smok­i­ness of an­tique mir­ror, so your kitchen won’t look like a gym but will re­flect light. You can fit it to the base of cup­boards in­stead of a tra­di­tional wooden kick board, which will re­flect the floor and make cup­boards looks as if they’re float­ing.” QUICK FIX: Change ugly cup­board doors for more con­tem­po­rary ones, or sim­ply re­place han­dles to make a huge dif­fer­ence to a kitchen. If you’re re­plac­ing wall-mounted cup­boards, make sure they ex­tend all the way up to the ceil­ing, which will make the ceil­ing look higher and the room more spa­cious.

Dress a room the way you dress your­self

Use your wardrobe for in­spi­ra­tion on colour and make decor choices easy: “Most of us know what we like to wear, but many of us are paral­ysed with in­de­ci­sion when it comes to dress­ing our houses. It’s ac­tu­ally the same as get­ting dressed.

“First, check out the colours of your clothes in your wardrobe. If you’re com­fort­able wear­ing those colours, you’ll be com­fort­able liv­ing in a sim­i­lar pal­ette choice. It’s that sim­ple.

“Next think about the pro­por­tions you’ll use the colours in. The idea is ba­si­cally 60% one colour, 30% an­other, and 10% for the fin­ish­ing touches. Pick per­haps a neu­tral for the largest area, your walls. In clothes terms, that’s the main item you’re choos­ing to wear that day. Choose a sec­ond colour for the largest piece of fur­ni­ture, say a sofa. This is your top or jacket. Add some pat­tern in the form of cush­ions: your ear­rings or neck­lace. The ac­ces­sories — rugs and arm­chairs — are the fi­nal colour: your shoes and bag.” QUICK FIX: Green is the colour of the mo­ment, whether it’s plants — real or faux — or paint. A touch of green­ery will en­hance any room, as it re­ally does bring a lit­tle of the out­doors in.

Have one item that makes your heart sing

A sig­na­ture item may al­ways fea­ture in your out­fit — flam­boy­ant ear­rings, cool socks, or a tiny tat­too — ex­tend the same prin­ci­ple to a room: “Just as we all have a ran­dom item in our wardrobe that we prob­a­bly shouldn’t have bought but which makes us happy when we wear it, so we should have the equiv­a­lent in a room.

“Mine’s a 6ft brass lamp in the shape of a palm tree. I still don’t know how I got it past the hus­band, but I love it ev­ery sin­gle day and it looks per­fect with the dark grey walls and splashes of pink that ac­ces­sorise my sit­ting room. “That’s the ‘wow’ fac­tor in that room, which gives that space its per­son­al­ity and turns it from taste­ful into fun and witty and cool.” QUICK FIX: Don’t over­think when choos­ing this sig­na­ture piece — if you spend ages fret­ting over whether it goes with a colour scheme, or look­ing for some­thing that ‘fits’, it de­feats the pur­pose. If your gut says you love it, then that’s the piece for you!

Work the walls and sleep in style

Use a fake wall and a funky fea­ture wall to cre­ate a calm space: “Bear in mind that the bed­head, or wall be­hind the bed will only show when you en­ter the room. You can be flam­boy­ant there with colour or wall­pa­per be­cause you won’t be look­ing at it while ly­ing in bed read­ing or sleep­ing.

“What’s cru­cial is the wall at the end of the bed, as it’ll be one of the first things you see when you open your eyes in the morn­ing. Don’t fol­low my ex­am­ple. We have a copy of a draw­ing by artist Tracey Emin of Kate Moss. Nude. This is what hangs on the wall at the end of our bed. It’s not com­pletely ideal to wake up to, I will say!” QUICK FIX:If you de­cide on a pale colour, try wrap­ping the whole room in it: skirt­ing boards, ra­di­a­tors, doors and even the ceil­ing. This will not only blur the edges, which will make the space feel larger, but also cre­ate a calm­ing ef­fect.

Ramp up the stor­age for happy splash­ing

Be­fore you plunge into a bath­room re­vamp, be re­al­is­tic about your stor­age needs: “When it comes to bath­room stor­age, you al­ways need more than you think. It’s like sock­ets in the kitchen. You might think you’re go­ing to ex­ist in a min­i­mal­ist haven of beau­ti­fully pack­aged bot­tles and jars, but you aren’t.

“Think about in­stalling a niche in the shower for the things you need ev­ery day; you can add LED light­ing strips to make a re­ally good fea­ture of it. Make sure you have am­ple cup­boards or shelves built else­where — you will need them.” QUICK FIX: Fi­nally, it’s an old trick but one that works — the more floor space you see, the big­ger the room will look. So wall-mounted basins and loos are a good idea in smaller rooms.


Kate Wat­son-Smyth’s sleek, in­dus­trial-style kitchen used bud­get Swedish units, open-plan shelves and she soft­ened the look with leather han­dles on the cup­board


Kate Wat­son-Smyth’s bath­room with a free stand­ing bath ful­filled one of her long-held in­te­ri­ors fan­tasies

Mad About The House: How To Dec­o­rate Your Home With Style by Kate Wat­son-Smyth is pub­lished by Pavil­ion, priced £20. Avail­able now

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