On the sofa with

Kate Watson-Smyth

April 13, 2018
Blogger, Author, Journalist

Kate Watson-Smyth is an interiors journalist, blogger, author and runs an interior design consultancy. Kate’s award winning blog, Mad About The House, documents her interior inspiration and insights including our own Makers for Selfridges project. Kate has expanded her blog with a book of the same name, sharing her knowledge on how to confidently decorate your home.  She has also been writing for the national press, including the Independent and Financial Times, for over 15 years, whilst her house is often featured in the likes of Living ETC and The Wall Street Journal.


What were you doing before you set up your blog, Mad About The House, in 2012 and how is it that you know so much about making interiors work?

I have been a journalist for 25 years, writing for the nationals since 1995. Back then I was a news reporter but after the birth of my eldest son in 2001 I went freelance and was offered a weekly slot writing about houses for The Independent. I absolutely loved it and it went from there. I began writing about inside as well as outside (as it were) and interviewing all the best brains in the business so I learnt as I went along.
The book, Mad About The House, is your second book on interiors. You have also written for the likes of Elle Decoration and the FT but I think it’s fair to say you are best known for your Mad About The House blog. What do you feel is the future of print, and do you have a personal preference between the two media?

I love print and I always will. It has been sad to see the decline of print as digital has taken over but I think we will find a balance between the two in time.

Nothing beats the thrill of beautiful photographs printed on glossy paper and when it comes to newspapers, I have always loved that you get what you are given – by which I mean that as you turn the pages you can come across things that you might not otherwise have read. I think that’s very important and the problem with digital is that it’s all self-selecting so you can often just seek out what you want and don’t come across anything new or different or challenging. It’s the Twitter echo chamber if you like. The other problem with digital is that everyone can publish and you don’t know if they have an agenda or a personal grudge or an axe to grind. Or even if what they are saying is any good. Newspapers, while they have a viewpoint, are written by professional writers whose words are edited. Their stories are curated and are seen by several pairs of eyes before they go to print. That’s a good thing.

But I think, as I say, that we will swing back to a happy medium. The long read is beginning to make a comeback, readers are getting more skilled at working out what is good and what is rubbish online and they say that book sales have bounced back up so perhaps reading paper is coming back into fashion again.
One of the ways you help guide readers on how to decorate is to suggest they imagine their home as if they were styling themselves i.e choose statement pieces, buy what fits and think of wall lights like earrings. What do you say to people who don’t have much personal sense of fashion or style – can they decorate their homes just as well as those who are fashion-confident?

I think those who are fashion-confident will always make bolder choices – look at their clothes. But I hope the book helps those who are less confident to find their own style and choose what they like so that they can create a home that reflects them and makes them happy without worrying what the fashion confident next-door neighbour thinks.

It’s not about decorating as well as the next person, it’s about decorating in the way that is right for you so that it’s your home not just the house you live in.

Lighting seems to be an important part of getting your house the way you want it, and you outline specifically what lighting needs to be considered in each room. What is your one, single, top tip for lighting inspiration?

You need to layer the lights and have them coming from different heights and sources. A single pendant won’t do. You do need a table lamp and a floor light as well.

Where do you get your interiors inspiration from? Do you religiously go international shows to keep up with the newest products?

I am going to Milan for the first time this year! I’ve never had time before, but yes I follow everything online and in magazines – the rise of Instagram has made that much easier. So I keep up with new developments and I always keep an eye on new restaurants and their loos – that’s a great place for ideas. Small room, big impact – you often see amazing tiles and colours in there.

What has been your worst design mistake in your own home and how did you remedy it?

We bought a short, free-standing bath for the en suite and thought it would be cool to have a pop-up waste. The reality is, because the bath is short, you end up sitting on the plug, which then pops up and all the water runs out. We haven’t remedied it. Haven’t had a bath for six years. But we have a very big walk-in shower – that’s the remedy.
I also once persuaded my husband that it would be a really good idea to paint the ceiling in the bedroom dark grey. He hated it. I spent all Sunday painting it and then when he went to work on the Monday I paid a painter to rush round and paint it all white again.

Your final words in the book are dedicated to those ‘who have no homes to frame their story’, adding a gentle encouragement for readers to consider joining you in contributing to a homeless charity. We were so glad to read that. What charity would you like us to mention here?

Any charity that helps the homeless where you live. I give £12 a month to Centrepoint to help sponsor a room but the smaller ones are worth helping too. Anything at all that helps anyone who is on the streets is worth a donation, and I thank anyone who does that after reading the book.

Previous post

Next post