Beautiful Rooms: Clever Details

Wandering round the internet this week in search of beautiful rooms for you to see and be inspired by, I came across a few which were not only lovely, but where the designers, or owners, had added something clever to really bring the space to life or elevate it above the ordinary – and aren’t we all striving for that in our homes? I’m pre-supposing that you are here on these pages because you are interested in interior design and so therefore you are by the way – striving for that that is.

hotel babel in belleville paris

hotel babel in belleville parisSo let’s first pop over to Paris and this new hotel which says it has been “inspired by the ends of the earth and the next street down” which I rather like as a guiding principle. It’s in Rue Lemon (I already like it for the address;  30 years ago I lived in Rue du Pole Nord) in the 20th arrondissement. The 20th is bustling and cool and was, apparently, where Edith Piaf was born and is buried – in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery (resting place of Jim Morrison and Chopin too). And, since the world is opening up now and you might be once again remembering and contemplating the joys of a city break, I thought I’d start here.

And it’s a very small detail (often the best) but it’s the shaped backrest on the banquette. Yes, they could have finished in a straight line but the curves look more considered and their shape draws your attention to the rather fabulous tiled floor and from there to the tables. The colour scheme – olive, ivory and terracotta will always be a classic, the mix of textiles – upholstery, tiles, wood and cane will always bring interest so the shapes might be regarded as irrelevant, but I can promise you that if you have a room that has been carefully decorated with thought given to all of the above and yet there is something that’s still not quite right then look at the shapes. Because the answer often lies there.

bedroom at the babel hotel in paris
bedroom at the babel hotel in paris

While we’re here we might as well pop into one of the bedrooms. Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of hotel rooms as inspiration as they have to be clever with space, which, especially, in cities is usually tight. The bedrooms are all very similar but with different colours. The first thing to note – and this is for anyone designing a small bedroom – the bedside tables are shelves which take up less space visually than cabinets. Of course in a hotel you may have less to store overnight, but when was the last time you checked not only what was in your bedside cabinet but how much of it you needed? Mine was a repository of complete junk that I stuffed in there for a quick tidy and almost none of it was needed. I have been much tidier and more disciplined since we replaced them with small tables. Not forgetting that a shelf (or table) will allow you to see more floor and the wall behind which will, of course, make the space feel bigger and airier.

Next note the position of the reading lights. High over the headboard they aren’t taking up precious space on the bedside tables. Now, once again, this is a hotel and they have put table lamps on theirs, but I imagine that’s to do with creating a gentle evening atmosphere while you are in there relaxing but not in bed. In your own home, reading, or more general wall, lights will be enough and you can save the bedside shelf for the phone/clock/glass of water while the pile of unread books can go on the floor underneath, thus negating the open uncluttered space notion in one fell swoop. But I can’t help that – I can show you the ideas and explain the principles, what you do with them is up to you. I have a library of books and a bedside kindle #justsaying as the, ahem, saying goes.

All that and I haven’t managed to get to the reason we came in. That storage unit by the side of the bed. Made from copper plumbing pipes or similar it’s slimline and incorporates both shelves and hanging space. Of course it’s not enough for a whole wardrobe but it would be great in a small guest room or perhaps in a hall for a few coats – the secret to a tidy hall is coat discipline.

landing space via interiorspickle
landing space via @interiorspickle 

Now this, by Trish, of Interiors Pickle, is an interesting idea too. This landing space had a shower room and loo built onto it. One of those super practical ideas about getting the most out of your house, using every square inch and making every last part work hard. And that is a sound principle. But every now and then practicalities need to be turned on their heads in favour of the joy of living. It’s similar to getting rid of the bath if you never take one and creating a luxurious shower which goes against all practical advice about what happens when you come to sell.

But Trish decided they didn’t need that bathroom and ripped it out to create a lovely open light-filled landing which she has dressed as a reading nook, but which would also work as a WFH space and would be particularly good for anyone who needs a big desktop computer (or two) for work. It’s easy for the rest of us to hot desk around our houses with a lap top, but if you need more equipment it can be harder to find a dedicated space and annoying to have to pack up at the end of each day.

Obviously, this is not about how many bathrooms you may have as this was probably very particular to Trish, but about how you use the space you already have to make the most of it for what you need. Sometimes rooms aren’t where you need them to be but have been left there by previous owners and just because your house comes like that doesn’t mean you have to leave it like that. Conversely you might have a landing that you feel is wasted and adding an extra loo or shower there might revolutionise your day to day life (and if you have teenage children it will). On my street of terraces there is a small room to the left at the top of the stairs in every house – we have it as a shower room, next door has a small utility room, another neighbour has created a tiny office, while another has a generous loo and basin. All the houses are the same on the outside but each one has been configured differently according to the residents’ needs.

interior design via salvesen graham
interior design via salvesen graham 

Small detail here but no less important for that. As you know I’m a huge fan of a sliding door to save space but I’m also keen that you consider what type of door is best for a room (there is a whole chapter on doors on my online course – their importance is massively overlooked). Here, a traditional single door would have taken up a lot of space in either the kitchen behind or the dining room in front but by installing two half doors the problem is reduced. Now, as I said, I might initially have proposed a pocket door here but the open door works to zone that banquette and create a reading nook that is slightly apart from the rest of the room. The two wall lights further add to that impression and this has become a separate area within the dining room as opposed to a banquette in the corner that no-one can understand why they would sit on it when they could be at the table.

It’s a small detail but a big idea and it has taken only a half open door to create it. In short, when planning rooms do think about every corner and how to make the most of it. If you want to create a reading area then light it accordingly. This could have had a drinks cabinet or a sideboard – again it all depends on who is using the space and what they want it for.

tonal green decor via elin sofia
tonal green decor via elin sofia

This isn’t so much a clever idea as a beautiful example of tonal decorating – which I always love. The gorgeous patterned wallpaper and the plain painted wardrobe. Painted furniture comes in for a lot of bad press, but if you have something that isn’t special – a bit of facing orange pine for example – then why not paint it? You could be much more dramatic than this – pale pink or, if you were feeling energetic, green and cream checks would work and look great against the floral wallpaper.

Finally, a lovely kitchen. With a duck. I was going to talk about how the lack of wall units makes the space feel open and spacious and that there is clearly still plenty of storage with that cupboard that reaches to the ceiling. But you know all that. And you’re only looking at the duck. It is a beautiful kitchen though.

kitchen design via tale victoria with crumble the duck
kitchen design via tale victoria with crumble the duck
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. Thank you, Kate, as always, for yet another post, filled with ideas, interior design tips and suggestions, annnd beautiful images. Have always had a passion for interior design, and architecture, and this site provides wonderful examples of both. Which is why I look forward to each and every new offering from Mad About.

  2. I have been searching for an adjustable pendant light like the one in the Salvesen Graham photo for ages. Can you recommend some sources?

    1. I am pretty certain that is Beata Heuman’s snowdrop rise and fall light, which is available through her online shop. I don’t have any other suggestions unfortunately.

  3. A lovely selection of rooms in which one could happily spend many enjoyable hours. In the small child’s room, there is an immediate appreciation for the thoughtful consideration taken in creating a room of enchantment. No Disney! The white rabbit on the low stool, the hare wallpaper, the soft greens, and the flag of pendants will all be there when the child no longer needs the cradle and when the cabinet holds favourite books along with special toys. I can feel the immediate intrinsic appeal of the open design of the kitchen; its simplicity of colour and its praise of space.

  4. The open shelves and hanging area in the hotel are a great idea and I could see this in a laundry room as well.

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