Beautiful Rooms for a Monday

The decorator is IN the building! And we’re off. Well sort of. He has juggled things around to come to us for two weeks (one room hopefully) and will then leave for two or three and come back again until Christmas (another room, hopefully). By then the radiators should be in – which means the upstairs flooring can be done and the upstairs windows installed.

clever window coverings on hooks by cote de folk
clever window coverings on hooks by cote de folk

Replacing the windows was a curveball we hadn’t expected. We knew the original sashes were tired and in need of restoration but figured we could get away with it for a couple of years. However, when we moved in we realised that not only had they all been painted shut, but many of the cords had either rotted or been cut making them impossible to open. We considered restoration, which costs about half as much as replacement – but isn’t that much less disruptive – and decided that it didn’t make ecological sense to spend a lot of money restoring single glazed windows. So we’ve had to go for full replacement. But that does mean the broken shutters can go, which means we will need to think about privacy. I had already decided that linen panels hemmed to fit would be an elegant and minimal solution. But I hadn’t worked out how to fit them – I got stuck somewhere around velcro and command strips and then the always clever Sophie Rowell, of Cote de Folk, revealed hers on hooks that can be full length or folded, hung at the top, or half way – see the picture above and her instagram here.

never underestimate the decorative power of a good window frame
never underestimate the decorative power of a good window frame by johnstone parke interiors for leonardslee house

We also realised that several of the radiators needed moving as they are in the wrong place, are old and inefficient. So they’ve had to go as well. I’m taking my own advice – albeit painfully – of you must get underwear right before you get dressed. There is no point spending money on lovely floors and curtains if the house is cold and draughty as it will be uncomfortable and you will never fully enjoy it. Never underestimate the decorative punch that a painted window frame will give you. While they need to match on the outside they can be different in every room inside so think if you want to match the walls, go dark to draw the eye to the view beyond, or just add a deep saturated colour that fills you with joy.

So this is where we are. That said, we are having cast iron old school style radiators and the original windows are a very pretty shape, which is, of course, being replicated, which means, once the floors are done that we should, all being equal, have a fabulous canvas which will need little more than a coat of paint. Just as well as we need a new kitchen too.

I have been round and round the idea of a banquette. They are great space savers and, as long as they are upholstered and have a back, comfortable too. In the end we have decided to stick with chairs as the table will overlap the glass panels at the side of the French doors, but if you have an alcove a bench is a great idea to create a cosy dining space. One point to note – a pedestal table or one with legs like this will make it easier to slide in and out than the traditional four-legged version.

design by studio ashby
design by studio ashby

My sample box is filling up and we have decided on light switches and sockets as well. Each room is planned, although the final paint colours have yet to be chosen. I’m still trialling different shades in different rooms at different times of day and understanding how the light flows around the house.

So far we are looking at samples of terracotta and cork, dark wooden flooring and sisal. There is bronze and black, cream and pink, a hint of vintage copper and some anaglypta wallpaper. It’s going to be minimal but rich, textured yet calm. I’m excited for the plans and when I have something to show you, you will, of course be the first to know.

I’m still drinking in the pale and elegant rooms of Rose Uniacke but I think that reflects a need for some calm elegance in my own space rather than a desire to actually go as light as this all over. I always admire it, always think I want it, always add more colour once it’s been done for a few months. That said, a warm neutral is always a good starting point as it allows you to live in a space and work out what you want so you can gradually layer and build up the room.

bathroom design by rose uniacke
bathroom design by rose uniacke who has collection of paints with graphenstone

Finally, the chimney sweep comes to check the fireplace this week. The previous owner left a bucket of kindling and a coal scuttle by the fireplace but given the state of the rest of the house we daren’t light a fire until the chimney has been tested and swept. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it needs a new liner, which we had to do in the last house but I think that really may fall off the edge as it cost about £1,500 five years ago – so bound to be more now – and the budget hasn’t got enough flex for that at the moment. There is a second fireplace which the surveyor seemed to think was a capped-off gas fire but all will, hopefully, be revealed this week.

The room below is just for inspiration. Although my French doors aren’t a million miles away from this – they will be wooden (this is not a crittal sort of house) – and while there won’t be room for curtains I’m all in favour of plants so this is a vibe rather than an idea if you see the difference. It’s very important when you are deciding on schemes to identify what you actually want to take from a picture that has stopped you in its tracks – is it something concrete like a layout, a style of window or a paint colour or is it just a mood? If the latter you need to work out what it is in the room that is inspiring the mood you have responded to. It takes a little more time but the end result – a room that makes you feel the way you need to feel in there – will be worth it.

Maison Colbert by Buchanan Studio shot by Christopher Horwood 
Maison Colbert by Buchanan Studio shot by Christopher Horwood

As always here are a selection of the pictures which have inspired me this week. As I said last week, sometimes it’s about a mood they spark which I, and you, may want to recreate in your own homes. Sometimes it’s a colour or a pattern. Sometimes it’s just about seeing something beautiful which you have no hope of recreating in your own home but which, just for a moment, transports you out of this world. And who doesn’t need a bit of that right now.

For example, I keep looking at bright green kitchens. I’m almost certainly never going to have one which makes this, for a me a mood inspiration image. It’s happy and it’s bold, it’s cool yet comfortable and, super important to me, it’s functional and different from what we see so often. That’s ticking all my boxes even if the colours aren’t ones I would use. What single words would you use to describe the spaces you want to decorate and live in?

farrow and ball emerald green and dimity in the ktichen of toast CEO uzie de Rohan Willner
farrow and ball emerald green and dimity in the kitchen of toast CEO Suzie de Rohan Willner




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. Chimneys. We lived with an old wood burner that came with our old house for 20 years. It was too big for the room and we rarely used it as it didn’t draw well. The sweep wouldn’t certify it last year as it had rusted out at the back of the flue pipe. Plumped for new state of the art, burns as clean as possible wood burner. Turned out old one installed before flue liners mandatory and smoke and carbon monoxide allowed to waft out where ever. No wonder it wouldn’t draw. Installation took twice as long and cost more than we had bargained for but we love it and, although smaller, it warms the whole of the downstairs enough to not put the oil heating on yet. So, brace yourself for possible unforeseen complications but a real fire, where possible, warms the heart and soul as much as the room.

  2. I have a bottom half-flat linen panel in my shower room for privacy, however I firmly object to it having a sagging centre from Cote de Folk’s fastening method! I tremble every time I glance at that panel and want to frantically tighten it. I did mine in what way? A wooden dowel inserted through the top hem was secured by inserting the dowel into handcrafted wooden fasteners fastened to the side reveal. A thin bottom hem is stitched with curtain weight to weight the linen panel. I suppose I could roll the half-panel up around the dowel if I ever wanted to lift it, which I haven’t had to do yet. But instead of using a panel for a full-length solution, I would attempt a straightforward roman blind or sub-curtain. Another option is a bottom-up blind. Let me know when you locate a good one!

  3. For privacy, I have a lower half, flat linen panel in my shower room, but it’s a strong NO from me on the sagging middle caused by the fixing solution from Cote de Folk! I can’t look at that panel without a shudder and a desperate need to tighten it. How did I do mine? A hem at the top with a wooden dowel threaded through, fixed by slotting the dowel into handmade wooden fixings attached to the side reveal. The linen panel is weighted with curtain weight sewn into a slim bottom hem. If I ever needed to lift the half-panel – I haven’t so far – I suppose I could roll it up around the dowel. But for a full-length solution, I wouldn’t use a panel, I’d try a simple roman blind or sub-curtain. Or perhaps a bottom-up blind… when you find a good one, let me know!

  4. My decorating word is, Campfire. Campfire at nautical twilight. Cozy. The images you have here are gorgeous. Thank you for your inspiration, as always. You are a fabulous teacher. Thank you thank you thank you.

  5. I had to have both uPVC and single-glazed wooden sash windows and full boxes replaced. I went with triple-glazed hardwood sashes and boxes and have never regretted it. Beautifully made, quiet (I live near an above-ground part of the tube) and so, so warm. No affiliation but they were made in Wales, fitted in NE London by Windsor-based Original Box Sah Window Company.

    At the front, I had one lower sash sandblasted for the bathroom, to give a Victorian pattern, thereby providing daytime privacy in the bathroom. In the guest room next door, I found a matching design at Purlfrost (window films). You measure the window panes, they supply the cut-to-size film. Took fifteen minutes to fit (mainly spent washing the glass. Shameful how dirty they were!).

  6. If I remember rightly you’ve been looking for a perfect clay colour, rich and warm. Sherwin Williams have just dropped their colour of the year and it looks lovely, maybe worth a sample? Lovely images today, very relaxing.

    1. For Kate or anyone else who really likes that colour, it looks very similar to Paint and Paper Library Temple, which I have in my dining room and stairs.

  7. Hi Kate , we have shutters, as we look directly on to a busy street and I couldn’t envisage our household getting changed etc and the world and it’s mother looking on .
    We have them 15 years now and I never once regretted getting them -they offer huge privacy .
    I suggest asking a carpenter/DIY to repair what needs to be repaired and that’s one less thing to worry about (for now) , as it sounds like you have loads to do ( I know that feeling , we moved in here with small children and the water was literally running down the walls) .
    Cheers from Dublin !

  8. Would Kate or someone else be able to tell me how to pronounce “Uniacke”? I live in dread of the day I need to say it out loud (not really but you know what I mean).

      1. Thank you. That was my best guess, but now I will sleep easier!

        To me, her spaces are undeniably beautiful but rely on architecture and polish I’ll never have, so they don’t draw me in so much. I’ll take a Studio Ashby or Rachel Chudley space please.

  9. Having gone through seven period houses in the past twenty five years, all but two being serious renovation projects, I feel for you! But – it’s great to end up with everything functioning properly and not having to work around problems when you finally get to the fun bits of choosing colours and finishes. We’ve tended to keep original layouts and not knock places about as there is great charm in living in a house much as it was designed to be used. Wishing you well with your project!

  10. That first window window treatment….with good old cup hooks and fabric panels……GENIUS. No more pulling snarling, bunching and twisting ‘nets’ across and back over a window to achieve some privacy. And when you want no obscuring in the window, unhook one corner of the panel, and bob’s yer uncle. Perfecto. Am now going to try to rig up a homemade version of same. You can still pull curtains across and over the window fabric panel whenever. Yessssssssssssss

  11. I used net curtain wire to hang linen panels on my bay windows. So long as the panel is wide enough you can’t see the wire but it’s hard to fully conceal the hooks. Another option are tension rods (which wedge into the sides of the window frames). John Lewis, Dunelm etc sell them. I love the cote de folk solution though!

  12. Well done Kate – it’s sounds like it’s all go at Madhouse II. Thinking of single words … interesting, comforting, timeless.

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