Beautiful Rooms: Small Ideas Big Impact

Firstly when I say these are small ideas that is not to downgrade them – they are actually big ideas that either don’t involve much work, or might involve simply a tweak to what is already going on and which make a big difference to a room. Big. (Huge, as Julia Roberts would say). First up paint; the most affordable and transformative thing you can do for around £30 (depending on brand and size of tin). So ready for a stroll through these beautiful rooms?

paint zoning via italian modular furniture company
paint zoning via italian modular furniture company

First up is this masterpiece of paint zoning. It’s not a particularly big room, it has no original features, the ceiling is not particularly high and yet it clearly has a sleeping part and a working part. I’ll wait for a second here while you clock that the bed is on perspex and appears to float – yes that is helping with the sense of space in the room – the more floor you can see etc – but that isn’t the point here. The blue paint, which wraps around part of the wall, the ceiling and the desk, and which is matched by the window blind, creates the perfect working corner. At first glance you might even think it’s an alcove with a desk in it but it isn’t. This is perfect for all those who are asking how to add character to new builds. It doesn’t have to have a desk it in. It could be a dressing table, a reading area, a sitting space in a studio flat, the kitchen part of an open plan layout. The point is the paint and clever application thereof.

The fact that the blue paint doesn’t reach down to the floor also helps the space feel larger as your eye flows over the floor – which you can see almost all of – and up the walls which, again, aren’t divided by colour on the lower half. The bedhead design mirrors the L-shape of blue paint and helps it be both sleeping bed and day bed should you require. And studies have found that a short afternoon nap can work wonders for the  creative brain by the way (read more of that here and it will open in a new window so you can click and park). Now, of course, you may not have exactly this layout, but hopefully it provides food for thought for anyone who needs to find a way to work in a room that might have another primary function. And, if you can, make sure your desk has its back to that other function so you are not staring at all your space all day.

paint zoning via green and mustard
paint zoning via green and mustard

More clever paint zoning via Green and Mustard who has applied green paint in a corner and, this is the magic bit, taken it over the ceiling to create a sort of canopy. This feels like a proper little reading nook and probably didn’t even use a whole tin. The artwork straddles both green and white wall so it keeps the space as one while clearly indicating a different zone of the room.

During lockdown I interviewed the psychologist Julia Samuel (scroll down to the second half of the post to read/listen)  about the need to find our own spaces when everyone is at home all day. Hopefully we are past that but her point remains valid; everyone needs to be able to signal that they need quiet time and if they don’t have their own bedroom/office/locking bathroom you need to find another way to send and receive that message. She suggested a yoga mat or towel for a small child who may not be able to articulate their needs clearly – the idea being that the child can learn that by sitting on this mat (or even rolling it out themselves) that they will be given the space they need. This green corner does the same thing in perhaps a more elegant way than a towel on the floor, but doesn’t take up any more space. You can recreate this in your own living room or even in a corner of a child’s room to create a reading area or a quiet zone or even make it larger, as above, and put a desk in it. The key, for me at least, is that the paint carries onto the ceiling to really create that idea of a room within a room.

design by drawn london (best of Houzz 2022 and 2021
design by drawn london (best of Houzz 2022 and 2021)

Staying with paint, and here the whole wall has been painted in a deep shade of olive which elevates the bed from a simple divan to something with more presence and elegance. The position of the artwork (as above) brings the two colours together once again. If you have space then painting a wall like this and putting the bed in the middle with the bedside tables on either side also zones the space and creates the impression of something that was built for purpose. It’s a bit more hotel in feel if you like. And, of course, you can play with this idea – keeping the darker paint to the width of the bed but taking it all the way up the wall and over the ceiling to make a canopy and give the impression of a four poster bed.

design by @plaidfoxstudio (canada) image by @emaphotographi
design by @plaidfoxstudio (canada) image by @emaphotographi

Now we’re moving into more bespoke ideas which will, of course, cost more than paint but can really make a room. Above a bedhead that is upholstered rather than painted. It’s colour co-ordinated to within an inch, but the joy of this is that if you have a small bedroom, adding a feature like this embraces its size but shouts that you are not apologising for that or trying to hide it. If you don’t have room for cupboards/dressing tables/chairs then go all out with the headboard and make something fabulous. And yes I do know the woman to help with this since you ask… Jess at Poh Maluna is your woman and I am talking to her about creating several for a large project I am working on in Mayfair.

bespoke integrated fridge design by isabelle lomas (House & Garden Top 30 up and coming)
bespoke integrated fridge design by isabelle lomas (House & Garden Top 30 up and coming interior designers)

Another brilliant bespoke project I saw this week is this cupboard that houses a fridge and I dream of this. Regular readers may know I hated my hulking great stainless steel fridge so I covered it in vinyl to disguise it. Here, it has been built into a wonderful cupboard. Now I imagine it’s still an integrated fridge, and it is my sad duty to inform you that large American style fridges are insanely expensive when you want them to be integrated. I remain convinced that there ought to be a way of putting a normal fridge into a cupboard without having to open the cupboard door and then the fridge door (and believe me when I say I am so style over substance that I would do this but The Mad Husband and sons have drawn the line) but I haven’t found it yet. My superglue idea was rejected by everyone. So maybe this is just a lovely cupboard that hides a big expensive fridge. That said, rather than buying an integrated American fridge you could just buy two standard (60cm wide) ones and build a cupboard around them. And if my kitchen was measured out to the last millimetre I would do this. However, in the current format I would have to rip out all the cupboards to make it work so that remains a project for the next kitchen/house/client.

kitchen by @archway_home
kitchen by @archway_home

There’s no doubt that the fridge cupboard above is the show-stopping element of that kitchen but here, in a similar colour, for much less expense, the island, wrapped in a gorgeous shade of deep orange does the job. This is the definition of a small idea with a big impact. If you’re having an island anyway then it’s not even extra work to change the colour as it would need painting anyway. But the effect is modern, dynamic and fabulous. Yes, you could paint all the units the same but why would you when you can add a splash of contrasting colour like this which, assuming you pick a colour you adore, will make your heart leap with happiness every time you come in.

Lastly, I have included this, by Kelly Wearstler for the colours. The overall impression is one of warmth but if you look closely there is yellow ochre, green, rust red, pale pink and black. There are florals and checks, squares and circles, wallpaper, tiles and paint. There is a lot going on but it doesn’t feel like it because the colours harmonise so well. This is a tonal scheme pushed to its limits with the red, pink, orange and yellow and a dash of green and black to wake it all up.

colour scheme via kelly wearstler
colour scheme via kelly wearstler

So that’s Monday’s Beautiful Rooms for you. I hope that has inspired you for your own places and spaces.


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. Very interesting and useful use of paint. But the perspex base for bed in first photo may show more floor space but given how small the room is then no longer an option here.

  2. I’m saving the photo of the Drawn London bedroom to add to another similar view from an earlier post. The combination of the zoned painted area and the placement of the print on the wall catches my breath. The stacked vintage cases work exceptionally well for accessible storage plus the height of a platform bed (mine). The extended wall lamp illuminates a cozy bed sit read. It would have to flip to the opposite side in my room layout, but wow, it works! Thank you for this inspirational moment!

  3. Big, hulking stainless steel fridge/freezers are, or have been, a status symbol in the US. Not so much here in Canada. But if I could have that lovely kitchen I wouldn’t care. Cheers!

  4. Some great ideas here, as usual: thank you Kate. Who would have thought that the plum, lilac and sky blue would be so fabulous?

  5. I’m really loving these ideas on zoning, especially the Lagodesign. My flat isn’t a new build, but there aren’t many, actually any original features. I’ll use this as inspiration when I make some changes. Thanks.

  6. Splendid start to my Monday, thank you Kate. Never seen anything like the Lagodesign zoning, need to have a steady hand with that paint brush mind!!!

  7. Love this post ! I really look forward to each post. Moving into a new house (bland new build but in a fab location) next week so am lapping up your every word. Just need the the confidence to decide on a plan of action to get started on making it a home I love.

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