Beautiful Rooms To Inspire Your Own Places And Spaces

A trawl through my own camera roll this week as there are thousands of pictures on it that I have clearly taken because I loved what I was seeing and yet there they languish, for the most part unseen again until a phone reminder “on this day” pops up and I am reminded once again of all the lovely places and space I have been lucky enough to visit. So today I’m going to share a few with you.


This is an oldie but an image I still love taken in the basement of the Christopher Howe Antiques shop in Pimlico, London. It’s very simple but so effective. Firstly the fire surround is painted in such an unusual colour. So often we stick to black and brown if the surround isn’t marble and this is a really strong argument for saying choose a strong colour and make a statement. After all, a fireplace is the focal point of the room and a feature in its own right. Don’t let it disappear into the background. The matching wall lamps in a softer pink shade work really well and make me wonder about adding wall lamps over my own fireplace.

Finally it’s the striped chair in the corner of the shot that really makes it for me. Stripes are so good in interiors – they work with florals as well as plains and a bit of ticking stripe is rarely a wrong move and, in my opinion, usually enhances a scheme.

Hotel Bourg Tibourg
Hotel Bourg Tibourg

These two shots were taken at the Hotel Bourg Tibourg in the summer. We had arranged to stay in an AirBNB and it was a disaster. It was nearly 40C and we just ran out and down the road and this was the first place we came to. I loved this room so much. It later became the basis for my son’s room (see last week’s reveal when I showed him the pictures and he said he fancied terracotta in his own room. We painted his doors dark grey instead of black and reduced the amount of pattern but the inspiration came very clearly from here.

I mentioned last week that we were still looking for the right patterned fabric for his curtain and that’s because I basically want this but haven’t found it yet. The reversible curtain is plain on both sides for now.

Hotel Bourg Tibourg
Hotel Bourg Tibourg

This bathroom also inspired our own bathroom – work on which is starting as you read this. I have tracked down a basin with ceramic legs and the room will have wall lights (minus tassels) and wallpaper to create an opulent feel in a small room.

I also loved this bathroom in the Casa Pingone in Turin. Yes it’s huge and it’s mostly about the original features so it’s much harder to replicate. Also this isn’t the right look for a worker’s terrace cottage in North London, but… I mentioned we are hoping to buy a place in Italy and this is very firmly on the moodboard.

The floor tiles here are original but I would be looking to source reclaimed and actually thing that I loved most (which doesn’t really show in this image) is the metal table next to the bath which was painted in a gloss burgundy to match the floor. This is an idea you could take for any room – bedside tables, occasional tables, that sort of thing. Take a piece of garden furniture, vintage or new and paint it in a rich gloss colour.

casa pingone in turin
casa pingone in turin

Staying in Turin and this is the kitchen of the house of Carlo Mollino, an architect and photographer who kept a secret apartment in Turin which he decorated as a shrine to his favourite objects. The other rooms are more well known and more often photographed but I remember being taken by this tiny kitchen and the use of the tiles over the floor and walls. He did the same in the bathroom. It’s possible it makes it look even smaller than it is but then again it’s pretty tiny so you might as well embrace that. If I were doing this now I would paint the wall cupboards navy blue or yellow to really bring out the tiles. It’s an idea you could consider if you have a tiny bathroom or kitchen.

The default position is often to paint it white but while it might make it feel breezier and lighter it isn’t really so it might just be a bit miserable. Better to saturate it with a colour or pattern you love, add good lighting and enjoy being in there looking at a textile that pleases you. Otherwise you might just end up in there feeling faintly dissatisfied and being reminded that you painted it white to make it feel bigger. Which doesn’t. So rather than conforming to design rules and being endlessly disappointed, choose something that will make you forget the problem.

casa mollina in turin
casa mollina in turin

I post this kitchen in defiance of The Mad Husband who hates sink skirts with a vengeance. This is the Casale Amati in Liguria which we have rented for the last few summers. I just think it’s really pretty and the soft folds of the curtain contrast well with the rugged marble sink and vintage plate rack. I also like it because it’s not floral – for me a skirtain should be only checks or stripes. But, as I say, it’s hypothetical as Himself really really won’t countenance it and I have other decorative battles I need to win so I’m letting that one go. Pick your battles people, pick your battles.

casale amati in liguria
casale amati in liguria

And that, for today is that. This is another busy week in Mad House II – the last upstairs window goes in today, which means the shelves and desk can finally be fitted. The sisal floor goes down in that room and our bedroom on Tuesday. Then the sitting room windows will be replaced during the rest of the week. Meanwhile the bathroom, as I said, starts and is scheduled to take two weeks. We have a downstairs shower room off the pantry downstairs so we are not without facilities. I will, of course, keep you posted.

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. I think inspiration is the highest form of praise you can give and get.
    Especially, if you are not at all creative yourself, like me. That is where I am always so happy to have lots and lots of blogs like yours to get inspired by for my own projects!

  2. My inspiration for the sink curtain I have in my bathroom came from photos posted by you Kate. In a room which now has tongue and groove panelling on the walls, porcelain floor tiles, fair trade baskets and a wooden bench, I wanted something soft. I found Irish Handkerchief linen online and made the two panel curtain myself. It is always a delight for me to step into this room. Laundering is simple, just slip the curtain from the rod and wash. Thank you for the inspiration Kate!

  3. I am laughing over the sink skirt challenge but love how you’ve framed it as “I have other battles to win” (not just to fight). It’s tough to have a spouse with strong opinions, even if we trained them, eh? Lol!

    Also, Hotel Tibourg: I love love how the black stripe goes from fat in the wallpaper to skinny in the fabric. I’ve seen it before but this is the most successful application.

    You should post about pics on your phone more often! Good luck with continued reno.

  4. That Howe picture is the perfect example of that quote/saying about all rooms needing a bit of bad taste. It’s honestly a nasty colour out of context, but it makes it so unstuffy and fun – it’s kind of transgressive!

  5. beautiful inspiration this morning. my eyes love a sink skirt (the texture! the charm!) but i hate the thought of something else in my way when i’m trying to reach the pot scrubber with my dirty hand.

  6. Love the detail of using the stripe in the pattern to create the tabs on the curtains in your hotel bedroom. And the way the tassels on the lamps pick up all the shades in the wallpaper.
    Loathe sink curtains, however. Maybe I am an unskilled labourer, but I always seem to be sloshing water over the edge and a curtain would be sodden and filthy in no time. I know I could wash it, but it just seems extra labour. Sorry.

    1. I agree with the Mad Husband, sink skirts are just not acceptable. I love the Hotel Bourg Tibourg and the blue and yellow tiled bathroom in Italy

  7. I love sink skirts and I think that picture with the rough marble and the soft cloth skirt is the perfect match.

  8. Good luck with the continuing renovations, Kate. I don’t envy you window replacements in the rather chilly temperatures forecast for this week. Hope it all goes well and look forward to seeing the results. Thank you for bringing us so much inspiration!

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