Beautiful Rooms: Warm Shades for Autumn

As ever a collection of images that have caught my eye this week – some in relation to my own renovation and others just because they are, as the title suggests, beautiful rooms. We tend to think of rich russet, golden yellow and conker brown when it comes to Autumn but pink is also rich and warm and works perfectly all year round.

British Standard kitchen designed by @IsabellaWorsley shot by @helencathcart
British Standard kitchen designed by @IsabellaWorsley and shot by @helencathcart

There is also, in many of these designs, an unexpected element. Something that creates the “ooh” moment and every room needs one of those. Obviously in this kitchen above it’s the strawberry pink kitchens units and what a joy. This is, apparently a small kitchen and many of us would think it best to stick to neutrals to try and make the room feel bigger. Spoiler – it won’t. It will look like a small room painted in neutrals to make it seem larger. Far better to go dramatic – as you can see this doesn’t automatically mean dark – and own the size. In a big kitchen this would be too much (see below) and wouldn’t need to be kept as an accent. In a small room go for it.

I have said this before – it’s very hard to hide features, shapes architectural bits and bobs that displease you. They will also look they are in disguise – the fancy dress person at the black tie ball – better to own them and that can mean by emphasising them in a colour or pattern that you adore and that will always give you pleasure when you look at it. So instead of wincing every time you see the beam, or the small space, flip the coin – drink in the colour you love and take pleasure in seeing it everyday – ultimately you will see and take pleasure in that far more.

plain english kitchen designed by salvesen graham and shot by @simonbrownphotography
plain english kitchen designed by salvesen graham and shot by @simonbrownphotography

Talking of those bright colours. It doesn’t have to always be about hiding something. They can also be used to draw attention to a feature – the joy of this method is that only you will know if you were trying to disguise or emphasise and therein lies the cleverness of this method.

This kitchen, above and below, by the clever design duo Salvesen and Graham, is big. Big enough to take strong colours but instead the bulk of the cupboards are painted in a barely there pale pink. So your eye is drawn to the fabulous burgundy dresser with its yellow lining. That’s a tonal contrast with the two shades of pink as the yellow is seen only when the door is open. A burst of joy when you’re reaching in for something.

Then there is the island – painted in dark green to link to the outside view but also to break up all the pink. All the colours sit well together but as a combination you have, essentially, two – pale pink and burgundy and the green. The yellow is occasional. The green of the island links back to the pink via the tiles in the chimney breast.This is a master class is using colour but not in a scary way. It’s bold yet subtle at the same time.

plain english kitchen designed by salvesen graham and shot by @simonbrownphotography
plain english kitchen designed by salvesen graham and shot by @simonbrownphotography

Staying with soft pink and this room below is painted in Fenwick & Tilbrook Dry Earth. This is a good example of why you must get a tester as it’s very subtle on screen but these pale shades intensify when they meet each other in corners and shadows and the light – warm yellow south or cool blue north – will make a huge difference to the end result.

Here the window frames match the wall but the coppery rail and curtains act to deepen the pink and move the colour needle more towards a warm orange than a burgundy so it’s teetering towards, and stopping short of, a full pink orange colour clash. I use the word “clash” with caution as I happen to think they are colours that go well together but tradition dictates that pink and red/orange shouldn’t mix.

styling by @bellasgonehome paint by fenwick and tilbrook - dry earth
styling by @bellasgonehome paint by fenwick and tilbrook – dry earth

Taking that pink deeper and darker (down, down, deeper and down – name that tune!) to this room where the rich pink on the walls and sofa, works so well with the dark reclaimed iroko wood. I took a trip to Retrouvius (who designed this room) only last week to pick up more reclaimed lab worktops to use as desks. I’d love to create shelves around a door like this but I don’t think we have enough room. Note though, the gold arm chair to break up all that pink and dark wood and how the lighter room beyond that is filled with plants draws the eye.

image via retrouvius

I included this room below partly because it’s just lovely but also because that patterned curtain is a real disrupter and it looks fabulous. This house was designed in the 50s and we tend not to see florals in this type of mid-century design but it provides the perfect link between the clean straight lines of the interior and the riot of greenery outside the window. This is that unexpected element I was talking about. And yes, it can be hard to do on your own, that’s why these people are designers, but take inspiration from their bold and daring schemes and see if you can gain the confidence to colour outside the own lines in your own homes.

@meghan.eisenberg’s home was designed by her grandfather in 1950, image by @haris.kenjar
@meghan.eisenberg’s home was designed by her grandfather in 1950, image by @haris.kenjar

Back to a more conventional space (it’s a bumper edition this week) and this is just a warm relaxing space. But perhaps it’s calling out for a disruptive element – a bold striped curtain, a ceiling painted in a very, very pale version of the terracotta sofa. A dramatic pendant light that acts as a sculpture. The greenery beyond the window is great but it might not be there in January and when that view is grey you need to find something inside to delight the eye and distract from that.

autumn styling via sohohome
autumn styling via sohohome 

Sally Denning is a stylist who is always showing us how to do that. Here the half-painted wall acts as a bedhead and wraps the room in a warm rich colour that isn’t too overwhelming. The room above could have a touch of that – perhaps a pink to show off the sofa or a deep green to bring in the outside.

None of these rooms have used lots of colours but all of them have done something a little different within a minimal palette and all have been lifted out of the ordinary and given their ooh moment by the clever stylists and designers who have created them.

Roll on a week of inspiration. I’m hoping that the first room will be nearly finished in a couple of days – it now awaits its accessories of new French doors, radiator and the final touch, the flooring. On to room number 2.

Little Green paint styled by Blackshore Style and shot by@markscottphotographyuk
Little Green paint styled by Blackshore Style and shot by @markscottphotographyuk



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. Loving all the “oxblood” tones. As a ginger, I have always veered away from reds and browns but, suddenly, I’m feeling deep red/browns.

  2. Yes, the sohohome living room would be perfect with a few pops of colour, a colorful painting and toss cushions, perhaps. Cheers from Canada!

  3. I really can’t understand this obsession with colour.
    Well, maybe I can from a purely commercial perspective.. After all, paint companies have to market and sell their products somehow. Anyhow. Anywhere. And to anyone. We are being led by the nose.
    But the impracticality of always colourchanging to suit life’s constantly changing variables is pointless. And stress inducing. And irritating. Whose mood stays constant anyway. No one’s.
    I’m stil with white, shades of grey, and as you used to recomend, hints of black.
    But pink, raspberry, oche, ridiculous variants on the rainbow. Never.
    I’ll forward you a couple of ‘like’ pics later in the week to illustrate my point

    1. I really can’t understand this obsession with lack of color. The impracticality of confining choices to an infinitesimally tiny sliver of the rainbow of colors we can see and choose from. How stress inducing, and irritating, it would be to walk in every day to see nothing that isn’t the shade of old newsprint.

  4. Can we take a moment to appreciate the front stretcher on the chair in the Salvesen and Graham kitchen image? Love that it reflects the shape used in the chair backs

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