Biophilila, Colour Blocking Trends and Childhood Home Influences (Podcast Notes)

Hello and Welcome to The Great Indoors… as it were. It’s time for the second episode of this series and this time we spoke about Biophilia (which I wrote about in some detail recently, whether your childhood home influences your adult house and the new trend of colour blocking. You can, as ever, listen here and can choose your preferred platform and if you haven’t do give it a go – it’s about 40 minutes and it’s more entertaining to hear than to read I think as there are lots of laughs and jokes along the way. This is sort of to provide back up images so you can see what we are talking about on the show.

Now as I wrote about Biophilia, or the connection to nature, recently (An Interview with Oliver Heath) I’m not going to go over it all again, but the key points were that there is perhaps a reason that plants have come back into fashion and that is that we now know of the benefits to having living greenery in our homes.

faux fern from rockett st george at kws
my kitchen has large bifold doors looking out to the garden

They absorb toxins which helps our physical well-being and green is an invigorating colour that stimulate creativity. You can read more about my ongoing colour psychology series here. But in addition to that it has been proven that natural materials such as wood and stone and wool are all calming and beneficial to have in your home.

In extremis just taking ten minutes to sit by an open window and look or breathe in the outside (I’m not talking car fumes though – if that’s your view put some plants by the window) can be hugely helpful. It will calm you down, which means your heart rate falls so your blood pressure drops which leads, in turn, to a more positive outlook on life.

open plan island with wall mounted extractor fan via sophie robinson
sophie’s mother’s house with its view of the outdoors

Sophie spoke about her home office, which was originally a dark dining room so she replaced the small, high windows with French doors and put her desk in front of them. My desk in the loft also looks out over a garden and a massive chestnut tree belonging to the neighbour and it’s definitely a calming site when deadlines are biting.

Next up we discussed whether your childhood home – and by extension parents’ taste influences you when you have our own house. Interestingly she grew up reading Country Living and her parents were both very hands on decorators. It was the 1980s and a time of rag-rolling, stippling and sponging your walls. As well as stencilling. My mother was also keen on all that and I have to say that that has never, and will never, make an appearance in my own home which is much more likely to feature the strong colours and anaglypta wallpaper of my Grandmother’s home.

colour blocking by mosey home
colour blocking by @moseyhome

We didn’t really come to a conclusion on this bar the realisation that perhaps these things skip a generation. I have lots of my Grandmother’s furniture and strong colours (and her hoarding maximalist tendencies) whereas my mother declutters all the time and is prone to a curtain pelmet.

What do you think? Do your homes resemble the ones you grew up in or not? I’d love to know more so do leave comments here and have a listen to the programme to find out more.

roksanda apartment image by KWS
colour blocking at roksanda apartment image by KWS

Finally, we spoke about the trend for colour blocking. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this when it comes to dressing – Michelle Obama was known for it  in her wardrobe – lots of strong plain colours and very little, or no, patterns. It’s the same thing but for interiors.

Choosing a restricted palette of say three strong, or tonal, colours and sticking to them to create blocks of colour. Now I have done this in my sitting room to a certain extent as there are three plain sofas in different colours, one of which matches the walls. But my rugs are patterned so I didn’t take it all the way through.

perfect example of colour blocking by

But you can also be much more adventurous and that is using different colours on on different walls – so not a single feature wall but all four of them. Or painting the ceiling – it’s about not using white at all would be one element of it. But also not restricting yourself to painting the whole wall in one colour. Perhaps painting the window frame and part of the wall around it, or the door and some of the wall (which will make it look larger) and then going straight into another colour. It’s a look that might require lots of frog tape but it’s very effective.

Using contrasting colours will give you a very strong bold look but you can also do it tonally using soft colours and it works really well and will be more calming. It’s also a great trick for zoning open plan spaces or creating work and play areas in kids’ bedrooms.

Has anyone tried it? Any advice to offer on getting it right?

perfect example of colour blocking by

Lastly we spoke about whether a huge tv is a design crime. I have a relatively small tv against a dark painted wall in part because the television points, as is so often the case, are diagonally opposite the door so it’s the first thing you see when you come in. My client Lucy, in the Hoover Building, has this Samsung Qled tv which you can have a picture on so that it doesn’t look like a tv until you are watching it. The Frame will do the same thing and yes, that is the one I would have if I was in the business of buying a new television.

samsung qled tv image by paul craig, sideboard by westelm
samsung qled tv by paul craig, sideboard by westelm

But the interior stylist and author Emily Henson, whose latest book Be Bold Interiors for the Brave of Heart, we reviewed on an earlier episode, pointed out on Instagram recently that you never see televisions in interiors magazines and she thinks that’s wrong. They’re a fact of life, often the purpose of the room they are in so the key, she says, is to include them in the decor rather than trying to ignore them.

incorporate the tv into the decor says Emily Henson
incorporate the tv into the decor says Emily Henson

“If you flick through interiors magazines it’s rare that you see a television in a living room shot,” she wrote. “I get it – they’re big ugly black boxes that can ruin an otherwise beautiful photo. I’ve been on many shoots where we’ve avoided showing them so I’m just as guilty as anyone. And I’ve even avoided showing them in shoots of my own homes. But the thing is most of us have them and many of us love to binge watch a good boxset.

“If yours is on display in plain view rather than tucked away in a cupboard, I think the best you can do is style your way around it, tricking the eye into looking elsewhere. So add framed art, plants, books, anything to distract the eye from the glare of the black hole that is your telly.”

What do you think? Hide it or acknowledge it? I think that’s sound advice.


With huge thanks as ever to Topps Tiles for sponsoring the show.

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. We have adapted a mid century sideboard to accommodate our 43 cm tv. We press a remote which activates a lift when we want to view and the same when we are finished and it goes back down.

  2. William us too, no TV since 1998….back then our son was given ours for his new flat! Bog standard TV’s in the home are on the decrease! They are so dated. If you have “loads of money” you can buy a TV that’s wafer thin and totally transparent. Or if again money is no object a cinema screen in a dedicated room! But which ever type of computer you have you can watch TV where ever you please and no specific part of a room is needed!

  3. My mum was ahead of the decorating curve – even before Changing Rooms she was already papering feature walls – a huge floral Victorian wallpaper (we lived in a Victorian house) in our dining room. She was knocking through smaller rooms to make bigger ones and we even had huge patio doors (a first in our road). She also designed and had made a Victorian stained glass window in our front door to replace a particularly nasty 1970’s instalment.

    Her taste is now calming and neural with pops of colour with textiles and cushions and she has a huge number of plants in her light and airy house.

  4. Im lucky to have two rooms to sit in . When kids were small we had only one tv in one room, so the other sitting room was for peace and quiet ; music ; reading or chatting or kids playing. Then we put a tv in this room for many years so we had two tv’s. One tended to be used for gaming for the teenagers at the time.
    Did a big refurb last year and decided to return to having only one tv. We now have designated tv room with a frameless thing on the wall. I dont really like the art work that goes with it but overall doesnt offend too much. Refuse to pay extra option of having specific art

    Upshot, we all enjoy sitting in both rooms but have more conversation , music on , play with grandkids etc in room with no tv to distract us. If you are lucky enough to have a second room to sit in try it out without tv for few months and see if you really miss it.

  5. …hiding the box…constant problem and yet I still hold fond childhood memories of my first viewing experience. A smart, wooden cabinet with neat double doors in a typical 50’s sitting room…due for a retro revival?

  6. Thank God the TV has finally come out of the closet, if there is one thing that drives me to distraction is beautiful, symmetrically ordered furniture , minus TV, a lot of the time they do resemble seating areas in upmarket hotels. Let’s see more TV’s , I know of no- one without one.

    1. William, to each her own. I don’t have a television. Once or twice a week, I might throw on my headphones, stretch out on the sofa, and stream something from Netflix or HBO on my ancient 15″ MacBook Pro. But otherwise, I have no use for a TV. Most of what’s on is crap. I get it if you’re a sports fan, or if you live with other people and want to group-watch, but for me, a TV would be a colossal waste of wall real estate.

      Now then, if we’re going to complain about unrealistic photoshoots, put me down for the lamp on the table in the middle of the room with no cord running to an outlet. I want to know where I can buy those magic lamps!

Comments are closed.