How I Decorated My First Show Flat

Here is another look around the show flat I recently decorated. I may be doing another one soon so I’ll let you know when that happens and I also have some very exciting news about a shop design that I have been asked to get involved with. I’m very excited as it’s for a good cause as well and you will be able to read about later in the year.

As many of you know, and some of you have experienced, when I’m not writing for the blog or for my book, I run a business helping people style and decorate their homes. It’s a job I enjoy enormously as it gives me enormous satisfaction to bring together what people want and need in a way that tells their story, so their house can truly reflect the people who live there. In short it becomes a home.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
half painted walls add character to a modern build

Last summer I received an email from a former client, whose bedroom and en suite I had helped with, telling me that she had changed jobs and was now working for a company that was developing 80 acres of land around Wembley Stadium. They had done several show flats but they had one left and they wanted something different. Would I, she asked, be prepared to, come and give it the Mad About The House treatment?

Well I thought about this for approximately one tenth of a nano-second. Free rein? A blank page? My fantasy decorating space? Would I heck! I replied, after a suitably languid 60 second pause, saying that yes I would be very interested in that as a project.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
the worktop is marble

A few weeks later I donned high viz jacket, builder’s boots and a hard hat (which was all quite exciting in itself) and went for my first tour of this, as yet, incomplete building. The three bedroom flat is on the 15th floor and while the lift was working there were no control panels in it so we had to get in, shout into the void which floor we wanted and then somehow we rose. I’m not sure there wasn’t a small army of people in the basement heaving us up there.

Anyway, the basic outline was done, which meant there were things that couldn’t be changed, such as radiators, cupboards, kitchens and bathrooms. But in a way that was good because that is the reality for many of us when we move into a new home, so it’s good to see how to work around immoveable objects.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
worker stools from Cox & Cox

The first thing to note is that the flat is, of course, modern. The ceilings aren’t terribly high and there aren’t any interesting architectural details to work around. Someone asked in the comments the other day what to do about modern homes that are essentially a series of white boxes and I’m hoping this will help.

The floors are good – dark herringbone wood and the kitchen worktops are all marble, as are the bathrooms. So there were great elements to work with. But how to add character when you can’t install a fabulous pendant light? Or any lights come to that? When you haven’t got quirky angles or features to work around?

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
the long hall has half-painted walls the neon sign is from bag and bones

Well hopefully the pictures will give you an idea of how I went about it. The hall is a corridor with lots of doors leading off it and it opens out into the large living space, which comprises a kitchen, dining area and living room. We painted the walls to about shoulder height all the way along that space to tie the whole space together but add character at the same time.

I am often asked if you can use dark paint in modern flats and I see no reason why not. But if you are worried about low ceilings then do half of it. This will also hide the telly – although there isn’t one in this flat as yet.

The next thing was to zone the space and, as it’s a huge room, we were able to put a sofa across the middle with its back to the eating/cooking areas. Sitting this on a large rug also helped to zone the space. This sofa is the Earl Grey from Love Your Home and the detail on the back makes it perfect for open-plan living. It also comes as a traditional two or three seater if you don’t have room for a corner sofa.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
the earl grey sofa from loveyourhome

The rug was key to creating the different areas – buy the biggest you can afford and make sure as much of the sofa as possible is on it.

When it came to the bedrooms we needed to really make an impact in a small space. Modern bedrooms are often not very big and while these all have built-in wardrobes, there wasn’t a lot of room to spare.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
lotus wallpaper from farrow & ball

The first bedroom was nearest to the living room so we continued the gold and navy theme in there. I wanted to use wallpaper as a good way of creating maximum impact. We did all four walls and painted the radiator, skirtings and back of the door in matching navy to bring it all together. The gold lovers chairs from Rockett St George completed this room, which was already carpeted.

painted radiator styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
paint the radiators and wooden trims in a strong colour to echo the wallpaper

The next bedroom, a single, we imagined for a  child but kept it neutral with Pigeon, by Farrow & Ball, which is a gorgeous greeny/grey that looks good with white and we added a splash of orange to make it all stand out. It would also work really well as an office and the decor wouldn’t need changing for that.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
walls in pigeon by farrow & ball

Finally, the master suite. I didn’t want to use wallpaper again so decided to do something different. The ceiling, radiator, architraves and skirting boards we painted all in the same colour – Brinjal by Farrow & Ball – to try and do something more unusual while still adding character.

Now the nitty gritty. Yes you can buy this flat – it’s a three bedroom penthouse and it’s on for £990,000. If you want to go and have a look you can email [email protected] or ring 0203 2192250. It’s not on the website at the moment but you can find out more about the area and what is available to buy and rent here wembleyparkresidential.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
painted ceiling in brinjal by farrow & ball

This flat, which is in the Alto Pienna building, practically overlooks the stadium and has a large balcony facing it. All the flats in the building have their own private outside space and there is also a private water garden, lounge business centre, private art gallery, spa and gym. There is a two bed, two bath apartment available for £572,000.

I wasn’t particularly familiar with the area before I started visiting this flat – I think the last time I was there was in about 1987 to see U2 headline supported by The Pretenders (I went for the latter) so it’s fair to say it has changed a little since then. However, I each time I went there were more cafes and shops. There is a talk of a sort of farmers’ market area nearby and, of course, the stadium. It’s rather more of a destination than I had thought.

styled by Kate Watson-Smyth photographed by Megan Taylor
KW-S in the show flat!

If you have questions about the decor and what I did then stick ’em in the comments and I’ll see if we need to do a follow-up post.

All images are by Megan Taylor please credit if you pin.

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. Love what you’ve done here, you’ve given the place some soul with the dark door frames and wall colours/wallpaper and styling. And leaving the walls fairly clear of clutter so the views become the artwork is perfect. I’ve avoided modern houses with low ceilings as I can’t see what to do with them to really bring them to life, now I know I’ll be far more interested! Thank you, very inspiring.

  2. Oh my, I wish I could love the half-wall thing, really! But as someone from one of the former Soviet Union countries, I am deeply traumatised by it. Everything, and I mean damn everything, was half-wall back in the days, with that world’s ugliest dirty yellow and muddy green colour and people painted the walls this way not because it was interesting, but because they often literally and enough paint just for half of the wall. Wow, how times have changed since then. Still, I need maybe 20 more years before I can look at such wall and not see 6-hour lines queues in front of the meat shop:))

    1. Gosh well yes that’s understandable. I’m sorry if it brings back terrible memories to look at. I’m going to apologise for doing it one more time as I am getting lots of requests for how to create straight lines. Perhaps if you are warned you can avoid that post and come back afterwards.

      1. Haha, it’s not THAT bad, just sometimes I find it fascinating how same things can have a totally different meaning. And your warning in today’s post totally made my day:))

  3. Well Kate I type the following day and guess what…the blue – yellow combination is all over the stylish blogs on the web this morning, one of which has photos of a powerful blue paint from Little Greene, which looks wonderful.

    You are always right on the button.

  4. That’s a lovely photo at the end. I’ve been trying to think of ways to have someone photograph me for my furniture business’ About page. But I don’t want to look cheeseball and staged. Or have a portrait so candid it lacks any of the finesse that a little forethought can lend. Yours captures just what I’ve been looking for. Thank you for the inspo! 🙂

  5. I know you obviously didn’t need to tackle the lighting, in this flat, but what would you suggest for low ceilings?

  6. I ‘d say paint skirting boards and radiator with matt eggshell (NEVER gloss). You may get away with painting the radiator with the same paint as the walls.

    I spotted that KETTLE again…who makes it please Kate?

    Masses of congratulations and a round of applause. The appartment looks fun to be in.

  7. Inspiring! Love the half painted walls. Would you be able to tell me what you thought of the quality of the Love Your Home sofa? I have looked at their stuff online and admired the designs (and the pricetags!) but the prices seem too low to equate with good quality. I’m guessing you were loaned the sofa in return for exposure, so no need to reply if it makes things awkward for you 🙂

    1. The sofa was paid for rather than loaned so I have no problem telling you honestly that it’s really comfortable and that I am getting the same one myself – not in an L-shape but I really like it, which is why I specified it for the flat. It’s firm and well-made.

  8. The lotus wallpaper in first bedroom photo looks different from the second shot. Is it just the play of light ?

  9. Loving the half walls! Thinking of trying it out in a bedroom. How do you go about doing it? I’m not sure a drunk looking line would look so great!

  10. Eek, this is so inspiring! I’m about to move into a 1995 development which still feels very “new build” to me (white, boxy, no character, small rooms). Now I feel that more is possible than I had supposed!

    Practical question here – when you paint skirting boards and woodwork, do you use the exact same emulsion as you used on the walls, or do you buy another tin in the same colour but gloss? Or eggshell? I’m afraid that skirting needs to be gloss but would that somehow ruin the look?

    1. Good question Laura! Gloss is the widely used for skirting boards. However, we find a lot of people using satin paint too as some brands offer paint that can stand up to knocks!

    1. We thought there was enough going on and as the flat is for sale we thought we would allow potential buyers to make their own choices for art. Re the lighting – it was all done before I got in there so wasn’t allowed to make those changes.

  11. It’s gorgeous! So inspiring for people in modern homes. Do you use the same type of paint for the skirtings, doors and radiators? If so, what paint do you use?

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