Follow Your Pipe Dreams

Now today it’s a little bit serious, but important nonetheless. I am aware, all too aware, that this blog is about turning your house into a home. Finding the finishing touches. Styling yes, but shopping mostly. And I’m aware that we can’t all afford to do that all the time or as much as we would all like.

pipe dream cushion by kate watson-smyth
pipe dream cushion by Bianca Hall

I was recently approached by Experian, who offer free credit scores and comparisons for credit products such as loans and credit cards (they also have a paid for service called Credit Expert so you can see in your report exactly what the potential lenders see when they’re looking at your application). They asked me to tell you about them and how it can be important to have this information – to know your data self as it were – if you are a home owner, or a renter, or anyone who has interior dreams.

So yes I know it’s a serious topic and, like many of you I hate talking about money, but we all gotta have it and sometimes what we’ve got isn’t enough for what we want, and so we need to get some more. Which means loans and credit and I’ve had those over the years too.

And, it’s true to say, that Experian has been pretty useful for us that in respect over the years. We have bought four houses and sold three. We have bought wrecks and done them up and converted lofts and added extensions. We bought the house that was subsiding and everyone told us not to. We bought the house from the divorcing couple – which everyone also told us not to as it would be bad karma. Actually it wasn’t and I like to think we healed that house. All of this has involved an ear-bleedingly large mortgage. Some of it has involved further loans. Not to change the subject, but we could only afford to get married because we stuck the whole thing on a credit card (it was a cheap wedding. Lovely but cheap!).

As I say Experian has been useful to us. Well I say “us”. I’m actually completely terrified of my accountant, never mind the bank manager and the thought of even filling out the mortgage form gives me sleepless nights. Fortunately The Mad Husband doesn’t have this problem. He has been using Experian for years – ever since that first mortgage. And when his account was cloned a few years ago and his rating dropped through no fault of his own he worked hard to sort out his/our finances and get his credit score back on track. I was mostly hiding under the bed hoping the mortgage lender wouldn’t turn us down because it was Tuesday.

This is not a sexist or stereotyping post by the way. I know plenty of men who run screaming from the bank manager while their partners take everything in hand. It’s just that in his house he does that side of things. It used to be regarded as something I was just rubbish at. I have taken refuge behind the 21st century label of being a “creative” and therefore understandably it’s not in my domain.

But that said, having the knowledge does make it all less scary. And it does mean you can realise your pipe dreams. Because knowledge is power. And if you know your credit rating you know what you can afford to borrow. And if you know what you can afford to borrow you know how big your dreams can be. Or perhaps I should say – because one should always dream big – how realistic, or realisable – your dreams are.

I am currently dreaming of replacing the bifold doors at the back of the house with crittall. Although probably not even a 999 rating with Experian is going to get me that. But it might get me some wooden ones painted black. Which is probably more in keeping with the house anyway.

The Mad Husband is dreaming of an office at the bottom of the garden. The 14yo, who doesn’t have a credit card and – judging by the way he rinses through his allowance, is unlikely to be given one any time soon, or ever – is dreaming of a workshop at the bottom of the garden. The 17yo is simply dreaming of passing his A Levels, which may in turn lead to the sort of job where all sorts of other dreams are possible.

pipe dream cushion by kate watson-smyth

So if you are more sensible than me check your rating. Know where you stand and tell us in the comments what your pipe dreams are. It may be than yours are better than mine and I may have to swap mine for yours


This is, of course, a sponsored post. That said, I think it’s an important subject. As well as pipe dreams it could have been called Be Less Ostrich and take your head out of the sand. Experian wants people to understand how financial data can transform their lives for the better and how it can help you prepare for the next step in your life by supporting your financial management. Whether it’s building an extension, buying a car, helping your children to go university or getting your dream home. Experian will help you get closer to fulfilling your pipe ream by introducing you to your DataSelf. That is another version of you, made up of the financial data that exists in your credit report- phone contracts, mortgage, loands and credit card transactions. By checking your credit score and managing your credit report you’ll be better placed when it comes to applying for all those things. The information in your credit report is what potential lenders will see about you. You can check your credit rating on the Experian website





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. Kate,
    You are ALWAYS hilarious so an occasional sponsored post is fine with me. I like free content and you have to keep the lights on so win win for both of us. I loved the comment about the 14 yo who ‘rinses thru his allowance.’ What a hoot. Hope you get your black doors some day!

  2. I had this comment back from Experian on rental arrangements.
    Thanks for your comment. Rental payments are not considered by lenders when making credit decisions. As you say, that’s why it’s important to know where you stand and use comparison services such as those offered by Experian, to see the credit products you’re more likely to be eligible for. However, Experian believe that homeowners and renters should be treated equally and pleased to say that they have created something called The Rental Exchange, where renters can sign up to get rental data added to their credit reports – you can get more info here:”

  3. Hello Kate, just to say I enjoyed your post and found it very useful and totally in keeping with the ethos in your blog of creativity, inspiration and realism. I for one am very grateful for the amount of wonderful content you put up here five days a week and if the occasional sponsored blog allows you to keep posting so many lovely articles I’m very happy to keep reading . Thanks so much – it must be hard work.
    Best, Sarah x

  4. Hi hi

    I come from a family who had no sense of money management and I also possess a creative, meandering kind of brain so, in spite of my apparent adulthood, I value down to earth post’s that make money less scary and foreign. Never too late to learn is it? So I appreciate it – thank you! And enjoying your website – very much!

    Thank YOU.

    Leila X

  5. Just chiming in to say I enjoy the fact that you cover a range of topics, and I found it interesting to get a perspective on a service I’ve never thought much about before. And as engaging as ever, even if it’s a topic I generally prefer to avoid (don’t we all!)

  6. Just chiming in to say I enjoy the fact that you cover a range of topics, and I found it interesting to get a perspective on a service I’ve never thought much about before. And as engaging as ever, even if it’s a topic I generally prefer to avoid (don’t we all!)

    1. Thank you for coming on to comment. It is a tricky subject and definitely one that it would be lovely not to have to think about but if needs must it’s better to know the score. Literally!

  7. Brilliant post Kate! I, personally, tend towards the ostrich mentality, and like you, have a much more responsible “other half”. Saying that, we all need to be financially aware, as who knows what is round the corner. Don’t apologise for doing sponsored posts, if it pays the bills. Means we can all enjoy your interiors content without the intrusion of adverts popping up right, left & centre. You’re doing a great job!

  8. Thank you Kate for continuing to provide such good information. As a fellow creative, and one who looks at ALOT of photos of interior design, your blog has become my favorite as one of a very few that offers wonderful ideas with that dose of reality that makes good design truly achievable within everyone’s budget. Magazines and internet posts are full of photos without any hint of what a look actually costs or how a people would actually live with it. Thank you for keeping it real for us in such a charming way.

  9. I’ve been working really hard on my credit score in the last 12 months, being a private renter this time last year it was so low it was ridiculous, but we had an incentive, we inherited a house that we sold which gave us the means to buy a house, we hadn’t had a mortgage for 9 years, so knew it would be tough to find a lender, anyway we found one and had to pay slightly more than the average person for borrowing but since we took out the Mortage I have worked really hard and increased my score, I’ve increased my score by 110 points in the last 12 months, private renters get a real bum deal, I paid on time for 9 years without any assistance from anything like housing benefit, but non of that was reflected in my credit score, it’s really important to know where you stand

    1. Thank you so much for commenting Melanie. We have worked really hard to improve our score and to keep it high just in case we ever need to apply for credit for something unexpected. I didn’t realise private renters found it so hard to get a good score, that’s useful for people to know.

      1. Private rent is not scored at all, and I think it definitely should be especially if you are going through an agency, the check your credit for you to rent in the first place and references are needed so why can’t they reciprocate and have good renters acknowledged

  10. I really like the way you connect with ‘real life’ as well as paint and cushions — we don’t live in a bubble. Good pics, by the way.

  11. Nothing wrong with the flavour of this post Kate, I think it fits well with your overall content. I love your site and read it daily and have no problem at all with your sponsored posts. I’m sorry you got negative comments.

    I also think it’s important not to borrow as much as you can, if you can’t afford the repayments… we have been looking to borrow some money to renovate our house and were shocked at how much the bank would lend us. We wouldn’t dream of having such a large financial obligation each month.

    My dream? to have our renovation finished! Hopefully by Christmas!

  12. I am with Penelope. ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ i am looking for ideas not to go and buy something I can’t afford. An odd post this one, not sure what the point was.

    1. I understand your point of view Melanie and, as I said earlier, I publish ideas five days a week – for free. If this was a printed magazine that cost £5 a month to every subscriber I wouldn’t need to take sponsored content, but there are no pop up adverts on here, no pop ups asking for subscribers and no adverts jumping into the middle of posts that distract from the content. I write the odd sponsored post to support all this content and to earn my living. I have also used Experian regularly over the last 20 years of owning a home. You are, of course, able to choose where you wish to read free content and find inspiration.

  13. There are of course very many households where there is no partner so there isn’t the luxury of playing to each person’s strengths you just have to be strong and deal with all of it. Even if you do have a money-minded other half it is very empowering – particularly for women – to be financially literate. I can recommend it, I love being able to talk mortgages as well as paint colours! After all, fingers crossed we all live in domestic bliss until we’re a hundred and ten, but you never know what situation you may find yourself in the future. On a jollier note, I’m with you on the crittall doors!

  14. Disappointing post -nothing to do with interiors –
    Think you are selling out to sponsors – info re Experian widely available on TV /press
    Not keen to continue subscribing if this is a taster of what is to come —

    1. Hi Penelope, I understand your point of view but it is a post about paying for those interiors that we love to plan and dream about. Perhaps you are a new subscriber – longer term readers will know that I do very few sponsored posts, but that they do sustain this blog where I publish five times a week – more than the other interiors blogs which are run by a single person. I have to accept paid posts to be able to write about everything else for free. If you pay for a glossy magazine you can skip over the adverts – of which there are many. Some people manage their subscription and read it weekly, like a magazine, which means they can skip what they don’t want to read. I felt that while Experian may be a dry subject, it does relate to what I am talking about every day. I completely understand if you wish to unsubscribe though. Best wishes, Kate

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