The Househunter: Room by Room

And we’re back! Hello everyone. I hope you all had a good summer and didn’t miss me wittering on too much – don’t answer that. September is a going to be a bumper month packed with all sort of new discoveries, collaborations and styling ideas as well as things to buy for your homes,  but let’s start as we mean to go on with a poke around some other people’s houses to get us in the mood.

First up, for those of you whose hearts are still on holiday and aren’t quite ready to face the urban sprawl let’s go to Dorset, to this charming house with sea views which is on the market with Humberts for £1,75m (as usual we aren’t going to let a little thing like money get in the way of our plans here. It’s not called Fantasy Friday for nothing).

So do we like this? There are four bedrooms in the main house and three more in a converted stone and flint barn in the four acres of grounds. And for those of you with teenagers still on school holidays I’m guessing that’s where you’d like to be shoving them right now. My 16yo has taken to listening to rap music which I don’t find terribly relaxing I’ll admit.

Anyway, enough of him, this kitchen is by Plain English, which is on many of our fantasy kitchen lists for starters. When I buy it I might be tempted to paint the cupboards a bit darker to bring a little more oomph and va va voom to this room. A really dark shade of green would look amazing and tie in with the green views outside. I might add a rug under the table too as it’s a big space and a lot of stone floor which might be a little echo-ey.

The vendors have been here for six years and have repainted and remodelled (lots of Farrow & Ball) so you could move straight in if you wanted to and just change the odd colour here and there. I’m guessing that these stone arches are the sort of detail that might sell this house although if that’s the only staircase that may also be a dealbreaker for many.

This sitting room is perfectly neutral and it would be completely easy to change its personality with different furniture and rugs. Again a little bolder colour mightn’t go amiss but the pale shades are very calming and relaxing. And that’s a point worth noting. When you’re thinking about how to decorate your rooms do think about how you want to feel as a starting point rather than what is your favourite colour. We will be coming back to this in more detail in a few weeks but basically for a calm space then think about soft colours and symmetrical arrangements which are easily assimilated by the eye and brain and therefore don’t give it too much work to do when looking around.

And now we’ve finished being relaxed in the country let’s come back into town and have a look round this split-level two bedroom apartment in London which is very close to the City and has embraced colour – albeit in a similar Farrow & Ball sort of way.

This is on the market via The Modern House for £1,550,000 and yes if you like we can pause for a moment to contemplate the sheer folly of London house prices compared with those of Dorset where for an extra £200,000 you get five more bedrooms, four acres of land including a huge garden instead of a balcony… right pause over. Let’s look round.

As it’s so open plan the owners have wisely kept to a fairly restricted palette of colours and the natural wood plays off brilliantly against this strong blue shade. The white floors keep it light and the internal windows and doors allow light to flow while dividing the space.

If you do live in an open plan space then a lip on the back of a kitchen island is a good way to suggest a division of space even if there isn’t one although obviously no good if you want to have a couple of bar stools and sit around chatting.

It’s always good to bring a little pattern into a space and this floral sofa might not be an obvious choice but it looks better than another plain block of colour with floral cushions – which might seem a little country in an urban environment like this. Better to go bold and bring in a whole sofa of flowers as a counterpoint to the bold colours.

And finally, the bathroom. Small and bijou and black. Another bold choice and one that works perfectly in this apartment. One word of caution – I have a black bathroom and in London, where the water is hard, it can lead to lots of limescale which will quickly make a black bathroom look shabby. Do as these people have done and keep the black on the walls rather than what I have done with a black slate floor and shower tray.

And there we have it. I hope these houses have given you some food for thought for your own rooms and if not we can meet here on Monday with 10 Beautiful Rooms for you to stroll round. I’m buying the Dorset house this week, what about you?

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. As a new, but somewhat ancient, subscriber, and slightly dizzy when it comes to this ethereal technology , I can’t wait to get my first [of many I hope!] email postings from your wonderful website!
    A dear friend of mine led me to your door :))
    All best wishes
    Jane Dale

    1. Hi Jane, well thank you so much for coming! It’s lovely to have you in the Mad House. You should get five emails a week but I think there is a way of managing that so you can have one with all five posts in if you prefer. I hope you will enjoy the daily musings x

      1. Thank you, Kate!

        It would be lovely to have the five emails together, as you suggested.
        Hopefully I’ll get the knack of navigating the Mad House!
        Can’t wait.
        And thank you again.
        Best wishes from a happy techno ditz.
        Jane Dale

  2. Yaaaaaaay! You’re back.

    My order, I mean vote, is for the Dorset home — love that you called Plain English. With darker cupboards and rug. Hold the rap (I’ve 16-yr old twin boys). Perfect fantasy!

  3. Glad your back Kate anx very much enjoyed your pics of Venice. Great tip on the lip edge around the island unit in thr London flat to separate the space. A small detail but looks very effective.

  4. I too am so pleased to have you as part of my day again…I missed you. But earlier in the week you did pop up in my Elle Decoration Bathroom supplement (great picture of the cat!). You say above “….keep the black on the walls rather than what I have done with a black slate floor and shower tray”. Do you have 2 bathrooms because your article The Vintage Bathroom in Elle shows yours with white painted floor, off white marble tiles and clear glass shower area with just a touch of FB Downpipe on the walls? I did notice no blind or curtain on the bathroom sash window….how risque’ !!

    1. Hi Anna, I’m so thrilled to be back too. So yes the bathroom in Elle Deco was a bedroom that we made into an en suite bathroom. It does have a blind but it was rolled up for the shot to let more light in so not risque at all. And yes we also have a shower room which is mainly used by the boys and is all black slate like a wet room and the limescale is dreadful! I wouldn’t use slate on the floor again but love it on the walls x

  5. Welcome back Kate. The London one for me, although as we are lunching by the harbour in sunny Dubrovnik at the moment, there’s no hurry to buy it just yet!

  6. I too, am so glad you are back. Although, your introduction indicates your were thinking of us!! Hence, your plans to teach us new ways to plan, paint and bring new life to our own homes in the coming months. Looking forward to the coming blogs with great anticipation.

  7. Hope you have had a lovely summer. It was great to see your blog pop up in my inbox this morning. I love the Dorset farmhouse, ok so it is fantasy land, but it looks like a pretty perfect fantasy to me!!

  8. Yes, welcome back Kate. You have been much missed.
    I think … we’ll, this is fantasy after all, that I’ll take both houses, although my preference is for the country property. No doubt all that blandness will help to sell the property, but it does need a HUGE amount of character injected in to it.

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