The Househunter: Room by Room

Another week has flown by and it’s time to go and poke around some other people’s houses again. Let’s start with this  raised ground floor flat in West London which is on with Savills for £900,000 and has two bedrooms,  both of which are decent sizes which is unusual as you often find one large and one single.

Come first into the sitting room which has a dining area as well. Years ago, when writing a series on international interior design for The Financial Times, I learnt that the French, apparently, don’t like open plan kitchen diners. They would rather keep the cooking and cleaning private and eat separately. Given the choice between eating in the kitchen and the sitting room they will choose the latter. Now do come back to me if you are French and disagree – I’m simply reporting what I discovered when researching that feature but I thought it was interesting.

So here is a prime example of that. The teal furniture (a very fashionable colour at the moment) looks to me like it’s from and it works brilliantly with the neutral decor and dark wood. Note how the owners have zoned the seating area by bringing the rug under the legs of the furniture. Which is perfect but does beg the question what did the naughty chair do to be left over there on its own?

Bring it over to join the others and you would have a much cosier seating space. This room is big enough to have a piece of furniture in the middle and there would still be plenty of room to walk behind it and reach the table. This would also mean that you wouldn’t feel as if you were walking through the sitting room to reach the dining area. It’s a common mistake to want to put furniture round the edges of the room to make the space feel bigger and more open, but putting it in the middle has the same effect. It says: this room is big enough to have furniture in the middle and still be spacious. If you were worried about blank space where that chair is you could put a narrow console table with a plant or some books on.

Now to the kitchen. There probably is room for a small table in here if they wanted. Or if you want, if you are planning on buying it. But it might impede access to the fridge. You would have to decide if that was an issue or not. Which comes back to the question of Who, What and When that we have been looking at recently.

Perhaps the owners felt they wanted a clear passage to the fridge and were happy to eat in the other room. You might prefer to install a small table and reach past it for the milk. Answer the questions, plan the room right.

Lastly I wanted to show you this pretty child’s bedroom. It’s a grown-up colour scheme but still appropriate for a child and the mix of black and white with pink touches is classic without being overtly girly. You could keep everything the same and change the accents to any colour you like and the room would still work. So a toddler girl could move out to make way for a boy and it would be easy to change.

Or not – I’m not getting into questions of gender neutrality here. Although I will say that pink was originally for boys as it was regarded as the stronger colour while blue, thought to be more dainty, was for girls.It was changed for a marketing campaign in the 1940s in the US. So any colour you fancy will add to a black and white background is the point I was making.

Now let’s head to Bath to a five bedroom family house arranged over four floors that is on the market for £2,750,000. It has a driveway with parking and a coach house which acts as a garage and storage facility.

The house is located right on the edge of the city so it’s between town and country as it were and it’s about 11 miles from the M4 and 90 minutes from London, Paddington. You should also know that it’s semi-detached. As a Londoner I expect to live in a terrace or semi, but if you live on the edge of a city, you might perhaps be hoping to be able to keep your neighbours at a slight distance. So it’s worth knowing that about this.

Inside it’s all pale walls and natural floorboards. Easy to live with and easy to customise to your own tastes without having to do anything too drastic. Again, living in a narrow London townhouse, the thought of a hall wide enough to put a table – across – not even squeezed along one wall makes my slightly hyperventilate and it would take only a rug and a few pictures on the wall to turn this into an amazing welcoming space.

It’s the same with the kitchen, which is a lovely large light room that just needs a few personal touches to bring it alive. I like a rug under the table but I know that some people worry about stains and mess. If you do want a rug it needs to be a least a metre bigger than the table so that you can pull chairs in and out comfortably without them rucking it up and creating a trip hazard.

More teal furniture in the sitting room – I told you it was the colour of the moment. And interestingly it seems like a scary colour for walls but feels very modern for furniture. Note how the sofas have been pulled close to the fireplace to create a cosy seating area and there is a a table behind. You could move that table to the bay window or even put a couple of small chairs there to create a separate seating spot – perhaps a place to drink a cup of coffee and read a book in the sun. I say this because the temptation might be to put all the furniture round the edges and show off what a big room it is but you can see how you might be able to use the space to seat different people doing different things if you wanted to.

Finally the bedroom. If you have a large bedroom you can divide the space to create a bathroom and dressing room behind which, if I have read the floorplan right, is what they have done here. Bathroom on the right, wardrobe on the left. If you are doing to do this though bear in mind that while the temptation is to keep the largest space for the bed, that is actually the space where the least happens. If you have removed all the storage needs then it just needs to fit the bed. And a big bathroom will always feel luxurious. As will a dressing room of any size. So, again, plan the space first and think about how you will use it before you take down or put up walls.

So there we have it. Town or country? Not sure where I’m going this week. I was in Bath a couple of weeks ago for a book signing event and I had forgotten how beautiful it is. Perhaps I will go there. 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. Kaste, I love the Bath house. All of it, wow. I am most intrigued by the laundry room/area sub-theme of this post. My laundry room is tiny and wedged between the boys’ bedrooms and the master bedroom, for convenience, I suppose. There is hardly any wiggle room to it BUT it has a window (right? I don’t know now but I am sure we bought the house for this feature?!) Over the years, I have had homes that had laundry rooms located completely separate from the house, like a laundry house — cute and inconvenient. I’ve had the washer and dryer in the garage (whaaat?), off the kitchen (previous pantry?) Once, in an Open House, I saw what I still think it’s the best set-up: a washer and dryer in every closet. In every closet! Does that mean every one gets to do their own laundry? A girl can dream!

  2. Another reason to get rid of the bath in the bathroom. We found by removing the bath we had space for a walk in shower and for the washing machine to be fixed in a cupboard, together with shelves for cleaning producst etc.
    Hate to have a washing machine in the kitchen and I try to find a solution with every place we have lived.

  3. That naughty chair comment did make me smile – it is a pet hate of mine when ‘traffic’ is unnecessarily diverted through a sitting area – pull that chair in! Love the Bath house….with all that room, you would hardly notice it was semi-detached.

  4. I look forward to Friday real estate with you, each week. I truly appreciate that you will generate helpful hints about arranging the rooms shown. This makes it easy to imagine doing the same in my own home. While I currently live in a home with large rooms, I have not always had this luxury. Your insight into differing regional and cultural styling is interesting to me. Here in the states we are spoiled with expansiveness and tend to forget how important it is to preserve some bit of history. Thank you.

  5. That’s why I was so happy to move from an Edwardian house (very small bathroom) to an early Victorian where the bathroom is located in what was originally the third bedroom. When we renovated the house, the first thing I did was to move the washer/dryer into a purpose built cupboard at the entrance of the bathroom with enough space for a couple of baskets for sorting the dirty clothes. I only need to bring the odd tea towel up instead of lugging piles of washing up and down all the time.
    Another thing that puzzles me about the washing in the kitchen thing is those airers designed to hang over agas: putting your clean clothes to dry over the place where you fry things? How is that going to keep them clean?

  6. I can’t comment on the French kitchen/ diner thing but do have a dining room tale. We live in an Art Deco house in Sydney- legend has it that the original owners were regular entertainers and designed the house with pocket doors between the sitting room and dining room so they could serve cocktails to their guests in the sitting room while the maid put the food onto the dining room table. She would then fling the doors open when it was time to eat. After dinner the guests would move back to the sitting room ( for dancing I’m told) and the doors would be closed again for the maid to clear. Those were the days..

    I will have the Bath house please – it’s gorgeous.

  7. I have been in this country for 25 years but I am originally from Paris. Traditionally in Paris in appartments of the ‘hausmanien’ era (ie 19th century), kitchens were very tiny spaces at the service end of the flats and the dining room and living room are combined together as a ‘double reception’ often with french doors between them. Nowadays kitchen diners have become as popular as in England and where possible the kitchen has been moved to the double reception. The problem of course is that you can’t always do this because of the plumbing!
    The other thing which is very French is to have the loo separate from the bathroom and to stick the washing machine in the bathroom. Well there is no space for it in the kitchen anyway! I think that’s the thing I found the weirdest when I arrived here: doing your washing and cooking in the same place. How odd!

    1. That’s so interesting and thank you for explaining it to us. I know the Americans don’t have their washing machines in the kitchen either but it seems to be something we all find completely normal, which, when you think about it, isn’t. But we do tend to have tiny bathrooms in this country so I suppose that’s perhaps why we didn’t get into the habit of putting them up there.

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