The Househunter Room by Room

Right this one’ll wake you up. It’s a tale of two halves this week – one a completely over the top luxurious, glamorous Dolce and Gabbana of a house and one an oasis of minimal Armani calm. Which one will you go for?

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We’re going in at the deep end with this two bedroom, three reception apartment that is on the market with Savills for £1,100,000. It’s on the ground floor of a Victorian building and its owner former model scout and interior designer Fiona Ellis has had a riot decorating it. Some of you may recognise it from Living etc earlier this year.

metallic wall in sitting room

She describes her style as a mix of antique, modern, deco and jungle with lots of textiles and dark colours thrown in. Her style icon was BIBA for those of you who are old enough to remember. Check out the leopard print kitchen ceiling, the alligator skin hall ceiling and the metallic wallpaper in the sitting room below.

black sitting room pink carpet via savills

I love it but perhaps only for the weekend. I might need somewhere to rest my eyes for the other days of the week. Hilariously the estate agent’s description focuses on the nearby amenities and transport links. The poor chap can’t find a single word to say about the interior so has steered completely clear of saying anything at all apart from mentioning the “atmospheric entrance hall”.

leopard print ceiling

I would so love to go with him on a viewing and see how he handles it. Or perhaps pretend to be a buyer. I think this is definitely one worth seeing in the flesh. And, on a more sensible note, this style won’t be for everyone but it’s a reminder that we should all be a little braver in our choices. If there is something that makes you happy then you should incorporate it into your decor and not worry about resale value or what others may think.

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The other unexpected touch is the simplicity of this bathroom which I totally wasn’t prepared for. It’s small and beautifully done and, after the kitchen, not what I was thinking to find.

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But for another clever idea which you totally could steal look at the orange stripe round the cornice of this room. It’s a neat little trick and one that is picked up by the orange bed. Now that is worth thinking about.

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Or maybe you prefer this cool, calm and collected bedroom? I always think it’s a toss up between whether you want a bedroom that’s light and bright to help you get up in the morning or one that’s dark and moody and will help you go to sleep. Fortunately, in the fantasy house that we are building, there will be more than one bedroom so we can sleep in a different one depending on how the mood takes us.

white bedroom with a view

This is clearly shaping up to be the townhouse where we have to get up in the morning to go to work and the other is for lie-ins and hangovers and a spot of decadent weekend living. Now where did I put that lottery ticket…

This one is on the market with The Modern House for £4,650,000 and has four bedrooms and is set behind gated gardens. It’s in Kensington too, which goes some way towards explaining the price tag.

grey bathroom tiles

But it too has a grey bathroom. Which one do you prefer? There’s no question that this house is peaceful and restful and while I’m not a fan of lots of bright colours I think I am definitely a fan of dark and moody and rich colours. I think I wouldn’t live in this oasis of of calm for long before I wanted to splash some paint about.

white room via the modern house

Perhaps the key would be to leave it white but to fill it with enormous lush, jungly plants? What do you think? Are you staying in town this week – this one has the use of private residents’ only communal gardens and is about 200 metres from The Natural History Museum – or moving out to the semi countryside with a private terrace and communal gardens as well.

white minimal kitchen

I know where I’m going.

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. The first flat is fantastic in a Carry on Screaming kind of way – all it needs is Oddbod emerging from the basement. I love the contrast stripe on the cornice – might need to pinch that idea!
    The second flat is just too cool, calm and collected for me. Nothing to feast the soul on.

  2. The wonderful Biba-esque explosion that is the first apartment definitely has my heart beating a little faster. With a few tweaks (simpler light fittings in the kitchen, removal of the ruched wallpaper) I would be really rather happy there.
    I like the double layering of the rugs and the floor cushions (never thought I would admire floor cushions!) and might have to try that in my own home.

  3. What I like best of the first house is the black or dark window frames and the decorated ceilings which I am going to do in my little bungalow!
    The second place I have nothing to say about

  4. Having looked at the particulars, I think the second house is being sold by a developer. That might explain the blandness. All that white needs texture, I feel: wood and leather handles in the kitchen, and loads of plants and prints and hand thrown ceramics dotted around. Another blogger and interiors person I follow is Holly Marber over at Avenue Lifestyle. When I saw this house I thought she would do amazing things with it. It has great bones – there’s a pic on the website of a fantastic double height dining area.

    The first house I both love and hate. I couldn’t live in it – I’m not into vampire goth chic and there is too much going on. Leopard paper on ceiling yes, but ruched wallpaper in the same room, no. But I absolutely love that she has done exactly what she wanted, and that she has created something that isn’t a clone of everything else on Instagram. It would be heartbreaking to buy it and rip out a lot of work done with such love and care.

  5. Chiming in from Milan here. Must say I agree with Annmarie. Although I fully understand where the article is going, feel I need to defend my ‘mate’. Having worked near Armani’s shop and spent many an hour dribbling, sorry, admiring his windows, his style is understated elegance yes, but full of heavyweight furniture and hardly any white in sight. On a side note, see how he pulls off a full height black gorilla in his studio. Thanks Kate, for letting us dream – off to check the lottery ticket….

  6. Loving that orange bed and accents against the grey in the bedroom and, the bathroom in the first house is gorgeous. Total contrast between the two houses – what a treat. Loved looking at the first one but could not live in it……as for the second house, that kitchen doesn’t look as if anyone does any cooking in there… can be too minimalist – it just looks boring.

  7. Kate

    Thanks for the juxtaposition of taste -versus- style.

    Much prefer the first home. You can imagine all sorts of exotica. It gave me the feeling of coming home after a hard day’s slog to a well-honed Adonis-type, fixing your two course dinner with back massage for dessert!

    The second home was ice! I would have to grab a blanket from the first home to keep me warm.
    One thing it did have going for it was the V&A around the corner!!

    PS. I think you do a disservice to Signore Armani!!

  8. Well talk about polar opposites! I’m glad that the first flat has been comprehensively photographed because I can’t see much of it surviving after it’s sold. Although it is a very personal style, I salute the bravery and vision of the owner, and there are elements that I like very much (although totally agree about the ‘festoon blinds’ paper, a step too far) – just not all of them in one flat! The second by contrast is dull, dull, dull as far as I’m concerned, I want to break in and put a six foot neon pink flamingo in the lounge just to liven things up a bit…

  9. Please, please, please can I be greedy and have them both? Monday to Thursday in the ‘white’ house – sushi, fresh fruit and lots of meditation, then pure indulgence at the weekend in the Fiona Ellis house. I love the metallic walls and dark pink sofas and could sit there all day reading, just looking up from my book, from time to time, to note the changing light levels outside and it’s effect on the walls. Bliss. What wonderful thoughts to start the day. Many thanks Kate.

  10. The first house would be great for a party but not to live in and i have to ask what is that ruching on the kitchen wall about – it reminds me of those awful 80s Austrian blinds ?I thought I would like the second house but it was a bit bland, I could see myself enjoying a cuppa on the bedroom balcony tho!

  11. I’m sorry but money doesn’t equal good taste!! Much prefer the second house- I want black taps! As for the orange stripe, I’m doing something similar in our bedroom-Farrow and Balls Peignoir on floors, Inchyra blue on walls and then a stripe of Peignoir again (instead of a picture rail) then white from there up to and inc ceiling( ok I couldn’t be bothered to get a picture rail fitted!!) it’s looking good though….

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