The Househunter: Room by Room

Welcome to Friday – we made it. This has been a fantastically busy week with a trip to Brighton to see Sophie and do podcast planning, a visit to my mother near Worcester and a shoot with Trinny London. Today there is a shoot in the house which is very January-based so I’m all over the calm and neutral interiors this week as there’s no sign of any decorations here for the time being.

Also Christmas has exploded onto instagram, which is now a riot of tinsel and twinkling lights, so all the more reason for a little calm over in this corner of the internet.

This first property is on the market with The Modern House for, oooh, £4.25m (yes it’s still a lot even when you say it fast) but it’s in Hampstead village which is earbleedingly expensive although very pretty. For those of you who don’t know London, it’s like a Richard Curtis film but in the north of the capital not the west.

So it’s not big – three bedrooms – but it’s double fronted, which means it feels larger. There’s a kitchen and dining room on the lower ground floor, which spans the whole width of the house and because it’s on a hill there’s lots of light from the two sash windows that face the front garden.

There’s also a bathroom and utility room on this floor, while the three bedrooms are on the first floor with the living room between. Also worth noting, not that we’re trying to justify the cost, but the master bedroom is L-shaped and leads through a dressing area to the ensuite bathroom, while the two bedrooms at the front share a bathroom.

On the floor below – ground – there is a drawing room, a sitting room, a study and a library and the whole house is just under 3,000 sq ft, which is massive. And clearly you could make it a five bedroom house without two much difficulty.

But what I mostly wanted to show you was the simplicity of the decor. This is the Kate Moss house – good plasterwork, original floorboards and great windows. Just add furniture. I’m sure I would be tempted to paint the walls and add more colour but it looks wonderful as it is.

And it’s so restful don’t you think? Or are you finding it a bit bland?

I love how this bedroom has been warmed up with some antique furniture and dark pictures on the walls. That so-called brown furniture has been out of fashion for a while but I wonder if it’s due a comeback. This bedroom would not look nearly as good with a modern desk and chair in it and you can still pick up old furniture cheaply on ebay and suchlike.

The bathroom is also very simple and here I might be tempted to add colour. It’s a nice idea to have a wall screening off the shower rather than a large piece of glass, which will need cleaning more often. That way you have privacy, a place to hang towels and the opportunity to do something decoratively dramatic as there’s not much going on feature-wise in here.

Moving round a little and we come to this 2/3 bedroom maisonette in Muswell Hill, north London, which is on with Brickworks for £900,000 and since we’re bound to make comparisons, this one is just over 1,000 sq ft.

The kitchen is on the lower ground floor with a large skylight so it’s not dark and there’s enough space to eat although if you wanted only two bedrooms there is a room upstairs which could work as a dining room. That’s what the current owners have done although you’d have to ask yourself if you would carry food up and dirty dishes back down the stairs or if you would end up just eating in the kitchen all the time and using the dining room as a dumping ground.

It might make a brilliant home office though. And, as you can see, from the picture below, the stairs from the kitchen come up into the sitting room and there are two more steps to the dining room. Probably fine as long as you weren’t drinking too many cocktails before you had to start carrying food up and down.

But never mind the practicalities, because this isn’t really about that. And the other point is that when you buy a house it’s usually because you’ve fallen in love and when you fall in love you often overlook the tiny niggly things don’t you. At least for a few years and and then, at least with a house, you can just move on to one with different annoying habits.

What I love about this is the simple white walls and natural wooden doors. But there’s no shortage of character with dark column radiators a feature and lots of exposed brick and plants to add character.

And we’ll finish with this bathroom and its black metro tiles. Those tiles will never go out of fashion and you can lay them the traditional way like this – brick, or herringbone – another classic, or vertical – the fashionable way at the moment. Again, this bathroom has been warmed up with the tongue and groove cladding painted in a soft pinky beige which warms up the black and white and stops it being too stark.

So one house, one flat, both decorated in calm, neutral shades. What do we think? Still wedded to the dark side or drifting back towards pale and interesting?

To finish – while you think about it – some flowers for you. Wishing you all a happy weekend. If you want to listen to the latest episode of the podcast it’s here and if you want to hear me being a guest on the hugely successful Hashtag Authentic where I chat to Sara Tasker, otherwise known as @meandorla, about setting up the blog, my journalism career and having cancer then you can do that here.

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 Hampstead house has certainly got “niggly things”. The distance from sink to stove is unacceptable. Would have to have a new kitchen even though I had spent over four million plus purchase tax!!

  2. Muswell Hill for me! Love that basement kitchen – cosy in the winter and lovely in spring sunshine I would imagine. Also very much like the rawness of the wood doors throughout and the little plot out the back. It would be so easy to add different pops of colour throughout the year to this beautiful neutral palette. Now where to find the necessary funds!

  3. I’d have the Hampstead one in a heartbeat. I like white so I wouldn’t need to redecorate either. I also thought I had heard somewhere that dark brown furniture is coming back. I could have sworn it was on your podcast but clearly not!

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