Inspiration for The New House

Well we’re in. I had slightly underestimated the toll moving took and had agreed to travel to Bournemouth the following day to celebrate the launch of Farrow & Ball’s new paint colours (more on that at a later date) so while it was lovely to escape the boxes and mayhem for a night in a fabulous hotel (with a great shower) it was, in hindsight, an ambitious plan to go to a party less than 24 hours after moving house.

the new mad house
the new mad house

But we have spent the weekend unpacking boxes and making plans and sleeping and things are looking a brighter. And I can completely recommend Anya Hindmarch’s maxim – If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair, as that definitely helped.  At least until I couldn’t find my hair product…

the new mad house
the new mad house

And the joyous news is that my decorator – whose services I booked way back in April knowing he was on a six month waiting list, messaged me yesterday to that that he has juggled things around and can come in two weeks. This means that, all being well, we should all have nice bedrooms for Christmas. The kitchen, sitting room and bathrooms (one upstairs, one down) should start in the new year although we are still waiting for the quotes on that. In the meantime we are going to have to spend more boring money than we thought – doors, windows, radiators etc. But it’s moving along and we can make a start. Although I may have to rip those shutters off the windows before I do anything else.

the new mad house
the new mad house

Regular readers will know from the last paragraph that my plan to always start a renovation with the bathroom (so you can have somewhere clean and beautiful with a locking door for a cry) will not be possible this time. This is because we need some structural working doing downstairs, which affects the downstairs shower room, and the upstairs bathroom sits above so there is no point starting that until after the building work has been done.

image via lucy williams home
image via lucy williams home

But at least I will be able to sit in my wardrobe surrounded by shoes and bags if it all gets too much and that’s nearly as good.

kitchen designed by max rollit and made by artichoke
kitchen designed by max rollit and made by artichoke ltd

So what are we doing here? Well we’ll get to that – I think probably on a room by room basis – and I can’t be sure of any of it until we have building quotes and timelines in place but today I have pulled together a few of the rooms I have bookmarked on instagram over the last few months. It’s not so much a moodboard as a mood. And looking at it again here I wonder if all the soft pale shades are an antidote to the stress and upheaval that we have all been feeling over the last couple of years. I feel that I want light but rich tones rather than the dark drama of the last house.

kitchen via devol
kitchen via devol

However, I’m definitely feeling a desire for muted colours and lots of texture – my sample box contains parquet, cork and sisal flooring. Aged copper and rich velvet, stripes and floral, antiques and reclaimed pieces. There will be sliding doors and an internal window. Possibly even a sliding internal window…

image via lynda gardener of gonzalez y gonzales store
image via lynda gardener of gonzalez y gonzalez store

The tatty louvred shutters, grey walls and big lights are all great discussions for the Design Crime section of the podcast which is back by the way. You can listen here to learn all about the sale and move and if you want to see the old house again you can read Sophie’s blog post here. And if you look at the before of this bathroom by Goodbones London below then that gives me the reassurance that any transformation is possible.

bathroom by goodbones london
bathroom by goodbones london


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. Renovation Impatience is definitely a thing! We found we had to re-roof before anything else and that was £20k before we’d hired an architect. Five years later I’m so grateful for the 12 months we spent living in the house and noticing the light in all the seasons before we started renovating (though I think I have done my best to repress memories of the Beast from the East with an uninsulated kitchen). The house looks fab! What a great project x

  2. Haha – shuttergate! Your new home already look extraordinarily well organised Kate – impressively so. Speaking as someone who has moved house twice this year (and assisted my parents with their move), the stress is real. And we have a garage still groaning with boxes remaining to be unpacked.
    Commenting on a design choice that may potentially be as polarising as the shutters, I read your mention of the sample box including cork floors and I am here to say a resounding yes – we have them in the 1970’s house we have newly arrived in and they are fab. So neutral, yet warm and soft and noise cancelling. Would definitely recommend.
    Great news re bedrooms getting underway, am very excited to see it all unfold.
    Congrats on surviving thus far! Love the sound of your mood inspiration, it will be beautiful.

  3. Wow Kate, you are not only much more organised than one might expect given your move across countries. You also prepared a blog post. Amazing! I like your sample box of light but rich tones of colour, and texture, lots of texture. Perhaps a few lime washed walls? There is something romantic about window shutters. Opening one to let in a small view of the light and colour out of doors while retaining shade as well. If the idea itself is not what you want, then you must change them. If, however, it is just these shutters, then you know that you can replace them.
    Looking very much forward to future posts on the new Mad House. Also, as time passes, I hope you can report on interiors in Italy. Congratulations on your move with your family, and all good wishes ahead.

  4. Well unlike everyone esle Ithought ‘oh God, bloody plantation shutters’ so glad to hear they are going.

    Impressed with your organisation so far although I’m wondering how the book unpacking is going?

    1. Plantation shutters: totally agree, get them gone. I did them once: the devil to clean, the framing is so thick that even tilted open, the frame blocks out so much light, and then you have to leave an acre of space for when the dimness forces you to fold them right back from the windows. Ugh!! Plantation shutters: get thee behind me, Satan.

  5. This is so exciting. Loved seeing your reel on Insta this morning too. I’m up for a change given my boys are slowly transitioning to their new lives too. Not brave enough to move house just yet though.

  6. Best of Luck Kate. It looks good already. Can’t wait for this journey. Thanks for sharing. Where is Enid???

  7. I must confess I too thought ‘NOT THE SHUTTERS’ but I know that photos can be deceptive, and they may not look as good in reality… Plus it’s your house and perhaps they don’t fit with the new aesthetic you are aiming for, I am sure you will recycle them if you do rip them off. I saw a house recently on Inigo (I think) where the shutters came from a house on the same street who were getting rid of them, fortunately lots of Victorian homes have similar windows. Good luck with the renovations and decoration, I am sure the house will look spectacular when you have finished it!

    1. They are in a terrible state so I’m not sure they can be recycled – each louvre has to be manually moved. Also they are wooden but covered in a sort of shiny paint. Will investigate recycling for sure but I don’t think they can be repaired.

  8. Keep the shutters – seriously, they are gorgeous. I have just moved from a dark dismal flat with dark dismal furniture (landlord’s not mine, thank God) into a large bright flat where I can show off colour and it has made a huge difference to my outlook on life. The winter here in Poland is going to be cold and dark so we need colour to brighten things up which is why I don’t understand their love of dark wood. Go bright. My flat in England is orange and yellow, which is good for that climate I think.

  9. Looking forward to the transformatio.I take it you mean small lights as a design crime? The light fitting proportion looks wrong in the living room.

  10. Congratulations on your new home! I like the sound of your plans although I actually quite like shutters 😬…I like the look of them and they are also practical: no need to take them down to wash/dry clean and iron, no need for meters of fabric – all that must be a good thing for the environment? Although I have no idea where shutters are built and how!! 😊
    Hope you don’t mind me saying this ..
    Looking forward so much to seeing the progress on your new ‘Mad’ house.
    All the best

      1. I understand, there is only so much you can do sometimes to save things. I am sure whatever you do in your new home it’s going to look special and different and I very much like that.

  11. I agree about the shutters, they look fine. It is lovely and bright. But I don’t like the gonzalez y gonzalez door, it looks like a dismal garage. Or is it the colour. Cheers from Canada!

  12. Muted colour and lots of textures – oh I can’t wait for inspo – it sounds like my dream palette.

  13. Congratulations on your new home! It’s looking wonderful already. I can’t wait to see more, and thank you for including us on the ride!

  14. Be happy in your new house. Very disappointed not to see Enid lounging about on the chaise, or did that piece of furniture not make the move? Hope you have buttered her paws.

  15. I was also thinking how nice the sitting room looks already. Then I read WITH HORROR you are binning the shutters… I will have to take your word for it that they are tatty because they look lovely in the photo’s- like the Inigo photographer has been round.

  16. I like your sitting room already. It’s always interesting to see your furniture and art work transported to a new setting. I’m going to enjoy following along.

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