Mad About . . .

Meanwhile one year later…

22nd March 2021
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Well here we are then. One year on. I remember the last time I went on the tube – to interview Orla Kiely for the podcast. I remember shutting the front door and opening it weeks later to find all the plants in the tubs in the front garden had died. And I remember the early days of playing Monopoly with our teenage sons and cooking meals together. And then it starts to blur round the edges.

After 30 years as a journalist I wrote my first piece for Elle Decoration April 2021 issue

And today, after a year of producing more content in one year than ever before, I find myself with little left to say. I feel rather like the bunny whose batteries have run out mid tune and while, as the mother of teenagers, I have been spared the trials of homeschooling, I think we have all, regardless of personal circumstances had to deal with things we weren’t expecting to come across over the last 12 months.

In so many ways I have found the blog a solace; a connection with so many people and a community that has proved invaluable and I hope you have enjoyed dropping in for a cup of coffee and a virtual chat as much as I have been pleased to see you. So thank you all for that.

If you go back over the archives – the button on the side, you will find pieces on how to work from home, how to create a multi-tasking space, why the table is the true heart of the home no matter what room it’s in and pieces on shopping for vintage furniture and sustainability.

The Mad About The House Planner completes the set

And in the light of all that there is to read already, I hope you will also allow me a small recap today. When lockdown first began, I wrote the Planner which was published last week (Waterstones link here). It completes the Mad About The House series but I am planning another book that will, I think be as ground-breaking in its way as writing an interiors book with no photographs has proved to be.

Rukmini Patel and I launched Design For Diversity with a logo designed by Julian Roberts of Irving & Co.

In May, following the murder of George Floyd, Rukmini Patel and I launched Design for Diversity and, I’m thrilled to say that after around 150 sign ups, including Heals, Farrow & Ball, Topps Tiles and the Walker Greenbank Group, which includes Sanderson, Zoffany and Morris & Co, the first event is taking place this week.

We were approached by the Mayor’s Fund for London, an organisation that works to improve social mobility in the capital, to ask if we would work with them on an event to promote diversity within the interiors industry. Some of you will remember that Sophie and I did a podcast devoted to this last May.

Through the organisation and its Access Aspiration scheme, which works with thousands of students across London, of which 75 per cent are from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds, a webinar aimed at promoting diversity within the interiors industry has been arranged covering all aspects of the industry and how to get a foot in the door. Rukmini will be speaking alongside product designer Eva Sonaike and interior designer Gemma Samuels and I hope it’s the start of many such events. The Fund does a huge amount of work in this field and if you want to partner on any of their initiatives do get in touch with Louise Richmond.

While I’m on the subject, I should add that Rukmini and I have also been speaking to Heals, which is running a series of Design and Inclusivity engagement sessions with all staff which has now expanded into a conversation about mental health following feedback.

designer eva sonaike is taking part in the design for diversity webinar

designer eva sonaike is taking part in the design for diversity webinar

In a statement the company said: “Since Heals took the pledge, the company has been working hard to make significant changes within the business. We’re engaging with every member of staff to ensure their involvement and feedback and activities include:

“A company statement highlighting our position on equality, diversity and inclusion that acknowledges that we have more to do and our commitment to getting it right. This has been well received. We have:
“Engaged every (their italics) colleague on the three pledges and how they can practically play out within the business: working with a D&I specialist to design engaging workshops for the teams.
“Delivered 15 departmental sessions: In conversation with Heals Equality, Diversity and Inclusion engagement sessions with the aim of starting a conversation, creating an open and inclusive culture, reflecting on our privilege (we have all taken a privilege ‘walk’ and learnt more about each other. These conversations have harnessed some incredible conversations and collaboration.
“Updated our policies based on colleagues’ feedback ensuring a more gender neutral policy, reviewing customer profile types to ensure they are more inclusive and issuing company protocol for any instances when retail and customer services colleagues are faced with discrimination or prejudicial language.”

interior designer gemma samuels of happi habitat is hosting a webinar with design for diversity

interior designer gemma samuels of happi habitat is hosting a webinar with design for diversity

We also had a long meeting with Farrow & Ball, who, as a global company, move more slowly but are committed to working with, and expanding on, the pledge they have taken.
We are also indebted to the many small companies who took the pledge and are working to spread the word and offering internships, work experience and jobs to a more diverse range of candidates.
I will keep you updated and Sophie and I will be revisiting the subject on the podcast in May as the BIID (British Institute of Interior Design) has finally completed its report. Its findings into diversity within the industry weren’t that surprising so we await to see what steps they will be taking to address the, by now well-known, issues.

And Sanderson have also contributed to the Mayor’s Fund for London in an event which will be announced this week.

Finally, I launched my shopping platform Design Storey, an attempt to curate the internet to make it easier for you to find what you need without spending hours having to filter through hundreds of things you don’t want in order to find the one you do. You can read more about it here. You can subscribe to the weekly newsletter here. And below is some press it received and there is more here.

Thank you for all your support. I hope the blog has provided you with some escape this year as well as some inspiration. I will be back tomorrow with my monthly news round up of what is going on in the world of interiors from events to new releases and new products. I’ll see you there any time after 7am.

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22 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer E. 23rd March 2021 at 7:30 pm

    Dropping in my quick thanks for this blog, In a moment of “I have to look at something that’s not MY 4 walls!” a few months ago, I stumbled on Mad About the House, and it’s been in turns a tiny visual vacation or a inspirational nudge. So, many thanks from Washington, DC. I’m also looking forward to seeing how all your seedlings and saplings of work grow over the coming months. Kudos and good luck.

  • Reply Cemre 23rd March 2021 at 8:24 am

    OMG look at this pillowcases I am gonna lose my mind they are so cuuteee!!

  • Reply Rebecca 22nd March 2021 at 9:40 pm

    Great content as always! Thank you! 🙂

  • Reply Anna 22nd March 2021 at 8:00 pm

    The others have said so much therefore I compliment you Kate because you have proved that …From little acorns …..!

  • Reply Ernestina 22nd March 2021 at 4:24 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS are in order!. Reading your blog has been a “looking forward event” last year and every day. Your honest and relaxed writer style is inspirational. Your content is full loaded with knowledge, advice and ideas for every one, no matter background or culture. So, HUGE THANKS!

  • Reply Bonnie Foster Abel 22nd March 2021 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Kate,
    Your MAD daily posts have been my go to channel for the past several months. It is here I seek ideas, some of which have broadened my awareness of interior design, and others which have also offered solutions to what I can do with the interior I have. You in return have investigated the issues of Diversity in Design, and the use of ethical materials in design. You are also continuing to address these issues. In reading and processing what you say, what you write, trust has developed. I trust your judgment. Cheers to you!

    Two topics: Reading type wall light to hang above a sofa. Storage trolley to accommodate a sewing machine and all of the tools and equipment required. Thank you.

  • Reply Andrea 22nd March 2021 at 2:10 pm

    Congratulations on all these accomplishments, Kate! I discovered the podcast about 6 months before the pandemic and was already hooked when the lockdowns started. The contrast between you and Sophie is so fun, and I have learned so much from you two. Then, when the pandemic really set in, I somehow found my way over to your blog, and you are a regular, anticipated part of my week now. I love the themed posts, and I find your commentary so down-to-earth as well as witty and uplifting. Your fatigue is legitimate, but if it’s any encouragement, please know that you have brought real richness and joy to me over the last year!!! Even though I live in Canada and am far from a millionnaire, house hunting in the UK with you is quite fun! 🙂

  • Reply Mandy 22nd March 2021 at 12:13 pm

    You’re amazing Kate. Congrats! I’m sure when you started out right at the beginning you had no idea where it would take you. Your success is in no small part due to the fact that you have been responsive, responsible, and flexible. In addition to your creative talents and engaging writing style, doing something for our planet and its inhabitants at the same time is so refreshing to see.
    I have long been a re-cycle, re-fresh, re-use, re-purpose person in and around the home. It started as an impoverished teenager decorating my bedroom (in the ’70s) (gasp) and though financially comfortable now, I still have the same mindset. I can’t bear waste and my heart breaks when I go to the council dump and see the furniture & stuff in those giant dumpsters.

  • Reply Mairi 22nd March 2021 at 11:55 am

    This blog has been a lockdown joy for me; in a year when I missed visiting family and friends above all things it felt a little like being invited into other people’s homes on a regular basis. Thank you X

  • Reply Mary Doria Russell 22nd March 2021 at 11:47 am

    When every morning brought news of death, disease, and political fecklessness, you offered beauty, humor and companionship. Thank you.

  • Reply Cathryn 22nd March 2021 at 11:46 am

    Congratulations on a great blog and a hugely productive year. I really enjoy your blog and the podcast, and no doubt will be looking to buy at least one of your books in the near future. Many thanks.

  • Reply Kaisa 22nd March 2021 at 11:07 am

    Thank you Kate. Your blog, podcasts and books have been my saviours during this weird year. I really admire how you have been able to carry on full steam ahead regardless all of this going on and stay so positive and productive.

  • Reply beccaMcG 22nd March 2021 at 10:17 am

    I am new to this blog, but love it. You have a such a nice way with words and your posts are the most interesting things in my inbox. Thank you!

  • Reply Kate 22nd March 2021 at 9:38 am

    I’d just like to echo what Caroline has said so perfectly above: ‘Thank you Kate for being in my inbox nearly every day without fail and keeping me entertained with interior design news. You’ve been amazing.’

  • Reply Kelly Glen 22nd March 2021 at 9:34 am

    Like many others have said thank you for keeping us informed and entertained during this rather strange and stressful last year. Just reading what you have achieved throughout all this has been very impressive. You should be very proud of all the content you have produced on here plus the launch of your latest book. Thank you for providing us with a chance to forget about things for a while and immerse ourselves in the wonderful world of interiors.

  • Reply Catherine 22nd March 2021 at 8:48 am

    Thank you Kate! You have been so busy and achieved an amazing amount this year. For me, your books, blog, postcast and Design for Diversity work have kept me informed, entertained, inspired, full of respect and made me laugh during this extraordinary year. Your stuff has gone from a well written and informed item I’d read on the bus to work (I can hardly remember that world now!) to something much more profound. I was especially impressed by your response to the BLM movement – setting out to make a real difference in your industry. So as one of your many many followers all over the world, I say thank you for keeping all these conversations going – whether fundamental like Design for Diversity to purely entertaining like interviews with antique dealers with strong views.

  • Reply Elaine Fraser 22nd March 2021 at 7:48 am

    Low income and BAME backgrounds under represented in all fields so no surprise also in the world of interior design.

    I guess you would have to actually believe in “all the different genders” to fathom what that part of the pledge signed by Heals et al is referring to.

    Since women remain the vast majority of ‘home makers’ ( still in kitchen or scrubbing the bath and doing the bulk of home schooling etc) meeting the design needs of 51% of the population seems important.

    • Reply Kes Powell-Smith 23rd March 2021 at 7:20 am

      Non-binary interiors enthusiast here. I can assure you that I a) exist and b) don’t take away from your “design needs” whatever that means.

  • Reply Carinjo 22nd March 2021 at 7:48 am

    I only found this site after looking for some ideas on painting a wall. But, I gained so much more the last few months. An education, a raised awareness, the courage to go bold. Thank you.
    Can’t wait to see what you achieve next!

  • Reply Cynthia Fleming 22nd March 2021 at 7:37 am

    Kate, you have been a terrific source of inspiration over the past year as my husband and I have transformed 4 rooms. “The Red Thread”, idea has informed much of what we have done. My locked-down musician husband has turrned his creative mind to colour and used it in ways I would have never dared in a 300 year old house. You blogged the other day about painting a beamed ceiling all white to lift the beams- well, he painted our dining room ceiling with beams all dark- Little Greene Lamp Black- and it really works. And the 18th C pine panelled Music room sports a warm, dark Payne’s Grey ceiling as well. YOU have inspired us to be bold. Thank you.

  • Reply Caroline 22nd March 2021 at 7:35 am

    Thank you Kate for being in my inbox nearly every day without fail and keeping me entertained with interior design news. You’ve been amazing.

  • Reply Sophia Shirley-Beavan 22nd March 2021 at 7:14 am

    Wow Kate, you should be pretty damn proud of yourself. You have achieved a lot in the past year. Starting, prompting, continuing to encourage conversations in so many areas where there has too often been silence or at best whisperings.
    Your book looks fab and I love the blog and Design Storey is a triumph. That all sounds rather fawning and annoying but actually all of the above and the podcast have been a very welcome distraction at times as well as being informative and giving me a great laugh quite often! I hope you have also found it not too much of a chore to keep going!

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