Monday Inspiration: Before and After

Reporting from the dust front lines again and I am happy to report that with the demolition finally done we were pretty much dust-free for a couple of days. Then the plastering started which means wet, soggy floors that stick to the bottom of your shoes as it dries and as you walk it deposits itself around the house.

But we have found a use for the bag of leftover plastic bags (boot covers) and it does mean that the end is approaching. Although it also means that once the base kitchen units are in (and they are being fitted as you read) and the worktop templated the jobs seem to get smaller and more numerous.

When you start, the old decor is ripped out in a trice and you see walls move and floors laid and the changes are big and dramatic. Then, on final approach, there are hundreds of tiny things – paint that window frame, fit those sockets, don’t forget the handles, fix that hinge, attach that light socket, that door needs a bolt, that cupboard needs a shelf, where’s the tap we bought last week? What about the pendant light? Has anybody seen the cat? Are those her paw prints in the wet cement? When is that light switch going to get moved? I’ve lost that ruddy tap. Or do I mean my mind?

We are getting there though. The key, for anyone else in the same boat (and once more for The Mad Husband at the back) is to think in weeks not days. So by the end of today we will have base units in but the rest of the room will be a mess. By the end of the week however, we may be almost ready to start painting and that will feel like a big deal.

So this week includes a few from my camera roll of the befores and afters of the project at St James where I was asked to consult on the concept and look and feel of these rental flats for Obbard. This is as much to remind myself, as well as any of you doing similar projects that we all get there in the end and it’s worth the wait.

I first visited in June 2021 for a look around and these are some of the images I caught on the day. The layouts had already been done and the wiring/lighting and plumbing planned and begun.

The afters were taken in December 2022 and, at the time of writing all five flats are rented or with letting agreements in place.

Wishing you all a great dust-free week.

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. Amazing. I saw the dramatic change of the house. Each small corner is decorated to bring a cozy feeling but not oppressive. I especially like your color scheme. Well worth learning. Keep it up.

  2. Those are breathtakingly beautiful rooms from your latest project Kate – and there’s nothing more satisfying than a good before and after! As always your take on renovation woes made me laugh – where is that ruddy tap indeed? Great to hear the light at the end of the tunnel has been spotted…it will be stunning and very much worth it in the end. Can’t wait to see it all!

  3. That desk IS amazing – where does it come from (preparing to cry as you say “second hand”…)?

      1. Thank you. I have just gone through the photos again, and got even more from them. That dining room in the roof space is simply inspired, both as a use of space (exactly what you’re always saying about working with the reality of the space and turning it into something to embrace), and the design and styling which you did.

  4. Hi there, in the first photo is that a panelled pelmet above the window frame? If so what is it made from? It’s quite beautiful and I have always struggled to find elegant ways to block light from the top of a window frame if using curtains.

  5. You are absolutely right .. I remember when our F&F started to arrive … suddenly my to do list quadrupled and I become the main point of contact with the building contractor and zillions of questions. Yes .. think weeks not days and the end is in sight.

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