Mad About . . .

Monday Inspiration: A Chair of My Own

4th May 2020
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Many of you will be familiar with Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay, A Room of One’s Own, which talks about the need for women to have money and a room of their own if they are to write fiction. As we in the UK enter our seventh week of lockdown, I suggest that the 21st century pandemic update, which applies equally to women and men, is simply that everyone must be entitled to a chair of their own if they are to get through the days.

reading corner via @interiors.by.lisa.guest

reading corner via @interiors.by.lisa.guest

With the whole family at home now bagging a whole room might be an impossibility, but laying claim to a single chair might be doable. In this house, after 25 years together we are rigid about which side of the bed we sleep on, we habitually sit on the same ends of the sofa to watch tv and at the same place at the kitchen table, but all other chairs are up for grabs.

white chair with pink walls via @interiors.by.lisa.guest

white chair with pink walls via @interiors.by.lisa.guest

All you need is to identify the chair you fancy, move it to the corner you like, add a small table and a lamp and you’re done. That is your spot to read a book, write a book, scroll through your phone or just simply sit and stare into space. In a small, crowded house you might even be able to train small children that when you are in that chair you are to be left alone.

jocasta velvet chair by colefax and fowler

jocasta velvet chair by colefax and fowler

When I was growing up my mother enforced half an hour of quiet after lunch every day once I was too old for naps. She said it was something to do with a good digestion and not getting hiccups (for years she told me hiccups was a result of talking too much and bought herself precious hours of silence) but, once I had children of my own, I realised it was simply a chance for her to have a cup of coffee and read the paper before it all started up again.

paint by little green company: floor royal navy stripe in hellebore, chair in carmine and wall in hollyhock

paint by little greene company: floor royal navy stripe in hellebore, chair in carmine and wall in hollyhock

Now that we are all at home all the time you would think we would find the time to rest and recover, but I suspect most of us are more frazzled than ever. It’s not just the homeschooling (and I’m aware that as the mother of two teenage boys I don’t have that to contend with) and the working from home (although as Mother Pukka wisely said: you are not working from home you are working AT home during a crisis) it’s the constant fizz in the back of your brain worrying about next week, next year, what’s going to happen, will I catch it, will I recover, against the other constant hum – either external or internal – of being bored. Not necessarily bored because you have nothing to do but bored with your surroundings, the endless cooking, cleaning, working and the same four walls. Although, as I somewhat acidly pointed out to the boys the other day being bored is a privilege that many people don’t have at the moment.

library at madaboutthehouse.com

library at madaboutthehouse.com

So find your chair, find your corner – on a landing, in a bedroom, or part of the sitting room, furnish it how you wish – a throw to change the colour, a favourite cushion plundered from the sofa, a lamp and a table, or even a giant pile of books that can act as a table – I have done that. And take – and I mean take (grab it, insist upon it, reach out and help yourself) from the day, your partner, your children, the naggy cat, half an hour to sit and read, or scroll or ponder what things you might do if you actually had a room of your own.

You will feel better for it I promise.


abigail sofa in riverside linen by @mindtgap

abigail sofa in riverside linen by mindtheg

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  • Bernadette Colley 5th May 2020 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Kate,
    I love your blog, your books and the podcast. You and Sophie are aural alchemy, not so much for when your tastes harmonise (because they never do, obvs), or even meet in the middle, but when they totally diverge! Your writing is so like your taste in interiors – elegant and perfectly judged. I’m not a bookshelf colour-coder either but I notice some great titles on your shelves, is there any chance you might get around to plugging some recommendations from your own shelves as well as the new titles you review?
    Many thanks for everything.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 6th May 2020 at 10:59 am

      A book review… interesting idea. I have to say that since we filled these shelves I have gone over to using a kindle. I know that’s controversial but for me the idea of being able to carry around a complete library in my handbag makes me feel happy. I also like the idea that if I am on a bus or a beach and I finish a book in a series I can buy, download and start reading the next in a matter of seconds. Books I love: Anything historical and Tudor related – Philippa Gregory (Tudors from the female perspective) Donna Leon (detective series set in Venice as much for the descriptions, the meals – there is an accompanying recipe book – and the family love as for the crimes) and Daniel Silva, a Mossad spy thriller. Those are my current favourite but I also like Ann Patchett, Dorothy Parker and Sarah Perry recently.

  • Elaine Fraser 5th May 2020 at 11:02 am

    I have a favourite leather armchair where I enjoying reading the weekend papers. But my overall favourite seat is a garden bench made from a railway sleeper ( I think) .Very aged and worn and bleached by weather. My garden is shady in places and only certain spots catch the sun.The bench catches early morning sun. I sit in my dressing gown with a cuppa and watch the birds in the nearby bird table and bird bath. Mrs Jingles ( a field mouse) lives under the bird feeder and pops her head out occasionally. It’s always a lovely time of day and I understand why some people who meditate rise early just to sit at the magical time between the dark and the dawn.

    • Elena 5th May 2020 at 11:16 pm

      Yes, Elaine, I agree. Those hours are precious. Meditation so early in the morning just envelopes you in peace and tranquility 😊

  • Laura 4th May 2020 at 3:49 pm

    Wish you would do a follow-up with recommendations regarding who makes the most comfortable and best quality chairs. I’ve been looking for a couple of classic chairs for my small living room. Chairs are such investment pieces and often what looks good online or in a catalogue turns out to be so uncomfortable – or just too oversized in reality!

    I really enjoy your posts and find I now have your tips and guidelines (like the red thread and views from one room to another etc.) in the back of my mind when I look at rooms on design sites!

  • Marie Bunworth 4th May 2020 at 2:44 pm

    Great post Kate. Yep. My hubby and I have our own “spots” Him in a large comfortable chair… me on one end of the sofa, feet up! Almost Social Distancing 🙄
    I get quite narky if I walk in and find him “temporarily” sitting in my spot 😂

  • Wendy 4th May 2020 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve found myself dragging a deckchair to the furthest spot in the garden from the house – with book, phone, blanket, snacks (always snacks) – just out of earshot of the house (or far enough that I can pretend I can’t hear them anyway) and it’s just lovely to have a different perspective – on the house, on the garden, on life, on the importance of choosing your snacks wisely. The long, thin garden is really coming into it’s own these days!

  • Leslie-Anne 4th May 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Great post. I learned when my daughters were young that you do need to take your personal time and space because they won’t voluntarily give it to you. Fortunately, now that they are older, they are comfortable with the idea that they can take their own time and space. Very important, especially during quarantine.

  • Renaud 4th May 2020 at 11:11 am

    Great post Kate. I couldn’t agree more with you on the importance of having your own chair, which becomes like your own private nest inside your home. My favourite chair is Ikea’s POANG armchair. I just love cosying there with a blanket and a book in the evening.

    Have a good day, and stay safe.


  • Anna Noble 4th May 2020 at 9:32 am

    A chair of HIS own has been the norm in our home, since for ever. The chair is now an Italian design (expensive) comfortable and even the grandchildren do not sit in it!
    I long for more than a chair.
    A room of my own just like Nigella Lawson’s. Huge desk, bookshelves all around, possibly a day bed!!

  • Cheryl 4th May 2020 at 9:26 am

    My favourite chair is a planter’s chair in my bedroom. It sits by the window so lots of light and has a handy shelf close by. I am often drawn to it not only to read but also for breakfast on a sunny morning. I would be outraged to find some else sitting in it!

    • Susan McCabe 4th May 2020 at 3:10 pm

      When I hear people complaining of boredom I recall my Mums words. If ever we complained of being bored she would say, “Only boring people get bored”. She has a point. Then she would tell us to find something to do or she would find something for us! I think periods of boredom help creativity to flourish and self reliability and I am grateful to my mother for allowing us to learn this skill. I am very rarely bored, there is so much to learn even if you can’t do.

      • Elena 5th May 2020 at 11:18 pm

        Such wise words…

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