Monday Inspiration: Beautiful Rooms

A sightly random selection for you this week although is anything ever really random? Bit early in the week for an existential discussion on the natural of randomness (although if you’ve ever tried to lay tiles without the brain forcing you into semblance of a pattern I’d be interested to hear) so while, on the face of it, this is a collection of kitchens and bathrooms of different colours and styles, they are united by good design, well-thought out details and the warm autumnal colours they all share. If you have come here for clean bright pastels you may be disappointed. This blog welcomes everyone and all styles but I tend not to be drawn to that end of the colour spectrum. That said, if it’s design ideas and tips you are after you will find them in abundance whatever your personal colour preferences and the ideas will work for any colour palette you choose.

blue kitchen via plain english
blue kitchen via plain english

So, starting off with a deep dark navy blue kitchen. Now this may feel like a bold move to choose a dark colour for the cabinets but that doesn’t necessarily mean the room will be dark. Keep the floor and ceiling light to start with. You can also choose a pale worktop and, if you pick one in natural stone or quartz, it will bounce the light around making the room feel even lighter and, of course, you can see the reflection in the tiles.

And that’s another point I wanted to make. You all know by now that I am a passionate advocate of adding something vintage to every room and if you want to bring in more character, and perhaps make it look as if your kitchen has been there for years, you can choose a tile that is either creamy in colour (which will be warmer and more vintage looking than a bright white) or one with an old style pattern. This has a sort of Delft look to it – you can buy reclaimed ones here while Fired Earth and Ca Pietra both have modern versions.

As a final lightening touch the glass cabinet fronts catch the light and note how the solid wooden cabinet is pale inside so it’s easier to see what you are looking for and anyone who has tried to find a black purse in a black lined handbag will know of what I speak. This is where the details matter – painting inside the cupboards, thinking about what goes behind glass doors, considering the overall look you want and working out how to get there.

pantry by @mygeorgian home image by @joeykendalbrown
pantry by @mygeorgianhome image by @joeykendalbrown

Now I have been hankering after a pantry for a long time and this is just a heavenly version and I can’t stop staring at it. First, dark cupboards but note the light reflecting worktop, pale floor and white walls. Of course it has windows so these aren’t vital, but this is a good illustration of tricks you can use if you don’t.

Second, brilliant use of cafe curtains – not for privacy but to soften and add colour and could there be a more perfect use for gingham? Also take note; if you dislike the current fashion for cupboard skirtains (as The Mad Husband does) then the cafe curtain is your friend – hard to argue with a curtain on a window after all.

Lastly this post may end faster than planned as I must now devote the rest of the afternoon to finding a vintage wooden cake stand that will be vital to save space on the worktop as well as bringing the perfect finishing touch to my kitchen (and fantasy pantry).

 nicole_franzen @grtarchitects Styling @_ridgehouse
image by @nicole_franzen @grtarchitects Styling @_ridgehouse

Staying with kitchens and this is about using materials in unexpected ways – turns out this post does have a theme after all – it’s a sort of round up of my favourite design tips. Anyway this kitchen is all about the checks. The colours are all warm and tonal and the floor is quite busy with the contrasting tiles although they co-ordinate perfectly with the wooden cupboards. Behind the sink the plain off-white tiles link back to the floor and unite cupboard and wall to floor. Then there is the island. What a great way to use tiles if, and it’s a fairly chunky if, you don’t need your island for storage. And if you don’t fancy a tiled/grouted top you can always add traditional worktop round the hob. This is a beautiful kitchen but it can also be a jumping off point for your own design.

Note too, how the floor checks run up the sides of the cupboards and island instead of traditional kickboards. This is a great detail and does two other things – makes the floor look bigger as it “bends” it up the walls and makes the kitchen look bigger as the island and units now appear to float over the floor. Finally, if that island were in brown as well it would all be too much and perhaps look a little old fashioned. By covering it in a warm tonal but contrasting shade the retro effect of tiling it appears much more modern and fresh. It could also work in a variety of colours – navy or, perhaps sky blue… see below.

doors from @plainenglishkitchens
doors from @plainenglishkitchens

Ah yes these doors. Now I said I don’t do pastel and this is a slightly muddier version of a sky blue but it works beautifully with the red ochre chair and warm wooden desk. The fashion creative and brand consultant Lucy Williams recently used this shade throughout her west London home (you can see here) and, couple with lots of warm wood and shades of cream and tan has created a summery light-filled home that is both fresh and modern. I foresee lots more of it to come.

olive green cupboard via @jamescoviello
olive green cupboard via @jamescoviello

But back to my familiar muddy shades and while I have only just noticed the colour of the floor (!) I was here for the warm olive green on the cupboard door and architrave. I am going to say one thing to you all for today – never let a door stay traditional white if you think a colour may work better. It’s a chance to bring in any shade you like, a chance to add some personality and a design detail to a room and, I’m pretty sure, that whatever your chosen colour scheme a block of colour will always always bring something worthwhile to the party. It may highlight a tiny element of colour in a rug or wallpaper that you want to make more of. It may introduce a contrast or tonal element or just highlight a pretty door and create a focus point in a room. A dash of colour will do all these things that leaving it white won’t.

paint effects by @studioduggan Our suitably modern mural by @juliannabyrne
mural by @juliannabyrne commissioned by  @studioduggan

Here’s another great detail. A few weeks ago I showed you the wallpaper borders by Susie Atkinson as a great way to add a little colour and pattern without going overboard. Well this is a another lovely, but simple, idea by Julianna Byrne to paint around a niche bookshelf. Such a simple idea- doesn’t have to be a snake, could be a flower, that really highlights the book shelf in a simple and effective way.

bathroom by @handelsmannkhaw project as seen in @vogueliving
bathroom by @handelsmannkhaw project as seen in @vogueliving

Now bathrooms, and both have used checks like the kitchen above but in completely different ways. Above the floor is plain and the walls are alternate colours and it works perfectly in here. I have said often that in sitting rooms and kitchens it’s good to bring in curves as there are lots of straight lines and rectangles. In bathrooms the opposite can be true as basins and baths are often more organic in shape so you can go all out on the geometric tile designs.

Below, this time the pattern is on the floor and goes up the walls. It’s still geometric, but a much smaller design, while the walls are plain with coloured grout – another tip along with white doors – look for coloured grouts; they are practical as they won’t discolour like white grout, and can also bring together a colour scheme. Here the black line is the perfect finishing touch as it creates a clear boundary between the two tile designs and gives it real punch. Then, because you don’t want to leave the black on its own, it’s picked up in the lamp bases, vase and candlestick.

It’s all in the details. I hope these rooms have given your inspiration for your own places and spaces and I’ll see you back here tomorrow with some lovely new pieces from the weekly Design Storey Drop. And now I’ll be off to look for cakestands. Building a pantry may take a little longer….

image by @haris.kenjar design by @heidicaillierdesign
image by @haris.kenjar design by @heidicaillierdesign
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. I’ve never seen the word skirtain before. Could you please explain what it is? Whatever it is I hope I don’t have it. I do have cafe curtains. I wasn’t aware they were out of fashion hahaha

    1. It’s a curtain that goes in front of a cupboard instead of a door. They are commonly called sink skirts but I have seen it contracted to skirtain if it’s going in front of a cupboard rather than a sink.

  2. I am not a fan of the skirtain either, but gingham cafe curtains, oh yes! Never understood why they went out of fashion. Cheers from Canada!

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