Monday Inspiration: Beautiful Rooms

Welcome to a new week and a new set of rooms that have caught my eye and which I thought might inspire you for your own places and spaces.

Now perhaps I was drawn to this as I have just made a curtain for my own kitchen to divide it from the hall – and perhaps now is the moment to say that the finished house will be appearing in a magazine in September which is why content has gone quiet on that front. We are going to Italy next week to check on progress there so I will share some shots from there and talk you through some of the design decisions we are making.

striped door curtain by emmaigrant shot by angus grant
striped door curtain by emmaigrant shot by angus grant

I have mentioned before that I have rediscovered my sewing machine and have been adapting linen sheets for curtains and making cafe curtains from left over linen. When it came to the dividing the hall from the kitchen there was no door there when we moved in and the previous owner had created a sort of gothic archway shape. We decided to remove that and make the opening taller, which, by the way, is a good way to make a room feel bigger and the ceiling higher. I bought some fabric from The Haines Collection which is a deep rusty red velvet for the hall side – I’m channeling Paris bistro – while the kitchen side is cotton patterned with tassels in shades of rust, gold and pink which ties in with the kitchen scheme. It’s not finished yet but I think it will be cosy in winter and reduce noise between the two spaces. It may be a while until it goes up given the current UK heat wave as well.

But, in short, I’m seeing curtains used more as room dividers and it’s a good way to bring colour and pattern to a room. We already had a door between the pantry and the kitchen so we replaced the door with one more in keeping but the framework was already there. If not then a curtain is a cheaper open and one that’s easier to install yourself.

bathroom design by pearl lowe using Burlington Bathrooms
bathroom design by pearl lowe using Burlington Bathrooms 

There’s no doubt I’m preoccupied with bathrooms at the moment as the house in Italy has four – three are tiny – shower only and one is large enough for a free-standing bath which we plan to install by the window. I love the look of this one above although I have never been particularly attracted to this mint green shade. That said if you have a classic black and white floor tile you can do any colour you like and change it as often as you feel. There are no dado rails in Italy but when I first saw this I did wonder if it was a simple line of metro tiles.

Points for the glass cabinet – remember on Friday I said they were everywhere – but also notice how this room has been decorated like a room with a loo and a basin in. There’s no modern vanity, no sleek fittings. Instead, vintage furniture and accessories fill the room making it a furnished room with a specific function and, as such, one you can adapt to your own colour and style. I am also pondering a more modern basin on an old table for one of the Italian bathrooms. It depends how quickly I can sort myself out with the Italian equivalent of facebook marketplace which is where, I assume, it may be easy to pick up these sorts of things.

langdon court manor by donna ida image by nico wills
langdon court manor by donna ida image by nico wills

Above is a bathroom from Langdon Court Manor which is being restored by self-styled jean queen Donna Ida and will be open for hire for events in August. Another free-standing bath but what’s great about this is that there’s no traditional white. The colours are rich and warm and quite unbathroom-like. Now you know I would never dictate a style to you, which is why all my books are illustrated rather than photographed so this might not be for you and that’s fine but if you were nervous about using strong colour in a bathroom then don’t be. Many baths like this can be painted – as indeed can more modern styles, and if you have a fitted bath then you can always tile the front panel. This is a lesson in how to decorate in the way you want and not be fazed by the fact that it’s a bathroom or a kitchen.

You may have read (indeed I have written) about the current trend for the unkitcheny kitchen or the bathroom that looks like a sitting room with a bath instead of a sofa. On its most superficial level yes it’s a trend but, I think, it goes deeper than that. It’s about encouraging you to decorate the way you feel you want to and without feeling you have to follow rules that you might not want to. So you don’t have to have a “sensible” white kitchen if that doesn’t fit with the rest of your house or style. You don’t have to stick to pale tiles and neutral colours in the bathroom if you don’t want to (and it’s fine if you do) but take a moment to have a think about what would make you happy and find a way to incorporate it into your home.

design by nicola harding and co
design by nicola harding and co  image by paul massey

This room above was designed by Nicola Harding whose work I adore and her caption sums it up perfectly: “This small bedroom had no real view and not great natural light so we wanted to do something impactful to compensate. The blue and green ceramic lamp, when paired against the crimson paper and paint adds the perfect contrasting pop of colour that also ties back to the antique bedside table. This all turned a rather underwhelming room into one of our favourites.”

That’s a design masterclass right there. You don’t have to have great views or fabulous original features to make a room look interesting and beautiful. If it’s not there then bring it. We’ve all see those great Italian and French houses where the windows and plasterwork and fabulous floors mean that a lick of white paint and an antique bed is all you need. But most of us don’t live in houses like that and we have to work a little bit harder to bring the character. The wallpaper and furniture is great but I am going to urge you not to forget the ceiling. Yes the off white of the wallpaper would have been fine. The red, however, really brings it. And as you probably spend most of your time in there asleep you don’t need to worry about making it dark. If yours has to double up as a home office you could, based on the scheme above, paint the ceiling in a pale sky blue – a lighter version of the blues used within the furnishings.

And, by way of a public service announcement, if you too are a fan of Nicola’s work then she is launching Nix, a lifestyle brand for lighting, furniture and objects. So far there are only lights and prices are pitched at “affordable investment” so be aware of that before you dive in thinking you can forget about the one you were pondering at H&M in favour of this. On that note, I bought a great light for the kitchen from H&M so I’m absolutely not knocking it. The one below is £175 and I love it but be aware it’s called ditsy and at 26cm tall it is, although it will be taller with the shade which is priced separately.

olive green ceramic table lamp by nicola harding
olive green ceramic table lamp by nicola harding
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. Perhaps in the north of Italy things are different but in the main Italians haven’t taken to seconda mano. Second hand stuff. You can find out where your rubbish recycling is taken and go there were the employees make a small amount of money selling stuff that’s been collected. You need to hunt around for places selling a lot of tat but search and yea shall find gems. Italy is the capital for ceramics. Nearly all the stuff we see here comes from there again search. It takes time and you haven’t had much lately.

  2. The door between my new kitchen and the original (renamed the scullery) will have a curtain, but keeping the original door in case its too drafty in winter – the joys of old houses and Scotland, ooh it might end up with both! Love the double sided option and quite excited to hide the appliances in there with a skirtain, both now inspired by you, thanks Kate.

  3. I’ll definitely be taking inspiration from Nicola Harding’s small room with no view for our own small room with a view of the back of the garage and pile of things I collect on Facebook Marketplace. Gorgeous room!

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