Monday Inspiration: Light, Bright and Dusty

We have reached peak dust. By which I mean that point in the renovation where the dust keeps coming and the will to remove it has been completely lost. The dust is the thing everyone forgets about. It’s the thing that is literally swept out of your mind over time so when people grimace as you embark on a new project and say to you: “Oh but the dust!” And you laugh carelessly and say: Oh don’t worry we’re seasoned. We know about the dust.”

Featured in @ad_magazine⁠ Photographer @yannick__labrousse via @lamaisonpierrefrey
design by Pierre Lacroix  Photographer @yannick__labrousse via @lamaisonpierrefrey

But you have forgotten about the dust. Because if you remembered you wouldn’t do it again. At least not while living on site. The dust starts with the demolition. But it doesn’t end there. Because it keeps falling for weeks. Clean on a Monday, write your name in the new layer on Tuesday. At the beginning, it feels manageable and so you do. Manage it that is. You are in that first flush of renovation. The camping in the sitting room because the kitchen will be done in a a few fast weeks. And then there comes the point where the time itself slows down. You understand deep in your bones that the kitchen will never be finished. That you will have to live like this forever and you lose the will to fight.

styled by @hannahfranklininteriorstylist shot by @debitreloar for @oka
styled by @hannahfranklininteriorstylist shot by @debitreloar for @oka

It is as if the dust itself has seeped into your brain and blurred the edges of your reason so while you can still see the mess you no longer care. You absent-mindedly wipe a glass  with a dusty tea towel before you drink out of it and wipe the fork on your dusty trousers before you eat. And you shut your eyes to the rest.

design by topology interiors shot by @_richardkiely
design by topology interiors shot by @_richardkiely

Then when it’s all done and your friends tell you they are embarking on a renovation project you say: “Oh but the dust!” And they smile at you in that slightly patronising fashion and say: “Oh don’t worry we’re seasoned. We know about the dust.”

And you laugh with them (but also a little bit at them) because you have started to forget. And so the wheel of renovation turns again.

beautiful old terracotta floor in the home of @the_textured_room
beautiful old terracotta floor in the home of @the_textured_room

It will come as no surprise that this week’s rooms are light and bright and, crucially dust free. Warm shades of cream and terracotta in the form of furnishings and floors. And all these rooms too were once full of dust and debris before they looked like this. Hold that thought renovators hold that thought.

via paint and paper library
via paint and paper library
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 just spent hours on return from holiday last night cleaning up the dust left by my new media unit so this article was a very well timed (and much needed) laugh. The carpenter did his best to clean as he went, and I’m glad I overruled my husband and put dust sheets down ‘unnecessarily’ in other parts of the flat, but I know it will be haunting me for weeks.

  2. Ahhh, you poor soul. At least your sense of humour hasn’t been buried under the dust along with everything else, haha.
    I have to say, one of our best decisions was to keep almost everything in boxes post-move, and resist the temptation to unpack anything but the bare minimum. So we had dusty boxes for months, but not much else.

  3. Hahaha! I promise I’m laughing with you.

    We just finished the 18-month restoration of an old house we don’t live in — we live two doors down and the dust followed us home with enthusiasm. There are several projects at our residence that need doing but for my sanity, there’s a moratorium of at least a year.

    Just long enough for renovation amnesia to set in, I guess.

  4. We embarked on a kitchen renovation during the height of the Covid pandemic (but booked well before). We had no kitchen and nothing was open (including, of course, restaurants) to enable us to escape the hammering, the nailing, the lack of cooking facilities or sink, or, of course, the damn dust. Every night, as we trudged up to our bathroom to wash our dishes, we swore ‘never again’. If we ever do another large-scale reno, we are determined not to live there when it happens. Still, our wonderful new kitchen does make up for the excruciation (is that a word or did I make one up?) of the reno itself. Maybe start a cross-stitch with ‘This too shall pass’ written on it to while away the seemingly interminable stretch of time between the start of a reno and its always-much-longer-than-anticipated end.

  5. It makes me think of a short story, perhaps written by some Latin American magic realism writer, in which dust starts building up, and it builds up and up, while there’s no point in fighting it anymore, then all sorts of creatures start blossoming amid the dust, until one day you can barely see your possessions, and the dust keeps building up and up, and one day you can’t wake up because you’ve got dust built up on your lids and your mouth. 😀

  6. This takes me back to 1985 and our two-storey side extension. It started in September the year before with “We’ll be out of here by January.” Great, we thought – 2nd baby due in April, perfect..
    Ooh how wrong we were – no fault of our builders, but the flu season, heavy rain, snow, buildings inspectors failing to show, the list goes on!
    Antenatal appointments started with me being given a fireman’s lift over the snow-covered/floods footings by our lovely builders. As did pre-school, with them giving ‘flying angels’ to our 3 year old. She loved it!
    After our son was born, the midwife and health visitor gained access to the house by untaping the plastic sheeting that acted as our front door; the midwife was unfazed but the health visitor’s disapproval/disgust was made very evident!
    Yes we survived it, but swore never again – and we’ve stuck to it!

  7. A doormat at the bedroom door and having a pair of work boots to slip on is my over riding memory. Trying to keep the dust out of the one room we were living in. It didn’t really work but at least no one ended up with a nail through their foot!

    1. This! My husband and I bought slippers with thick rubber soles that we put on as soon as we swung our legs out of the bed, to avoid debris, nails, dust etc.

      And when we had a working bathroom (joy) but no internal doors, having to ask the workmen to go and have a cup of tea in the kitchen so I could go to the loo without an audience! Oh the memories!

  8. We were lucky to have a flat in the city to live in while our house was being built. We moved in before it was completely finished though so I do remember the dust and also the having to get up early in the morning to welcome the tradesmen. I tried to look as though I had been up for ages. I love the idea of this being so much like childbirth – it certainly is – you forget until you are there again! Greetings from Sweden where the snow has yet to realise that it is supposed to be spring!

  9. Ah, the dust. Like the memory of the pain of child birth, it fades quickly. Or so they say…………

  10. I’m a surveyor. Every homeowner who lightheartedly buys a doer-upper should read this.

    My experience is you need to have a builder you don’t mind seeing at 7 am, when you are still in your pyjamas with your hair and teeth unbrushed, every day for about a year. They always say it will take six weeks and it never does.

    May the dust depart soon Kate.

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