Mad About . . .

My Desert Island Decor Items

9th July 2019
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Now this is a good idea for a series and sadly it wasn’t mine although, as you can see, I have been featured. Jess Hurrell, author of the blog Gold is a Neutral, came up with the idea last year and has filmed a couple of episodes. The idea is that you chose the six items of furniture/accessories – things from your house that you would need with you were you to be washed up on that famous desert island.

desert island decor

desert island decor

I was thrilled when she asked me to take part as I love listening to the programme but can never choose my eight records. I also have a constantly revolving list in my head of the ten best meals I would like but I never thought about things from my house.

It’s a clever variation of you can have the family photos and the kids but what else do you take? Are you already pondering? Want to know what mine are? So if you want to watch the 16 minute clip you can go here but if you’re on the bus and forgot your headphones or just prefer to read then here is my desert island decor.

black and white photography at

Now, as many of you will know one of my interior design mantras is Something New, Something Old, Something Black and Something Gold and when looking to whittle down my list of items I realised that I had instinctively stuck to that theory. I also tried to choose something from each room, not necessarily for the island but because it’s also a house tour.

And so we go first to the kitchen for something new.  And that is a photograph on the wall taken by my husband that says Resistenza, which also the name of my company. This is a statue in La Spezia, a part of Italy we go to every year where my mother-in-law has a flat.

My sons have been going since they were born and we went on our honeymoon. It is our home from home and this statue is, of course, a monument to the Resistence of WWII. So it’s about that, but also about the fact that my husband took it. And it’s black( and white). And it looks great on the pink wall, which is Temple by Paint and Paper Library by the way. So it works on every level and will hang nicely off the third palm tree to the left on the island

madaboutthehouse sitting room in fallen plum by atelier ellis

madaboutthehouse sitting room in fallen plum by atelier ellis

From there we move into the sitting room where there are a couple of things I will need. Of course, the Palm Tree light must feature. I bought this from Rockett St George when it first came out about five years ago. It cost over £500 and is the most expensive thing I have bought on my own for the house and not as a joint purchase, or decision. When I ordered it was out of stock and I think The Mad Husband agreed because he thought they might not come back into stock. Or I would forget about it. Or talk myself out of it. As I say that was five years ago and 20 years together. And we can still surprise each other.

So one day he came home from work and there it was. To my great surprise both teenage sons loved it and while I wouldn’t say he loves it with a fiery passion  he gets it. And, of course, it went on to grace the cover of my book and has become, in many ways, synonymous with The Mad House.

the pink tones are the "red thread" marrying the modern Bo Concept table to the period sofa and coffee table

The third item is this small sofa in the bay window which is a proper family piece. It belonged to my Great Grandmother. When she died in 1977 at the age of 98, my mother went to her house to help clear it. It was in the kitchen under a pile of blankets (we would call them throws now) and had been used as a dog bed.

My mother had just started an upholstery course and said she would take it to practice on. My aunt, usually highly alert to the possibility of missing out, took one look at this collapsed, smelly thing and agreed. My mother duly took it, recovered it in an Edwardian stripe – pink and white with tiny flowers – and it was our main sofa for years. She then had it redone professionally in an ochre damask, which looked great but was massively uncomfortable so it sat in the corner and everyone else sat in armchairs.

Last year she decided it get rid of it and I’d to say I wanted to save it from landfill but that thought came after the one about how much I had wanted it for years and was finally going to get my hands on it. It’s now a pale ecru linen and is extremely comfortable.

Moving upstairs and having looked at both old and new (and a black and white picture) it’s time for some gold. Clearly the ceiling in the office fits that category but this isn’t that. This is an old black and gold Chinese box that belonged to my Grandmother (more old). All the boxes inside are different shapes and, as children, we were never allowed to touch it.

But she kept it on the landing on a camphor chest (which now sits at the end of my mother’s bed) and when we visited in the school holidays we would go and sit on the landing and were allowed to point at the boxes and pick one to be opened. There would be a different treasure in each box – sometimes some shells from a recent holiday, sometimes the skeleton of a seahorse or a handful of scarab beetles. I never asked where she found these things and, of course, it’s too late to find out now but I love that box and it lives in my office where, occasionally, my sons ask to see inside.

charming baker

I do wish I had asked more about it when my Grandmother was alive but that’s the lesson I have learnt. Never stop asking questions.

Moving up to the bedroom where we found this table (just seen) by the side of the road on a trip back from the tip, ironically. We screeched to a halt, threw it into the boot and cleaned and sanded it. It’s a nice table but it’s also about recycling and #dolessharm and saving things from landfill.

image by KW-S pink bedroom

This picture also made its way onto the list. There’s a cherry tree outside our bedroom window and, did you know that starlings are natural mimics? So in cities they copy urban sounds. There was one that lived in this tree and for its dawn chorus it would make the sound of a car alarm every morning. One day my husband saw this Charming Baker print in the window of the local art gallery. Enough said. You might need to zoom in

green bathroom by

green bathroom by

Finally, more old. This vanity unit in our bathroom was made from old school laboratory worktops which we bought from Retrouvius. I drew the shape on a bit of paper and the builder made it. We got him to cut thin slices off the off-cuts which we used to frame the mirrors – Ikea glued on – and go around the tiles which we bought years ago.

And there you have my desert island decor. Do watch the video if you want to see more detail. It was shot by Rekha Damhar.

What would go with you to your desert island?


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  • sue luckin 11th July 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Really lovely post Kate. I was discussing this with my husband pondering over my possible choices and when I asked what he would take, quick as a flash he said… fishing rod! Ah well…

  • Marie 10th July 2019 at 10:45 am

    Fabulous post Kate … I love your writing style and sense of humour. Most of my Desert Island stuff would also come under the heading “Memories” Stuff picked up on various foreign holidays and a spice rack and footstool made as a school project by my son when he was 14yo!! Old “notes” (some naughty) written n pushed under doors from my daughter when she was “sent to Coventry” 😂
    All memories.

  • Rachael Hare 9th July 2019 at 10:23 pm

    This is one of my favourite articles that I have read here. It was treat to hear just why you loved certain items, not necessarily because they suited a room, but because they had history and resonated with you.

  • Hélène 9th July 2019 at 1:04 pm

    It’s an interesting exercise, Kate. There’s not much furniture I own to which I am hugely attached.
    I would probably take with me the bureau my parents gave me when I was 15. It’s the one thing, I brought over from Paris when I moved permanently to England 22 years ago. Funnily enough, it is a reproduction of an British campaign desk so not much value beyond the sentimental. I’d also take my 2 overmantel mirrors, both gifts from my parents, one’s a French antique they used to have in their house, the other was made for me and my parents bought it for me to celebrate me getting my phd. Finally, I’d take a 19th century painting of a not very pretty French woman. When my grandmother sold her holiday house, she allowed all her grandchildren to take one item. I chose that painting which used to hang in the bedroom my parents used to occupy. I liked looking at her and now she reminds me of a place I loved.
    So, it’s all about the memories really more than the objects themselves.

  • Anna 9th July 2019 at 12:35 pm

    This is such fun Kate.
    Look forward to the comments but in truth I find that the older you get the less “things themselves” matter.

  • Penny 9th July 2019 at 7:20 am

    Fabulous post – just loved it and the items you have chosen – has set me up for the day – will be smiling in work thinking of my own items — thank you !😘

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