My Top Ten Interior Design Tips: #4


leather handles at
leather handles from superfront at

We’re always reading about how supermarkets spend thousands of pounds researching how to arrange their shelves. They want the hard-to-sell stuff at eye level so that you see it first. They will make you bend down for the things they know you want to buy anyway because they know you’re going to do that because you regard it as a necessity.

Well it’s broadly similar in your home. The eye level and touch points – light switches and door handles – are crucially important and yet are so often the things we don’t even bother about.

I have recently changed all my light switches to soft black ones with a dolly toggle. They look so much nicer than the generic white plastic and even though the white plastic ones disappeared into the wall, I prefer these. We decided to make a feature of them and, I have to tell you, the children find the dolly toggle so satisfying that I swear they are remembering to turn lights off more.

In the same vein I have leather handles from Superfront on my kitchen cupboards. They ‘re great to touch and soften all the hard lines of the kitchen which is full of stainless steel and straight lines. Another trick you can do is to paint the inside of your cupboards in a colour that makes your heart sing every time you see it. It’s very subtle as you won’t see it all the time so you can afford to be daring – metallic gold, neon pink, or a beautiful, calming and restful olive green.

It’s a small thing but it will make a big difference to your experience of using your home which is, after all, as Le Corbusier said: “a machine for living in”.

One thing I am always asked about my leather handles is do they stain and what happens when you want to open a drawer and you have egg on your hands (as opposed to on your face ha ha) and I have to say that I have never found this a problem. It’s true that if my hands are particularly dirty or covered in raw chicken or something then I probably pull the drawer/door open with my little finger but that’s easy enough to do and as for marks, well, I think leather improves with age and marks. We had black leather handles for six years and I didn’t notice any marks on them at all but when I came to change them they were just very soft and worn. The current, tan, ones have only been there for a year so they aren’t soft yet but they have darkened with age which I like.

Another simple change is electric flex. This isn’t, strictly speaking a touch point but it will make a big difference. I have changed all the plastic cords on my pendant lights to fabric. It costs less than a fiver a metre and it makes a real difference. There are dozens of colours available so you can make a statement with bright pink or red( I have done both of those) or keep it simple with black. I have done that too. It’s even cheaper if you know how to wire it yourself, which I (sadly) don’t but I think I might make it one of my New Year resolutions, seeing as we seem to have arrived at that time of the year.

While we’re handing out tips if you need a large rug but can’t afford one as big as you would like then you can customise a piece of carpet. For the spare room I bought a remnant of grey carpet and had the edges bound in a contrasting bright pink colour, which goes with the fireplace. It was so much cheaper than buying a rug would have been and it would be relatively easy to change the colour if I changed the decor of the room.

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 saved all your Top Tips until the Christmas hoo haa had abated a little and have just read them all tonight, a treat to myself after 3 days of staying with my mother (read into that what you will). Anyway, this tip resonates with me the most. I love it because everything you advise is accessible and I can picture the details in my mind and more importantly my home. I look forward to my dazzling cupboard interiors!

  2. I love the idea of having a bright colour (or any colour) inside your cupboards. I had no excuse as I made and painted them myself – white! Shame on me (but the outside is a very bright orange:-)

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