Planning the Perfect Kitchen and Bathroom (podcast notes)

Kitchens and bathrooms are the two biggest investments you are likely to make when it comes to refurbishing your house. They are also the most disruptive jobs to carry out, so for that reason you need to get it right first time. On this week’s podcast, Sophie and I discuss some important planning tips to make sure you don’t make expensive mistakes, as well as throwing in a few of the current (and forthcoming) trends from Busola Evans, the associate editor of Living Etc who, since she works several months in advance) has a clear idea of what’s coming up as well as asking our sponsor Neptune about what colours and styles are currently popular.

Ink blue is the most popular Neptune paint colour currently
Ink blue is the most popular Neptune paint colour currently

Someone said recently that bathroom decor is key because it’s “where you start and end your day” and I thought that was such a good point. From stumbling in there on a wet working morning to floating in for a relaxing evening facial or soak, this room literally reflects all our moods back at us, so it’s worth giving it a chance to influence them as well.

It also tends to be one of the smallest rooms in a house too (average UK bathrooms are 2.4m x 1.5m and a bath is 1.7m x 700cm) so you have to cram a lot of function into a tiny space. This means that colour is always going to be the easiest way to bring in your personality. And don’t forget that it is still a room in your house and needs to look like it belongs to the rest of it so before you start do make a list of what you regard as your key style notes or your red thread and make sure you incorporate some of those details.

burlington pink confetti sanitaryware as seen in the home of Sophie Robinson
burlington pink confetti sanitaryware as seen in the home of Sophie Robinson

Sophie, who has recently redone her wet room and is currently working on her bathroom, created a colour explosion of pink and mustard in the former using the new pink loo and basin from Burlington. It completely reflects her style and fits with the colour scheme of the rest of her house.

In her bathroom (yet to be finished) she will use similar colours but toned down as this is the room with the bath so she might be spending more time in here. To that end she will be softening all the hard edges with curtains, silk wall lamps and even a curtain round the basin.

Now I draw the line at basin skirts but there are other ways to soften all those hard edges and straight lines in a bathroom and I use vintage wood and lots of plants.

kws bathroom in dark green
I use plants and vintage accessories to soften a bathroom

Lighting is crucial in a bathroom and while I don’t have wall lights (I rather wish I did) and Sophie will be adding them to hers. I do, however, have my spot lights on a dimmer, so I can create a more relaxed atmosphere when I choose.

A couple more practical tips: if your room is small decide if you want to squeeze in a bath or replace it with a large shower? If you need to have a shower over the bath then choose a bath with vertical sides so you have more standing room (rather than a bath with sloping sides which is wider at the top than the base). And on that note, if your shower is over the bath invest in a cast iron or resin bath rather than a cheaper acrylic one. These tend to flex over time and can eventually drop which will break the silicon seal between the tiles and the bath leading to leaks.

A wood and dark grey chequerboard floor in this grey painted bathroom adds a modern twist and the pink shower curtain softens the scheme.
textiles are the new trends in bathrooms (floor by Annie Sloan paint)

Finally, the trends, which, according to Busola, are very simple: curves, curtains and colours. So, make the shapes as round and soft as you can, add in shower curtains and window dressings to soften the space still further and finally, consider a coloured suite. It’s been a slow burn – I remember writing about this at least three years ago but it’s coming. And you will succumb – if not to a bath, then in the downstairs loo for sure.

The idea, which has been gathering pace for some time is that both bathrooms and kitchens now want to look like the other rooms in the house but with added functions. In other words, if you took out the bath and replaced it with a sofa would the decor still work? That’s the look you’re after.

pink bathroom at the henrietta hotel
curves are trending in bathrooms seen here at the henrietta hotel

And so it is in kitchens where colour is also making a comeback. Now while Sophie is considering a pink kitchen, and I have pink walls in mine, Neptune report that their best-selling colour for kitchens is a deep navy blue – or ink.

This is finding its way onto walls and cupboards but another trend that is coming through is that (finally) we are getting the hang of not needing to match everything. Base cupboards can be one colour and wall cabinets another. This adds to the feeling of the non-fitted kitchen and makes it look more like a room in which you cook as opposed to a sleek fitted space.

cupboards with glass fronts is the new kitchen trend, image from neptune

And, this is no coincidence, according to Busola who reports a definite move towards freestanding furniture in kitchens as well as, wait for it, a return to wall cabinets after years of open shelving. Only this time they are fitted with fluted glass fronts so they still create a sense of space and light but the contents are only partially visible.

If you have room, Busola says pantries are currently on the top of everyone’s wishlists and if you can’t make a whole room, then the pantry cupboard with space for the toaster and the coffee machine with a door that closes it all off afterwards, is also much in demand.

brass taps are still a strong trend in kitchens
brass taps are still a strong trend in kitchens

And finally, that tasteful Carrara marble, while still a classic, is being elbowed out by a move towards bolder patterns and more deep veined marble. It’s a strong look and one you might worry that you will tire of, but I have found, over the years, that if you are yearning for something and back out in favour of a sensible decision you will always regret it. I looked at strong marbles when we chose the worktop a couple of years ago and retreated in favour of being sensible. I wish I hadn’t.

I’ve seen the same thing often with paint colours too. People say they want a dark colour then back out and pick something more middle ground, then they get used to it and wish they’d been bolder. So listen to your heart as well as your head when it comes to choosing your decor.

add personality to your kitchen image via neptune
add personality to your kitchen image via neptune

And with that in mind I’m going to paint all four of my kitchen walls pink now. We currently have two opposite each other to create a dresser type effect but I’m going to do the one in between them now. To be honest I always wanted to do this but The Mad Husband refused. Then the other day he announced that painting all the walls pink was a really good idea and he couldn’t understand why he hadn’t thought of it before…

Interior design is a long game people. A long game.

To hear more tips and ideas as well as some ideas for where and when to use gloss paint then do have a listen to the podcast here. And with grateful thanks, as ever, to our sponsors, Neptune, and our producer Kate Taylor. If you are reading this before 31 August 2020 then Neptune are currently offering you a £100 voucher for every £1000 you spend which might allow you to buy some extra treats for your new kitchen.












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. Wall cupboards with hinged doors are one of my pet hates – even if I don’t walk into them or jab myself on them I’m always being startled by them. Open shelves are great for displaying your lovely china, glass or utensils but are a terrible dust trap. I love the sliding doors you’ve shown above – talk about a lightbulb moment!

  2. This has come at the right time for me Kate, thank you! We’re doing the bathroom and the designer is obsessed about having a rectangle mirror because the sink and cupboards are all rectangles. I want a round mirror with lights at each side. Is he being old fashioned or is there a fundamental design principle I’m missing?!?

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