Snapshots from a Reno III

A fleeting visit this week as there hasn’t been a huge amount of visible change. The sitting room is now finished but there’s still a pile of boxes in the middle of the back of the room. This will be moved in the next week or so and replaced by the contents of the kitchen. Work on the bathroom continues – tiling is starting as I type so it should be decorated by this time next week.

walls in paint and paper library powder iii, ceiling in iv

And, of course, there’s always the unexpected bump(s) in the road to renovation. The first of these was having to replace all the windows. To recap: they had been mostly painted shut, the sash ropes cut or worn away and they were so draughty that, in the sitting room, they might as well have been open.

Restoration costs half as much as replacement but, as the company pointed out, they would still be single glazed windows. So we made the choice to replace them all. That was the first bump. They are timber replicas of the original and, for those who are fans of the shutters we had at the start – the shape is so pretty I wanted it to be visible. Below is how we started above is where we are now. I need to find a fabric for some blinds that I can hang high so they don’t hide the shape of the frame.

the new mad house

Alongside that we have replaced all the radiators – some of them needed moving anyway and they were so covered in layers of chipped paint and jammed valves that it made sense. I have used Castrads whose products are, according to my heating engineer: “The best. They are really well made with no plastic valves which give way over time. They are also made in Turkey which has the best foundries and is the best place to source metalwork.”

rococco radiator by castrads

And he should know. In the interests of full disclosure I should tell you that I received a trade discount on the radiators and paid the installation in full. Prices will vary according to where you live but expect to pay around £300 per radiator for installation. This will vary if you are moving them as there will be one visit to lay the pipework and another to fit it once the flooring has gone down and the decoration done.

However, between the new double glazed windows and the cast iron radiators we are definitely cosy. I had always assumed an element of myth around the fact that cast iron rads hold their heat for longer but our heating goes off at about 8.30am and several times I have touched the one in the hall a couple of hours later and wondered if the thermostat has turned them back on again as they are still warm. For us it was definitely an investment worth making. Also – pretty!

rococco radiator by castrads

Now we were aware, while upgrading all these elements that the boiler was possibly limping towards its own personal finish line. But, said everyone: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Until the realisation dawned that the rules have changed and it’s now basically in an illegal position. It’s too close to the floor and can’t be serviced. And that would be fine except we are about to redo the kitchen and there’s no point doing that and then discovering that we can’t just slot a new boiler into the old spot. So it has to be relocated. And we need to do that before we install a lovely kitchen with open shelving and French doors and discover it all has to be redone to make space for it. Chunky bump that one as it’s not so much the cost of the boiler itself as the moving of all the pipework to relocate it.

rococco radiator by castrads

Fingers crossed that’s the last big bump. I’m still nervous about a patch of floor in the kitchen where the black tiles are glossy instead of matt and it looks like they have been replaced at some point. The big question is why?

That’s a mystery for another week. For now I leave you with the latest updates.

walls in powder iii by paint and paper library, ceiling in powder iv

These chairs are destined for the house in Italy (they’re a bit too pink in here) and the old sofa will shortly return from the upholster…. more for another week.



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. There are government subsidies available to assist decrease the cost, and they are more environmentally friendly than gas boilers, which is why gas boilers are being phased out over the next few years. The initial expenditure is often larger than it would be for a gas boiler.

  2. Beautiful colours, very inspiring colour palette.
    Is that a TV on the wall opposite the fireplace? And also what is the rattan box below – I was wondering if it was for your cat?

  3. this is beautiful! I’m very jelous of the period character…as I’m just about to embark on a 1930s renovation in Bristol. Tell me, is there any hope at all to add character to a typical 1930s end of terrace? Struggling with paint colours for this one. I’ve always lived in Georgian houses but here we go! Drawn to it for the garden space, good airy feel (and it’s what we can afford!)

    1. Houses of this period are great – well built, square rooms and good size windows. Just because there’s no fancy plaster work doesn’t mean they don’t have character and charm. Use paint as your decorative tool, bring in pattern and even wallpaper. There are lots of ways to add character to a house of this period.

  4. Great transformation. I love the style of the cast iron radiators which make them an attractive feature rather than simply functional.
    But why did you remove the useful built in storage either side of the fireplace?

    1. Hi Susan, that storage was ugly and badly built and we wanted to remove the radiators from under the windows (so we could place furniture – particularly the sofa. We wanted a feeling of space in the alcoves and knew that we were planning to add floor to ceiling bookshelves in other parts of the room so we could afford to lose those cupboards.

  5. Beautiful! In a future blog, would you please discuss replacement window/door costs? We just looked into replacing our wood windows. (I am not a fan of the plastic window frames.) If we did them all it would be six figures – nearly half the purchase price of the house! No wonder England is full of drafty, inefficient homes! I would be interested to hear your thoughts on these things.

  6. It’s a pity to put blinds on those windows, but I suppose for privacy? Am I right that the current fabric on the lower half is temporary, and will be replaced at some point with a different fabric? If indeed blinds are the way, have you considered the type that can be raised or lowered from either the top or bottom?

    1. The lower half is linen that will stay once I have made them to the right measurements. I see no need to be able to raise or lower themn as we are on a busy street. The blinds at the top will have to be high enough so they don’t cover the top of the window when raised – it might be tight. It may be curtains but they will have to go behind the sofa. Am currently parking that decision!!

  7. LOVE the room and that soft warm color! The room looks beautiful, even though as you say its still coming together. I’m just now painting our spare room in Dimity by F&B – drenching really, ceiling, coving, walls – which looks a similar shade in the afternoons. All to be set off by the palest spring green gloss door frames and baseboards – inspired by your many lovely rooms on this blog in pink/green combos! Can’t wait to see the next stages as they unfold

  8. I love the wall colour, it’s very peaceful. And your windows are beautiful, I can see why you don’t want to cover up the shape. Have you considered curtains? You could have a pair on the double windows (there is space to draw them right back so you can see the window shape) and then a single curtain drawn back on the right for the single window. The ideal for me would be to have a bespoke pole made which would have all three curtains on it, I think it would frame those windows beautifully.

  9. Your soft creamy pink is lovely in that room. I’ve just repainted my hall in Clove by Edward Bulmer which is similar and I absolutely love it. Goes really well with Railings which is on the stairs and all other woodwork.
    I much prefer your new blinds to the shutters. Funny how 15 years ago we were all desperate to have “Californian” shutters!

  10. Hi Kate. Just wondering if you have considered an air source heat pump instead of a new gas boiler? Given the cost and upheaval of re-locating the pipe-work etc it might be a good time to look into it. We’ve had 3 installed in various renovations now and can attest to their effectiveness and long term cost saving. The initial outlay is generally higher than a gas boiler but there are government rebates available to help reduce the cost and they are a more eco-friendly than gas – hence why gas boilers are being phased out over the next few years.

    1. Hi Catherine, we did look at it but as this isn’t our forever house we are reluctant to make such a heavy investment. We have replaced and double glazed the windows, insulated as we go along and upgraded the radiators as well as the plumbing and electrics. An air source heat pump will be for the next owners – we don’t have any more budget sadly!

  11. Those radiators are beautiful, but why black? Shouldn’t they be painted the same colour as the walls? Or is it because they are so decorative you want them to be a feature?

    1. These are cast iron so they are a feature and I wanted them to stand out. Also with pink walls and (in the bedroom) floral wallpaper I wanted something to punch through the softness. You can get these radiators spray painted in any colour you like – they look amazing in different colours, but these are bronze to go with the fireplaces and, as I said, to stop it looking too sweet. If they were standard ugly radiators you can be sure they would have been painted to disappear!

  12. it looks lovely. so tranquil. love love love the new windows. so soft and beautiful. where did you get your nets and poles from, please? I want some and I don’t want to go the nylon, plastic route.

    1. Always check back to earlier reno posts as things are repeated but the poles are 6mm brass rods from House of Brass and the fabric is left over linen from a previous project. I did the same in the bedroom. In these images the small one isn’t yet made and the one on the right still needs hemming! We are a work in progress.

      1. Sorry to further push on this one, but I had the same question and while I was able to find the brass rods myself on House of Brass based on your previous post, I couldn’t find/figure out what the brackets for them were. Are those also from House of Brass? Thank you!

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