This week on The Great Indoors podcast we reviewed the new tv show Interior Design Masters, presented by Fearne Cotton, click here for her house tour, discussed the power of statement walls and floors and also investigated a new report into happiness in the home, which threw up some surprising results.

First up the show. I’ll keep it brief as I would imagine that those of you who are interested will have seen it already and those who aren’t won’t be – as it were. For overseas readers it’s a collaboration between BBC2 and Netflix so I’m sure it will be available soon. It’s a mash up between The Apprentice and The Great Interior Design Challenge so while it’s not a new concept, and the element of competition is still present, it’s an enjoyable format that is always entertaining if not groundbreaking. What it is not, however, is a realistic portrayal of a career in interior design so if you’re looking for that this isn’t it.

at home with Fearne Cotton for The Great Indoors Podcast
Fearne Cotton’s home designed to make her happy.

But it is fun and the one new aspect is that the challenges, so far, seem to have a more commercial aspect to them which makes answering the brief all the more important. For the first episode, the two teams were asked to design a showhome. And, if I’m honest I found that one was a bit dull and the other was more directional. But one answered the brief of show home and one didn’t. In the second episode the nine remaining contestants were asked to design a room in a chocolate themed hotel. That’s a tough one and came with all sorts of other considerations of practicality and use that mean I’m still struggling to work out what I would have done. Do add your suggestions in the comments if you have a good idea.

black bedroom, interior design, wall panelling
black bedroom designed by Nicki Bamford-Bowes (@andthentheywentwild) for interior Design Masters TV on BBC2

We also discussed the return of bold decor, which I have already looked at this week, but we uncovered two interesting tools for anyone who struggles to visualise what using a bold colour or tile might look like in their own space. The first is from our sponsor Topps Tiles. You can choose from a selection of rooms and then add the tiles of your choice. Now while you can’t upload your own space, it can be enormously helpful to see an expanse of a pattern rather than just the single sample. It’s also a good way to see how two different patterns might work well together – for example on the floor and on a splashback.

I’m pretty good at visualising the layout of rooms and furniture placement, but I can struggle to imagine a wall, or floor of pattern, so this is a pretty good tool for anyone thinking of using a bold tile in their schemes. And yes you can only see the Topps range but it’s pretty massive so that shouldn’t pose a problem. You can also add Dulux paint colours and choose the colour of grout you might like so while it might not be your actual room it’s a pretty sophisticated tool. When you are scrolling through looking for tiles, the visualiser will also pop up as an option when you click on something you fancy too.

marble hexagon tiles, green tiles topps tiles
Hexmix carrara tiles from Topps Tiles

Talking of visualisers, here are a couple of others. That was for tiles, Dulux do a good paint one where you can upload your own room if you download the app and I know people who have spent ages playing with this and I’m sure it will help with a bold decision. Or there is one on Wallpaper Direct which shows you a series of different rooms so you can see what the paper looks like when used over a whole wall. This is not quite a visualiser like the other two but it’s crucial to see what wallpaper looks like from a distance. Sometimes a pattern that you thought was pretty close up can turn into a dizzying series of dots when spread over a wall or take on a wholly different shape. Like Topps, Wallpaper Direct has a huge range so it’s a good place to start if you have an open mind or aren’t sure what you want.

Now, onto the Happiness research. I thought this was a fascinating report  which asked over 13,000 people across 10 countries 44 questions about what makes a happy home. In addition, the compilers analysed 300 social media posts with the hashtag #happyhome to see how people express their feelings about their home and what makes them feel proud or frustrated.

pink bathroom, square tiles, gallery wall,
pink bathroom by Emma Jane Palin who created this in a rental

The key finding for me, which I wasn’t expecting, is that it isn’t the size of your home that makes you happy but the feeling of spaciousness that you create within it that is key to a sense of happiness. So I guess if you have enough to space to store your stuff so that you aren’t surrounded by clutter and you can keep it tidy and make it feel roomy by creating a balance between the amount of stuff you have and the space you have to put it in then that would make you feel happy. It’s probably logical when you think about it.

The other key finding was that it made no difference if you rent or you own. That said, many of the respondents live in France and Germany where there is a greater culture of renting – 50 per cent of Germans rent – and it’s viewed as a more long term plan. Here, we all know of stories where renters are kicked out after a few months and never allowed to personalise or decorate the space. So that factor probably does depend on where you live. We will be talking more about renting in the next episode with the launch of a brilliant new book by Medina Grillo, called Home Sweet Rented Home, how to transform your home without losing your deposit.

yellow sofa, black and white, medina grillo, rented home
medina grillo’s rented home features in her book Home Sweet Rented Home

The report also found that 73 per cent of people said that if they were happy at home they were happy in life, with home with happiness rating just behind mental well being as the most important factors – 15 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. And, I should point out, both of these were above job satisfaction and salary ratings.

In short, the report found, there are five pillars to home happiness.

Pride:  a sense not just that you are happy with where you live but that you have worked to create a home perhaps by saving up or decorating or completing a project.

Comfort: yes in the literal sense – a good bed or a comfortable sofa, but also the feeling that you have a space in which you feel relaxed and comfortable to be in.

Safety: a roof over your head. The true sense of the word home and all that it implies – as opposed to the place where you live.

gallery wall, sophie robinson, colourful, happy home
the gallery wall at Sophie Robinson’s home makes her happy to be in that room

Control: that you can pay for where you live and choose to live there (slightly trickier for many UK renters and perhaps why so many people in this country still feeling that being able to buy their own house is key to their happiness.

Identity: where we live and how we live is often wrapped up with our sense of who we are and how we perceive ourselves and wish others to perceive us.

And, the report says, in order to achieve some of those things then you should create a sense of space, finish that decorating project, invite people over to share your space and stamp your personality on it. And for me the key to creating a happy home is making the hall, or entry, a space that really works for you and, as the first and last thing you see every day, fills you with all of those elements when you see it. It’s the hardest working room in the house. This is mine:

hallway, stair runner, spotty carpet, gallery wall, entry, hall decor, pink runner, stairs
the hallway at

With huge thanks, as ever, to Topps Tiles for sponsoring the show and Kate Taylor for producing.


Tags : Happiness surveyHappy homeInterior design masterspodcastthe great indoors
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 Comment

  1. I love the concentration on happiness, taking the emphasis away from being on trend or impressing other people! A propos visualisation, I recognised the value of this when I put a tile pattern designer on my site It’s very simple – I’m a one-woman band and don’t have anywhere near the resources of Topps – but it’s great fun creating unusual/unique pattern ideas and colour combinations – you never know what you might come up with next.

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