The Househunter

Hello everyone and welcome to Friday’s Househunting Room Analysis post. Last week, I tried giving you a little more detail as to why I thought certain rooms worked and others didn’t and, judging by the comments, you seemed to like it so let’s do it again this week!


What you liked, which I must confess hadn’t occurred to me at first, is that these are real rooms lived in by real people and not spaces that have been styled, so it’s easier for you to visualise issues in your own homes. For that reason, we will stick with looking at houses that are for sale as they are more “real” as it were. This first property is on the market via The Modern House for £985,000.

It’s a three bedroom house that was built in 2012 and the ground floor living space is all open plan. And herein lies our first issue. It’s a great room and while I get that open plan is lovely and Californian and, indeed, I think it’s great for sunny climes where you are in and out of the garden, with our cold and dank winters I think the odd wall wouldn’t go amiss as it gives you cosy corners and private spaces to curl up in.


The other issue, which I see time and time again in houses, is that open plan is great when you have toddlers and want to keep an eye on them, but then they turn into teenagers and they don’t always want to be in their bedrooms and you are all in the same space, which can make listening to music, or the radio or having the television on or finding a quite space to read a book a little more challenging.

So, first of all, I’m not saying don’t have an open plan home but, if you’re thinking of doing work and want to take down some walls, consider very carefully if you have enough other spaces for people to go if they want their own space.

That said, this is a great room, but I would make a few tweaks to help with the zoning. In other words – making it feel like it’s separate spaces even though it isn’t.


First up a bigger rug in the sitting room area. This is one of my pet hates – a small rug that is an island with a coffee table floating in the middle. I’m going to say no. I have written about the rules of rug layout before but, in short, buy the biggest rug you can afford and make sure that at least the front legs of the sofa are on it. This ties the space together and creates a clearly defined area within the space. Ideally, given that this is such a large space, I would aim for a MASSIVE rug that could have all the sitting room furniture on it.

Secondly, you could create a visual divide with a large floor plant to screen the table from the sitting area. Plants are back in a big way and they look great. If you have the fingers of death then there are lots of fakes around. Failing that consider one of those open shelves that act as room dividers. It won’t cut the light out but will partly divide the space and allow you to feel that while one person watches TV, someone else could be doing homework at the table. Or even kids could be watching telly while parents have supper.


Finally, I’m pretty sure the television is too high on the wall and gives you a crick in the neck when you watch. It is also much more visible when it’s high. I would swap it with the shelves below and that would hide it more. It’s a common mistake to put them too high. But I love this black picture which brings a little definition to the space and picks up on the square shapes of the sofa and chairs.


This is an unusually shaped bathroom which was probably a bugger to fit out, but I love the dark blue tiled wall and bath, and tiling the box which hides the pipe work was also a good idea. Remember last week’s tip about floating loos to create more visual floor space.


Now for house number two which is this gorgeous three-bedroom maisonette arranged over two floors of a Georgian house in south west London which is on the market for £950,000.

It’s just all rather lovely with a muted palette of colours that carries on throughout. The kitchen cupboards are an unusual choice – everyone  just seems to chose safe black or white or wood, but it works really well. The concrete worktop provides an industrial touch which is softened by the wooden island and soft blue of the cupboards. The matching pendant lights also link the long space.


Shot from the other end, you can see this concrete shelving unit which provides another visual link to the kitchen. You could also use last week’s tip of painting the short walls grey to match the side ones which would visually foreshorten the space and make it appear squarer rather than long and narrow. But that’s not a necessity although I’m going to say painting the skirting boards IS!


More soft grey walls in here with another long concrete shelf, referencing the two others and again working to unite this long open plan space. But, in contrast to the house above, although this is all one room it feels more separate and you can imagine different activities going on at the same time.

The orange sofa is gorgeous against the grey walls – try Pavilion by Farrow & Ball – and, as blue and orange are opposite each other on the colour wall, they contrast perfectly – soft orange at one end, muted blue at the other.


I think I might have chosen a rug that didn’t so exactly match the floor as there doesn’t seem to be much point to it but that’s just a question of taste. However,note how the television is much lower than in the first house and tucked into a corner. Having the television there also means it isn’t taking centre stage so this looks like a room for conversation which happens to have a telly in. I can imagine a temptation to stick it on the wall above the fireplace where it would be a) too high and b) dominate the room. This way is better and turns it from a television room to a sitting room. Also everyone can still comfortably watch it – that chair to the left of the picture is a swivel chair.


This is a fantastic space on the lower ground floor which is actually part of the bedroom. I think I might sit here all day if it were mine. I love that the wall colour has been continued into the garden so that the space feels larger and more connected to the outside.

Lastly, a good trick for the often neglected hall. If it’s dark, which they often are, then the rooms leading off appear instantly brighter and larger. If your hall is dark then it can be a good idea to embrace that and paint it dark rather than trying to make it brighter with a pale colour. As no-one lingers in the hall you can afford to be dramatic as people are only passing through. Their eyes will be drawn to the brighter spaces as well which will reflect back into the space. This pink wall is a good trick  as it is reflected back in the mirror. Don’t forget mirrors if you have dark spaces.


And that’s all for this week’s Househunting masterclass. I hope you have enjoyed looking at two beautiful houses as well as understanding a little more about what does and doesn’t work.

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. Great post – especially your point about open plan living. We had our wall reinstated just before Christmas and are loving having two separate spaces – no more arguing over TV volume!

  2. Thanks for another great blog. The depth information is great and relates to real homes – I can use these tips in my own home. Thanks again for giving us all the chance to give feedback.

  3. I ‘m really enjoying this Friday feature of yours, please keep it up, very interesting and informative. Could you do something on mirrors sometime! New to your blog and really like it!

  4. Fascinating insight and agree about the advantages and disandvantages of open plan which very often is another way of saying one-room-living – perfect when the children are four, but not when they are 14. Lots to learn and take inspiration from. Thank you!

  5. I looked at both these houses via your links. The first house looks totally out of place from the outside and is an awful lot of money. Both houses have good features in them but the second house is the nicest and most practical.
    If the trend is to paint the skirting boards the same colour as the wall paint then I can see how that looks good in an older house with tall ceilings but would it work as well in a modern house with much lower ceilings?

    1. Hi Janet, I’m not sure why we all paint our woodwork white. It seems to be one of those traditions that everyone does and no-one really knows why. If the ceilings are lower in a modern house then all the more reason to paint them the same colour as the walls – it will make your walls look longer/taller which will, in turn, make your ceilings look higher. Win win!

      1. I like the idea of painting the skirting boards the same colour as the walls….does this apply to the architrave too? Thanks

        1. Well at that point you can decide how you feel. You can do just the skirting boards as they relate to the walls. You can then do the architrave and the back of the door also to match. Or you can just do the architrave and leave the door white. So many options!

  6. Fab post. I really like what they have done with the fireplace in house number 2 – extending a shelf out and along. I want that. Would it be wrong to remove a Victorian fireplace to do it?! Very happy to notice the mid-century and vintage pieces put into almost every room! We have a swivel chair just like that in the shop at the moment. It is like having a hug when you sit in it – Scandi of course!

    1. I think it would be fine to do that in your house. People get very fixated on original features but if it’s not right for you and the way you live then take it out. I’m assuming it’s not an Adams or anything that’s an heirloom so get rid. You could sell it or put it in another room. Perfect for the Scandi look….

  7. Totally agree with you about the first house — and I am not keen on having all the coats and anoraks hanging in full view from the sitting room!

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