The Househunter: Room by Room

Well it’s been a while since I’ve found a flat with so many pictures I wanted to show you. This is a three bedroom flat in North West London that is on the market with Knight Frank for £1,250,000 and while it might be out of the reach of most of us financially there are lots of decorating tips and ideas that you can take from here which is why I show you these houses.

It’s not about being able to afford to actually buy one of them but more about being able to see real homes (currently on the market) that are lived in by real people. Yes I’m assuming they’ve tidied up for the photographer but apart from that it’s real. It hasn’t been styled for a magazine (and having had that happen to me on more than one occasion I can tell you that those images often aren’t how the owners live in real life) or had furniture and accessories brought in for show. It is, as far as we can know, a real home lived in by real people. And therein lies the value for us.

So this flat; it has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and is spread over two floors – lower ground and ground – with its own private garden.

First thoughts? Dark wooden floors. Natural floorboards, if you have them, will always be a thing despite the ongoing interiors obsession with parquet (lovely but pricey). The issue with leaving floorboards au naturel is that they tend to be pine which goes orange after a few years. Or pitch pine, which is pretty orange to start with as I discovered in a previous house where we paid a fortune to have them sanded and oiled and nearly cried (actually did cry) at the resulting colour. We ended up painting them white, which is exactly what we did here when we moved in.

But now I’m leaning towards this darkly stained or painted wood. It’s not about to happen here as painting floors is a nightmare, particularly with a cat who likes to get involved with everything, but if you are moving in or on or renovating then you might want to take inspiration from this property.

Coming next to one of the three bathrooms and who wouldn’t want one like this? First up it’s big, it might have been a bedroom originally. In these classic VIctorian terraces this is the middle room on the first floor. In my street of Victorian terraces, this room is sometimes the family bathroom and sometimes the bedroom.

But first up, note how the vintage wood and freestanding bath turns this from a bathroom into a room in which to bathe. It’s instantly more luxurious.

And this is an idea you can easily take from here. Buy a vintage table or chest of drawers instead of a modern vanity unit. You can hide all the plumbing gubbins in the top drawer (so if you need more storage buy a chest of drawers rather than a table with a single one).  Stick the taps on the wall, or buy tall ones that can stand to the side of the basin and add a wooden mirror.

They have done a similar trick here in this black and white bathroom. The black unit might be vintage or it might be a cheap piece from that Swedish superstore that they have painted black. Just bear in mind, if you are recreating this look, that there isn’t a lot of space at the sides for a toothbrush and soap and while that niche is handy for that you might not be able to do the same thing. And the one requirement that you cannot stint on in a bathroom is storage.

Leaving the bathrooms and heading for the bedrooms. This one is in a lovely dark blue – are we calling it classic blue in reference to the Pantone colour of the year? I’ve seen 65 representations of what that colour is and I’m not the wiser so I suspect that anything tending towards navy will be adopted as such this year.

Now, navy and white can be tricky as the contrast between the colours is often too much. Here, the wooden shutters and vintage furniture soften that contrast and create and inviting, rather than a cold space. There are lots of layers of textiles too which helps. But this is a classic example of taking a few minutes to consider if white really is the colour you want on the ceiling (I’m ignoring the skirting boards for now but I have seen them). So ivory might be softer, a very pale pink, or, even a deep terracotta or very pale gold. Just check with yourself before you get the brushes out is all I ask. Shame to spend all the time thinking about navy blue and then just slap white on the ceiling without considering if it’s the best choice.

This bedroom is a soft grey and the owners have used dark wooden vintage furniture to soften it all and warm it up. The black framed pictures tie in with the furniture and punctuate the space. However, the spotlights – the builders’ favourite grid position, are acting rather like runway lights pointing to the exits. If your ceilings are too low for pendants and you prefer a downlight then consider where you need them and be prepared to fight the electrician.

For example, you could have put one over each of the paintings on the wall ( about 30cm in from the wall)  to wash light over them and you would still have been able to find your way to the door especially if you added another one near each door. Then add a  couple more in the corners of the room so that they don’t dazzle if you are reading in bed and want them on as well as bedside lights.

Planning the position of spot lights can be tricky as you really need to work out where the furniture is going first but in most bedrooms there aren’t that many options for the bed which simplifies things somewhat.

This is such a lovely flat – do follow the link to see the rest of it and let me know if anyone does buy it!

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’m a huge fan of dark wood and love how they’ve used it here. The bathrooms brought to mind a query I have since I read a comment by an interiors designer (can’t remember who sorry) who said that sinks as bowls set on top of a unit as in this property are a nightmare to use in that as you lean down to wash your face you can catch your chin on the edge of the bowl. Can you share any experiences of them – I’m currently planning a new bathroom space & would like some advice. Thanks

    1. I have never ever caught my chin on the edge of the basin – I’m not sure why you would do that on a counter top more than any other type of basin. I imagine you get used to using it and your muscle memory stops you leaning too far in. I’d love to know who said that and how many times they had done it!!

  2. The camera in this case can tell a lie! Fish eye lens and photoshop make this house look spacious but it’s not! Look at the oval puffed and stretched out vanity to know how much this has been distorted. However the decoration is right up my street and has some lovely touches. I agree about the styling becoming generic but let’s face it most decorating has become generic. It’s only when I now see something a little eclectic or different that I click on the link. Do like noseying round real estate tho!

  3. Here in Sydney there are companies who rent furniture for styling houses for sale. It’s become pretty much obligatory to use them. My friend spent $30K having all her furniture put into storage and renting new furniture which made her home look very generic and unwelcoming. And it didn’t even sell for what they wanted!

    This is a very nice flat. I was especially excited about the kitchen, with an AGA I think. I would like it for my town home, with a cottage in the country for weekends. Well a girl can dream…

  4. I have thought, whilst looking through properties for sale on Right Move etc. “Why the hell has the estate agent not made the effort to take the bike out of the bedroom, put the loo seat down, or plump up the cushions?”
    Estate agents appear to rarely act in their best interests when it comes to taking photos of the average priced properties they are attempting to sell. Just take a look at Zoopla Right Move etc to see what I am saying.

    I feel sure there’s a profitable job opportunity here for an aspiring stylist with sales skills!

  5. That kitchen space looks a great place for a party!

    I’ve viewed a house before where the owners, of course, had tidied up. The cottage was beautiful but had very little storage. On our second viewing the owner showed us around (the agent did the first viewing) and I had to ask her where she actually kept things like the hoover and ironing board, recycling bags as I couldn’t see them anywhere. It was then she sheepishly admitted that she had put them in her car for the viewing!

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