The Househunter Room by Room

So here we are on Friday 13th and this house seemed apt. Not least for the picture over the fireplace but also just look at the setting. Feels like the perfect place to hide away and still be able to go outside for fresh air. Built in 1980 it’s nestled in  oak woodlands in Surrey and is on the market via The Modern House for £1,450,000.

It was built for a horticulturalist who liked the connection between the modernist architecture and the landscape and the grounds include this woodland, mature apple trees and a sunken Japanese garden.

It’s already 2,300 sq ft (compared with the average new build size in the UK of 947 sq ft) but the owners have permission to extend the house by integrating the studio and garage to add two more bedrooms and a second living room.

As things stand there is a large open plan living space with sun terraces on either side and warm cork floors and a kitchen with views of the orchard. There are also two bedrooms and a bathroom on this floor with two more and a second bathroom and kitchen that was originally built as an annexe and has its own front door. There is a fifth bedroom up in the eaves with skylights that look out over the treetops and another bathroom.

So then what do we think. I love those large picture windows and the black frames really do frame the view in a way a traditional white one wouldn’t. The cork floor (brilliant for warmth and acoustics and non-slip) and the wooden ceiling add warmth to the white walls while the black beams punctuate the open space and help to zone the different areas.

This tucked away seating area is really cosy (ignoring the rug island) but I think, if I were buying it, that I might break away from the white modernist colour palette that goes with the house and add lots more green to integrate it with the outside. Now this could be in the form of a green sofa but imagine painting the walls of that area to create something more dramatic and cosy at the same time.

There are green accents throughout – like the chairs above and various vases and plants – but I think, given stunning setting that I might go further. And I would definitely paint this kitchen green.


This bedroom is small but cosy and the vintage wooden chair and dark window have helped with that. It could easily have been a cold white box but while the colour palette is restrained it’s no longer stark in there.

And you can see how the books and vintage Persian rug bring all the character to this upstairs room.


And then, on sunny days and lockdown days, you could sit out here with a cup of coffee and a biscuit and ponder. I have bought a stack of new notebooks and pens and we’ll see what emerges from the next few weeks of social distancing. It may not be official policy as I write but it’s unofficial in the mad house.

Have a good weekend everyone and if you’re feeling anxious do turn off the social media and read blogs instead!

Tags : househunterSurrey propertyThe Modern House
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 completely agree with you and I would definitely add more green in this house. I can perfectly picture the sitting room corner in a dark, moody green, and the kitchen in a beautiful soft, sage green. Ooh yes, that would be lovely.

    Have a nice day.


  2. I think the addition of green would be lovely especially the kitchen.
    Good advice re the current situation. LOVE a new notebook, always makes me feel better. We are heading towards lockdown here in France so have arranged for our daughter to fly home tonight. Her uni is gearing up to go to online lectures/distance teaching so she will hopefully be able to continue her course from home.

  3. There’s something very calming about that simple bedroom. I agree with you that there needs to be much more color. But I’d keep this bedroom exactly as is.

  4. The house has had “the life it was meant for” but is now tired as the kitchen attests. The setting is perfect and so the house’s imperfections will be rectified by a new owner I expect. Lots of dark coloured paint for starters.

  5. Hi Kate. I had a few months of enforced social isolation last summer due to a vestibular illness. It was during this rather grim existence that I discovered you and Sophie’s podcast. I can’t tell you how much colour, light and animation it brought into my life and really lifted my mood. I thank you both for providing such a wonderful service!
    As we all head into a long period of social isolation, I wonder whether you, Sophie and your talented producer would consider recording conversations between you and Sophie remotely from your own homes? I know it’s a bit of a silly request at a time when there are such big issues at play. But I just remember how much hope and joy you guys brought me during a Tough time of isolation.
    Best wishes Catherine

  6. I love this house, it doesn’t seem at all self indulgent but rather pared down which somehow complements the wonderful setting.
    I’d like to live in it for a while then think about bringing in some more colour.
    Thank you, a nice bit of fantasy for Friday 13th!

  7. Think you’re completely right about adding more green to the palette! Would like to see more indoor plants and nature textures too. Is a little too stark for me. Would love to see more colour; not too bright (although I love bright ;)) but greens with pinks maybe. Long pile rugs and natural woods. I like the light rooms but could look more cozy! Especially at this time!!

  8. Gorgeous house, just needs a bit of colour. I like the colour green and agree it would work well with some larger pieces of perhaps dark furniture to provide contrast.

  9. I do love the idea of painting that nook in green but I’m wondering what shade you would use? The kitchen cabinets definitely need much more of a contrast with that great flooring and green paint would do the trick I agree. A deep green would be my choice there.
    Get ready for major social distancing UK–here in Switzerland we are gearing up for some pretty drastic measures after two weeks of preparation. The anxiety level is definitely rising. We are bringing home our daughter from London before she can’t leave since the borders will be severely controlled soon. The pattern is there for everyone to see now so please protect yourselves and those around you.

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