The Househunter: Room by Room

To Scotland this week and a two bedroom flat for sale in Edinburgh that is on the market with Knight Frank for £625,000. I chose it because it’s light and airy and fresh and, bearing in mind my last two posts about decorating in a lockdown and how to make a dark room lighter, it felt like the right flat to visit for now.

I mean yes it’s spacious,  elegant and central (on the Royal Terrace) but it’s also well laid out and might give us all some inspiration for our own homes. Especially now, when, as I said, decorating doesn’t count as you might well want to change it all afterwards. In fact, at this stage if you want to paint everything white in an attempt to make it feel lighter and brighter then do so. You can always colour it in when this is done.

But starting in the communal entrance hall you can see how the soft pink is both welcoming and warm and the pink and white picks up on the floor tiles, as does the diamond wallpaper below the dado rail. Would I have painted the woodwork in something other than white? Yes. But rather than matching it to the walls I might have chosen a dark chocolate to match the bannisters as the space is big enough to take it.

Now, this is what I mean about using rugs to zone a space. You can see, from the pictures above and below, that the actual seating area is quite small. But it works as a perfectly cosy space to have a conversation and everyone can reach their drink from the coffee table. Or, as has been the case in our house over the last few days, the monopoly board or playing cards. You don’t need to make this space larger within this room otherwise it doesn’t work as well for chatting.

There is a temptation to push the furniture out to the edges but it’s less conversational and means that a tiny coffee table ends up marooned in the middle of the room and is completely useless as no-one can reach said coffee. Note also the symmetrical chests either side of the fireplace as there are no alcoves. I imagine the owners swivel the telly out a little when they want to watch.

You can see how the rug acts like a wall in this layout, creating a comfy area that is apart from the rest of the space. Here they have just left a couple of chairs but there is a perfect home office area by the window with space for a desk as well as a room for a reading are behind the sofa on on the left- you can see the reading task lamp in the corner on the left.

I appreciate that most of us won’t have sitting rooms this big but it might be worth looking to see if there is anyway you can bring the seating part in to make space for a working area, at least on a temporary basis.

You can see here how the kitchen comes off the main living room with a small dining table, which again, could be a work space. It’s all white to maximise the sense of light and space but you could easily zone it with some paint – rather than a rug under the table which many find impractical. For the record, I have a very old Persian rug under my table and it doesn’t show any red wine or pasta spills as it’s so patterned.

A quick glance into the large bathroom – it’s a fabulous flat – which has no window,  a common issue in many flat conversions. Here a cleverly lit alcove does the job of providing a focal point that acts like a window. I would definitely add some colour in here as all white bathrooms can be a little stark and, with no natural light to bounce off, that white might look a little dreary when not basking in the glow of the photographer’s lamp.

If you have a windowless bathroom, it’s probably always going to be quite dark whatever you do so consider lighting your shelves like this and also adding big mirrors to bounce around any light from the hallway outside. You can then paint it any colour you choose as it’s always going to be a small dark bathroom. But if that makes you nervous then add colour in the tiles and, if you have one, by painting the outside of the bath.

A wall of mirrors can look too modern and, well, a bit “gym” but if you can pick up a vintage mirror like the one below that would work perfectly in this bathroom above as it would be in keeping with the more traditional style. I wrote, a couple of weeks ago, in the Orla Kiely house tour about how she bought an old door architrave, added a bit of wood across the bottom and filled it with a huge mirror. You can also do something like that or even buy  old picture frames from ebay and add mirrors. If you can’t find one big one then create a gallery with lots of smaller ones.

Another rug lesson here. I love this room with its neutral palette and splashes of pink but the rug just isn’t working. If you can’t get one that is big enough to go under the bed and come out on all four sides then lay it perpendicular to the bed and shove it up and under a bit! At least that way it would stick out at the sides and give you somewhere warm to put your feet in the morning. Or you could have a round rug near that chaise longue in the corner and create a little dressing zone by the large mirror.

One final point, if your pendant light is hanging around in the middle of the ceiling lighting a bit of floor that has no purpose then consider lengthening the flex and sticking a hook in the ceiling where you want it to be. In this case it would look really pretty hanging low in the corner over the aforementioned chaise longe to help zone that space even more. It would probably also be reflected back into the room via that mirror (if you moved it slightly) so it would still do a good job of lighting the space but in a more practical and pretty way. This is a big room, it might as well operate in a multi-functional way.

It’s also a two bedroom flat but zoning large rooms like this means it can function as two bedrooms with two offices or a play area and a dressing “room” for example.

So who’s moving to Scotland this week? I think I might.

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 am really loving your blog posts and use them to break up my very interesting “work from home as a university administrator with teacher husband and 3 pre-/adolescent sons all in one space” current life. They give my brain breathing room! This flat isn’t so much my style, but I always love reading your analysis of the spaces. Thanks!

  2. I am way behind reading you Kate but that’s a flat with potential. Reminds me of the Edinburgh flat that the talented
    ” Ingredients” couple live in.
    I envy the curved back sofa.

  3. Thank you for your blog, Kate. It really comforts us all in rough times.
    Scotland: there’s something wrong with the bedrooms I suppose. No red thread, no love. But the sitting room looks as someone really has thought about it. Comfy zone- you’re completely right!
    But the white kitchen? I can’t imagine cooking there I’m afraid- too cold, too “tidy”.

  4. I’m surprised it’s going for that much money! It’s nice but it’s not in the New Town proper. The street has a lot of hotels and next to busy London Road but the shared gardens at the back are amazing with tennis courts ( if you are lucky enough to get a key!). It is a beautiful spacious flat and light filled.

  5. Thanks Kate, your posts are a breath of fresh air in these times!!! Just ordering your new book online, my Friday treat for this week!!!! Take care

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