The Tale of the Rock Star and the Shelf

This is a tale about a rock star (albeit a slightly ageing one) and a shelf (or rather a shelving system). It happened a couple of years ago, but is no less relevant for that.
So the ARS (as he shall henceforth be known) rang me from his summer hideout, where he was, if truth be told, hiding from his responsibilities, rather than a horde of screaming fans, and informed me that he would be returning to London forthwith.
He would be needing a place to rent, he announced, breezily. And naturally, for he is an ARS, he would not be able to find this place himself, but wondered could I, would I mind possibly, if I had nothing better to do (other than raise my kids, do my job and tend to my own house and garden), just popping round to a few flats to check them out for him?
He knows me too well, this ARS. For I have never been able to resist the lure of poking round other people’s houses. So I rang a few estate agents (because naturally he couldn’t do that for himself, either) and booked some appointments to view.
And they were so predictable those flats. Two bedrooms; one large, one small. Tiny kitchen, poky bathroom, not much garden and a magnolia vibe. And then, I saw it. The ex-council house. In a not too desirable road. At a frankly very desirable price.
Built in the 1960s, it had been bought by a woman who ran a Soho nightclub. She had stripped the floors and painted them grey. Installed a black bathroom and put mid-century modern Danish leather chairs round the kitchen table.
It was upstairs that I found it. In the sitting room, with the French doors leading out to the roof terrace, where he would later sit and smoke roll-ups while strumming his guitar.
The Casefile Shelving System designed by Matthew Hilton. A composition of black lacquered steel uprights with adjustable feet that can arranged and adjusted to hold the walnut veneered shelves, units and boxes. A piece that is so simple and yet so practical. A piece that perfectly exemplifies the William Morris adage that you should have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
And how perfect to find it in a former council house. For Case Furniture was set up in 2006 to promote the notion that the best design should be available to the masses.
Reader, I rented that house for him. And visitors came from far and wide. Not to see the ARS in his new home, but to see the shelves. And they were greatly admired by all who came.
And I wish I could tell you that while sitting at that fabulous desk, with his gold discs propped up on the shelves beside him, he wrote a new hit single. But he’s an ARS and he didn’t.
He’s moved again now. But the shelves are still there. And they still look fabulous.

“This is my entry into Case Furniture Contemporary Blogging Competition. Find out more at


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. Nice post Kate. I would say you have quite the imagination but seeing as this is all true, I have to say that you tell the story very well. Fingers crossed for you in the competition.

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