Dining room

Colour confidence tips from Kate Watson-Smyth

Looking for inspiration for decorating your home? The world is full of glossy coffee-table books about enviable houses, but for more practical, down-to-earth advice we’ve been enjoying the latest work from interiors journalist and blogger Kate Watson-Smyth. Kate’s well-known blog Mad About The House is a mix of astute writing on interiors trends and real-life reports on how the author has decorated her own – gorgeous – home. Beautifully illustrated throughout, and with a fascinating section on the power and history of colour, her book of the same name is a great guide designed to give you confidence in your own design decisions. We caught up with Kate to ask her a few questions.
Kate Watson-Smyth
What did you feel you could bring to an interiors book – the content seems very no-nonsense. Was this a gap you spotted?
“I felt that there were a lot of interiors books around which are basically coffee table books – all very beautiful pictures but with little practical advice. The words always seem to be an afterthought and something to go round the images. But writing is my trade and I wanted to make a book of words!”
Blue sofa
“The other thing was that my blog has become known for its advice and people are always asking me questions so I wanted to create a book that was practical and useful but it had to look good too. The problem with photographs, both on the cover and inside, is that a) pictures can date very fast so even if the words stand the test of time the pictures can mean that people are put off by pictures that look out of date and b) people won’t buy the book if the pictures don’t appeal to their taste. The whole point of this book is that it’s not telling people what to do but how to do it whatever their taste and style. It’s more of a beautiful manual.”
Dining room
Did you find out anything you didn’t know while writing the sections on colour? What was your favourite colour fact?
“Everything! I didn’t know anything about the psychology of colour before I began but I have always been fascinated by the idea that colour can affect our mood and how. I loved the fact that the Victorians thought blue would keep the flies away so they often painted kitchens in it and regarded it as a hygiene colour. Then the other, more widely known, is that pink was originally a boys’ colour and blue was for girls – it was changed as part of a marketing scheme in the 1940s in the US.”
grey bathroom
How is your own home decorated in terms of colour?
“Well it won’t surprise you to know that it has had a lot of grey in it but that is gradually changing. I have just painted the sitting room in a deep dark plum colour and I am updating the kitchen to have cupboards in Tanner’s Brown. There is still Down Pipe in the bathroom though and Pavilion Grey in the bedroom. I won’t get rid of grey completely. My accent colours are blush pink and burgundy and old gold or turmeric – depending on what you want to call it.”
Mad About The House
Has your home’s colour palette changed over time?
“When we moved in we painted everything in Wimborne White – floors, walls and ceilings. Over time the walls had colour added – in various shades of grey. Those colours are now being replaced by richer, warmer shades in both light and dark.”
Have you ever surprised yourself by falling hard for a new or unexpected colour?
“Yes, burgundy. It has always been an accent as I have a lot of Persian rugs but now that I’m adding it to walls – and the back of my front door is painted in Brinjal – I’m really in love with it. It started when I bought a burgundy bag in Shoreditch a couple of years ago, and has spread.”
Purple paint
Any colours or other ideas you’d love to try in your own home?
“I would like some green but I can’t find the right one or the right place for it. My sons have recently moved bedrooms so that has meant I have a new spare room to decorate. I was thinking about green but there is a black carpet that can’t be changed so I think I’m going to try Smoked Trout in there.”
mustard sofa
Do you have any colour predictions for the next year or so of decorating trends?
“I think we will continue to see lots of dark colours – we are braver now than we used to be. Grey is now a classic and navy and green are joining it. The rich, warm shades of the 70s are coming – chocolate, yellow, plum – will all be much stronger is my prediction. They all work with grey, navy and green so you won’t need to redecorate the whole house but I think the colour combinations will be come bolder and braver and stronger.”
Mad About The House
Mad About The House by Kate Watson-Smyth is published by Pavilion. Photographs by Paul Craig. Illustrations by Abi Read.


Ros Anderson


Ros Anderson is an interiors journalist and blogger who has worked for The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Ideal Home and many more. In 2009 she co-founded cult interiors blog My Friend's House with Jill Macnair, as a place to write about design in a more honest, spontaneous and humorous way.

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