British journalist, and #1 interiors blogger in the United Kingdom, Kate Watson-Smyth is coming out with her third and latest interior design book, Mad About The House: 101 Interior Design Answers this March.
Smyth has been writing about interiors for 20 years, as well as styling homes for her clients for over a decade. Her blog, "Mad About The House", has won multiple awards in the UK.
Photo Credit: Rekha Damhar
In her new book, which has 50 color illustrations, the London-based writer helps you avoid some of the most common mistakes that we all make when designing our homes, and more! Smyth gave Haute Residence an exclusive interview to talk about her career and new book!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pavilion / Rizzoli
Haute Residence: You have written about interiors for over 20 years. When did you know you were going to one day write books?
Kate Watson-Smyth: I think every journalist would say they have one book waiting to get out and I have certainly always felt that. As a child, I wrote stories constantly. Later, as a frustrated news reporter who wanted to write features, I tried my hand at fiction but, it turns out I, literally, couldn’t make it up. So, I abandoned that plan. When I started the blog back in 2012 I hoped one day to turn it into a book and I’m grateful that I have been able to do that. Twice.
HR: Who do you think will benefit the most from Mad About The House: 101 Interior Design Answers?
KWS: This book is for absolutely everyone whether they are building an entire house or doing up a single room. The six questions you must ask before starting any scheme apply to every interior design job you do, whether professional or amateur, first time buyer or downsizer. It will help you work out your style and plan your budget. I wrote this book for us all.
HR: What is your favorite unique design tip from the book?
KWS: Don’t use white paint as a default. Just as you don’t pick a white top to wear with every skirt and pair of trousers, consider if white paint on the ceiling and woodwork really is the best complement to the colour on your walls. Sometimes a paler (or darker) shade is better, sometimes a contrast. And you should always, always, paint your skirting boards to match the walls. And the radiators.
Photo Credit: Abi Read
HR: What differences do you see between interior design in the UK and in the US?
KWS: I’m not familiar enough with the US as a whole and I imagine perhaps it can vary widely from state to state, but taking the analogy from the wardrobe (always the first place to start when decorating as if you are happy wearing it you will be happy living in it) I would say that perhaps the UK is more eclectic - the dressing equivalent of street style - and in putting things together that shouldn’t work from a mix of high end and thrift stores to create a totally individual look. That said, it was an American - Nancy Lancaster (owner of Colefax & Fowler) - who took our English Country style and gave it back to us having made it more comfortable by adding carpet and heating to our draughty old houses. She also decreed that every room should have something a little bit ugly and that decorating a room was “like mixing a salad” insisting that rooms should feel informal enough to be comfortable so maybe there aren’t that many differences after all. I totally buy into her philosophy too.
HR: Which ‘famous’ space would you most love to be able to design (or, re-design) and why?
KWS: I have no desire to do famous places at all. There are other designers who do grand spaces and formal places. My interest lies in showing people in ordinary houses how to make the best of what they’ve got so they can create a home that tells their story.
HR: How does your new book compare to its predecessors?
KWS: This is the perfect companion to the last book which was all about how to find your style. This Q&A format is new but I think it follows on really well as it’s full of all the practical advice and design details although it stands alone pretty well too.
I was determined, with the last one, to break the mould of the pretty coffee table book that is all about pictures. I wanted to give help and information, not just something to look at, and that is one of the reasons I have used illustrations rather than photographs. That way readers don’t feel pushed into a particular style or look; they can work out their own likes and dislikes and create their own home accordingly without having to feel they must copy a certain look.
HR: Are you planning your next book already? What will it be about?
KWS: Yes, and I can’t tell you - at least not until I’ve told my publisher!
Photo Credit: Rekha Damhar