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My Happy Home: Kate Watson-Smyth

We sit down with the interiors guru to talk about where she shops for homewares and her perfect night in.

kate watsonsmyth
Sarah Weal
my happy home

As part of our brand new interview series, My Happy Home, we sit down with Kate Watson-Smyth of Mad About The House to find out about her favourite interiors — and which celebrity home she'd love to snoop around.

Interiors guru and author Kate has been writing about property, design and interiors for more than 20 years. As well as four published books (and a fifth to be released in March 2023), Kate is also the co-host of a bi-monthly podcast, The Great Indoors, with House Beautiful's colour columnist Sophie Robinson.

Most recently, Kate has launched her own interior design course with Create Academy, offering a practical guide of over 25 video lessons helping you to tackle all the rooms in your home.

Tell us about your favourite memory at home

KWS: My younger son was born very prematurely at 25 weeks. He's fine now — he's 18 and about to go to art college — but I remember the memory of coming home from the hospital. It was just before Christmas and my husband wasn't quite back from work. I was wrapping presents and had a two-year-old and a baby upstairs asleep. My husband was about to come home from work, and it was going to be Christmas, and I remember just thinking: "It's OK. It's going to be OK."

It's a really strong memory. It was dark outside and cosy inside, and I remember thinking that everything was going to be OK.

What is the best decorating advice you have ever received?

KWS: It's so difficult! I ought to have a really great story, but the advice I have is that paint is only paint and you can change it quite easily.

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Where do you shop for the best homewares?

KWS: I'm often looking for vintage items and something different, so these days I tend to shop on eBay or in second-hand shops. I do love rummaging around a real-life market, but like many people, I don't always have the time. I do love a Joseph Joseph gadget, so I'm either shopping for vintage items or at Lakeland!

If you could have a snoop around anyone's house, whose would it be and why?

KWS: I'm very lucky because I co-host a podcast with Sophie Robinson called The Great Indoors. We do a series and snoop around someone's house to ask them how it's been decorated and why. We've been to Matthew Williamson's house, Fearne Cotton's, Pearl Lowe's, and Kelly Hoppen's, too. We've been to quite a few famous and fabulous houses, but I've got to say that I'd quite like a look around the Beckham home. I believe that Rose Uniacke did a lot of the interiors and I love her style, so I'd love to see how that translated.

If I'm honest, I'd look at anybody's house. That's why I love doing the job I do. I'm fascinated by people's houses. I'd probably quite like to have a poke around the neighbour's house.

Kate’s tiled bathroom
Kate Watson-Smyth

What is your most treasured possession at home? And why is it so special?

KWS: I have a box that belonged to my grandmother. It's like a Chinese lacquer box and has lots of small boxes inside — some are black, others are gold. I was at boarding school and she would put something new inside one of the boxes every time I came home in the holidays. There would be a ritual at the beginning of the holidays where we would see what new things were inside.

There are shells that we picked up from the beach and old things she had for years. One box has a collection of scarab beetles, although I have no idea where she got them from! When she died, I inherited the box. It's sort of like a mini treasure chest. It's only about five centimetres deep, and about a foot wide, so it's not very big. But the boxes are beautiful and some of the things inside are really interesting as well.

Before COVID, what would your perfect night at home look like?

KWS: I love being at home, so I'm not sure if my post-COVID nights at home have changed much from my pre-COVID nights! I think the hour of the aperitif might have gotten a little earlier post-COVID...

My husband and I both work from home, so it's very much about finding that ritual to end the day with. I like everybody sitting on the sofa and watching a programme together. Recently it's just me and my husband, but we'll watch everything from thrillers to Downton Abbey to MasterChef and Bake-Off. My perfect night in has to be a really good meal, a lovely glass of wine and something good on the telly.

What does your outdoor space mean to you?

KWS: Those who were lucky enough to have outside space [in lockdown] have really begun to appreciate just how important fresh air really is. Not everybody has a garden, so I think it's also important to have the view of greenery. Even if you live in a flat, it's important if you are able to see some trees through your window. I think it has been really interesting that paint companies like Little Greene reported a big surge in the colour green.

I've become sort of obsessed with the colour yellow because I've spent so long without the sun – without being outside in nature. I think we're starting to bring those colours into our homes. I also think those natural, earthy tones will become more of a trend this year.

Which room do you spend most of your time in? How did you decorate this space?

KWS: I use all of my house and I'm very pleased that I'm able to do that. For me, that's a sign that we've got the décor right. I migrate around the whole house and use it all equally. I moved from my old office into the smallest room in the house, which I love. But I equally love working on the laptop from the sofa. This morning I couldn't sleep so I got up really early and did some work from the kitchen table.

Kate’s kitchen table with crittall-style doors leading to the garden
Kate Watson-Smyth

What would top your list for the worst decor trend?

KWS: I wasn't a fan of copper. I like copper as a natural material when it ages, but that sort of ubiquitous, shiny metal copper, I hate, and it went on for years. I think maybe it's finally dead and I'm pleased.

If you could design your dream home, what things would you want to include?

KWS: Well, what would I like? I would like a veranda, a glass-domed atrium filled with plants, a walk-in larder, and two sitting rooms — one for summer and one for winter because I would like one that's cosy and one that's really light and bright. The list goes on!

You can order Kate's course, How To Be Mad About Your House: Kate Watson-Smyth's Guide to Finding Your Own Interior Design Style, with Create Academy for £127. For more information, visit createacademy.com/kate-watson-smyth.

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