Talking all things interior design with Kate Watson-Smyth of Mad About The House
I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to the BoConcept Newcastle x Mad About The House design talk and book signing with Kate Watson-Smyth. Read on for my review of the event, plus Kate’s top tips for designing a home you love…
“I’m really happy to be back in the North East!” Kate Watson-Smyth is beaming as she recalls her days spent training to be a journalist “down the road” in Darlington. It was in the North East where the award-winning blogger learnt the five questions that, she believes, we all should ask ourselves when designing our homes. “So, thank you Darlington… and by extension, Newcastle,” she smiles.
I’m at BoConcept, on the second floor of Fenwick Newcastle, where Kate is perched on one of the Danish design house’s iconic Imola chairs. The region’s top bloggers, influencers and industry insiders have come out in force and they’re all listening, intently, as Kate reveals she’s working on a new book. “I have 40,000 words to write by March. So far, I’ve written seven… hundred,” she deadpans.
Kate begins her design talk by advising us that interiors should tell the story of those who live there, which brings us onto the first of her five pointers: The Who. “Ask yourself, who is using the room you are planning on decorating,” she asserts, continuing, “Answer that question before you even consider buying paint.” It should be noted that Kate is a huge advocate of planning. So much so, that she’s taken issue with Kirstie Allsopp: “It isn’t location, location, location; it’s planning, planning, planning!” she quips.
The next on Kate’s list of questions we should be asking ourselves is The What: “Think about what you’re going to be doing in that space,” she says, before asking, “Are you going to be cooking every day of the week or are you going to use your oven to store your shoes?” (A Sex And The City reference, for those who are thinking she’s gone a bit barmy).
When considering colour and light, it is a good idea to contemplate The When i.e. when are you going to be using the room. If it’s very much a daytime room, a home office for example, Kate advises matching the colour of the walls to the skirting boards and alcoves, in order to draw the eye upwards and create the appearance of more light and space.
For evening rooms, however, she is a firm believer that “if you have a dark room, it’s a complete myth that you have to paint it a light, bright colour.” Although, Kate confesses, it’s not always a good idea to paint the bedroom ceiling dark: “I remember painting the ceiling dark grey, and my husband waking up at 4am shouting, ‘the ceiling is falling down; I’m going to die!’”
Near deaths aside, Kate lightens the tone by touching upon her tips for using Pinterest. “Run through the corridors of Pinterest, and pin everything that catches your eye!” she whoops, before advising the audience to create two boards: a ‘fantasy’ board and a ‘realistic’ one. Then, she says, go through everything you have pinned thus far, and sort into the two boards. After which, she thoroughly encourages we “have a nap.”
Third on Kate’s list is The Where, also known as the Where-You’re-Going-to-Get-the-Stuff, followed by The Why. “You need to dig deeper to really work out why you want to re-decorate,” Kate tells us. “Ask yourself, what is wrong with it in the first place? What doesn’t work? That will help you to figure out why it is you want to do it.”
Kate briefly touches upon The How i.e. budgeting before opening the floor up to questions. I’m eager to find out her top tips on running the UK’s No 1 Interiors Blog. I introduce myself, telling Kate that I, too, am a trained journalist with a blog - a blog that I’m pretty sure no-one reads. “Be consistent,” she offers. “Consistently show up at the same time, in the same place, and people will come.”
Another woman asks whether it’s worth investing in under-floor heating, to which Kate replies, “I don’t have it, but I wish I did,” with further questions on the prospect of getting rid of a bath (don’t listen to the estate agent; rip it out if you don’t want to use it), the order in which you should renovate, and whether grey is dead (it isn’t, it’s simply “having a lie down”).
A rapturous applause ensues, before Kate makes her way over to the book-signing station. In my copy of Mad About The House, she writes, ‘For Nicole, Keep Blogging,’ and chats to me about my ideas for the blog, life in London, and the secret to her success. A few precious minutes with a writer I’ve admired for many years, before the next fan is beckoned over, eager to have their copy signed.
You see, Kate has that ability to exude exclusivity whilst also being the practical and reliable friend. Funny and idiosyncratic, it’s no surprise she started life as a journalist. Why? She’s an excellent storyteller. Whether it’s referencing Carrie Bradshaw’s tendency to store her shoes in her oven or sharing the night her husband thought he might die from the ceiling collapsing, Kate is a master at drawing in her audience.
As for me? I’m so pleased Kate trained to be a journalist in Darlington all those years ago; it certainly seems like the County Durham market town made a lasting impression. It isn’t grim up North, after all…
Did you attend the BoConcept x Mad About The House event? Let me know what you thought of the evening, below…