Book Edit: Mad about the House 101 Interior Design Answers

Interior design can sometimes feel like a treasure trove of contrasting ideas and inspiration, which in turn can be overwhelming if and when you have to make décor choices for your own home. Journalist Kate Watson-Smyth recognised this and has come to the rescue with her latest book Mad About the House – 101 Interior Design Answers where she offers widespread design queries and presents us with her answers.

Here I take a brief look at some of those key questions and Kate’s design solutions:


When it comes to interior design your first question might be ‘Where do I start?’ Kate affirms that contrary to popular belief you should NOT start with the colour on your walls, but instead select a beloved piece of furniture and then work outwards. The outline of ‘shopping your own home’ comes into play, where you can make use of what you already own and build colours and patterns from there. A conscious and budget friendly idea!


A customary design question is ‘How do you create a cohesive design scheme?’ Kate focuses her attention at the centre of the home, your staircase. Every room will flow from here so it is essential not neglect this area, but instead link all rooms by opting for a central colour and using it sparingly throughout. Kate has an inspiring top tip, stating you should select the colours for your home by looking in your wardrobe as “the colours you like to wear will be the colours you are comfortable living in.”

One of the most welcoming things about a house is being able to get a sense of who it belongs to as soon as you walk inside


How do you pick curtains for awkwardly shaped windows? Kate recommends a few concepts including curtains that cover the whole wall, rails that fix to the ceiling, blinds or small curtains for decoration and adding pelmets to hide any uncooperative design features. Kate also reminds us that we tend to ignore doors when redecorating or renovating our homes, and that the option to alter the design of your doors can transform a space.


‘Mix and match’ has become a common styling technique within interiors but we regularly struggle with how to achieve an accumulation of design eras and periods. Kate encourages us to merge our styles however claims we should converge on one common theme, story or idea to tie everything together. Whether you concentrate on similar materials or a soft furnishing shape, make sure the ‘theme’ is what connects your eclectic style choices.

Form will follow from function


Modern homes often contain downlighters as your general lighting, but unless you have a lighting designer it can be tricky to know how to arrange them. Kate urges you to plan the layout of your downlighters around furniture rather than placing them in an orderly and symmetrical manner. Make sure to direct downlighters on zones where you most need it, for example within the kitchen on the counter space, your bathroom will need downlighters in front of your mirror and within the living room you will need to avoid the television area.


Where should you spend most of your money when redesigning your kitchen? Kate stands by the proposal that your appliances should always be the main focal point and endorses the notion that you buy the best you can. These items should last a very long time and will be some of the most used gadgets in your home. Money can be saved on areas like cupboards doors and splashback with Kate submitting MDF materials and plain tiles for budget solutions.

Knowing your style means that you can buy less, because you will buy well


More and more of us are working from home these days, but what happens if your home does not have an office? Kate advocates you carve out a little bit of space somewhere else, for example in the spare bedroom you can have a sofa bed and free up more space for a desk. Get resourceful and create a ‘cupboard office’ or simply double up a dressing table as a work space for those 9 to 5 hours.

A frequent interior question is how to hide your television and wires? Although we love a bit of streaming service binge, we do not seem to adore to appearance of the tv and especially those pesky wires behind it. Kate has a couple impressive opinions including painting the wall behind your tv a darker colour for camouflage, building a false wall to hide all the cables or placing your tv within a cupboard or sideboard that can closed away neatly.


How much bathroom storage do we need? Kate puts forward we try to include as much storage as possible within our bathrooms. When you think about all the items needed such as towels, toilet paper, cleaning products and our practical and beauty toiletries it seems like a lot of ‘stuff’. Kate states that “when the floor is full you need to use the walls. Think about how much storage you need and then double it!”