yasmin chopin | Mad about the house
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Mad about the house

Mad about the house Kate Watson Smyth book review lounge photograph 1100x

Mad about the house

Kate Watson-Smyth is known by thousands, perhaps millions, as the woman who is mad about the house. A journalist writing for the masses Kate offers advice that is genuine and down-to-earth. I met Kate in 2014, we were invited to an upholstery workshop run by TV presenter and up-cycler Jay Blades. Kate is just as you would expect, no airs and graces. She is full of fun and a committed and enthusiastic promoter of great design for people who are careful, not carefree, with their credit card. We both started to blog about our work and became aware of each other during the early days of social media. The blogging community is very supportive and Kate explains that this book is a result of her blog ‘Mad About the House’. 

When a copy of the book arrived from the publisher Pavilion I was pleasantly surprised, it’s pink and it’s hardback and it felt really special to unwrap it. The delicate hue represents a light-hearted approach to the subject while the substantial weightiness reflects a conscious intent to inform; a subliminal message that will be lost on those buying the ebook. 

Key chapters take you through various rooms in a house starting in the hall and ending in the spare room, an utterly sensible way to organise a book about the home.

Prior to taking the reader on the ‘upstairs-downstairs’ tour Kate offers a few introductory sections; style, Pinterest, colour. I have to disagree with Kate’s theory in the style section which is that if people examine their wardrobe the colour palette for their home is staring them in the face. This concept might work for some but it certainly doesn’t and wouldn’t work for any of my clients. For single people who wear a variety of colours it might be a starting point but for couples and multi-generation families who represent most of my clientele it’s just not a feasible way to establish style, the wardrobe is probably the last place I’d look for inspiration. The section covering Pinterest and its capability to swallow up time is well worth reading. The colour section is problematical: I worry that if we use technical terms incorrectly we stoke misunderstanding when our aim is to boost knowledge. Words such as monochrome, shade and tone are often used in the text without making it clear exactly is meant and could be misleading for the reader. Monochrome for instance could mean black and white and all shades of grey in between but it can also mean all tints and shades of any single colour, for instance green, red or purple because monochrome literally means one colour. And a ‘shade’ is a darkened hue (or colour), whereas a tint is a lightened one. A mini glossary would sort this out and be a useful resource. The addition of an image of the colour wheel would also be helpful as this colour tool is referred to more than once and it shouldn’t be taken for granted that readers know what it is.

Mad about the house Kate Watson Smyth interiors decor 1100x


The sensible cover price makes this an ideal gift for anyone interested in decorating and perfect for people who are about to move into a new home.


The author’s joshing style is entertaining and knocks the sniffiness out of interior design. Kate  makes it an accessible subject and relevant to everybody and that’s what I admire most about her writing.

Mad about the house kitchen illustration Kate Watson Smyth book 1100x

Photographs and illustrations intersperse the text sufficiently well to ease the reader through the text and makes turning the pages a pleasure. But this, in contrast to many interior design books, is not image heavy, you wouldn’t buy it for the pictures. It really is a book to read and take inspiration from and like a good ‘how-to’ tutorial anyone and everyone can learn from this book. There are some gems of inspiration and I picked up an idea which I’ll use for myself, it’s a good one – the tidy drawer. Browse the pages before embarking on any new home decor project. 

Watson-Smyth K, (2018) Mad about the house: How to decorate your home with style. Pavilion. London. Hardback £20.00. ISBN: 9781911595427. My thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.