Desert island decor: The home comforts these lifestyle gurus can’t live without

We asked three lifestyle gurus to list the home comforts they couldn’t live without. Cue some very stylish beach shacks!

‘I’d take my palm tree lamp’

Kate Watson-Smyth
Image: Rekha Damhar

Kate Watson-Smyth, founder of award-winning blog Mad About The House and co-presenter of The Great Indoors podcast, lives in a converted three-bedroom terraced house in North London with her husband and two sons. Her home is a combination of earthy spaces in rich chocolate, raspberry and soft pink, and there’s always ‘something new, something old, something dark, something gold’. It’s the decorating mantra Kate lives by.

Kate Watson-Smyth's home
‘My brass palm tree lamp from rockettstgeorge.co.uk would need to come to the island. It has become emblematic of my house and I wouldn’t feel at home without it. I could also use it to find my way back to shore if I became lost, as it would stand out like a beacon!’ Image: Kate Watson-Smyth
Kate Watson-Smyth's home
‘I inherited this shell box from my grandmother’s house, where I lived for a while after my parents’ divorce. She would always find new treasures to put inside, from scarab beetles to seahorse skeletons and shells. I would use it to collect mementos to take back home’. Image: Kate Watson-Smyth
Kate Watson-Smyth's home
These chairs, bought on Ebay, would take up a lot of space in my luggage, but are my favourite to
read in. Made by Czech designer Jindrich Halabala, they date from the 30s. Last year we reupholstered them in Orla Kiely’s Spot Flower fabric (orlakiely.com)’. Image: Kate Watson-Smyth

Kate Watson-Smyth's home
‘I have a huge model hand collection. The one of my son’s hand [front right] was made from the same material as my radiotherapy mask by the doctors when I was having treatment [for cancer of the saliva gland]. It’s sprayed gold and very precious to me’. Image: Kate Watson-Smyth
There is a record player on the island, what 3 records would you take with you?

‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ by the Scissor Sisters. ‘Baby Driver’ by Simon and Garfunkel and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Favourite read to pack?

Life a User’s Manual by Georges Perec.

If you had a projector, what one film would you take with you?

Mamma Mia’ 1. It always makes me feel happy – I could dance and sing (badly) and forget I was alone. As well as bringing back lots of memories from growing up.

Top five beauty essentials in your case?

Eyebrow pencil and brush from Beauty Pie, Trinny BFF cream, Nivea lipsalve, a razor and vitamin C paste. 

Trainers or flip flops?

Trainers.

Top five food cupboard essentials?

Pasta, flour, olive oil, yeast, salt. That way I could make bread and pastry to go with all the fruit, fish and foraged salad.

Three practical DIY pieces of kit awaiting you on the island?

Sewing kit – that’s about the only DIY I do these days. String is always useful and scissors.

Choose one special 3-course meal to be parachuted in?

Prawn and zucchini tagliolini. Roast porchetta with white beans and a radicchio saladCheese and salad.

Fruit from the trees or learn to spear fish?

Fish.

Message in a bottle – sent to who?

My husband.

Coffee or cocktails?

Coffee. Always

Favourite snack to pop in your case?

Walker’s plain crisps with a cheese and chive dip.

Hammock or sun lounger?

Hammock.

Sail over to a neighbouring island, who would you want to find?

Real people: my husband. He is my best friend. Fantasy people: Michelle Obama. I’d like her to be my best friend.

 Marooned on your own – a treat or a test?

I’m not sure it’s a treat as I’m an only child who writes for a living, but neither would it be a test.

‘I’d want my plant friends’

Jasmine Hemsley
Image: Nick Hopper

TV presenter and wellness consultant Jasmine Hemsley lives in a four-bedroom Californian-style house in South London with her boyfriend, a photographer, and their three rescue dogs. Their home is a mix of upcycled car boot  treasures with 1970s bohemian flair. Most items have been salvaged from skips, charity shops and fairs before being restored to their former glory or reinvented. ‘I hate to see things thrown away or wasted,’ says Jasmine.

Jasmine Hemsley's home
‘This J H Lynch portrait from the 60s was picked up off a wet London street on my way to the shops. Propped on a branch in an outdoor shower, it would remind me of our blue-tiled bathroom back home’. Image: Nick Hopper
Jasmine Hemsley's home
‘I seem to collect vases (with or without flowers), bowls and pots from car boot sales and vintage shops. I would take a few of these with me to the island as they would add colour and pizzazz with
minimal effort. The orange vase – a charity-shop find – is a favourite of mine as the colour is so uplifting’. Image: Nick Hopper
Jasmine Hemsley's home
‘My London home is part-house, part-jungle, and if I was going to a tropical island, I’d still love these plant friends there with me. They would also inspire me to grow my own fruit and veg. Many  of them are rescues from bins, events and friends.’ For a similar selection of house plants, try patchplants.com. Image: Nick Hopper

There is a record player on the island, what 3 records would you take with you?

‘Agit”’ by Islandman, ‘God Only Knows,’ by the Beach Boys and ‘Eres Tu’ by Carla Morrison.

Favourite read to pack?

Wilding by Isabella Tree and Philippa Gregory’s The Tudor Court Tales to take me back to my late teens.

If you had a projector, what film would you take with you?

A box set of Friends is always a comfort.

Top five beauty essentials in your case?

A Hay’ou jade beauty restorer, Maharishi Ayurveda Vata Hair and Body Oil, Rudolph Firming Perfector Serum.

Trainers or flip flops?

I’d live pretty much barefoot or in ‘flops’ but being really practical I guess a pair of trainers would be ideal for cold nights and long hikes!

Top five survival cupboard essentials?

Ghee, rice, mung dal, spice tin, limes (and chocolate).

Three practical DIY pieces of kit awaiting you on the island?

Hammer, saw, nails. I studied furniture and product design, so I reckon these would get me far.

Choose one special 3-course meal to be parachuted in?

A tough question (and probably tough on digestion), but maybe nostalgic favourites I couldn’t get on the island (otherwise my mum’s cooking all the way). Starter: miniature Indian thali with various curried veggies, chutneys, pickles, crackers and flatbreads. Main: full roast chicken with gravy, roasted parsnips and potatoes, cabbage and peas. Dessert: tiramisu.

Fruit from the trees or learn to spear fish?

The first thing I’m looking for is sun-ripened mangoes, papaya and a green coconut to drink from.

Message in a bottle – sent to who?

Dad. 

Marooned on your own – a treat or a test?

Test!!!! I’m taking Nick (my partner) with me for sure.

Coffee or cocktails?

Neither! I prefer a glass of red or a cold beer with lunch.

Favourite snack to pop in your case?

ZENB Veggie Sticks — a snack bar with natural ingredients. The Beet one is my favourite and it will be my emergency island snack for when I’m after a sweet, chewy, crunchy, delicious treat.

Hammock or sun lounger? Hammock. 

Sail over to a neighbouring island, who would you want to find?

All my friends and family in a party mood!

Jasmine Hemsley has partnered with new plant-based brand ZENB helping to raise awareness of food waste; zenb.co.uk

‘I’d pack a few little luxuries’

Geraldine Tan
Image: JoJo Tan-Sikorski

Frontline A&E consultant and founder of award-winning interiors and lifestyle blog Little Big Bell, Dr Geraldine Tan lives in a three-bedroom Victorian terraced house in North London with her husband and two children. Geraldine styles, designs and photographs her blog and Instagram feed. ‘When I’m not at the hospital the blog gives me a creative outlet that helps ease stressful situations. I look forward to putting ideas together and do so with my family,’ she says. Think bright, colourful rooms and spaces that make people happy and radiate positivity.

Geraldine Tan's home
‘I always write my blog posts and edit photos at my pink desk by helloretrodesign.com. Light and easy to move around, it would also double up brilliantly as a dining table on the island’. Image: Geraldine Tan
Geraldine Tan's home
‘I coveted my pink elephant from vitra.com. It was a birthday gift from my husband and always makes me smile when I look at it. It would cheer me up on rainy island days’ Image: Geraldine Tan
Geraldine Tan's home
‘My mug with LBB inscribed on it is from emmabridgewater.co.uk. Although I should be drinking plenty of water on the island, coffee is a necessity of mine! I hope my Love NHS print washes up on the shore, too – it is a collaboration with The Native State [thenativestate.com] and reminds me of how, as an NHS doctor, we have remained strong together during Covid-19’. Image: Geraldine Tan
Geraldine Tan's home
‘I like to surround myself with little luxuries, so this shell cushion from silkenfavours.com would definitely be in my case. It would fit in well with the island beach theme!’. Image: Geraldine Tan

There is a record player on the island, what 3 records would you take with you?

Dua Lipa, Maroon 5, Queen Greatest Hits.

Favourite read to pack?

‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland. ‘This Is Going To Hurt’ by Adam Kay.

If you had a projector, what one film would you take with you?

‘Pretty Woman’ – I’m a romantic at heart.

Top five beauty essentials in your case?

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base. Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation, SPF 40. Glossier black eye liner. Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia Cologne.

Trainers or flip flops?

I would have previously said flip flops but I’m now on a renewed fitness drive, doing a lot of walking and running, so it has to be trainers.

Top five survival cupboard essentials?

Encona hot pepper sauce, Porthos sardines, chick peas to make hummus and falafel, coconut milk to make curries, truffle pesto.

Three practical DIY pieces of kit awaiting you?

Command wall strips, a leveller and wall paint so I can recreate my favourite gallery walls.

Choose one special 3-course meal to be parachuted in?

To start, a Classic Bao from Bao London. The Tuna Stack from Shelter restaurant in Tofino, Canada. It’s local albacore tuna, miso & avocado, sesame marinated cucumber, nori, soy-ginger glaze & crispy wontons. Mango pudding topped with coconut jelly, mango compote and fresh mangoes from Ginza Cozy corner in Nakano Broadway, Tokyo, Japan.

Fruit from the trees or learn to spear fish?

Fruit – I’d look for mangosteen and chikoo (sapodilla) in Langkawi.

Message in a bottle – sent to who?

My family, to ask them to join me. 

Marooned – a treat or a test?

A real test. I’d miss my husband and children too much.

Coffee or cocktails?

Freshly ground coffee from Monmouth Coffee Company.

Favourite snack in your suitcase?

Sour cream rice and pea chips.

Hammock or sun lounger?

It’s got to be a sun lounger.

Sail over to a neighbouring island, who would you want to find?

Family always.

Interviews: Ali Heath