Mad About The House: Kate Watson-Smyth’s 150 simple ways to update your home

By Kate Watson-Smyth, interiors expert and founder of the smash hit blog Mad About The House. Kate shares super-quick fixes, new-season colour tricks to try and the hot high-street buys to transform your space without breaking a sweat – or the bank!

‘My decorating style? Be brave and have fun!’

‘I started posting pictures of my home on my Instagram and blog when my husband Adam and I bought a doer-upper in North London in 2010. It was two dingy rental flats that we completely renovated to turn back into a house – and doing it taught me a lot about finding my own style and being brave with my choices.

‘It also made me want to show others how to decorate their own homes simply using interesting pieces or clever tricks – because upgrading your home doesn’t have to involve knocking down walls, spending thousands on a kitchen extension and practically living with your builders for years. Very few of us have unlimited time and money, but you don’t necessarily need either to create your dream home – as an interiors stylist and journalist, I know that you can change the entire feel of a room in minutes with clever lighting or a chic cushion (trust me, it’s true!).

‘The trick is all about working out what you like and learning which tweaks will have the biggest impact. with Pinterest, Instagram and interiors magazines, there’s a lot of information out there, so i want to cut through the noise and help you find your own style. Over the next 16 pages i will share my favourite trends, colours, high-street heroes as well as my secrets for upgrading your space (some of which take minutes and cost nothing). My philosophy is that you can be brave and have fun. it’s your home and your story – and it should make your heart sing when you open the front door.’

10 super-easy fixes – the sneaky tricks all experts know

1. PAINTING IS ONE OF THE EASIEST UPDATES you can make to a room. I’ve opted for a dramatic green shade in my bathroom and chosen bright accents to balance it out.

2. IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD A BIG RUG, Buy a large piece of carpet and have the edges hemmed in a contrasting colour. This – from one of my styling jobs – is really effective with patterned carpet which might be a bit much wall to wall but works well in a smaller space.

3. SWAP PLAIN FOR BOLD or patterned lampshades to liven up a dull area – here a pop of pink works as a bright contrast to my black bookshelves. I love pink as a shade and use it throughout my home in varying tones.

4. DON’T FORGET THE FIFTH WALL. Ceilings have traditionally been white but there’s no rule that says they have to be. Here, I’ve opted for gold in my study.

5. PAINTED FURNITURE is a great way to achieve something bespoke and if you are using an on-trend colour you can just paint over it when you are bored. This is the kitchen of my wonderful fellow podcast host Sophie Robinson.

6. CREATE A GALLERY WALL. The key is to keep all the frames the same colour; they don’t have to be the same size. This is the dining area of one of my clients’ homes.

7. SHOP YOUR HOUSE. This is completely free! it’s simply about swapping things from room to room. Try switching cushions, pictures or rugs. This is a little corner of my office.

8. THE ‘RED THREAD’ IS  a term designers use for a colour or theme that runs through the whole house. My red thread is pink. In my living room, I use it on rugs, cushions and upholstery.

9. PLANTS ARE NOT JUST ‘ON TREND’, they purify the air, help us to breathe and promote feelings of harmony and creativity. This is an image from a photo shoot I did with La Redoute.

A CHEEKY EXTRA NUMBER 10! My mantra for updating any room? Add something new, something old, something black and something gold. This works for every style, size and shape of room. It doesn’t have to be gold – metallic or mirrored will also bounce the light around and add a feeling of luxe.

THE COLOURS I’M LOVING NOW

Green: my go-to bold

11. Mirror, £89. oliverbonas.com

12. Cushion, £50, johnlewis.com

13. Velvet clock, £58, grahamandgreen.co.uk

14. Rug, £79, modern-rugs.co.uk

15. Pendant light, £100, houseof.com

16. Bowl and mug set, £11.99, zarahome.com

17. Vase, £12.99, hm.com

18. Cushion cover, £66, larusi.com

19. Floor tile, £3.96, bertandmay.com

20. Print, around £44, theposterclub.com

21. Planter, £45, trouva.com

Kate Watson-Smyth interior design
www.ti-mediacontent.com

Bringing it to life

22. For something different, I liven up white walls and woodwork with graphic blocks of colour -strong green tones set the scene for a modern space.

23. To score extra style points, pant the skirting in the same tone as the walls.

24. The left square is painted in Hunter Dunn, £49.50 for 2 litres, paintandpaperlibrary.com

25. For the right square, valsparpaint.co.uk sells a similar shade.

26. I love deep tones – they create a sense of cosiness and are ideal for giving cool north-facing rooms a snug, inviting feel. Paler shades work better in warm south-facing gardens.

27. I like to create balance and harmony in a room by adding colour with accessories.

Yes you can paint your walls green! My favourites…

8. To make a statement: Forest Festival flat matt emulsion, £27.56 for 2.5 litres, dulux.co.uk

29. For a relaxing bedroom: Myrtle Green marble matt emulsion, £51 for 2.5 litres, mylands.com

30. For a gallery backdrop: Uluwatu matt emulsion, £38 for 2.5 litres, grahamandbrown.com

31. For timeless chic: Opal Green matt emulsion, £42 for 2.5 litres, firedearth.com

New neutrals: think pink and pale gold

32. Bowl, £50, thewhitecompany.com

33. Vase, £24.50, lilliandaph.co.uk

34. Chair, £85, ikea.com

35. Rug, £39.99, hm.com

36. Basket, around £70, fermliving.com

37. Footstool, £25, ikea.com

38. Storage basket, £22, designersguild.com

39. Cushion, £25, marksandspencer.com

40. Blanket, £29.99, hm.com

41. Lampshade, £125, thewhitecompany.com

42. Cup, £6.99, hm.com

Kate Watson-Smyth interior design
Line Klein

The modern feature wall

43. A feature corner is a clever way to update a room. Here dusty pink has been used in one specific area to create a visual twist in an otherwise muted space.

44. A trick for bringing depth to a minimalist scheme? Sculptural furniture in warming materials such as wood and textiles.

45. As a bonus, a contrasting wall also emphasises the ceiling height.

46. Painting the skirting and ceiling in the same mocha pulls the scheme together.

47. For a fresh take on the pared-back scandi vibe, layer bleached neutral hues with pops of green and pale woods.

48. I like to play with the art of display. Here, books make this ‘quiet’ space come to life.

These paint shades are soft and standout

49. The perfect hallway pleaser: Palest Pink, £48 for 2.5 litres, designersguild.com

50. This shade is friends with every other colour: Pewter matt emulsion, £26.50 for 1 litre, benjaminmoore.com

51. Trending now, the no-shine matt finish: Pashmina matt emulsion, £18 for 2.5 litres, crownpaints.co.uk

52. For creating the illusion of space: Wash Stop, £49.50 for 2.5 litres, edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk

Earth tones: instant warmth for any room

53. Milk jug, £31, skandium.com

54. Cushion, £29, westelm.com

55. Pouffe, £129, made.com

56. Shelf, £85, insidestoreldn.com

57. Pendant light, £120, kobiandtea.com

58. Pot, £46, heals.com

59. Cushion, £49, andrewmartin.co.uk

60. Dinnerware, from £13, amara.com

61. Rug, £150, habitat.co.uk

62. Vase, £10, habitat.co.uk

63. Blanket, £34.99, hm.com

Kate Watson-Smyth interior design
Sjoerd Eickmans Photography. Styling: Cleo Scheulderman

A subtle way to go bold

64. I love the way two shades of rust in this living room make the space appear larger by drawing the eye upwards toward the lighter paint colour.

65. This colour scheme really works for me because the darker shades in the earth tone colour palette add depth to the plain walls.

66. For similar shades try dulux.co.uk

67. My trick for brightening up a dark space? Accents of polished brass and copper complement rich colours and help bounce light around the room.

68. I like to add texture in subtle colours such as grey and peach to balance statement walls.

I love these statement paint shades

69. A safe way to test the trend: Pale Gold matt emulsion, £18 for 2.5 litres, crownpaints.co.uk

70. For a splash of sunshine every day: Humpty Dumpty claypaint, £18.86 for 750ml, earthbornpaints.co.uk

71. This colour will never date: Apricot Crush matt emulsion, £29.16 for 2.5 litres, dulux.co.uk

71. Just the shade for a standout wall: Flowerpot matt emulsion, £18.86 for 750ml, earthbornpaints.co.uk

MY KEY TRENDS FOR SUMMER

Tropical: for a splash of colour

73. Tray, £25, arket.com

74. Cushion, £6, direct.asda.com

75. Salt and pepper shakers, £28, libertylondon.com

76. Serving spoon set, £8, anthropologie.com

77. Fan, £35, wilko.com 

78. Duvet set, from £10, direct.asda.com

79. Leopard ornament, £4, direct.asda.com

80. Scented candle, £140, amara.com

81. Cushion, £50, johnlewis.com

82. Rug, £110.99, wayfair.com

83. Lamp base, £144, darlighting.co.uk

Kate Watson-Smyth interior design
Polly Wreford. Styling: Sarah Keady

Freshen up with foliage

84. I love the way that the tropical trend works in this conservatory. The large collection of indoor plants gives the space a hothouse feel.

85. For me, splashes of saturated colour offset with balancing white work better than lots of eye-popping brights.

86. For a similar peacock chair try maisonsdumonde.com 

87. Add statement accessories such as this metallic pineapple and carved bird.

88. Style short cut alert! A few faux plants will bring the look to life – and there’s no watering required.

89. Don’t want to go full-on jungle? Try a leaf-print cushion or moss-green throw.

90. My favourite place for fake plants is abigailahern.com

The flick of a paintbrush brings the outdoors in

91. This versatile shade will work anywhere: Aboretum matt emulsion, £29.16 for 2.5 litres, dulux.co.uk

92. For a bold accent wall: Volt emulsion, £38 for 2.5 litres, grahamandbrown.com

93. A verdant green for an instant lift: Dominica matt emulsion, £38 for 2.5 litres, grahamandbrown.com

94. For that holiday feeling – at home: Babouche matt emulsion, £46.50 for 2.5 litres, farrow-ball.com

70s: no longer the era that taste forgot

95. Print, £3.95 unframed, desenio.co.uk

96. Wall mirror, £38.50, maisonsdumonde.com

97. Cushion, £40, debenhams.com

98. Nest of tables, £95, habitat.co.uk

99. Coffee table, £50, ikea.com

100. Pendant light, £99, made.com

101. Hand ornament, £19, rockettstgeorge.co.uk

102. Lampshade, £75, minimoderns.com

103. Vase, £25, habitat.co.uk

104. Rug, £50, habitat.co.uk

105. Wine rack, £98, oliverbonas.com

Kate Watson-Smyth interior design
Michael Sinclair/Taverne Agency

A sleek, chic remix

106. I love the grown-up 70s vibe in this apartment at the former BBC television centre in London’s White City, which was designed by Bella Freud and Maria Speake.

107. Why not try fabric wallpaper for a cool 70s update?

108. To re-create the look mix vintage pieces with modern accessories.

109. I modernise the 70s colour palette by swapping purple for lilac; lime for green and terracotta for burnt orange.

110. Aram.co.uk sells similar furniture.

111. Plants are one of my key accessories. Get in the 70s groove with cheese plants, spider plants and hanging planters.

112. Rattan is back – and is of my materials of the moment for chairs, rugs and even lampshades!

113. A touch of macrame will add texture and fun.

The trad colour palette revamped

114. The purple reign continues: Cover Story matt emulsion, £18 for 2.5 litres, crownpaints.co.uk

115. This shade is soft but packs a punch: Pale Birch matt emulsion, £48 for 2.5 litres, designersguild.com

116. The new take on burnt orange: Tuscan Terracotta matt emulsion, £29.16 for 2.5 litres, dulux.co.uk

117. Try this for a grown-up pink: Angie matt emulsion, £45 for 2.5 litres, littlegreene.com

Curves: the shape of the moment

118. Cushion, £39, westelm.co.uk

119. Planters, £49, westelm.co.uk

120. Dining chair, £85, habitat.co.uk

121. Mirror, £49, made.com

122. Tile, £11.76, lindseylang.co.uk

123. Marie wallpaper, £92 for a 10m roll, sandbergwallpaper.com

124. Table lamp, £30, houseof.com

125. Wall candle holder, £34.95, skandium.com

126. Velvet cushion, £45, grahamandgreen.com

127. Side table, £50, habitat.co.uk

128. Vase, £30, habitat.co.uk

Kate Watson-Smyth interior design
Megan Taylor

A quirky take on kitchens

129. I can’t get enough of the curve-licious insta-famous kitchen of interiors design duo 2LG Studio (@2lgstudio). Scallop-edged doorways and lozenge-shaped storage cupboards frame the oval and resin turquoise table.

130. Painting the walls and furniture in the same colour creates a seamless and cohesive feel throughout a room.

131. For a similar paint colour, try Film Television & Theatre by mylands.com

132. Repeating lozenge shapes throughout a room looks both modern and retro, creating a really directional look.

133. The dining chairs are from menu.as For similiar try made.com

134. I like to work this trend in small spaces, as curved shapes soften a living zone and visually ‘lengthen’ an area.

Fun shades for a playful trend

135. For a touch of sophistication: Proud Peacock, £29.16 for 2.5 litres, dulux.co.uk

136. This will give furniture an instant refresh: Pink Perfection, £28 for 2.5 litres, valsparpaint.co.uk

137. A perfect partner for pink or blue: Urbane Grey matt emulsion, £45 for 2.5 litres, littlegreene.com

138. An accent shade for woodwork: Stiffkey Blue matt emulsion, £46.50 for 2.5 litres, farrow-ball.com

MY HIGH STREET HEROES

Who needs designer when the style and standard are this amazing?

139. La Redoute, great for cushions and rugs. Cushion cover, £20, laredoute.co.uk

140. Argos, I head here for trend-led furniture. Nest of tables, £79.99, argos.co.uk

141. Sainsbury’s, I love it’s own-design picnic ware. Tray, £4.50, sainsburys.co.uk

142. Made, this all-rounder excels at accessories. Candlestick, £15, made.com

143. H&M, for sleek ceramics and lighting. Table lamp, £49.99, hm.com

144. Anthropologie, my go-to for anything boho. Embroidered cushion, £68, anthropologie.com

145. M&S, my must for brilliant bedding. Double duvet cover and two pillowcases, £22.50, marksandspencer.com

146. Zara, to glam up your glassware at a snip. Glassware from £3.99, zarahome.com

147. French Connection, for industrial chic inspiration. Stool, £155, frenchconnection.com

148. Debenhams, check out it;s home designer collaborations. Plant and pot £26, Abigail Ahern at debenhams.com

149. Urban Outfitters, for quirky colourful pieces. Framed print, £59, urbanoutfitters.com.

150. John Lewis & Partners, get to know it’s classic house collection. Coat stand £179, johnlewis.com