Think grey is boring? Allow Kate Watson-Smyth, British blogger par excellence and grey evangelist, to change your mind. Her five-bedroomed 1860s terraced house in north London is a symphony of serene grey shades and she has some fascinating theories about why it’s the defining neutral of our times (of which more later). Indeed, she’s so keen on the colour that she wrote a book about using it in your home, entitled Shades of Grey
Kate, a former newspaper reporter, shares her home with husband Adam (a high-flyer in PR), teenage sons Isaac and Noah, and Enid the cat (grey, of course). From here she runs her award-winning website, Mad About The House, which was crowned Vuelio’s No.1 UK Interiors Blog last year. Kate also has more than 36,000 Instagram followers. Here, she tells us about her space.
What was the house like when you moved in? It was the worst house on the street. It was divided into two rental flats. The downstairs had been empty for over a year – there was a hole in the floorboards that I fell into every single day for six months. We moved into the top two floors while the builders did the ground floor, then played Tetris with the bedrooms as they were done one by one.
How would you describe your decorating style? I call it urban glamour. I like things to be a little rough and ready but in luxurious materials – antique velvet chairs set against dark grey walls and metallic accents. What is it that you love so much about grey? It’s the perfect neutral and it makes all other colours look great. It works just as well in a modern space as it does on panelling in a more traditional room.
There are many theories about why it has become the colour of our time – one is that magnolia (the previous defining neutral) looked great under the warm glow from a tungsten bulb, but terrible under the cool, white light of an LED or compact fluorescent. Grey is much better with modern lighting. It’s good for the cool blue daylight of our northern hemisphere, too.
Are there any other things you use over and over? I seem to buy a lot of chopping boards. I have no idea why. They are useful, affordable and feel like a little gift-to-self if you’re not near a handy shoe shop.
What’s your favourite room in the house?It’s usually the last room I decorated, so at the moment it’s the bathroom. It’s big – because it used to be a bedroom – so it feels like a real treat to be in there. The twin basins are said to be the secret to a happy marriage, but mainly I love the dark walls and vintage furniture, which contrasts so well with the white suite.
What’s your prized possession? My gold palm-tree light from Rockett St George. It’s 6ft tall and magnificent.
What’s the easiest way to update a room? Apart from paint, changing the lights and adding a large pendant can make a big difference. Or swap white plastic light switches for brass or Perspex. Always consider the touch points.
Where do you get inspiration? I spend far too much time looking for stuff on the internet, but I always think a restaurant loo is a good source of inspiration, too – they will often use bold patterns and great tiles to make an impact in a small space.
What’s a typical work day like for you? The truly wonderful thing is that there is no typical day. I might have a meeting with a company to discuss a possible collaboration on the blog, or I might be styling and shooting products in my house as well as writing posts. I also run an interior consulting business, so I often have clients to visit or call. My office is in our converted loft, but I tend to work at the kitchen table.
What do you think the next big homes trend will be? I think millennial pink will be with us for a while longer, but it’s going to get darker and dirtier and morph into a burnt orange or rust shade. The 1970s are coming for us, too – what starts on the catwalk inevitably ends up on the cushions.