Six Questions For: Kate Watson-Smyth
When I started writing my blog, it took a while to work out what my niche was. It was easy to decide that I wanted to write, but far more difficult to decide how I would maintain that week after week and keep people interested. If I'm going to be honest, sometimes it's quite difficult to decide on my weekly subject, what with kids, badly behaved dogs, badly behaved husbands, 800 kids activities and the general fracas that erupts in my house every single day.
So I have considerable respect for Kate Watson-Smyth. Award winning journalist Kate's interior blog, Mad About The House, is not only a joy to the eye, but she writes daily and it's testament to her extensive knowledge base that she's picked up more awards than my children have had hot dinners. Veulio Top 10 Blog 2015 and 2016, Domino Best Design Blogs 2016, Amara Interior Blog Award 2016 Best Design Blog. More recently she was listed in Vogue Magazine Top Ten Instagram Accounts. Hugely impressive considering the blog was only born in 2012 after Kate ran out of space on her newspaper column to feature all the wonderful things that she sourced and their creators.
Her home in London was renovated from two dingy flats bought in 2010 and has featured in Living etc, The Wall Street Journal, Corriere della Sera and Heart Home magazine. Last year, Kate published her first book, Shades Of Grey, to much applause and her second book is due out in March 2018.
Kate lives in London with her husband, two children and her cat, Enid, who is a much loved regular featured on her Instagram page.
The Mad About The House philosophy is clear - your home should tell your story and make your heart sing when you open the front door. As someone for whom this is my mantra, I was really excited when Kate agreed to answer my questions. Her answers really give an insight into what goes on behind the daily blog front. Here goes, and enjoy!
You've had a fascinating career to date. How did you get to where you are now and what made you start writing your blog?
I did two weeks work experience at The Birmingham Post which turned into a month. Then I went to journalism college in Darlington, in the North East. I went back to Birmingham afterwards and asked for a job and they told me they had just set up a trainee reporter course and I would need to go to journalism college. Again. This time it was in Hastings for five months (as opposed to the year I had just done). Both courses were really great fun and as I had been very unhappy at university (and dropped out) it allowed me some college time. It also meant my shorthand was pretty fast - I passed tests at 120wpm although can't do that any more. After two years as a news reporter in Birmingham covering crime and courts and general news stories, I moved to London to work shifts for the national papers including The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. I eventually landed a job as the night reporter for The Independent and stayed there for about five years until the birth of my elder son.
I worked freelance after that, mostly for The Indy but also for The Daily Mail and a few other magazines. It was at this stage that I began writing about property and interiors. But, as you will know, newspaper circulation was falling and it became harder and harder to find work as a freelance. The blog was born in 2012 slightly out of desperation. I knew I had to find a new path and I hoped it would be, at the very least, an elaborate online CV. And it did function as that for a while - I spent two years writing for the House & Home section of The Financial Times as a result. But, in a turnaround that I could never have imagined, the blog has gained a life of its own and now I am no longer writing for newspapers as I don't have time.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I have always called it urban glamour. I like monochrome and strong architectural lines and colours but I like to soften it with a mix of metallics - brass mainly and lots of textiles including velvet and cashmere so that it's a little more refined and grown up than just industrial. Some might also call it modern rustic as I like to bring in lots of vintage pieces - especially wood - I'm not really a fan of modern wooden pieces and there are none in my house.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Everyone always says their children and as I look at my 16 year-old who is about to take his GCSE's and go into the world and my 14-year-old who has just chosen his subjects, I feel as if I could say that too, but then I think they are their own greatest achievement and I'm not sure that I can call them my achievement. But aside from them, I'm proud that at the age of 45 I reinvented my career by starting a blog that has turned into a business and led to me writing a book and helping people style their homes. My second book is out next March.
You write a super successful blog and have published books on the subject - what would be your top design tip?
Something new, something old, something black and something gold. Do that in every room and it will instantly look better. It doesn't have to be gold by the way but metallic doesn't rhyme!
What are your two favourite pieces in your home and what's the history behind them?
Oh so difficult this one and my answer probably changes every day. I love the pink chaise longue that I bought from a junk shop for my husband for his 40th - well it was for both us really. It has been adopted (and destroyed) by Enid our grey cat and we need to get it recovered but we're not sure how to tell Enid to leave it alone. As I type she is curled up on it sleeping and she won't let anyone else sit on it.
I also love the old singer machine sewing stools that are currently used as our bedside tables. We have two that came from my father-in-law's factory in Manchester. They're impossible to get hold of these days. Ours have been kitchen stools as well sitting room occasional tables too. A truly multi-functional bit of furniture that is old, black and metallic all at the same time.
And finally, what would be your dream day, location and money no object?
Assuming warp speed travel an option as well? An early breakfast overlooking The Grand Canal in Venice - perhaps at the Gritti Palace - followed by a mooch around the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Then zip over to a beach we know in Liguria where I would have seafood linguine in the sun and leisurely swim in the sea afterwards. From there I think I might fancy a tour round the Design Museum in Copenhagen followed by a very luxurious flight back to London which would involve Prosecco, room to stretch my legs and space to read my book. Finally dinner at Locanda Locatelli and home to sit on my sofa and drink a final cup of coffee before the day is over and I can sleep in my own bed.
Can you arrange that for me?