This week Olympia hosted ‘Top Drawer’ the show where the buyers go to source new, unearth the latest trends and discover emerging talent, and buy for the coming season.
According to Flamingo Trend Predictions , there are four key trends this season the first being Playful Chromatics. Described thus, as a fun filled palette of block colours that bring modernity through mid tone brights. Varied hues are achieved through mixed material densities.
A key colour is neo mint and it adds a fresh and positive start for 2020. Kat Burroughs, Interiors Journalist of the Times, mentions in her predictions for 2020 the Pantone colour of ‘Classic Blue’, which is more or less Royal Blue, and also lilac being used in some home wares.
Blue also features in another of her 2020 predictions, chintzy china. There was a great deal, of that old favourite, blue and white china, much of it with a modern twist.
The second predicted trend is ‘Rare Bloom’ powerful, pigmented florals grounded with soft brown leathers. Florals add deep intensity of reds, oranges and purples clashing with acid lime, and tempered with soft peachy coral.
The show certainly had many surface designers who have taken their inspirations from nature with fine examples of flowers and insects.
‘Mad About The House’ journalist Kate Watson Smythe, in her predictions for 2020 describes how we are turning away from the minimalism of recent years and embracing pattern, particularly with a new take on English country style with layers of colour and pattern.
Unadorned Tactility is the third trend and that is formed from new interpretations of traditional materials. Organic prints and textured layered on to geo shapes give a bio-futuristic look.
The fourth trend is Serene Warmth. Described as dappled sun warmth and cool shade, colours are juxtaposed in the raw fabrics, rich prints and smooth pale marble and concrete.
This warmth aspect of this trend fits in with Kate Watson Smythe’s prediction that ‘the fashion for brown furniture, which I wrote about last year, has now become part of the sustainability movement and will, rightly, continue to grow in popularity. We will buy more from eBay and vintage stores, we will paint and customise and up cycle more and we will continue to reupholster and repurpose.’
Watson-Smyth is a journalist with over 15 years experience writing about
interiors for publications including the Financial Times, The Independent, and
the Daily Mail.
it is her interiors blog ‘Mad about the House’ that has turned her into a very
well known interiors expert. She was awarded the Vuelio number-one UK interiors
blog award in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Have you always been a journalist? Or did you have
a different career previously?
been a journalist since I started working – but it took me a long time to start
working. I dropped out of university – I was doing French at Nottingham – and
had to spend the third year in a French-speaking country. I went to Senegal and
never went back for my finals. I moved instead to Paris where I stayed for
three years. On returning my mother said I needed some training and insisted I
go to secretarial college. While I was there someone came from the regional
Oxfam office looking for volunteers to stuff envelopes and help out during its
50th anniversary year. I ended up running the press office and
styling fashion shows and it was then I decided I wanted to be a journalist.
Did you study journalism or design originally and
if so where and what did you study?
to Darlington to train on the NCTJ course for a year – it was one of the best
years of my life and we recently all met up again for our 25th
reunion. Then I returned to Birmingham, where I had done my newspaper work
experience and they offered me a traineeship if I went to journalism college.
Again. They sent me to the Westminster press training course in St Leonards on
Sea, near Hastings.
never studied design.
Do you work as a journalist both on-line as
well as for newsprint?
started in print – because online didn’t exist – and have always been
commissioned for print which is now shared online as well. Since I became so
busy with the blog I tend to write only for myself online rather than newsprint
any more although I often give quotes and contribute to articles.
Have you always been passionate about interiors
or do you also write on other topics?
as a general news reporter but I always wanted to write features. I have always
loved the writing part of the information gathering. When I had my first son I
went freelance and it so happened they needed someone in the property section
at The Independent – in the days when it was a 24 page weekly pull out… As soon
as I started writing about houses and property I knew I had found my thing.
always loved decorating and styling. It began with my bedroom as a child and I
graduated to other people’s houses – not always when they asked me to. I have
been known to move and restyle a coffee table while someone nips to the loo!
Did you embrace social media from the start? If
so which platforms were you using to start with and why?
to Twitter fairly fast as words are my thing. I loved it for ages and I think
it’s brilliant for people who work from home as it gives you that chatting
round the water cooler thing that you miss in office life. But it has changed
over the years and can be a nasty place as well as a wonderful one. I’m on
there less now as I have found Instagram. I was late to that particular party
but I love it. I have found the interiors community to be very supportive and
who doesn’t love looking at gorgeous pictures? I have also really enjoyed
improving my photography skills, which I wasn’t expecting. Last year I bought
my first camera although I still tend to use my phone more.
How and why did you start the web site ‘Mad
About The House’?
desperation! Newspapers were struggling and my freelance career was dwindling. At
the time it seemed like everyone had, or was starting, a blog and I thought I
would have a go to see if it would generate any work as a journalist. I thought
it would work as a kind of online CV and portfolio. I had no idea it would go
Did winning the Vuelio awards have a major impact on your work?
Winning recognition for your work is always lovely. I think perhaps it makes brands take you more seriously and widens your audience. Certainly the Vuelio awards, which selects a shortlist based on reach and engagement and content – tracking stats – and then calls in a panel of judges who are all experts in their fields. That definitely gives weight to the results as there is no campaigning for votes which can skew the results.
When did you set up your design consultancy?
started the blog in 2012 I began a new notebook so I could keep a record of
what I was writing and doing. I wrote on the first page: Blog, Book, Business.
I have done all three now – the books twice! The business came in about 2014
when people kept asking me for help with their houses.
Did you go on any courses when you set up your
figured as a trained journalist who had been writing for the national press for
over 20 years I knew as much about writing as a course would teach me. I still
don’t know about the tech side but I pay someone to do that for me. My brain is
too full for that side of things and I can’t read an SEO document without
falling asleep. My growth has been completely organic. I could probably grow
more if I knew how to work the backroom details but I don’t.
I love the look of your blog/web site. Did you
have it professionally designed?
was done by Odysseas Constantine of Art & Hue. I saw his work on the
beautiful Copperline site and then met him at the Amara Blog Awards in 2015. I
asked him to do my site then.
Have you found Pinterest of use to your
business? If so in what way?
I was a
featured user on Pinterest when they first came to the UK. As a result I have
190K followers and it does bring traffic to the site but I have to say that I
don’t go there very often. It’s partly a time thing and partly that I don’t
need to use it for my own schemes so I have been ignoring it for a while. I
wrote a chapter in my book about Pinterest being your frenemy. It’s so vast
that I think it can be unwieldy and also unhelpful if you don’t use it in a
very disciplined way. You fall down a rabbit hole of pretty pictures and completely
forget what you went in for. I also think there’s a real tendency to pin
pictures you like rather than ideas for things that will actually work in your
to do only do one platform at a time and at the moment that’s Instagram.
Have you found Instagram a useful platform?
It’s inspirational. I love looking at great images, the community is lovely and
I have enjoyed developing my own photography skills.
What do you think that the courses being
offered to bloggers?
know about them so it wouldn’t be fair to offer an opinion. I’m sure, as with
everything, that there are good ones and bad ones.
As a journalist how do you feel about
of those terms that everyone seems to hate but then again, I’m not that keen on
the word blogger either! It is what it is – there are people who influence
others rightly or wrongly. I wouldn’t use it of myself but then I have other
words to choose from journalist/author/writer/whatever…. Makes a change from
model/actress/whatever although I’d take it!
I love your ‘365 Objects of Design’. Has this
been a popular section on your blog?
it when I launched the blog as a way of making sure I blogged every single day.
I had read pieces about about how many people give up between three and six
months in and I was determined that wouldn’t happen to me. I came up with that
idea and numbered them to make sure I didn’t miss a day. For three years I
blogged seven days a week, now it’s five and while I don’t number them anymore
it’s still a popular post. I think of it like a postcard among the letters. I
write about design events and trends and advice and every now and then I drop
in a short piece about a cool thing I have found.
Here comes my how long is a piece of string
question. What is a typical working day like for you?
as string…. It’s enormously varied and I’m very lucky as I love it all. No two
days are ever the same. Yesterday I spent the morning with a client helping her
choose colours and furniture for her flat and talking about the layout, then I
went to a book signing at Clerkenwell Design week. Today I am writing, doing a
photoshoot with you and taking my son to his piano lesson. Tomorrow another
book signing and a talk to prepare for in the evening as well as gathering
ideas for my next book. Between that I try to find time to go to the gym,
wrangle my teenage children and see my husband over dinner.
How much time do you spend on your blog and how
much writing features for papers and magazines?
really write for papers and magazines any more as I don’t have time. As I post
five times a week I either spend a couple of hours a day on the blog or blitz
it for two days straight. The rest of the time is meetings, clients, book
writing or dealing with email and working on styling and brand jobs.
One of the reasons I am interviewing successful
women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a career break, or
had to slow down to deal with child care and/or aged parents or illness or had
to follow a spouse abroad for work reasons. Have you ever had to deal with any of
these issues and did it impact on your working life?
had children I always assumed I would go back to work full time after one and
stop after two. In the event I went freelance after the first and never stopped
working. It was hard at the start. One year I spent nearly everything I earned
on childcare and couldn’t really afford the tax bill. As they spent more time
at school I could work more and I regarded it as an investment in my future. I
basically worked solidly from 9-3 every day and only left the house to go on
the school run – no meetings, lunches or events – or very rarely. I was glued
to the phone and the computer during the school day. As they got older it got
easier and now they are nearly 15 and 17 I have much more time. I’m still
around to cook their tea most days and it’s fine when I’m not. I can go on
press trips and they can get their own breakfast.
also had those episodes of life that get in the way of best laid plans. My
younger son, now 15, was born at 25 weeks (three months premature). He was in
hospital for three months and fragile for the first couple of years after that.
He is completely fine now – we were very lucky. In 2014 I was diagnosed with
cancer of the saliva gland. My type was chemo-resistant and I had surgery
followed by 35 sessions of daily radiotherapy – about six-and-a-half weeks of
five sessions a week. I carried on blogging for the first few weeks and then
uploaded archive posts so that the blog never missed a beat while I was in
treatment. I finished on 23 December 2014 and went back to work on 4 January
when the boys went back to school after the Christmas holiday. I was approached
about writing my first book the following day when I had just stopping taking
Morphine and was still a bit high I think.
carry on for any macho reasons but rather that it gave me something to focus on
while I was well enough to do so. By the end of the treatment I was lying on
the sofa under a blanket watching episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Do you run any workshops or give talks other
than when promoting your books?
I have a
plan for workshops but haven’t had time to work out how to do it yet. I think
online will be the answer as I already tend to work on Sunday afternoons – the
week invariably ends before I’ve had time to write Monday’s post so I’m not
keen to add Saturdays into the working week as well. I’m currently developing
an online course which will be a mix of written advice and video. I have taken
part in panel discussions which aren’t book-related but recently that has
tended to be the focus.
What is the best part of your work and what is
the worst part?
get an email from someone who says the blog or the book has really helped them
make their home how they truly wanted it that is wonderful and makes it all
admin and the invoicing – always have to spend time chasing those – it’s
Who or what inspires you?
tough one. What? Restaurant loos and hotel rooms – often. Good design in a
small space with clever ideas and bold colours. Who? The person who finds their
passion, and follows their dream to make it work without compromising their
ideals. My Instagram account is full of women like that and I admire them all.
The woman with the disabled kids who decorates her home so beautifully, the
dentist who started her own interiors events business, the mothers who get on
with it all every day without complaining. They inspire me.
What advice would you give to any journalist starting
your passion and write about it. Spellcheck. Oh and think laterally. You need
to be a problem solver when you’re a journalist. On my first day at The
Independent at Canary Wharf I was told to go to Kew Gardens to monitor a plant
that only flowers every ten years. There was a tube strike and I was told I
couldn’t take a taxi that far as the company wouldn’t pay. And there was a
deadline to meet. I got there (bus, overland train, walking). You have to be
able to think around problems.
What is next for your work?
I have just launched A directory that lists companies who reduce their impact on the planet called DO LESS HARM
This week I attended a fascinating panel discussion, on the latest trends and interior developments created by the Sainsburys and Argos design team for Autumn Winter 2019 The event was chaired by Kate Watson Smyth, from ‘Mad about the house’
The teams work together but Argos tends
to sell more furniture, the smaller accessories are sold in Sainsbury’s.
There are five key trends this season. They
reflect the different ways in which we live today: often renting, flexible
living, traveling so we only live in our
homes for part of the week. Sometimes letting out our places as Air B&B and
often living in quite small places . Some of us have remote working styles, which
may mean we work from home.
Trend 1. Japanese
inspired, called Kanso Living. This
is for a home that is neat and uncluttered. It has a monochrome base.
‘Black, white and grey are
psychologically known to offer protection, safety and a sense of space whilst
at the same time being very calming. This minimal pallet lowers the emotional
Although there is no colour as such,
there are many textures and patterns. Included is a ladder shelf unit that looks
good, saves space and you can take it with you when you move.
From the head of design “We did lots of mark making in the studio and then
translated those marks into different
kinds of surface design using a range of scales from quite large on bedding to
teeny tiny on ceramics.’
Trend 2 Highland Lodge. I would describe this look as modern country with touches
of rustic wilderness, such as pale oak furniture and country touches including images of flowers
and animals such as hares on ceramics and textiles. A favourite in this range
is light washed oak furniture, including a beautiful four poster bed that
retails at just £400
This collection has muted colours that
are excellent to use in the UK where they fit in with the prevailing blue light rather than warm yellow as found in
Mediterranean countries. These blue
based tones help us to reconnect with nature and bring the outside in, they fit
in well with the grey story that has been popular over the last 5 years
Trend 3 . Apartment Apparel This is a very vibrant and exciting collection, it is the Sainsburys Argos take on the centenary of the Bauhaus . There are some exciting juxtapositions of colours, including a much coveted harsh orange velvet sofa which, by the way, is child friendly.
Table-ware is playful and brave with a pallet of mustard and oak that work with a deep navy that runs throughout the collection. The mid century styling helps make small spaces feel bigger.
The pop of colour in this collection attracts
the eye and makes the shopper curious about the pieces.
Heller ‘Strong colour creates emotional energy and the volume is turned up, we see colour before we notice
anything else. To work, these colours need a warm yellow base and also need
yellow lighting. This is a party place for extroverts.’
Trend 4. Palm Luxe
With it’s grey soft pale pallet , this
look is quite glamorous. There are lots of metallic although mainly silver.
Inspired by beautiful hotel lobbies. It is opulent and nods towards
preciousness. It is quite a showy look influenced by old Hollywood glamour. It is aspirational and
has the feel of a cocktail party with soft music playing.
expert on the panel pointed out that this is a look that will stand out in the rental
market and also appeals to those who love Show Homes. It happens to be a very
instagramable look, that is very easy to shoot.
Trend 5. Loft living This look includes
loads of natural wood.
Sainsbury/Argos sponsor new designers
exhibition each year and choose a winner from those presenting their work. This
collection was designed by a winner and has taken two years to come to
Designed very much with the young of today in mind who live much more
minimally than their parents did, with far less in the way of possessions. They
may be working from home and so the solution is a desk storage bedding
collection that is all encompassing and super flexible for easy living. It is
a continuation of the successful industrial
modular look with contrasting textures carried over from last season.
Many of the pieces are multi functional
such as the desk/ dressing table which is easily packed away if more space is
As well as these key looks there is also a quite sophisticated non gender stereotype children’s range.
As a keen follower of Kate Watson-Smyth ‘s blog Mad About The House, I have been looking forward to her book with eager anticipation. The book is written in much the same way as her blog: clear informative and witty, honest with a small amount of self-deprecation. As she freely admits she is not an interior designer and has never hired one. However she is a journalist who has been writing about interiors for the last twenty years, and who in that time has interviewed some of the best brains in the business.
If you are expecting a big colourful coffee table book, then you will be disappointed. There are a few lovely sketches and a few photographs including one of Kate’s own home taken by Paul Craig. What you do get is really good advice and help.
Since starting her blog in 2012 she has become the number one interiors blog and has won many awards for it. Kate enjoys finding her own style, and in this book she gives you ways in which to find your style.
“Every room should have something that draws you in. An amazing piece of furniture, a funky light, a family heirloom.” As she says all homes have common elements whether it be a one bed flat or a ten bedroomed villa. In this book she guides on how to make your home tell your story.
Much needed advice is given on how to use Pintrest, so that it is an effective tool when planning an interior space. The chapter on the various colours, their meanings and how to use them in interiors, and what goes with what is extremely useful. For those struggling with colour her idea of looking in your wardrobe to see the colour palette you love, is inspired. In the same way that outfits are put together with a main colour and then accessories in different colours, so a room is put together.
“Pick a colour-perhaps a neutral and put it on the largest area of your walls. That’s your clothes or main thing you are wearing. Choose a second colour for the largest piece of furniture say the sofa. This is your top or jacket. Add some pattern in the form of cushions: your earrings or necklace. The accessories- rugs, armchairs-are the final colour: your shoes and bag. The idea is basically 60 per cent one colour, 30 percent another and 10 percent the finishing touches.”
Whatever your style, this book will guide you through everything you need to know to decorate your home with confidence and individuality. Kate reveals the rules of rug layout, explains how to buy a sofa, and shows how to get the lighting right in every room.
A must-have book for anyone who wants make their house a home.