20 QUESTIONS, 9 CREATIVES
Mad About The House: Kate Watson-Smyth
blogger, journalist, author of three books, podcaster - The Great Indoors' with Sophie Robinson, NEW columnist at RED magazine, retreat host, ambassador of Design Haven for Heroes.
For a bit of fun this weekend I am launching 20 questions with 9 creatives (well today is officially Friday but it always feels like the start of the weekend, even if days do seem to be rolling into one and gin o'clock the new norm) - an Instagram grid's worth of inspiring creatives and just what is happening with them behind their closed lockdown doors, whilst our NHS bravely battle on for us all. The first chat is with Kate Watson-Smyth - a revered household name in the interiors world, with her multi-award winning blog that has become the go to source for home interior lovers, since its inception 7 years ago. I interviewed Kate at the end of last year - she was a joy to chat to and it is great seeing her career go from strength to strength. Her fantastic new book, 'Mad About The House, 101 Design Answers', could end up being your greatest friend, if decorating has just become your lockdown thing...
How has your home evolved during lockdown? Well it's definitely dustier! It hasn't changed that much as both my husband and I work from home anyway. My 19yo is back from university and the 16yo is here too - so it's fuller than usual and there is more crockery spread throughout the house.
How has your work had to adapt? On one level nothing has changed as I write from home every day, but I co-host a podcast, The Great Indoors with Sophie Robinson, and we have had to adapt to remote recording. This involves us both in duvet dens on our respective beds dialling into a Zoom meeting with our producer who coordinates everything.
What projects have you been dreaming up? I had already come up with a new plan, which I wanted to launch this summer but have now postponed until the Autumn. I am also starting work on my next book (March 2021), but as Mother Pukka has pointed out; you are not working from home you are working at home during a crisis. I have definitely not been as productive as usual.
How has your neighbourhood come together? We all come to our front gardens once a week for the clap for carers and it's lovely to wave across the street at each other. There are also various WhatsApp chats and groups forming.
Acts of kindness - to you / by you? Lots of people have been raising money and helping out where they can. I have been reading Percy Jackson stories at 5pm which started as a way of giving parents a break at that tricky time of day (too early for bed, too soon for wine) but I have had lots of messages from people who live alone who are also tuning in, as well as one little boy whose anxiety has massively abated apparently. I have also become ambassador to a new initiative set up by the interior designer Francesca Rowen Plowden called Design Haven for Heroes, which is about thanking NHS staff when this is all over by giving them a space to retreat to and relax in, when they can finally spend time at home, like we have been doing for weeks. It's been wonderful to see how many brands and designers have come on board.
Favourite space in the house to escape to? I tend to follow the light: I like the kitchen first thing, the sitting room bay window in the morning (or a cheeky lie down on the bed in a patch of sun) and the darker library in the afternoon.
Jobs in the house ticked off the list? Hmmm... I have decluttered and cleared out my wardrobe but that has just left a massive pile of stuff that I have had to stash in my study, as neither the tip nor the charity shops are open. My husband did the same with the kitchen cupboards and now his car is full of stuff.
New daily rituals? The 6pm aperitif with the news. It's a way of marking the break between day and evening and now that the sun is out an icy Campari Spritz and an olive is a glorious thing. Also 60 second cold showers every morning which is meant to help the immune system.
Early morning fitness or another biscuit please? I don't eat sugar but I'm not great at early morning fitness either. I used to meet a friend at the gym three or four times a week, but now that that has closed I'm finding it hard to get motivated.
What’s in your vase? Some lilac from the bottom of the garden next door (completely overgrown and with permission) that is filling the house with the most glorious scent.
What’s on the menu? Lots of pasta.
Favourite tipple to get you through? Campari Spritz or chilled white wine with red at dinner.
What book is on your bedside? Just finished the latest Hilary Mantel, currently on the latest Donna Leon for its glorious descriptions of Venice and lovingly described meals.
What tunes are playing? Only the birdsong which I am really enjoying. Although that is often interrupted by the music played by my 19yo son and my husband.
News updates or podcasts? Too much news - I have had to turn it off as it was becoming too stressful. I don't listen to many podcasts as I tend to be writing.
Which IG accounts have inspired you? Laura Jackson and her #makeamealofit is one, Alison Roman always as well as @kim_dti who finds the most glorious interiors. I also love @boringenormous which always makes me laugh.
What have you missed the most? The sense of freedom. It's not that I want to go out all the time but the knowing that I can't.
What distractions are getting you through? Lots of reading.
Zoom backview? The books in my library.
What has your home meant to you over this time? I'm so lucky that for me home is a safe haven where I can find comfort and peace with food in the fridge. I love it even more for providing that for me, although I sense a redecoration coming if this goes on too long.
Listen to Kate's podcast: The Great Indoors
Read Kate's blog madaboutthehouse.com
Image credits: Portraits, Rekha Damhar. The Great Indoors Portrait: Alun Callender. Interior images: Brent Darby & Kate Watson-Smyth.