Join me here in explorations of the places and people who inspire my passion for interiors. I’m always on the hunt for outstanding design, ancient, modern, natural and crafted.





December 31st, 2016


My Top “Interior Design Titles” for 2017 – reading list for a rainy New Year’s day

Has your annual New Year’s Day walk been scuppered by the cold and rain? If ever there was weather to inspire us to pay more attention to the world indoors, it’s this. I’ve put together a design reading list and now is the season to curl up on the sofa and start planning your spring renovations.

First on my list for you is…

SHADES of GREY by Kate Watson-Smyth

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Being a Brit and having lived in the UK all my life, I struggle with why so many people seem to want to paint their homes grey at the moment, when (according to Yahoo) the UK enjoys 255.5 grey overcast days per year! I watched in amazement as paint specialist Little Greene launched 28 shades of grey and paint giant Dulux apparently now has no less than 557 “greys” to choose from. I’m also amazed that anyone has managed to write 175 pages on the subject, but what a good read and visual feast this book is. It’s humorous and pacey, in the style of Kate Watson-Smyth’s blog, that many of us know and love.

If you want to embrace “Grey” in your next round of decorating, it’s a “must-read”.  Kate explores the best ways to incorporate grey into you home and guides you through the mass of options out there. There are lots of useful explanations on how to understand the science behind the undertones that change, depending on the light in the room and how to pick that perfect shade. The book also tackles the question of “will decorating in Grey make me depressed?”

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth

Most of all, I liked this one as Kate offers up some theories, quite credible ones, as to what led to the trend to decorate in grey. Did you know that it was actually the combination of the humble light bulb and Ikea that forced magnolia and builder’s beige from favourite colours to hated ones? She argues that we have all been led to gradually replace our incandescent bulbs (which looked great with Magnolia paint) with lower energy halogen, LED or compact fluorescent lamps. With their harsher, cooler and clearer light magnolia looked awful and grey apparently looked cool! Ikea’s role was to sell the bulbs at an affordable price and grey took hold.

Second on the list is…

ENGLISH HOUSES  by Ben Pentreath

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

Regular readers of Ben’s blog will know that he’s primarily an architect and “shop-keeper“, with a more recently launched interior design arm to his bow. He has a flat in London and a parsonage in Dorset, where he lives with his husband Charlie and both feature in the book.

If you dislike “grey”, also minimalism and despair of many current design trends, this one is for you! The main theme of English Houses is “How to avoid decoration perfection”. To explain this, Ben considers some of the pressures currently facing the design industry to deliver designs on a plate, under intense deadlines. The inevitable result is a house that looks like a hotel (desirable for some). He advocates a way of putting rooms together that is calmer, more subtle, an approach to decoration that is unhurried and personal…”the true defining characteristic of the finest English houses.”

The book then features 12 such houses, two belonging to Ben and the other ten to friends, many of whom are leading figures in the design world.

The interiors are visibly lived in, the hearths have real lit fires, and there is comfortable worn furniture. In some of the rooms Ben has even gone to great pains to ensure that the owner’s junk remained in situ for the photography, breaking the usual styling rules!

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

English Houses by Ben Pentreath

It’s a beautiful book to enjoy and inspire, not a “how-to”. It also includes some very wise words “the qualities that make a building feel loved, generous and welcoming are more to do with the people than with architecture or decoration.”

And finally, if you are looking for a “how-to”, this is the one I would recommend…

THINK HOME by Judith Wilson

Think Home by Judith Wilson

Think Home by Judith Wilson

A bit like Ben Pentreath, Judith Wilson advocates taking things slowly, as all too often people rush into decisions about structural changes and/or new schemes; time spent thinking and planning is never wasted. The reader is encouraged to do just that; think.

Judith’s words and guidance encourage the reader to review carefully the task ahead and avoid rushing into the project without first considering the basics, the existing architecture, and the space and how they want to use it – at this point we would also recommend contacting an interior designer!

Think Home by Judith Wilson

Think Home by Judith Wilson

The book is packed with hints and tips with special sections on storage, art and lighting. The images focus on unusual and interesting interiors, less mainstream and rarely clichéd. It’s become an office staple.

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