Book Review, Design, Home Decor
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Mad About the House – The Book

Mad About the House - The Book

I’m certain that Kate Watson-Smyth will not need any introductions from me. But for those of you that might not have come across her award winning, No. 1 Interiors Blog, here’s a mini bio:

Kate Watson-Smyth is a journalist with over 15 years of experience writing about interiors for publications such as the Financial Times, the Independent, and the Daily Mail, and the author of Shades of Grey. Her blog,, is the UK’s number one interiors blog. She regularly hosts talks forecasting future trends for clients including Elle Decoration and Anthropologie.

Mad About the House‘ is Kate’s second book, having released Shades of Grey in Feb 2016.

Shades of Grey Book

I still have my copy in our living room. If you’re a fan of monochrome and greyscale interiors then it’s a bit of a staple. Definitely another one to add to your bookshelf.

Despite ‘Mad About the House‘ being Kate’s second book, I suspect it has been in embryonic stages for longer than she can remember. The title, taken from the name of her multi-award winning blog, pretty much sums up what this book is all about. It’s every blog post, every article, client experience, every must have product, creative idea, every design rule adhered to and broken, all presented in book format. ‘Mad About the House’ – the book, is what Kate does best, writing with great knowledge, experience, humour and candour about a subject she’s highly passionate about. She shares her own interior decor mistakes so you don’t make the same. She imparts everything she’s learned along her 15 year career of interiors journalism. It’s all in this book.

Mad About the House Book Review

I’ve been writing this review post in my head for the past couple of weeks. I didn’t want to rush it because I wanted to digest all of the info, and actually it’s not a book you can read in a couple of days. There are 205 pages and most of those are covered in words, sentences and paragraphs. Not pictures.

Abigail Read Illustration

Illustrations by Abigail Read 

Unlike most home and interiors’ books, this one doesn’t have many photographs. In fact there are 12. 12 pictures in a 205 page book. I know. How bonkers is that? What’s an interiors book without photos eh? How helpful can that be? Well actually, it’s a very clever move from KWS. Very clever indeed. Kate worked with Abigail Read on simple but perfectly formed illustrations which beautifully support the content, whilst allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks.

….firstly I think photographs can date a book. It may be true that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but we all know we do. And I didn’t want people to look at the pictures and feel that they weren’t their style and that therefore the book wasn’t for them…. I hope the illustrations will last for years without dating the book.”

It’s not an “inspiration” book, and what I mean by that is, it’s not a superficial picture flicker. It’s an inspirational book. In short, ‘Mad About the House’ is the equivalent of an encyclopedia of interior design.

Mad About the House Book

The structure and layout of the book is excellent. “The home” is broken down into all the major rooms. Each space is then picked apart and analysed further by discussing the individual elements that make up that room. Things such as what size rug to use, whether to go for one large sofa or two smaller ones, where best to hang a picture, should the dining chairs match….. Because these are the questions a lot of people don’t know the answer to.

“… ideally you need to allow 1 metre for a chair to pull out when someone stands up from the table. This also allows someone else to walk behind a seated person. If you want a round table, which is better for conversation and means everyone can reach the pepper – then 1 metre diameter is the minimum for four.”

(from the chapter, Choosing the Right Table)

The book tackles the day to day problems we all have when it comes to designing and decorating our own homes. It’s basically doing me out of a job (thanks for that Kate).

Mad About the House - The Book

Only 12 photographs in the entire book!

The chapters are also short. So you can easily dip in and out as and when you need. Which for someone like me, whose attention span never did develop post primary school, is a must. For me to:

  • a) sit down long enough to pick up a book
  • b) read
  • c) read a whole book
  • d) read a whole book with hardly any pictures….

…is rare. Very rare indeed. Reading long passages of text is not my forte. Ask my husband. I have no idea what it said on our marriage certificate.

Everyone should have a copy of this book on their lap or in their bag when doing any kind of home planning or decor purchasing. It’s the perfect reference book and one i’ll certainly be using to back up my own theories, ideas and design ethos, especially when trying to convince a client i’m right and they are wrong the opposite.

Mad About the House Book

Big thanks to Kate for very kindly sending me a preview copy**. I was genuinely excited to read it and it’s certainly not disappointed. If you haven’t bought it already, then do. You know i’m rarely impressed by many things, but i’m a big fan of KWS, because she knows her stuff, she says it like it is and her writing makes me smirk. She’s also a really nice person, which I know should have nothing to do with how good her book is, but actually I think it kinda does.


** I was kindly gifted this copy, but was not required to write a review post. I just wanted to. All words and opinions are my own. And you know I only ever write stuff I genuinely love.

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