Meet ‘Martini Journalist’ and Interior Blogger, Mad About the House

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

It’s a competitive world for bloggers out there, but one former journalist hailing from North London has managed to cut through the spam with her successful and inspired home decor blog, Mad About the House. Kate Watson-Smyth is now two publications in, a sought after interior design and style consultant and regular authority on design objects. She dropped her hectic schedule of writing blogs, writing books, styling, curating, and more writing – as well as sorting out  ‘two teenage sons. And the laundry. Always the laundry’ – to swing by the other side of London and pay a visit to the Khoollect Studio.

You started your blog to share your interior inspiration. Tell us about that…

That has become a slight myth over the years – I probably started it in an effort to sound more professional. The truth is that my freelance journalism career was struggling as newspaper sales went into decline and they failed to compete against the internet so I started the blog as a kind of elaborate online CV to try and generate more work. I had no idea where it would take me. In the first instance it led to work at the House & Home section of the Financial Times but two years later I no longer had time to write for them as the blog had taken over.

What do you find liberating about blogging?

It’s very liberating to be able to chat to my readers as if they were in the room with me. When you train as a reporter you are always told that the reader isn’t interested in you – unless you become a columnist. You must report the facts simply and clearly and keep yourself out of the story. When I first started the blog that is how I wrote, but gradually, as readers started to leave comments and we chatted, it has become like an on-going conversation and I very often start a post where I left off from the day before. Which is terrible journalism but seems to work on a blog.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a blog? 

Consistency is key. Now that there is so much going on out there I think readers need to know where you will be and when so they can always find you. I decided very early on that I would publish every day. And I did – for three years, seven days a week. I set up a feature called 365 Objects of Design and I numbered and dated them so I knew I would have to write it every single day or I would reach the end of the year and be out of sync. Now I publish five posts a week at 6.45am without fail. In 2015, when I had six-and-a-half weeks of radiotherapy (for cancer of the saliva gland – all clear now), I ran updated and archive posts and still didn’t miss a day. Can’t decide if I’m proud of that or if it makes me a nutter.

So, decide how often you can post, tell your readers and stick to it. Once a week is fine, just don’t miss it. Online readers can afford to be fickle; don’t give them an excuse to go elsewhere.

Your second book Mad About the House has just been published. Did you ever think your blog would lead to a book?

I hoped! I think every journalist wants to write a book don’t they? I remember opening a new notebook in that dead period between Christmas and New Year at the end of 2011 and writing: ‘blog, book, business’. The blog launched two weeks later, the book came in 2016 and the business probably between the two in 2014.

What was the reason behind writing the book?

I help people with their homes via my consultancy Mad About Your House. It’s about layout and lighting and paint colours and shopping. It’s not interior design as such but more about styling and sourcing. The first book came, inevitably, out of the blog. I wrote a post on how to choose the right shade of grey paint and while I wouldn’t’ say it went viral, it had over 500 hits every day for about three years so it clearly resonated somewhere.

What do you enjoy about the process of writing a book versus blogging or journalism?

I have always loved writing. Don’t care if it’s book or blog I just love writing. I was a rubbish reporter, as I’m sure various news editors would attest, I find the door knocking and the driving and the gathering of the information quite stressful.

What do you think of Marie Kondo approach to organising your home?

I admire the discipline but it’s not for me. I like stuff too much. I’m all for tidiness but I like to see things on shelves and tables. A messy bookshelf draws me in – it looks used and inviting. And that hoover ain’t never gonna spark any joy whatever she says.

Where do you currently call home and what about it inspires you? 

I live in north London and have done for nearly 23 years. I love this city and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Years ago in my 20s (back in the early nineties) I lived in Paris for three years. It’s a beautiful city but it wasn’t my city. I would also love to live in Milan or Rome, but again, they aren’t mine. I feel at home in London and I love that it is, as someone – I can’t remember who – said, a city of villages each one with its own characteristics.

I khoollect a few… 

I seem to have a thing for chopping boards and am often buying new ones without admitting to collecting them…My favourite was made for me by a wonderful woman called Di Overton, who sadly died just before Christmas. I had written a post about the Japanese art of Kintsugi and repairing broken china with golden glue to make it even more beautiful than it was before. Di read that post (she was a very early subscriber to the blog) and started making chopping boards from off-cuts of wood and filling the cracks with golden glue. I use that board as a tray for my coffee several times a week and I think of her every time.

A life lesson that you’d tell your younger self?

This is the point when you have to resort to cliché because they are true for a reason: ‘You’re 16, you’re not fat. That boy was an arse. You’re better than him. Keep dreaming, they do come true’.

Can you imagine a world without Internet? 

As a mother and a journalist I do wonder how we managed without Google to answer all those questions from who invented the chaise longue to why do dogs bark not miaow. Offline I’d read a book.

Do you believe rituals are an important part of creativity?

Novelists say they write for two hours in the morning or get up early or don’t stop till they’ve written 1000 words, perhaps it’s different for them. I’m a Martini journalist – I’ll write anytime, any place, anywhere. Actually a Martini might help….

Follow Kate on Instagram and Twitter and get some interior inspiration of your own.

Kate Watson-Smyth’s new book Mad About The House (Pavilion) is out now. Click here to purchase it.


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