Interior Design Podcasts with Kate Watson-Smyth
Kate Watson-Smyth is an interior design expert. After the birth of her elder son 18 years ago she stopped working as a news reporter for The Independent and became a freelance feature writer. A chance gap on the property pages of her old newspaper led to a regular slot writing about the pick of the property market. From there she started writing about the interiors. Eight years ago she set up her "Mad About The House". Now, one blog, two books, with a third coming next year, and several successful collaborations later, Kate is recognised as a maven of all things inspirational for your home. We visited her North London home to discuss design, decluttering and discovering your own style, as well as running through her listening habits.
1. When did you discover you had a passion for interior design?
I have always loved re-arranging furniture since I was a child and I have been known to tweak the position of a table or a cushion at friends’ houses when they nip to the loo, but it really took off when I started writing regularly on the property pages of The Independent. In those days I would receive the brochures in the post as no-one had really caught up with the idea of emailing them at that stage and I never, ever get bored of looking at other people’s houses. As a journalist I also had access to the brains of interiors experts and I soaked up all that knowledge.
2. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It varies. I love hotel bedrooms and restaurant loos, both of which have to pack a lot of oomph into what can often be a small space. Hotel en suites are particularly useful as you can find ideas for how to create something similar in your own bedroom. But I can also be inspired by a photograph – Wes Andersen and Slim Aarons are particular favourites as well as fashion and the trade shows like Maison et Objet, in Paris, and Salone in Milan.
I think if I were on a desert island I would need a copy of The Grand Budapest Hotel as every frame is an inspiration so you could look at a different picture every day and never get bored. It’s one of my favourite films too.
3. You recently started your own podcast, 'The Great Indoors'. What's it all about?
Sophie Robinson and I have been friends for a few years and we felt there wasn’t really anything in the podcast field that gave lots of professional advice on interiors in an accessible format. Each week we discuss a “newsy” topic, trends and new launches, or we might investigate whether expensive paint is worth the money or how to mix patterns and why white paint should be banned – something that gives advice and help to people - and finally we give tips on how to plan a room, or part of a room. It’s all chatty with lots of laughs and we often disagree, which seems to be the part most people like best!
4. When and where do you mostly listen to podcasts?
Listening time for me is very precious as I write for most of the day and I can’t have any other noise while I’m doing that. So I have to grab time, perhaps over lunch, or if I’m in the car. I know lots of people listen while they commute or walk the dog, but I don’t do either of those things so that doesn’t work for me. I also have a hatred of earphones and find them really uncomfortable so I can only listen to things when I am at home and can play it out loud.
5. What podcasts are you listening to right now?
If I’m honest I listen more to the radio than to podcasts which I am only just discovering. I like the serendipity of radio – that you can turn it on and never know what you are going to hear. That way you can discover new things and learn stuff about topics you never knew you were interested in until you hear more about them.
I worry a little about the ability to curate everything we hear, watch and see because that means we tend to stick to things we know we will like. I miss newspapers for that reason – the idea that you can turn a page and read a really interesting story about sport, or cars or something that you wouldn’t normally choose to know about.
For that reason, I am a big fan of Radio 4, which I listen to every morning before I get up although it tends to make me furious for all the obvious reasons. I also like Radio 2 in the afternoon – I can’t believe Steve Wright is still there – I was listening to him when I was at school and there’s something comfortingly familiar about that.
I also love the 6.30 comedy slot on Radio 4 – Just A Minute is a particular favourite for everyone in the family.
As I said, I am still discovering podcasts – I like Hashtag Authentic by Sarah Tasker, Control Alt Delete by Emma Gannon – both of whom tend to talk to interesting women. I haven’t yet found one that talks to me as a 50-year-old woman, running her own business, who loves fashion and interiors and books. Maybe I need to start another one…..
6. Please list your top interior podcasts.
- Hashtag Authentic
- Control Alt Delete
- Round The Houses with Sarah Beeny
- The Inside Stylists with Emma Morton Turner
- Inside and Out with Lisa Dawson and Dee Campling
- Reading in Heels with Alice Revel
The Great Indoors podcast which Kate co-hosts with Sophie Robinson
Photo by Alun Callendar