We’ve all gone dotty for checks – Mad About The House

A week since I showed you the house we have bought in Italy, less than a week to the publication of my new book and the start of the first week without the builders – don’t worry they’ll be back next Monday – but, for now, we have a few days of calm. Well I say that. So far it’s turning out to be quite a lot of “where the hell is that thing I put in that box and now I can’t find the box, much less the thing and maybe we don’t need it anyway. Except we do.”

design by heidi callier

design by heidi callier

Now before we take a calming, and hopefully inspirational stroll, round some beautiful rooms, I wanted to invite you to an event celebrating the launch of my book this Thursday at the Anthropologie store on The King’s Road in West London. Doors open at 5.30 and I will be chatting to the brilliant design author Becky Sunshine about why I wrote it and how it works. It’s free but you need to register. The link is here – I do hope some of you will be able to come. It’s always so lovely to meet readers in person and to get to know you IRL, as they say.

design by luke edward hall at les deux gares hotel in paris

design by luke edward hall at les deux gares hotel in paris

Moving on to this week’s inspiration and while I’m definitely drawn to bathrooms at the moment as we have to start thinking about how to decorate them in Italy – they are small and the architect informs us that bidets are non-negotiable – I realised that we’re also seeing checks everywhere.

image by sara margareta hellman

image by sara margareta hellman

The once ubiquitous subway, or metro rectangle tile, seems to have been replaced by the classic square. And this is not necessarily a bad thing as you can, often, buy them cheaply, and then simply by adding a colourful grout or buying different colours you can create so many different patterns and looks. If you’re on a budget (who isn’t?) then you might want to steer clear of the zellige ones but instead look at local builders’ merchants – a quick google found some at around £12 a metre while Topps have a lovely selection of colours from £35.

bathroom from the Paris mansion of Moïse de Camondo, now a museum photographed by @brunosuetphoto for world of interiors magazine

bathroom from the Paris mansion of Moïse de Camondo, now a museum photographed by @brunosuetphoto for world of interiors magazine

Then all you have to to is decide on what pattern you want to create; all plain with a band of contrasting colour along the top, a classic checkboard, fat stripes or thin stripes or, hard to pull off this one, a seemingly random pattern. There are so many options and you can keep a classic white tile as your basic to go with your sanitaryware (or look at the increasing number of coloured options that are coming back round) and by simply adding in one or two more colours and using a toning or contrasting shade of paint you can create something that will look much more expensive than it was. If you want, as I clearly now do, the basket weave from the image above that will cost a little more – Claybrooke Studo have a version for £180 per sqm, Stonedeals for £72 and Mandarin Stone for £124.

design and image by @ispydiy

design and image by @ispydiy

And if you’re not redoing bathrooms but still fancy a bit of check then don’t forget that gingham is having a moment too as seen in these bunkside curtains by designer Francesca Rowan Plowden. Like classic square tiles you can pick up metres of gingham at low prices. It’s stripey stablemate ticking can vary enormously depending on who makes it so shop around for both to find a good price. I found it at £10 per metre at Higgs and Higgs which stocks a huge range of colours and different size checks. I feel a shower curtain incoming…

design by by francesca rowan plowden

design by by francesca rowan plowden 

Finally, if you aren’t into sewing and you’re not redoing your bathrooms then there is that other classic the panelling. Again, this is becoming ubiquitous but if you live in a new build and want to add character then the key is not to fix traditional period panelling as that is going to look odd on the 5th floor of a modern block of flats. Instead look at something more uniform – squares, and either paint in neutral colour so it adds texture rather than being the focus of attention or pick a zingy modern colour rather than muted period tones. Nothing wrong with a muted period tone – I have them all over my own house but the key to a successful new build is owning and working with it rather than trying to turn it into a Victorian Villa or Georgian country mansion.

I hope that has filled your Monday with some loveliness ready for the week ahead. Don’t forget to drop by the book party if you are able.

Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.