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The Alternative Blog

The design journey begins for a new pattern in our award-winning Quirky wool collection.

Kate Watson-Smyth, an accomplished journalist with over 20 years of experience, has been an influential voice in the fields of property, interiors, and design.

She is the creator of the award-winning blog Mad About the House and co-hosts The Great Indoors podcast with Sophie Robinson, which delves into the art of creating living spaces that truly suit your needs. Kate has also authored five captivating books on interior design that are sure to inspire.

We are thrilled to share the behind-the-scenes story of Quirky Bloom and Kate’s factory visit.  We had the opportunity to interview her and gain insight into the concepts and influences that shaped the design.

Kate at our carpet factory overseeing the manu-crafting process

When did you and Alternative first meet?

So long ago I can barely remember!

I bought their Quirky Spotty in Damson for the stairs of my old house in about 2011. The following year when I started the blog madaboutthehouse.com I wrote about it and we started working together after that. Blogs were new and social media was in its infancy and it felt innovative and exciting to partner up in that way. We made a video together to launch their new Make Me A Rug service – for which I used Zebo which I still have and is currently in the office/spare room of my new house.

Quirky Spotty in Damson for the stairs in Kate’s previous house

What drew you to this flooring brand/ Why did choose Alternative for your floors?

I love that they are, as the name suggests, a bit “alternative”. 

When I was looking for carpet in 2011 everything seemed to be either plains or stripes or a little bit “70s pub” and not in a good way. I was immediately drawn to the Alternative Flooring Quirky range with its spots and have loved everything they have done ever since. We moved out of that house in 2022 and that carpet still looked as good as the day it went down and we were never very good about taking our shoes off. 

First snippets of the design


How did you arrive at your Quirky Bloom design?

I had been toying with the idea of some flowers that were a little bit more graphic in design and started doodling. I sent it to Alternative Flooring and it was like a dream come true when they said they were up for it. I particularly love their new palette of muted colours so you can have a flamboyant design but in muted colours so it’s not terrifyingly full on.

I have the Tiramisu colourway but honestly, I could have every single one in my house. I particularly love the Polenta and Oliva although the Gelato would be gorgeous in a bedroom.

Samples of the pretty colourways, complete with Enid the cat.


What is the collection vibe/name inspirations?

Naming things is so hard! I am also curating a paint collection with Graphenstone following from some apartments I consulted on and that was all Victorian objects so I wanted to find something different and I thought just naming colours – blue, green, brown etc wasn’t particularly original or appetising so I started down the food route and ended up with these. I think they’re fun and hopefully memorable. To be honest the names might be more eye-catching than the carpet design!

Alternative’s carpet factory with cones of coloured yarns

Tell us about the design journey and the carpet being woven.

I began by drawing the design on my computer and then sent it to Alternative Flooring who scaled it and rendered it. I was very keen that the flowers all be different sizes and that the pattern be as random as possible. I wanted the effect of flowers tumbling down the stairs rather than a regimented series of rows. Then I looked at the gorgeous new colours that are in the range and they were all perfect for my palette. We decided to keep all the petals cream and mix up the backgrounds and centres. 

Quirky Bloom being woven on traditional looms

It was such a thrill to visit Wilton and see the carpet being woven. I have been on factory tours before and I love seeing how things are made, but it was the first time I have ever seen something that I have designed being brought to life. It’s a fascinating process and it was so interesting to see the craft involved in setting up and working the looms. While it’s all woven by machine, you also need real people keeping a really close eye for a dropped thread or a missed loop and you can’t replace that painstaking work with a robot. Each carpet is hand-checked several times from being woven right through to the end process.

Is ‘made in Britain’ important to you and using British wool?

We don’t make so much in this country anymore and where we have skills and crafts we should celebrate that and keep it going. This factory is thriving and is full of young people learning new skills so it’s wonderful that this carpet is a product that was designed in Britain (in my London study) and made in Britain (Wilton) using British wool from sheep. That has to be something to be proud of.

Describe your new home, when did you move in?

We moved in at the end of September 2022 and it needed everything doing. We have replaced the boiler, the radiators, the windows and all the flooring as well as the kitchen and bathroom and decorating the other rooms which all needed storage building. It turned out to be more of a job than we anticipated, but once we started there was the usual domino effect so there is almost nothing the same from when we moved in apart from the position of the walls. 


Tell us about the flooring choices and any tips.

I have used natural flooring throughout from terracotta tiles in the kitchen to wooden floorboards in the sitting room. Upstairs my sons have cork floors, the bedrooms have sisal (Sisal Bubble Weave desert) and then the natural wool of Quirky Bloom on my hall stairs and landing. 

It was a deliberate choice to go full width on the stairs and across all the landings. Firstly, I wanted to go all out with the pattern. The walls are a plain off-white so I felt the stairs – the spine of the house – could be dramatic and create a focal point. As is often the case the stairs are the first thing you see when you open the door so I wanted to make a statement and also feel happy when I come in and see that joyous bloom flowing down the stairs. 

It’s also a classic Victorian terraced worker’s cottage so the stairs aren’t that wide – I felt to use it as a runner would diminish it somehow as it would be very narrow. In addition to that, it’s also more cost-effective to go full width as you don’t have to sand and paint the sides of the stairs or have the carpet whipped at the edges.

If you feel the pattern is too much you can always carpet the stairs and leave the landings as plain boards to break it up a little. 


What influences your interior design choices?

Everything from a picture in a magazine to a film (Wes Anderson anyone?) to a dress or a snippet of a material. I’m always looking at people on the tube and have been known to run after them to ask what they are wearing. I look at lots of books and television shows as well. After watching Halson we spent the weekend painting the loft in the old house in a red lacquer. It was too much and we spent the following weekend painting it back again, but we kept some of the other 70s touches in the form of lighting and side tables. 

Describe your interior style in three words

I can’t! I hope it is warm and comfortable and rich in tonal colours with lots of books and vintage objects. 

You can order your Quirky Bloom samples here and take a look at Kate’s blog Mad About the House.

Quirky Bloom debuts at Decorex 8-11 October 2023 (Stand A34) Part of The London Design Festival.

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The Edit - home style by Alternative