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The Alternative Blog

Back in July, we gave you a sneak peek of our beautiful new Quirky Bloom carpet, which was a result of our collaboration with the renowned interior journalist, author, and founder of madaboutthehouse.com, Kate Watson-Smyth. We were beyond excited to share the story behind the creation of this fresh floral carpet as we interviewed Kate to gain valuable insights into the inspiration and ideas that influenced the design, as well as a fascinating factory tour.

And now, we are thrilled to unveil Quirky Bloom, displayed in all its splendour in Kate’s recently renovated home, a Victorian cottage in north London.  She chose the Tiramisu in the chocolate, pink and cream colourway and says it makes “the perfect introduction to the rest of the house and the first thing you see when you come in.”

We were lucky to catch up with Kate to find out more about her new pad.

At the start of the project, did you have a definite vision for the final look of the house? Have you always had a well-defined sense of your personal style?

Yes and yes in short! My last house, where Quirky Spotty in Damson was the first thing you saw when you came in, was a tall thin townhouse and it was decorated in a more formal style. This is more of a Victorian worker’s cottage and I immediately felt that it needed to be cosier and warmer with lots more textiles – carpets, sisal, velvet curtains and terracotta floors. I also wanted the colour palette to be warm, soft and tonal.

I have always known what I like when it comes to interior design – ever since I was allowed to decorate my bedroom in a Laura Ashley sprigged floral in the early 80s.

How would you describe your home?

Above all, I hope it is comfortable. The colours are soft, the furniture is mostly vintage and there are lots of different textures from the aged copper worktop and black marble table to the soft carpet and sisal underfoot.

What was the first thing you did to your home when you moved in?

Literally? Pulled a shelf off the wall as the removal men were bringing boxes in. It was hanging off and I didn’t want them to put anything on it! After that, the first room we did was my son’s room. He is at home doing a masters degree and we wanted to do that first so he would have a place to study with storage for his stuff and a desk. 

Was using natural materials on the floors a consideration?

Yes absolutely. We have engineered floorboards from Broadleaf Timber in the sitting room and hall, reclaimed terracotta from Ca Pietra in the kitchen, pantry and shower room, with dark terracotta from Claybrook Studio in the family bathroom. Then there is my beautiful Quirky Bloom in the halls, stairs and landing which is so soft underfoot and 100 per cent British wool, while my son’s bedroom has cork boards from Recork and my bedroom and office have Sisal Bubbleweave which is also lovely to walk on barefoot. They are all different textures but all natural materials and the feel underfoot changes from room to room which I also really like.

Kate and Enid the cat choosing the bedroom flooring

Any decorating advice and quick tips to give others looking to take on a project?

As I said in my book Mad About The House, you must ask yourself six questions: Who, what, when, where, why and how. Who is the room for? What are they doing in there and when? The needs of a couple with small kids are very different from those of a couple of child-free downsizers. Working out what a room is for – working, playing, sleeping, relaxing, eating – will help you with furniture choices and layout and knowing When they will be those things will help with lighting. Why are you redoing this room – making a list of what is wrong will help you understand how to put it right and focus on issues or storage and flow around the space. Where will you shop – this also talks to your budget. And How do you want to feel in the space – this is vital for colour choices. A bright emerald green that makes you feel buzzy and creative is no good for a bedroom where you need a shade that, for you, signifies relaxation and calm.

Runners versus full fit on the stairs, personal preference or practical decision?

Runners have been very fashionable in recent years and I do love them but it costs more to do – you have to make sure the sides of the stairs look good which can mean sanding and painting in addition to buying the runner. The other point is that if you have narrow stairs a runner will only emphasise that which may not be the effect you are looking for. When it came to Quirky Bloom I wanted full width because I wanted the exuberance of the flowers in their full glory and I felt that a narrow strip down the middle of the stairs would rob them of their glory. I deliberately kept the walls and bannisters simple so the carpet would stand out and become the focal point of the space. While my stairs are a good width the landing is small so, for that reason, it was more practical to fully carpet that space and it looks brilliant.

If you are nervous about pattern you can carpet the stairs and stop under the nose of the top step and then sand and paint/varnish your landing floorboards. However, it’s also worth noting – from a practical point of view – that wool carpets are very good at absorbing noise.

Quirky Bloom is available in six delicious shades, Pizzelle, Cavolo, Gelato, Oliva, Polenta and Tiramisu.

Did you know where and how you wanted to install your Quirky Bloom carpet?

A good stair carpet is vital. Not just for practical reasons as it takes a lot of traffic, but also as it’s often the first thing you see when you or your guests open the front door. For that reason, it’s a real statement about who lives there. I knew I wanted something special for the stairs but when I saw Bloom for the first time after designing it I also knew that I wanted it to go full width across my stairs and landings. The walls are soft cream with dark wood banisters and that allows the carpet to sing solo. There’s no furniture so she can really own the space.

But she would work equally well in a room with a plain or striped sofa and chairs. Mixing stripes or geometrics and florals is always a winning combination.

Another key point is that the design may be flamboyant but the colours of all six versions are soft and muted which makes it easier to live with. Bloom will show off your furniture as well as making her own statement.

Kate chose Sisal Bubbleweave in Desert for her serene bedroom scheme

Tell us about your carpet choices for the bedroom and home office.

In the last house we had painted floorboards and, although I love that look, I wanted something cosier. We have full-length cream velvet curtains and I wanted something with natural texture that would contrast with them. The Bubbleweave Sisal is really soft underfoot as it’s such a large weave but its industrial look is a perfect contrast to the soft velvet and it works beautifully. We have also had a Zebo Quirky rug for many years and I knew that would sit well on the sisal and bring a bit of va va voom.

Kate had the Quirky Zebo black carpet made into a rug for her home office

Were there any surprise choices that caught you off guard during the process?

Did I surprise myself you mean? I planned it all well in advance so I knew what I wanted.

Do you have a favourite room and if so, why?

It’s usually the one I most recently decorated but given that we did the whole house it’s hard to pick one. I love them all at different times of the day and in different lights. From the sitting room, I can see my stairs, from the stairs I can see my kitchen. I do love the stairs.

For you, what makes a happy home?

It’s a feeling rather than the stuff although I will say that good storage helps enormously.

Quirky Bloom debuts at Decorex 8-11 October 2023 (Stand A34), Olympia, Part of The London Design Festival and Kate will be on the stand on Monday 9th.

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The Edit - home style by Alternative