Kate Watson-Smyth is the number one interiors blogger behind the multi-award-winning Mad About The House. A journalist and published author, Kate has designed The Mad House as a sourcebook for modern living.
We spoke to Kate about the future of blogging, the sense of community on Instagram, working with brands creatively and her favourite blogs to read.
How do you describe what you do to other people?
How much of a community is there around interiors bloggers?
There is a real sense of community in our field. Particularly on Instagram where we all chat to each other and there’s lots of sharing of each other’s work in stories. I love that aspect of it. It also feels very friendly and welcoming when people share the renovations they are doing and ask for, and receive, advice, ideas and tips.
What’s the best thing about being a professional blogger (if that’s how you refer to yourself)?
I don’t refer to myself as such but that’s probably because I’m a journalist – and therefore a professional writer – by trade. For me the best part of the job is the variety of opportunities that it has brought me. From being able to earn my living from writing, which is my first love, and expanding that into books (my third will be out in March 2020) to interior styling as well as helping people find the decor that is right for them; and then setting up a podcast, The Great Indoors, with television presenter Sophie Robinson [Ranked fourth in the top 10].
More recently I have begun using my platform, if you can call it that, to set up a directory of interiors and homewares brands that are actively trying to reduce their impact on the planet. Do Less Harm aims to be a comprehensive listing of companies in this sector with details of what they are doing when it comes to packaging, disposal, eco-friendly practices and sustainable production. It’s only just launched so it’s small at the moment, but I’m hoping it will grow and be a useful, and huge, resource as well as persuading other companies that they need to step up their own game when they can see what their competitors are doing.
What’s does the future of blogging look like?
Well isn’t that the $64m question! For the last few years people have been predicting the death of the blog and I think many of them did take a hit from the rise of Instagram, but Instagram is proving tricksy these days and many people find it frustrating that their pictures aren’t being shown to their audience, which has in turn led to a resurgence of blogging. There was an evening a few months ago when Instagram went down for hours and people all turned up on Twitter announcing that they had written blog posts for the first time in ages. And that, for me, was key. We don’t own Instagram and if it closed down or disappeared, your audience would go with it. You own your blog and its content and no-one can take that away from you.
The other point is that your blog is like your street address – you can always find it and the content that is there. It’s a nightmare searching Instagram hashtags trying to find the brilliant thing you’re sure you saw two months ago when you can’t remember the name of the person who posted it. Long live blogs I say. But then I would, wouldn’t I!
How do you describe your style?
Constantly evolving, but let’s go with monochrome maximalism for the time being.
What’s your favourite room in the house?
The last one I decorated.
How long do you leave a redesign before wanting to do it again?
That completely depends. I might be constantly tweaking but it’s a rolling thing. We moved into this house nine years ago. We painted it all white, then gradually all shades of grey and I have just finished painting out all the grey, so that’s going to average at every three years or so if my sums are right. That said, I realise that how often I redecorate is probably a different answer from how often I want to redecorate…
What’s the best collaboration you’ve worked on with an agency or brand?
That’s a tough one. I could tell you the worst! (I won’t). There have been many over the years and I tend to like them for the creative freedom and/or the people I work with as well as doing something new. So, Velux was fun because we made a video, which was different and they were a great team. Working with DFS was cool as I worked with Sophie and we styled a roomset according to our own (very different styles), and Bisque Radiators was great because it was nominated for an award.
What advice would you give PRs looking to get in touch?
Do email me. Don’t DM me on Instagram because it’s easy to miss those messages. Don’t address me as ‘Mad’ and do have an idea of what we might do together based on where our mutual strengths lie. It’s always better too, if the brand isn’t overly controlling about what they want.
I have worked on several campaigns that start off as ‘we want to work with you because we love your feed and think it’s a good fit…’ and end up being ‘you need to post this at this time and we want approval of every story and caption that goes out’. I can see that sometimes that is necessary because things can go wrong, but often it ends up killing the creativity that they wanted to hire in the first place. A little give and take and discussion in both directions is always good.
What other blogs do you read?
I love French for Pineapple [ranked tenth in the top 10] – no one is better at spotting a trend than her, Jess at Gold is a Neutral, and Sophie of course – I need to know if she’s being rude about my boring lack of colour that week. I think Melanie Lissack and Karen Knox of Making Spaces are both really talented and clever. I also love Caroline Hirons for all things beauty and Wardrobe Icons for fashion that I mostly can’t afford but like to look at.