9 Chic DIY Tips From Interiors Expert Kate Watson-Smyth

Stylish steps to a summer refresh from the Mad About the House blogger...

The lockdown has proved to be a time when many of us have taken stock of what we can do to give our home a stylish refresh. And, while we’re tackling those jobs that have been on the to-do list for what seems like forever, it’s the perfect time to get some expert DIY tips from a top interiors blogger.

According to new research from Barclays Mortgages, we have dedicated an average of four days each to home and garden DIY tasks in lockdown so far, with almost half of us (44 per cent) saying we’ll get our home revalued once restrictions lift to see how much these endeavours have increased the value of the property.

See Also: Spring Tableware To Brighten Up Your Next Virtual Dinner Party

Whether you’re looking to raise the value of your property, or are simply in search of some ultra-chic design-led upgrades, Barclays Mortgages has teamed up with interiors blogger, author and expert Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) to share her top tips on the best tasks to tackle for an on-point freshen up at home, from matching your woodwork to your walls to creating a personalised gallery wall.

See 9 expert DIY tips from Kate Watson-Smyth below:


Not for nothing is the ceiling often called the fifth wall. When you have spent so much time agonising over colours for the walls why spoil it by sticking white on the ceiling? You don’t wear a white top with everything in your wardrobe so take time to think about which colour would really compliment the walls. This might be the same in a small room to make it look bigger, perhaps a pale version of the same wall shade or even a soft contrast – a very pale pink with green, blue or chocolate walls. Although you can paint ceilings in matt emulsion, try using an eggshell or even a gloss with a sheen to bounce the light around.

View this post on Instagram

To round off an extraordinary week, after winning blog of the year at The Good Web Guide on Wednesday, I was, on Friday inducted into the @vuelio Hall of Fame. I would therefore like to say here on the grid what I said on stories: it’s not just about the winning (as fabulous as that is) it’s about being, often, the oldest person in the room to be honoured. About growing up analogue and learning to be digital and about realising, at the age of 45, that my first career had stalled and having to adapt and reinvent myself to create a second one. It’s been hard work and six day weeks for several years but I did it. And I love doing it. And while the trophies are a lovely recognition of that, they are a) down to you for reading and supporting and following and b) a sign that if I can do it then so can you. The right time is now. It’s never too late to try. In other news I have written about how pale pink is such a glorious neutral on the blog today and how you can pile on all the colours for a riotous maximalist scheme or keep it paired back and layer up different shades of the same thing for a sophisticated look. Those included are tagged. . ———————————————————— GIFTED: Paint from @mylands_london: FTT002 Gold, Threadneedle walls and Rothschild Street on the fireplace. Barefoot Hatha carpet from @alternativeflooring. ———————————————————— . . . #cornerofmyhome #myhome #goldceiling #paintitpink #ihavethisthingwithpink #ikealight #homeofficedecor #homeoffice #interiorinspo #interiorstylinginteriorideas #stylemyhome #myhomestyle #pinkisaneutral #paintpower #backtowork #atmydesk #roomwithaview #deskoftheday #fireplace #pendantlight #metallic #whereiwork

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Ceiling Decorating Ideas


The Georgians always matched wood and walls so it’s not a new idea, although after years of white woodwork it now looks modern again. This will create a calming effect as lots of white lines distracts the eye and draws attention to the edges of the room. This technique can make the walls look taller and, therefore, the ceiling higher – but make sure you use eggshell or gloss paint to stick to the wood.

View this post on Instagram

View from the library door. I don’t seem to often show the full side of this room but it’s a fairly classic Victorian front room with the telly in the alcove at the front. It sits on a shelf and we have added a false back to hide all the wires and sockets behind. This is the least changed room in the house. Structurally that is. It’s been white and charcoal and is currently chocolate. The fireplace chimney has been relined, the floors painted and the furniture reupholstered. The rugs are all old, some from my mother, some from my grandmother and others picked up in little shops over the last 25 years together. It is, for now, my perfect sitting room… . . . #housetour #livingroomdecor #sittingroomdecor #mysittingroom #vintagefurniture #vintagerugs #myvintagehome #dolessharm #shopvintage #reupholstery #pinkvelvet #chaiselongue #myhomestyle #stylemyhome #myhomevibe #fireplace #styleitdark #persianrug #victorianterrace #ihavethisthingwithpink #pink #colourcombination

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Cool paint ideas for walls that are graphically glorious


Most of the best expert DIY tips involve paint as it’s a really affordable way to make a difference. If you have a table that you bought at a junk shop or car boot sale then you can create something bespoke and individual with a tin of chalk paint. Or you could simply paint the legs of your kitchen table for an easy, refreshed look.

View this post on Instagram

So the exams are all done and I have reclaimed my office from the 15yo at last. Although I have got rather comfortable again on the sofa in the meantime. So today will be spent sitting here staring at the gold ceiling for inspiration. And also the pink hydrangeas – better than peonies? It’s a close call but I think maybe the hydrangeas edge it. What do you think? Gifted: wool carpet from @alternativeflooring and paint from @mylands_london. . . #mondaymotivation #myoffice #mydesk #homeoffice #goldceiling #hydrangea #antiquedesk #howivintage #myvintageabode #vintage #officedecor #fireplace #whereisit #myhome #carpet #naturalwool #flowers #fifthwall #ceiling #featurewall #cornerofmyhome #walltowallstyle #colourmyhome #stylemyhome #myhomestyle #pinkandgold

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Stylish Study Ideas & Dreamy Home Offices


Window dressings are often expensive as so many of us have windows that aren’t standard sizes. If you have a blind that you no longer like, or that doesn’t go with the décor, try taking it apart and re-using the mechanisms so that all you have to do is re-make the material part.

View this post on Instagram

And so the clocks have gone back which makes getting out of bed on a Monday even harder…. changing over the look in here from warm Autumnal to cooler Winter with this gorgeous #gifted silk and merino Kruger throw which is new to the @emmajshipley range. She has also added shawls, scarves and phone cases to the collection. See stories for how #enidcat likes to get involved when I’m shooting. . . . #green #emmajshipley #bedroomdecor #wintermorning #mondaymorning #stylemybedroom #bedroomstyling #shadesofgreen #forestgreen #mondayvibes #winteriscoming #liein #slowliving #interiorstyling #interiorinspo #andrelax #dontmakemegetup #independentmaker #supportsmallbusiness #dolessharm #shoplocal #linenbedding

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Summer Curtains And Window Treatment Ideas


Sewing cushions is fairly straightforward as it’s all straight lines. You can also have the back and front in different fabric so it’s as if you have twice as many cushions. If you don’t have a fabric remnant that is large enough, try sewing a few together to create a colour block or patchwork effect. If you aren’t confident sewing a zip (you need a special foot on the sewing machine for that) then make an envelope cover like a pillow case or a couple of large buttons. Again, you can buttonhole by hand if you don’t have the right attachment on your sewing machine.

View this post on Instagram

AD: Thirty years ago Peter Bowles set up a lighting company @originalbtc. One of the first lights he designed was the Hector (pictured here). It was his idea to create the shade from bone china, a material that hadn’t been used in such a way before. He went to a teapot factory in Stoke on Trent and asked them to help. They thought he was barmy. But they complied. Back at home Peter felt there was still something missing. He didn’t like the plastic electrical cord so he snipped the cable off the iron and attached that instead. Thirty years on the Hector is sold in 80 countries and has been updated for 2020 with a black cable and a brass stem. Peter has used the profits to buy a new iron… But seriously, I can’t tell you how beautifully the light filters through bone china. It’s like nothing you will ever get from a fabric shade. You can read more about this heritage British brand over on the blog madaboutthehouse.com. #britishclassics #timelessbritishclassics #originalbtc #lighting #hector30 #thirtyyears #madeinengland #bonechina #brass #handmade #britishmanufacturing #madebyhand #stokeontrent #handcrafted #dolessharm #buyonce ##buyforlife #cornerofmyhome #chaiselongue #pinksofa #greycat #enidcat #vintage #persianrug

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Trend alert – the five cool Moroccan rugs we’re coveting


You can buy lampshade kits but if you have a simple drum shade that, again, you would like to refresh, then you can simply glue some different material over the top and attach with pegs while it dries. Bear in mind it might not give out as much light as before so choose a light fabric. But it will still give direct light from the top and bottom rather than a gentle ambient and diffused glow.

View this post on Instagram

AD: As we continue to spend so much time indoors during this lockdown I have noticed that lots of us have been using the time to make improvements to our homes and gardens. Not only does a spot of DIY help make your spaces nicer to be in, but it could also have the added benefit of boosting the value of your property. According to Barclays Mortgages, with whom I have collaborated on this post, two in five of us think lockdown has improved our DIY skills and nearly half intend to get their home re-valued after lockdown to see if their efforts have paid off. So, I’ve teamed up with @barclaysuk to give you all some of my top tips on how to improve your home during lockdown. My suggestions include painting your ceiling in a dramatic colour, matching the woodwork to the walls and using fabric remnants to make new cushions or blinds, but do head over to the blog to see more (link in profile). The key is not to start something you won't finish. . . . #lockdown #decoratingtips #lockdowndiy #makedoandmend #goldceiling #painting #goldpaint #interiorinspo #interiorstyling #homeoffice #wfh #workingfromhome #vintage #antiquqdeak #shopvintage #dolessharm #priedieu #diytips #homeofficedecor #barclaysbank

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: 4 steps to creating a Michelin-worthy dining room atmosphere at home


How many of us have thousands of pictures on our phones that just sit there taking up space? Why not use the current time to download and print a few and create a gallery wall in your home? A staircase is a great place to start as you don’t have to worry about straight lines. You can either match all the frames and have different sizes or choose a variety of black, wood and gold or coloured frames and create an organic pattern on your wall. Try laying them out on the floor first to get a feel for the overall look.

View this post on Instagram

The next episode of The Great Indoors podcast is out today. It’s a huge episode of winter cosiness in which @sophierobinsoninteriors and I discuss the sleep crisis facing the nation and how to get the bedroom decor right. Then what can be nicer on a cold dark day than curling up with a good book? We’ve reviewed three of the latest releases including @pearllowe, and @rockettstgeorge, while our third book is all about the science behind making a creative home. Yes natural light and connections to nature, but also: looking at a bare bulb can literally bring on an idea, Marie Kondo was wrong – you need books,mementoes and “stuff” to spark those thoughts and you should dim the lights for a brainstorming session – your brain wanders more freely when the surroundings are indistinct. One of the most fascinating books I have read for a while. Listen via the link in profile and read more on the blog. With thanks as ever to @johnlewisandpartners for sponsoring this, our fifth series, and @katetaylorldn for producing. . . . #thegreatindoors #newepisode #talkinginteriors #bookreviews #newshow #kitchendecor #kitchensofa #buyvintage #shoplocal #dolessharm #gallerywall #blackkitchen #goldceiling #homeffice #interiorstyling #interiorinspo #swipetoseemore #stylemyhome #myhomestyle

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Stylish Gallery Wall Ideas


Refreshing handles is one of the easiest expert DIY tips, and can be a simple but effective way to update your kitchen cupboards or a chest of drawers. The easy way is to choose handles that are the same size as the existing ones so you can replace like for like. If you want something different then you will need to be prepared to fill the old holes, sand them down and paint over before drilling new holes for your new handles.

View this post on Instagram

Podcast day. And it’s the last episode of series 2, but don’t panic we will be segueing seamlessly into series 3. So what have we got for you this week? Well first up @sophierobinsoninteriors and I are discussing whether Instagram is the 21st century equivalent of Keeping Up With The Jones’ so make sure you tune in for that. Then we are sharing our tips for decorating on a budget and this is Sophie’s kitchen with doors she made herself from MDF with routered out details and, finally, how to plan the kids rooms. And you will NEVER guess what colour her son’s nursery was. No not grey…. Also her design crime is also somewhat unexpected. It’s a corker. Link in profile as ever. And, as ever, thank you so much to our sponsors @dfs and our producer @katetaylorldn. You will find all the notes and links on our blogs as ever with pictures to illustrate. . PAINT: zoffany huntsman green and borastapeter rhubarb wallpaper. . #cornerofmyhome #kitchendecor #budgetdecor #interiortips #podcast #talkinginteriors #linkinprofile #ihavethisthingwithinteriors #darkgreen #zoffany #wallpaper #roomdecor #walltowallstyle #kitchendesign #woodenworktop #thatsdarling #interiors4all #interiors2you #sodomino #apartmentherapy #lonnyliving #countrykitchen #colourlover #banthebeige #colourmehappy #colourmyhome

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Cool Kitchen Storage


This is a really good way to add a bit of interest without going overboard. Carefully stick frog tape to the edges of the door on both sides and paint the edge in a bold colour so that you only see it when the door is open. You can match the colour of the room the door opens into or add a bright totally contrasting shade for fun.

View this post on Instagram

It’s podcast time again and this week @sophierobinsoninteriors and I are delving into colour and wellbeing. It’s not enough to pick or choose a colour based simply on if you like it. You must also work out how it makes you feel, which means you could end up with a shade you hadn’t previously considered. This also helps bring partners on board as when you say pink they may think Barbie when you meant blush (so think before you speak and get banned). This viewpoint also perfectly reflects mine and Sophie’s taste. We both love pink but whereas my office is a calm pale version that helps me write, she is about to redo hers in vibrant patterned bubblegum wallpaper that makes her feel energised and creative. I, on the other hand, will immediately feel stressed and edgy so we will have to record in another room. This is her kitchen to which she has just added more wallpaper and a bench. This I can do. The hot pink is under control. Later in the show we discuss the trend that is taking over Instagram walls everywhere. Panelling. Yes or no? For or against? Have a listen via the link in my profile and see what you think. Huge thanks as ever to our producer @katetaylorldn and our sponsors @toppstiles. . . . #podcast #thegreatindoors #newepisode #colourlover #banthebeige #styleitdark #vintagechairs #dolessharm #colourandwellbeing #kitchendecor #kitchendesign #colourandemotion #hotpink #ihavethisthingwithpink #vintageercol #terracottatiles #reclaimedtiles #hexagon #wallpaper #interiorinspo #greenandpink #pinkandgreen

A post shared by Kate Watson-Smyth (@mad_about_the_house) on

See Also: Anthropologie’s latest collab brings artisanal homewares to the high street

Daily Style Fix