Meet the interior design star: Kate of @myoldpub

We chat to Kate (aka @myoldpub), transformer of run down relic into gorgeous home, and inspiration to thousands of interior design and renovation enthusiasts…

If you’re a fan of jaw-dropping home renovation before-and-after shots (and who isn’t?), then we suggest you hurry over to @myoldpub, the instagram account of a very brilliant Hertfordshire-based home renovator named Kate. 

Kate moved into a characterful but sadly run down 16th Century building  a former pub – in 2019. Room by room, with ingenuity, hard work and a very discerning eye for decorative style, she has turned it into a stunning home, retaining original features like the wonderfully wonky beams and introducing a host of perfectly-balanced, timeless stylistic touches (including, dare we mention, a Pooky light or two.).

For any period property owner or would-be renovator, Kate is an inspiration. We thought we’d ask her how on earth she’s done it…

myoldpub extPhoto: @myoldpub

So what possessed you to take on a 400-odd year old pub and transform it into a gorgeous home? 

Having said I didn’t want a project because it is too much like work, I fell in love with this place the first time I walked through the door and saw the ridiculously over sized fire place! Honestly, it was within seconds of walking through the door I knew it was the one for me. I think it was the fact that it so needed some love from someone and that underneath the dirt and smell it obviously had a nice feeling to it!

Just how bad a state was it in when you bought it?

It was in a very sorry state, nothing structural, but just every single room was damaged in some way, it really needed a lot of love. It had been neglected by tenants and the damage was throughout. The smell was so bad when I viewed, the owners actually agreed to let me have the worst carpets removed and the place fumigated before I completed the sale. The first five weeks were spent with no electrics, then six months of scaffold to fix; windows that were about to fall out, chimneys, missing tiles, damaged bricks and since then it’s been constant DIY and professional help for the last four years.

 myoldpub before and afterA typical Before and After... Photo: @myoldpub

You have a professional background in restoring and repurposing historic buildings, and also in architecture and masterplanning. What was it like bringing your skills and knowledge to bear on your own home – and what has been the biggest challenge in the project?

I think I have learnt it is very different when it is your own house and you don’t have a professional team of experts to hand! I am much better at making a decision at work – at home I find it almost impossible.

I think the biggest challenge was not finding it completely overwhelming to be honest. It took me a good couple of years to not feel slightly overwhelmed by it all. It can often feel like you are taking one step forward and two backwards when you are in the thick of it!

Aside from the practical and project management skills, you clearly have a fantastic eye for colour palettes, textures and putting pieces together to make a harmonious space. How would you describe your interior design style?

Thank you, but I am definitely no expert, it has been a very iterative process, I am very much learning as I go! I have made a lot of mistakes and learnt a lot. Really tricky to answer, I do know that I always try and use things in their natural state and I will always opt for a natural material wherever possible. I think a lot of the time that guides what I do.

I know I started here by using the same colours and fabrics that I had used at my last house, which was a Victorian terrace. I quickly learnt that didn’t work and that you need to work with the house you have in front of you, not what you have pinned on pinterest or used in other houses!

myoldpub sittingroom

myoldpub bathroom
Photos: @myoldpub

Did you have a plan from the start for how each room would look or is it all more improvised than that?

Very much more improvised than that, no plan here I am afraid! I have just tried to understand the spaces over the last four years and work with them. For example, my natural go to colours are grey-ish, but I soon realised here that I don’t think that grey-ish tones work particularly well with the brown of the beams. It is definitely still evolving, I am still learning what I like and what works.

Because every room needed a lot of DIY and decorating when I arrived, I opted for just going very neutral and didn’t really finish the rooms before I moved on to the next. I am now really enjoying going back to each room and unpacking my pictures, furniture etc and making it feel more like my home. I am definitely embracing the idea of ‘slow decorating’!

Tell us about those wonderfully wonky beams (and is it true that there are some black magic symbols engraved on some of them?)

They are a little on the wonky side aren’t they? I’m lucky that through my work I have a friend who is a building archaeologist and when I first moved in he was kind enough to spend a day going around the building with me and trying to piece the history together. We came to the conclusion, fairly quickly, that not a single one of the beams is in its original location. In fact, he thought given the woodworm damaged to them, they were possibly from an old barn or previously stored outside for a long period of time before they were used to build the house.

There is one beam that is particularly amazing, he thought it might be as early as the 14th century and has holes in it where mullions and shutters would have been prior to glass being used! It definitely isn’t in its original location, but fascinating nonetheless.

Yes, there are several ‘witch’ and superstitious markings on the beams. On the front door there are some hexafoils (a round pattern) that we discovered when restoring the door and some burn marks on the beams to protect against lightening strikes and fires. Incredible to think these have been here hundreds of years.

myoldpub kitchen

Kitchen featuring Pooky's Cecelia ceramic pendant lightPhotos: @myoldpub

What are your favourite places for interior design inspiration?

I find a lot of inspiration from Instagram and Pinterest, but I am also lucky that I get to visit some fantastic places with my job and get quite a lot of inspiration from there too. I have also found travelling a great source of inspiration, so much of our design over here is influenced by places like Morocco and India and they have definitely been inspirational to me too.


Do you have one room or space in the house that’s particularly special to you? Your personal haven?

I think this has to be the lounge with the big fireplace in it. The fireplace was what made me fall in love with the house. The room really comes in to its own in the winter when the fire is on and the candles are lit. Ironically, this is the room where I don’t think I have yet got the lighting right! Think I need to introduce some more table lamps particularly next to the sofa.

loungeKate's fireplace looking festive... Photo: @myoldpub

How big a role does lighting play in your interior design? Any lighting tips to share?

I think it plays an enormous role. I actually think it is probably one of the single biggest things to make or break the ambience of a room.

When I was working at an architecture firm we had a lighting design studio within the office and I very nearly jumped ship and retrained in lighting design! I love how much of a difference well designed lighting can make to indoor and outdoor spaces.

I very rarely use central ceiling lights in living spaces, I prefer to have table lamps or wall lamps, I think this helps to make a room feel really cosy and inviting. Stark overhead light can really make a space uncomfortable I find.

I have found that with older houses which tend to be darker, you really do need to think about how you light the space for day to day use. For example, using a solid shade in a utility or kitchen space can mean that you end up with less light bouncing off the ceiling and overall light levels. That is why I ended up choosing your Cupola Pendant for the utility room so that I got as much light as possible, whilst still having a beautiful light!

myoldpub looUtility room and downstairs loo, both featuring Pooky's Cupola pendantPhotos: @myoldpub

Has being a bit of an Instagram interiors smash changed your life at all?

Oh goodness, I am not sure I would call myself an Instagram smash, but thank you! Not really changed very much to be honest. However, creating the posts and stories means that I am learning how to use my camera again which I am really enjoying.

Whilst doing the renovations on this house and my last one, photography has rather taken a back seat, so lovely to pick it back up again.

The other thing that I suppose has changed is that I have made some very good ‘Instagram friends’ and the support and help from others is incredible, it really is a very friendly community! I have learnt a lot from it.


Is your home finished now or is there always something more to do?

Always something more to do! There are some repairs to the walls in garden that need doing and I need to get to the bottom of some damp patches in the dining room, the old lump certainly keeps me on my toes!


Finally, do you have a favourite Pooky light?

That is a really hard question – I love all my Pooky lights! But I do rather love the Cecilia ceramic shades and fittings I have in the kitchen, they are just so delicate.

ceciliaCecelia ceramic pendant lightPhoto: @myoldpub


Follow Kate's restoration adventures on Instagram at @myoldpub.

Browse Pooky's pendant lights, table lamps, lampshades and more here - and find more interiors inspiration on our blog.