Stylish Built-In Wardrobe Ideas

This isn’t a long or detailed post but rather a few images that have really inspired me the last few weeks and spurred me on to take the leap and make a big outlay on buying wardrobes for our bedroom. I will write in a lot more detail about the process of choosing and fitting the IKEA PAX wardrobe system, which is what we’ve gone for, as so many of you sent me messages when I showed what we were up to on Instagram stories the other day. The messages made it very clear that a lot of you are desperate for a lot of PAX chat and I’m pretty sure that’s because there actually isn’t a huge amount of detail about the system online, especially the hack process we want to attempt. That will all come, I promise!

In the meantime, these wardrobes really stood out to me and made me think I could make a large bank of wardrobes work in our small bedroom. I’ve been very hesitant until now to commit to wardrobes because our room is so small (3.1 x 2.9 metres). I was worried about filling the alcoves as any feeling of space and airiness we have is because those spaces are quite empty. I was also hesitant about buying free standing wardrobes as I would want antique ones and generally speaking they just don’t make the most of the space and we are desperate for storage. Therefore, I have been leaning towards floor to ceiling bespoke wardrobes, which we can’t afford (the average quote was £2800), and trying to make them tie in with the decor in our bedroom as much as possible so that they enhance the room rather than swamping it. These are two brilliant examples of that…

Image via Living Etc

I absolutely LOVE the bedroom above. Every single bit of it. The chair, the kilim, the muted colours, the texture of the baskets on display. In terms of the wardrobes they are so simple but very stylish and they enhance the room without detracting from it. The fact that they continue the wall colour helps to make them less dominant. I also love the handles (I’m on the hunt for some lovely ones).

Image via Suzy Hoodless

Suzy’s bedroom above is gorgeous! I love the soft colour palette and cosy textures. Similar to the other bedroom, the wardrobes are also painted in the same wall colour with grooved door panels. I would love to recreate this look BUT we have to work with a PAX door panel as there’s no way we have the capacity to buy and make 2.5m high wardrobe doors ourselves! The PAX doors are laminate and it remains to be seen what I will do with them to customise them to fit with my bedroom.

The only definite in terms of our wardrobe doors is that I will paint them. Our bedroom walls are School House White and even though I love the wardrobes that are painted in the same colour as the walls I’m drawn to using a slightly darker shade. I have used Shaded White in our spare room so I have the paint and I think I’m going to use that for the wardrobes as well as the skirting and bedroom door as I’ve been meaning to do that since last year when I painted the walls!

Image via Kerry Lockwood

Kerry has used the same colour combination in her bedroom of School House White and Shaded White on the woodwork and I think that will work really well in my room. I’ve been saying that I need to change my bedroom door from Brilliant White to Shaded White for a year so hopefully fitting the wardrobes will push me to get the job done.

Lots more PAX chat to come soon!

Katy x

Sanding original floorboards

Soooo, one of our biggest mistakes during our renovation was deciding that one way of saving money and reducing our renovation costs was to take on the sanding of the floorboards ourselves. Big mistake. Firstly, the job itself was EXHAUSTING! And secondly, it is not a cheap DIY and because we made a hash of it we ended up spending more than if we had given our builders the job in the first place.

It must seem odd then that I’m writing a blog post about it but we learnt a lot during the process and did end up with a result we are really pleased with so I hope it will be helpful to share our experience.

When we bought the house all of the floors were covered in cheap laminate that was bubbling up here and there. On viewing the property because it was empty and very obvious that the whole place needed ripping apart we were able to take a peek under the laminate where it was coming up to see that the floorboards beneath looked pretty good. We had to cross our fingers that once all the laminate came up the boards in each room would be decent as we definitely didn’t have the budget to buy and fit new flooring throughout the house. Lucky for us the boards are good albeit a few weak points and quite large gaps between the boards downstairs. This is a big downside as there is no insulation beneath the boards and there was no cheap way of adding it because there is a 3 or 4ft chasm under the ground floor. As a result it can be very draughty downstairs so we really should have filled the gaps between the boards. To be honest, I have notions of replacing the flooring downstairs in the future if we extend so it’s never been a big priority.

Another issue that we uncovered was the fact that some of the original boards had obviously been replaced in the living room at some point. Once they were sanded the colour of the new boards was a lot lighter but lucky for us we had planned a big rug for this area so it’s not at all obvious.

Aesthetically speaking I adore original floorboards and it’s such an easy way to inject character back into a house, especially a 1930s house that doesn’t have all the period features of a Victorian home. They create a warm and lived in feel and practically speaking they can be very easy to look after as well as covering a lot of dirt and wear, which is something I always have to think about with a big dog. I would never recommend painted floorboards from that perspective as the paint chips and scratches so easily and unless that is the worn look you want it will drive you crazy and you’ll be forever re-painting.

The sanding process

Jules took a week off work with the aim of sanding the large downstairs room, hallway, upstairs landing, three bedrooms (two double and one single). He spent the first day getting together the materials he would need including driving to collect a floor sander from HSS (not our nearest branch) and sanding sheets.

Mistake number one: DO NOT HIRE THE SANDER UNTIL YOU HAVE PREPPED THE FLOOR! The hire companies charge you by the day or week so try not to have it in your possession unless you are using it. There is a lot of prep to do before you will be ready to sand such as knocking in nails with a nail punch and replacing certain boards (our builder salvaged a few lengths for us from a skip).

Mistake number two: BOOK YOUR SANDER AHEAD OF TIME. We couldn’t get a sander from our local HSS branch last minute so wasted a lot of time driving around London to locate one.

Mistake number three: BUY MORE SANDING PAPER THAN YOU NEED. HSS sell sand paper on a sale or return basis and they advise buying more than you need and we agree. We used about 15 sheets of each grit: 60 (some people suggest using 40 grit to start with but we didn’t need to as there was no paint or varnish on our boards and they were pretty smooth), 80, 120. We wasted more time buying more sand paper as we ran out. Do note, if you haven’t done enough prep with your nail punch protruding nails will rip up the sanding sheets.

Mistake number four: HIRE AN EDGING SANDER. We tried to save on the hiring cost of the sanders by using an angle grinder for the edges instead of an edging sander. This is just a horrible mistake and there’s nothing much else to say about it. The edging sander is essential to get right up to the skirting boards.

This photo was taken mid-sanding. The living area on the left had been sanded with 60 and 80 grit and still needed its final sand with 120 grit. You can see the un-sanded boards in the hallway on the right hand side.

Jules did manage to sand the whole house with 60 and 80 grit in the week he took off. He planned to go over all the rooms with 120 grit the following weekend but it all went wrong at this point…

Oiling the floor

After the first week of sanding we decided to sort out exactly what finish we were going to use in advance. When it came to deciding on a finish for the floors my main concern was using any type of finish that would make the pine boards appear too pink/red. I also didn’t want to use a varnish that would make the boards shiny or slippy. I was leaning towards a white tint to create a Scandi feel, which is why I was keen to use Osmo Oil White. Jules tested it and it seemed like a very subtle white tint. However, I would say this was our fifth mistake.

Mistake number five: TEST FINISHES ON A LARGE AREA. As you can see from the photo below Jules tested three finishes on three small sections. The issue with this is that it is very difficult to get enough of the oil on such a small section of board and you can’t get a true representation of what the finish will look like on the whole floor. It’s a bit like the mistake of just using a paint tester on a little piece of paper. We believed that the Osmo Oil White was going to look ok on our boards based on the tester but it really didn’t!

Choosing the wrong oil

Jules started the oiling in our bedroom as he had already done the last 120 grit sand in there. I wasn’t there so didn’t see it being applied but he sent me a couple of photographs the next day once it was dry and I HATED it.

The boards looked dull and had a horrible purple tinge. I really, really did not like it in the photos and when I saw it in real life I still hated it. It had to go!

At this point Jules threw in the towel. He was exhausted after a full week of sanding, followed by a full week of work, oiling in the evening, travelling for an hour back to where we were staying and the idea still having to do the last sand throughout the house AND re-sanding a whole room sent him over the edge! Did I also mention it was the extreme heatwave of 2018? Ha! We very quickly made the decision to hand the job over our builders.

We gave up the idea of a white tint as we just didn’t have the time within the building schedule to do another round of testing. We had already tested Osmo Oil Raw and we both really liked it so we just went with that and it turned out really well. Untreated sanded pine has a light, pale character from its natural ‘raw’ appearance. Osmo Oil Raw is designed to retain this appearance. Yes, it does make the wood slightly darker but it’s very subtle, has a lovely matt effect and it makes the wood feel warm and characterful. We used one application of Osmo Oil Raw and then a top coat of Polyx-Oil Original.

This is the same room as above after being re-sanded and applying the Osmo Oil Raw. I loved it.

A regret

One of our builders re-sanded the bedroom that we didn’t like, did the final 120 grit sand throughout the house and then once we had had the house cleaned top to bottom he did the application of Osmo Oil Raw and the top coat of Polyx-Oil Original. However, it was agreed that he wold leave the hallway and kitchen not oiled so he could access the house (i.e he couldn’t oil himself in upstairs or outside, for that matter) and that we would do that bit as soon as we moved in. The plan was to do an application of oil one evening before bed so that it would have enough time to dry overnight.

Mistake number six: OIL EVERYWHERE AND DON’T SKIP THE HALLWAY AND KITCHEN. Urgh – can you guess what we did? Yes, that’s right, we didn’t get round to oiling the hallway and kitchen. Moving in was busy and stressful and there was stuff everywhere and we just never got round to it. Two years later we now can’t do it as it needs sanding again as it is so dirty.

You can see the big difference between the oiled floor on the right and the un oiled floor on the left in the photo above. Now try to imagine two year’s worth of dirt being ground in to an untreated floor. It annoys me every day and how we go about fixing it remains to be decided (I actually want underfloor heating and tiles in the hallway as it’s such a cold space). Watch this space.

Here a few pics of what the floors look like in our ‘finished’ home. I would say we have a rug in every space so at no point can you see a huge amount of the floor…

So, there you go; the story of our floors. I get messages every single week asking me how we restored them so I hope this is helpful in one way or another. Do drop me a line if you need to know anything I haven’t covered.

Katy x

Building a DIY kitchen on a £1000 budget

I’ve been promising to write this post since the day we moved in to our house, nearly two years now, so to make up for the wait I’m going to make this long and detailed! Are you ready?

As many of you will know our contractor renovated the vast majority of our house, which included: taking the entire house back to brick, re-wiring, re-plumbing, knocking down two walls to combine the kitchen, dining and living space into one open plan room, knocking the separate loo and bathroom into one room and installing a brand new bathroom, sanding and oiling the floorboards, re-plastering and painting the whole house, as well as adding new skirting, architraves and picture rails throughout. However, the kitchen was the one area that we had to make big compromises on for two main reasons: 1) We didn’t have the budget for a new kitchen 2) We had half an eye on the fact that we would like to extend the back of the house in the future so we didn’t want to spend a lot on what could effectively be a temporary kitchen.

Therefore, we made the decision not only to fit the kitchen ourselves but also salvage as much of the existing kitchen as possible. We set ourselves a rough budget of £1000 and as soon as the builders had left we gave ourselves a week to get it done as we were DESPERATE to move in by that point (we stayed with my sister during the renovation, which was a total of five months as we had to wait for two months for our builders to become available and the renovation itself took three months).

First and foremost, this is what the kitchen looked like when we bought the house…

The house was never going to work for us if we kept the 2m wide kitchen as it was. Mimi was just starting to walk and was in to EVERYTHING and I had to have eyes on her 24/7 so being locked away in a tiny kitchen would have been a logistical nightmare. It also wouldn’t have worked well when we have friends over. It was cramped, claustrophobic, dark and I hated everything about it! The right hand side of the kitchen units and worktop were half the standard depth as there was so little width to the room. One of the worst things about the room was that the door opened outwards into the hallway and when that door was open it completely blocked the door to the dining room (see the floor plan). It was a case of constantly banging doors. Therefore, the decision to knock down the walls downstairs was an instant one for me and a total deal breaker – it had to happen for us to consider buying the house. A quick check on Rightmove showed me that many of the houses on our road (it’s a super long road so there really are a lot of examples to look at) had already done what we wanted to do so we were happy to make an offer. As soon as the right hand side of the kitchen was ripped out I could already see the potential and light flowing into the space and that was all I really wanted.

So much of the light was being blocked by the right hand side of the kitchen (and the awful black shiny floor tiles!) and as soon as the units were gone I could begin to see what the space would look like once that wall came down.
I was SO happy to see and feel the space when the wall between the kitchen and dining room was removed.

The actual design for the kitchen was dictated by budget. In lots of the other houses on our streets that have been renovated and made open plan, the kitchen has been made into a horseshoe shape by blocking up the doorway from the hallway and the garden door. We had a couple of problems with that. Firstly, we just simply didn’t want to/couldn’t spend the amount it would cost for that amount of fitted kitchen. Secondly, I’m not mad keen on this design as I feel like I would have my back to the dining/living space a lot of the time and it feels closed in. Thirdly, we really wanted to keep two points of access to the kitchen/living space as sometimes we don’t want Otto coming through the sitting room when he’s really muddy etc. The added benefit of keeping the kitchen door was that we could have really easy access to the larder cupboard under the stairs so we could spend even less on the kitchen in terms of cupboard space. Finally, I just LOVE the original glazed kitchen door and I couldn’t bear getting rid of it!

Having a very small budget actually makes designing a kitchen pretty simple as options are so restricted and our builder James from J A Whitney Building Contractors helped us with the layout and measurements. We decided that we could salvage the existing hob, tap, hood and oven as well as the unit that holds the oven with a drawer below.

We decided to salvage the oven and the unit it sits in, hob, hood and tap from the old kitchen.

We decided against having the fridge freezer on the left hand side and instead planned to fit two under counter kitchen cupboards there instead. That would enable us to have a worktop that spanned the back wall so we could have space for a coffee machine and toaster on the left of the oven. As we were keeping the garden door and not replacing it with a window our only real option was to have another worktop running parallel with the back wall. We would essentially recreate the original galley kitchen but in an open plan space. This is what we had to work with when the builders left and we had one week until move in day!

Now let me show you the image that inspired the ‘look’ I wanted for the kitchen…

deVOL kitchen (not keen on the lights, FYI)

I was led to this deVOL kitchen as I had decided on a dark blue kitchen because I wanted to tie in with the dark blue in the living room rug (remember, it is an open plan room so I had to consider the whole space quite carefully when designing the kitchen), as well as providing some contrast with all the white in the room. The dark blue also helps define the kitchen space from the dining and living spaces. I had bought Railings paint for the front door and stairs (I still haven’t painted them!) and so I tested that and it worked perfectly with the Light Blue in the rest of the room as well as the Inchyra Blue in the hallway. I was really keen to create a sense of continuity in this house as it’s so small and that helps to make it feel bigger so I’m pleased that the kitchen ties in with colours in the hallway. We painted very large pieces of cardboard boxes with Railings Modern Eggshell and stuck them to the kitchen units to help us visualise what the kitchen would look like.

I was very keen to keep a period feel in the house so it was easy for me to decide on a shaker style kitchen and James suggested buying a Howdens kitchen as he works with them on a regular basis. I chose the Burford paintable units (I’ve had a look online and I’m not sure if they are available anymore but there are lots of similar styles) that we could paint ourselves. This brought cost down and enabled us to have exactly the colour we wanted. Ordinarily it would be A LOT of extra work to paint a kitchen but because we only bought four cupboards – two on the left of the oven with a drawer, one under the sink and one under the ‘island’ for the bin – it wasn’t too hectic! Also, because the house was completely empty there was enough room to lay everything out and it was late summer so everything dried nice and quickly too. The cost of the carcasses, four door fronts, one drawer, end and dividing panels and kick boards was £816. Therefore, we needed to find door handles, worktops and a sink for as little as possible.

deVol shaker kitchen

I really liked the idea of mixing the worktop finishes like the deVOL kitchen as I definitely wanted a wooden worktop for the island but I didn’t want too much wood because we were going to have floorboards and a wooden dining table and big wooden wall cabinet. I knew I could get away with a cheap white laminate worktop quite easily on the back wall as so much of it would be covered by the sink and oven. I’m not very keen on laminate worktops but I can honestly say the white one I chose from Worktop Express for £80 is really great and very easy to keep clean.

Jules started the fitting process whilst I was at home with a sick baby and so I got these photo updates every now and again!
The 3 metre white laminate worktop needed to be cut to fit the space.
The birch worktop was 186cm and so that also needed to be cut so that it would be easy to walk around it into the open plan space.

The wooden worktop for the island is birch from IKEA and cost £100, which took us up to our budget of £1000. We were left with a black sink from the existing kitchen and that was a big no from me so we stretched the budget to buy a new white resin sink from B&Q for £94. This is by no means my ideal sink but for the price and the ease of fitting it works well as well as looking ok.

The cheap white resin sink works really well as it matches the work top so it’s quite inconspicuous.
The island houses an under counter fridge, freezer and one slim cupboard with a bin that’s so handy. This picture was taken before the worktop was trimmed.
We were able to paint the oven unit and handle to match the rest of the kitchen so that you can’t tell that it was part of the old kitchen.

At this point we moved into the house and it was pretty tricky as we still didn’t have any storage. We actually went away with family for a week to Rye almost as soon as we moved in and whilst we were there I found a £5 shelf in an antiques shop and I won an eBay bid on a wall cabinet for £40 so when we got home they immediately got put up.

With no storage other than two cupboards and one drawer it was quite tricky when we first moved in (also note the hole in the wall, the fact we hadn’t added the back to the island unit or the kick board under the oven).
The £5 shelf unit I found in an antiques shop.
The antique wall cabinet was an eBay find and houses all of our glasses and excess crockery that we don’t use on a daily basis.

The shelf in the kitchen quickly became a priority as we had no where for crockery and we recycled old lengths of MDF and brackets from shelves in our flat so they cost us nothing.

We didn’t tile the splash back for ages but we now have left over white metro tiles from when we tiled our kitchen in our old flat. We also had leftover grout and adhesive from the bathroom, so again that cost us nothing.

Very quickly I could tell that the kitchen was going to work really, really well and as soon as we fitted shelves into the larder, which is under the stairs, everything had a home. The larder is accessed through the kitchen door and actually it’s one of the best things about the kitchen. It makes storing food so easy as I can see everything and nothing gets lost at the back of a cupboard.

This is how the kitchen looks today…

The larder is just through this door.
AO sent me a black dishwasher as a PR product, which works so much better than the white one we brought from our flat. Otherwise I would have painted the white one as it really did stick out like a sore thumb.
The wooden worktop island is the perfect work space as I can look out into the living space and Mimi loves standing on a stool to take part.

Things I would change…

  1. I would have removed the cooker hood altogether as it no longer works (we salvaged it from the old kitchen) and we so rarely fry food so we really don’t need one.
  2. I wish we had lowered the shelf and added another on top of it to give us more storage space.
  3. We still haven’t oiled the floorboards after it was sanded just in the kitchen section. As a result they are now filthy and I’m furious about it every single day(!)
  4. I wish we hadn’t bothered with spotlights in the kitchen as I never ever put them on and have instead added a clip on lamp to the shelf and have a big standard lamp next to the island. I would have preferred wall lights above the shelves and a pendant or two above the island.

I told you it was going to be a long post! Well done if you managed to get to the end but if there are still any questions I haven’t answered please do leave a comment or send me an email katy@apartmentapothecary.com.

Katy x

Reupholstery and choosing a fabric

When my grandmother died nearly twenty years ago I was given the little chair that had always been in her guest room and that she herself had upholstered many, many years ago with Sanderson’s Chelsea fabric (she also made a matching headboard and Lloyd Loom laundry basket top). After moving around with me from home to home the upholstery on my precious chair has finally fallen apart. It is my 40th birthday next month so I thought a perfect present would be to get the chair re-upholstered to give it many more years of life.

I have found a local to me upholsterer Sharp & Simpson so Micaela and her team will do the upholstery but I have decided to source the fabric myself. Now, if we had an unlimited budget sourcing fabric would be a very lovely task BUT all of the fabrics that I like best are soooo expensive and the chair requires 3 metres of the stuff! Therefore, I thought I’d share some of the fabrics and stockists that I have been looking at as I know it is something that can prove to be a minefield. A couple of tips I will also offer are, firstly, do always, always order fabric samples. The two things that you need to be sure of and can check with samples are the texture of the fabric and scale of the print. The scale, in particular, will have a huge impact on which fabric you choose for which project. And secondly, try and find an image of the fabric on a chair, cushions or curtains to help you visualise it as a 3D object.

My grandmother’s chair that she upholstered in Sanderson’s Chelsea fabric sixty plus years ago. It used to be in our bedroom in our last flat and it was a bit tattered but still looked lovely but when we moved I put it on Mimi’s room and it got wrecked!

I would say that I have always found fabrics and textiles a stumbling block for me price wise especially when hand printed and made on small print runs. It is very hard to replicate beautiful textiles on the cheap, which is what I try to do with a lot of other aspects of an interior. So what I advise is to use nice plain fabrics (generally much, much cheaper) for large pieces such as sofas and curtains and maybe save up to buy one metre of an amazing print to make a couple of cushions, a lampshade, adding an edge or hem to a pair of curtains, a footstool or tablecloth.

I feel very lucky to be able to get my chair done and it is currently in our living room but I am prone to moving furniture around often and it is a perfectly sized bedroom chair so I want to choose a fabric that will work in any room. That being said I do want to choose a pattern for the chair as we have lots of plain fabrics in our house and I want to slowly build up more prints.

The chair now sits where this cane rocker was (I had to return the rocker as it broke shortly after buying it) so it sits on quite a busy rug but otherwise the only colours it needs to work with are Light Blue (on the woodwork) and Railings (in the kitchen).

The two prints that I am drawn to most are William Morris & Co’s Willow Boughs and Guy Goodfellow’s Olive Sacking in Rosewood. I think both would work really well in the room and the other colours/patterns and they are also very classic so the chair could move around rooms pretty easily.

Guy Goodfellow’s Olive Sacking

The Olive Sacking stripe is too expensive at £80 per metre so I found a cheaper alternative from The Cloth Shop, which is an Oxford Stripe, and it is double width so would cost about £50 for three metres. I ordered a sample and it is really lovely quality but I don’t love it as the fabric doesn’t have much texture and I think I’ll be disappointed with the final result. Therefore, I feel more inclined to go with the Willow Boughs as I have loved that print forever and I know I will never bore of it.

Some of the other traditional fabrics I considered are relatively traditional as it is a very old chair.

And then the way out of price range more modern block prints from Virginia White, Molly Mahon, Penny Morrison, Mimi Pickard and Rapture and Wright.

Virginia White – Three Lines
Virginia White’s Three Lines as seen in Laura Jackson’s home featured on The Modern House. Love, love, love these chairs. I really like the idea of salvaging an old sofa or chair and getting them covered in something gorgeous and classic like this.
Rapture and Wright – Cloud Garden
Molly Mahon – Bindi Pink. This chair looks so sweet but I definitely want something bolder in my living room as it’s an open plan room and I reckon this light print would get lost.

The fabric libraries can be so overwhelming with thousands and thousands of fabrics to choose from so do check out Pattern Spy for more inspiration and introductions to designers. If you know of any fabrics that you think would work on my chair do drop me a line too!

Katy x

Wall art for a child’s bedroom

Since making changes to Mimi’s bedroom I have been thinking about re-jigging the wall art in there and adding a couple of bits. I still remember what was on the walls in my childhood bedroom and children spend so much time looking at and absorbing their surroundings so wall art is very important. There are a few artists and makers that we have bought from before or known about for a long time but I would also like to tell you about a couple of artists that I have found more recently as I personally try to support more black-owned businesses and reflect their work here on the blog.

This is the main piece that we have in Mimi’s room that will be staying. It is by Christian Jackson and is now available from Wayfair (I had to get my copy from the US as I bought it so long ago).

I’m going to buy Mimi a ballet themed print by EmmaMakeStudio as I know she will adore it as she has really latched on to ballet and loved her lessons before lockdown started. I also love Emma’s Alphabet series, particularly the Lobster.

I have found the work of Christa David on Instagram recently and I love her collage prints. I think this would be a wonderful piece for a child’s room.

‘I will not give up’ by Christa David

I just love these very sweet prints with lots of details for children to study.

Two very local and lovely artists that I know and I’m sure you will have seen them here before are Max Made Me Do It and Lisa Stickley, both of whom do wonderful children’s prints.

And here are a few other really lovely bold prints to brighten a child’s bedroom…

If you want a larger range of prints to choose from check out King and McGaw (the Molly Brett prints kill me with their sweetness!) as well as the V&A’s children’s prints. And for something a little different have a look at the Fine Little Day selection of children’s prints.

Katy x