*This post is written in collaboration with Bemz – use code aptapoth25 for 25% off their entire range until November 25th.
I’ve already told you about Bemz who make covers for IKEA furniture as they gifted me a set of natural linen covers for my IKEA Soderhamn sofas back when we first moved in. The covers have been an absolute triumph not only still looking fresh and beautiful after a year of use but have withstood the bustle of our home and several washes (all of the covers are completely removable and washable at 40 degrees). What I love about my natural linen covers is that they are light, loose and floaty (they are the loose urban fit – you can see them in this post) and therefore perfect for the spring and summer. They have got many years left in them, I hope, but I’ve just removed and washed them all and packed them up in the loft for the winter because, very excitingly, Bemz have invited me to showcase one of their new fabrics on my sofas. I’m also excited to tell you that I can offer you 25% off their entire range until November 25th with code aptapoth25 – you’ve got to be quick!
I have chosen one of their new Designers Guild linens for the sofas in Brera Lino Pewter, which is a lovely soft blue grey that tones with our Light Blue woodwork so well. The Indigo Velvet cushions, another of their new fabrics, is the perfect shade to pull together the colours in my rug and our Railings kitchen at the other end of the room. The old set of natural linen covers pushed the room outwards and made everything feel bigger but these Pewter and Indigo covers do the opposite; they pull the room together and make it feel cosier.
The other big difference is that I have chosen the regular fit cover style and changed the feet from the IKEA steel ones (which I wouldn’t choose to display as they wouldn’t work in this room) to these gorgeous natural wooden ones by Bemz. I chose the simple Kastell tapered tapered wooden furniture legs for the two sofas and then the gorgeous Terence chunky wooden furniture legs for the ottoman. The addition of the warm wood and being able to see more floor space helps to keep the room feeling spacious at the same time as cosy.
What I really like about the Pewter colour is that it’s not too dark so it could also easily transition to Spring with a change up of the cushions. Also, it’s relatively neutral so could work with lots of different colours (I’ve just designed a sitting room room for someone with a very similar colour sofa and Setting Plaster walls and it looks great!). It’s a very adaptable colour. The linen itself is of a beautiful quality as you would expect from Designers Guild. It feels very robust and thicker than my previous covers so the texture feels more winter-like. With the added softness of the velvet cushions the sofas feel very inviting and ready for nights at home. The velvet is also washable, which blows my mind, as the last velvet armchair we had marked so badly that no one other than responsible adults were allowed near it!
I’ve combined these gorgeous vintage Berber cushions with the blues to add some warmth and they work well with the pinks in my rug. The texture of these cushions, made from remnants of Berber rugs, is perfect for this seasonal feel too. I borrowed them from Yonder for this blog post and I am so tempted to buy them as they really are divine and beautifully made.
The room really does feel very different just by changing the sofa covers and cushions – nothing else at all in the room has been changed. It just goes to show that you don’t have to do a full decorating job to give your home a brand new look. I’d love to know which look you prefer…
We’re all ready to settle in for the festive season but I know already I’ll love retrieving my old covers from the loft once the Spring arrives!
We are currently decorating our spare room, which until now, has been a dumping ground. As we’ve worked around the house trying to make each space our own our ‘box room’ has been neglected and has become the room where we can shut away all the things we’re just not sure what to do with. I took heart the other day when on Instagram so many of you got in touch to tell me that you too have a room of shame but it is time to get this room sorted as our house is small and we desperately need more storage. In short, we need to make this room work as hard as possible: guest room, work room, storage space. We have a very small budget to transform this room and so for storage we are using two cabinets that I actually bought some time ago from IKEA for our last flat. They are very basic pine IVAR cabinets but I want this room to feel quite smart and sleek in the hope that that will deter us from dumping here in future. Therefore, with some help from Bosch Home & Garden power tools I have made the cupboards my own and given them a makeover that I hope you agree makes them much more special than the original £40 I paid for them. There’s no way that I had the budget for fancy panelled cabinets in this room that cost hundreds of pounds so a DIY project made perfect sense and it is always worth thinking about whether you can transform a piece of existing furniture in your home rather than buying new every time.
The makeover took about two hours and it’s actually relatively simple with no specific skill or expertise needed. I was apprehensive about using a jigsaw for this project as I always think it’s a major power tool that requires real skill and strength to control but the Bosch Home & Garden cordless jigsaw was brilliantly easy to use and required far less physical effort than I anticipated as it just glides through the wood. Both the jigsaw and the drill driver were much smaller and lighter than any I’ve used before but actually felt more powerful (Jules and I are both very VERY upset that they are only on loan for this project as we think that they are much better than the ones we own). The other good thing about these tools is that they use the same battery and charger so adding more tools to the collection is relatively cost-effective and it’s super quick and easy to transfer the battery from one tool to another.
I’ll be honest and say that I am happy to let Jules take over when it comes to power tools as I always think it seems complicated and physically difficult – I have horrible carpel tunnel and very prone to tendonitis so I’m not keen on putting my joints under strain. However, I can hand on heart say that I was keen to use these tools as it all felt really easy and intuitive and at no point did I need to use too much physical effort. By the way, the only reason you can see Jules in the photos is because he can’t use the camera properly – I took over to do the work after the photos, I promise!
So, back to the cupboard… here are the step by step instructions to guide you through this project and if you have any questions please do leave a comment and I will get back you.
– Paint – I used Shaded White from Farrow & Ball in Modern Eggshell.
– Cane webbing – I chose the Aerial or Radio cane weave panelling just because I prefer the way it looks compared to the six weave cane, which still looks a little old fashioned to me even though it’s very on trend. I ordered it from this site (you have to place your order by phone!) and it cost about £30 for one cabinet so not cheap but I think it’s worth it.
– Hockey stick wood trim – you can buy it in any hardware store and it comes in all sorts of decorative profiles or plain like mine. You just need to make sure you choose one that will fit the depth of your door. It cost £6 for one cabinet.
– Mitre box and hacksaw to cut trim
– Set square, ruler or tape measure
– Wood glue and a few racks and hammer to attach trim
– Handles – totally optional as the IVAR cabinets don’t actually need them. The ones I have used came out of my sister’s kitchen as she’s just sold her flat (I chose them for her) but I don’t think she’s going to let me keep them 😉 They are from Dowsing & Reynolds.
Remove doors from cupboard as well as the support strut on the back of the door using a drill driver. N.B. I had already constructed and painted my cupboard before I began this project. When using the drill driver make sure you don’t wear gloves but do use googles and ear protection.
Use a pencil to mark the inside panel that will be removed. I left a 5cm border on each door and used a set square for ease and accuracy but a ruler or tape measure will do.
Use a drill driver to create four holes – one in each corner of the door within the rectangle that you have marked out. I used a spade drill bit to make the hole quite big as this is where you begin with the jigsaw.
Clamp the door to a work bench in preparation for removing the central panel of each door with a jigsaw. Wear protective gloves and goggles whilst using the jigsaw and ear protection too. You can connect your vacuum cleaner hose to the back of the jigsaw so that the saw dust is sucked away, which is very useful so that you can sight your cutting line and so your house doesn’t get filled with dust. Start cutting at one of the holes that has been drilled out and line up the red line at the front of the jigsaw with your pencil mark and that will make it very easy to cut in a straight line. You will need to rotate the door and re-clamp it after you have cut each side.
Once you have removed the central panel from the door you will see that the cut is quite rough and therefore looks very unfinished. You can either sand it well or add trim, which is what I chose to do. I bought 2cm pine hockey trim – for both doors it cost £6 – and I think it was well worth the extra effort as it gives the doors a much more professional looking finish. Hockey trim sort of hooks over the unfinished edge so it sits proud of the door. I used a mitre box to cut the trim at a 45 degree angle and then used wood glue and a few tacks to keep it in place. I then painted it the same colour as the cupboards but a contrasting colour could look great.
Once the paint on the trim is dry, place the door on the back side of the cane and use a pencil to mark out the internal rectangle. You then need a border of at least 2cm of excess cane on the back of the door to staple down. Cut the cane to size once you have worked out how much you need. If you find that your cane is particularly difficult to handle because it’s been rolled for a long time, for example, you can soak it in warm water in the bath for ten minutes to make it easier to manage.
To fix the cane panels in place start tacking in the middle and work your way outwards to each corner, holding the cane as taught as possible. I used the Bosch Home & Garden Cordless Tacker to fix the cane in place and I have to say, compared to a traditional staple gun, it is brilliant. It is battery powered and can be charged very easily and it takes all the effort out of stapling, especially into a hard surface such as solid wood. I was able to completely concentrate on holding the cane taught rather than having to put loads of effort into the stapling. So quick and easy to use – I’m thinking it would be a brilliant thing to have for upholstery projects too.
You’re all done! Re-attach the doors and I also added some pretty handles. I really love the finished doors and they ended up costing so much less than a brand new cane panelled cabinet would have cost. I hope they make this room feel much more individual than it would have done otherwise and I’m actually quite amazed at was I was able to achieve by myself with the Bosch Home & Garden power tools (remember Jules just stood in for the photos!) and for a relatively small cost. Another benefit of these doors is that they break up the big block of pine so feel far less imposing, which is ideal for a small box room. What do you think?
If you fancy trying out a DIY project of your own for your home do take a look at Bosch Home & Garden’s online magazine, All About DIY, as it contains loads of great tutorials and projects. Happy DIYing!
P.S. I’ll show you the finished room soon!
*This post was a paid collaboration with Bosch Home & Garden
When we were in the planning stages of our bathroom we were certain that we wanted to knock the loo and bathroom together to make the room a decent size rather than two almost unusable spaces. We managed to come up with a really good design that works brilliantly well (you can read about it here). I was also pretty certain about the finishes that I wanted to use, a lot of which was dictated by a small budget. However, there were lots of very small details that weren’t clear in my mind and so I pored over images of bathrooms to help me answer the questions that I had and that my builder had. It’s these small details that I get lots of messages about and so I thought it would be helpful to take pictures of the bathroom from every single angle and of every detail to help those who are planning their own bathroom project. Also, I will do a list of where I sourced everything from at the bottom of this post.
You’ve probably seen quite a lot of the right side of the bathroom as I love the look of the sink and mirror and the bare wooden door so that’s what I usually photograph. I have had quite a few questions about what happens behind the door when it is closed so here’s a look…
The wall angles in on the right side of the sink so the shelf that was created by boxing in the plumbing gets narrower. I plan to hang some hooks on the tongue and groove on the right of the sink and perhaps some shallow shelves on the right side of the mirror. WE have one wall light above the mirror and three spot lights in this room on a dimmer switch and that is a perfect amount of light.
Working around the room the boiler cupboard is next to the bathroom door (we still need to choose a handle for the door). We have the boiler, a washing machine and shelves for linen and towel storage in that cupboard – it’s great! I will show you inside it in another post. I chose tongue and groove for the door to tie in with the rest of the room. I’ve actually had messages from people who have bought similar 30s houses wanting to know where we’ve put the washing machine as the kitchen space is so small and this was our solution and it works really well. We don’t have a tumble dryer so we either hang clothes to dry on a clothes horse and put it in the spare room or hang it outside. The only issue, therefore, if having the washing machine upstairs is having to take the laundry up and down to the garden to hang it on the line during the summer.
As you can see it is a small room but we have managed to fit the boiler/washing machine cupboard in by choosing a small bath, which is perfect for Mimi and we seldom have baths so its size doesn’t bother us. Luckily the water pressure is really good so the shower over the bath is actually really lovely and I don’t miss having a shower cubicle at all.
This size bath is totally fine for an adult, by the way, if you are considering one and like to have baths on a regular basis. I have definitely indulged in a Friday night bath here with this great bath caddy. Although I will be honest and say it is most regularly used for bath toys rather than wine. We chose a tap that takes up as little space as possible, which also works well when showering standing up as we don’t bash into a protruding tap.
We knew that we were going to use the bath most days with Mimi so we decided to get a folding shower screen as this is best in a small room and with a small person wandering around as it folds up really neatly. I would really recommend one if you lack space.
My builder made the tongue and groove bath panel and things I hadn’t considered like whether I wanted the skirting board to wrap around the room, including the bath panel, stumped me for ages! My builder said he thought it should because I couldn’t decide and I’m glad I listened to him as it makes it feel a lot more part of the room.
The other detail I get asked about is why we have the shower and bath controls at the end of the bath and the very simple reason is that it means you don’t have to stick your arm under the shower head to turn it on so we’re less likely to get wet!
We chose underfloor heating because I hate cold tiled floors and it was a really great decision. The tiles I chose were mega cheap and they are SO easy to keep clean especially with the mid-grey grout. They also feel really nice underfoot. The one thing I really don’t like is the toilet flush, which has to be so big as it serves as the access to the cistern. I’m on the look out for a slightly nicer looking one.
Remember, that not only did we knock down the wall between the loo and bathroom but we replaced two doors with one so we were able to reclaim floor space that was taken up with two doors that angled into the space. You can see photos of what it looked like here.
So that’s about it, I think. As I said, if you do have any questions please give me a shout.
(I can’t for the life of me remember where we got the bath tap and shower hose but I will ask Jules as maybe he paid for them and get back to you!)
Bath – Victorian Plumbing (we got it for £87 as they always have sales)
Last month I went over to Paris for the design show Maison et Objet. I was invited by Hudson Valley Lighting Group, who you may not have heard of as they are a very large lighting company in America and just making their way over to Europe (and thank goodness, to be honest, as America has always had better lighting available than here in the UK in my opinion. They had a fab showroom at Maison where I could see their amazing lights in person and I came away with a long list of favourites and I still can’t get the thought of how beautiful these vintage brass wall lights would look in my alcoves! Hudson Valley Lighting Group have four collections of lights: Troy Lighting, Mitzi, Corbett Lighting and Hudson Valley Lighting. Each collection offers something different whether it be Corbett’s statement lights, Troy’s industrial vibe or the simplicity of Mitzi’s designs, which is also the most affordable collection. I featured some of the lights in my instagram stories and I ended up getting quite a few messages from people with lighting quandaries so I thought a blog post with some tips would be useful as lighting is without a doubt the most important thing to get right in a room. Hope these tips are helpful and enjoy taking a look at the beautiful lights from Hudson Valley.
1. Never ever use overhead lights in isolation
This is my number one rule and one that can never be broken!!! I really don’t think that there are ever any exceptions to this rule. A ceiling pendant or chandelier is very important (and can be very beautiful) but if used alone the overall lighting in the room will be uneven, gloomy and very unwelcoming. If all the light in a room is coming from above unpleasant shadows will be cast and pockets of the room will have no light at all. You can have the most beautifully furnished room in all the land but with only an overhead light it will be a very ugly place in which to spend time. A funny truth is that I got so sick and tired of arriving home in the evenings when Jules worked from home to all the over head lights on that I went to the extent of removing the bulbs altogether! Can you tell I feel quite strongly about this?!
2. Layer lighting
The solution to the above problem is to layer the lighting in each room. Try to build up a variety of light sources, which will create a lovely even light; where one light source casts shadows, another will illuminate them. Layered lighting will also make a room more flexible as you can choose which lights to use according to your mood or your activity.
3. Use floor and wall lamps if lacking table tops
Table lamps are a great way to add light around the edge of a room, where ceiling. pendants don’t reach. If you are lacking table tops for lamps – which aren’t in abundance in smaller rooms – use the floor and wall space with floor and wall lamps. Floor lamps take up much less space than a table with a lamp on it and they can fit into surprisingly small spaces or corners. Wall lamps, whether wired in or not, are brilliant for small spaces and can be very adaptable as they can double as task lighting if you choose one on an arm.
4. Choose a statement ceiling pendant
A well chosen ceiling pendant draws the eye up, which has the effect of opening up the space and making a room feel bigger. It can also be a lovely focal point for a room. Be aware of the height of the ceiling when choosing a ceiling light as you don’t ever want it to hang too low to the point that people have to dodge it! A mirror opposite a ceiling light is always a good idea as this will reflect the light and bounce it around the room.
5. Think about what type of light you are trying achieve when selecting a shade
When you are choosing any type of light you have to have a clear idea of the type of light you want to create. This is particularly important where selecting light shades. It is most definitely not just about what looks best. Light coloured shades will allow light to travel out of them into the whole room, whereas dark coloured shades will filter the light out of the top and bottom of the light and create a moodier vibe. Glass light shades and exposed bulbs create a more even much brighter light depending on the type of bulb you choose. Rattan shades or cut paper ones will cast patterns on to your walls and ceiling. Think carefully what type of light you actually want rather than what light you like the look of most.
6. Consider shadows
When choosing the position of lighting think about the shadows that will be cast. If you are choosing lights for the kitchen, for example, you don’t want pendants hanging over a kitchen counter that you are going to stand beneath and block all the light onto the very surface on which you are trying to illuminate. The same goes for lighting in the bathroom; if you have space put two wall lights either side of a bathroom mirror as these will light your face evenly rather than a light over the top of the mirror, which will cast shadows onto your face.
7. Dimmer switches are your best friend
We were really lucky in our current house as we had the whole place rewired so we could put dimmer switches onto every light and we could also ensure that all the plugs that our lamps are plugged into can be turned on and off from the main switches on the wall. Dimmer switches are just so good as they allow you to completely change the mood of a room and make the space so much more flexible; one minute you need bright, bright lights for a task and the next you minute you want to relax on the sofa and all you have to do is dim the lights. This is particularly useful in an open plan living space.
8. Think of lights as pieces of furniture
This sounds quite quite obvious but often it is something overlooked that you should select lights as you would a piece of furniture: they need to tie in with the overall scheme of a room. Think about the colour, finish, style, size just as you would a new chair or soft furnishings. A light should add something extra to the scheme of a room not takeaway from it.
Do let me know if you have any other lighting questions as it really can be difficult to get right. Also, let me know which Hudson Valley Lighting Group light you liked best!
*This blog post is part of a paid collaboration with Hudson Valley Lighting Group.
When I left university I moved straight into a rental flat with friends in Brixton where I lived for three very fun years. However, as flatmates moved on, I decided that I wanted to prioritise buying a property of my own; I was 25 at this point and a secondary school teacher. I had very few savings but one day I saw a poster on the tube advertising the shared ownership scheme as it was then and as I was a key worker I had a good chance of qualifying. I did lots of research and found a beautiful new build apartment block just down the road from Borough Market, which had a portion of shared ownership flats and to cut a long story short I bought a 35% share of a studio flat worth £195k with a very small deposit of about £3500. I asked my dad to come and look at the flat with me but as it was brand new we were thinking more about the location and whether the space was big enough rather than the ins and outs of whether the taps worked or how old the boiler was. I lived in that flat for three years and I LOVED it so much.
Fast forward ten more years and I’ll be honest and say that buying our current house was incredibly stressful and that is why I am really pleased to be teaming up with Local Heroes today to share with you their First Time Home Buyer Guide. I had sold the studio flat and bought another new shared ownership flat that was a lot bigger and my partner Jules moved in a year after I bought it and we lived there for eight more years. When we sold it last year we finally had a deposit big enough to buy a house outright.
I knew we were going to have to buy a house that needed work doing to it as that was what we could afford in the area we wanted to be in and that made the viewing and buying process COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to buying the two previous new build flats. There were so many things to consider, so many ways in which we could make mistakes and open ourselves up to what felt like a massive risk. The fact is buying a house is a really big deal and the whole way through the process it’s impossible to know who to listen to and who to trust: the estate agent would say anything to us to sell the house, the solicitor was appalling and gave so much bad advice (we eventually had to change our solicitor) and at the end of the day we had to rely on ourselves to do our own research and guide the purchase through.
Local Heroes, who match skilled and vetted local tradespeople to people who need jobs completed in their home, have compiled the ultimate first time buyers guide listing clearly with no jargon things to look out for, ask about or to test when buying a new home. I really, really wish I had been able to see this list before we bought our house as it would have given us so much peace of mind. In fact, my sister is currently buying a house very near us and I have been going on viewings with her and we used the list for the second viewing of the house she’s most interested in and it was brilliant – so many things neither of us had thought about!
These are some of the tips from the guide that I wish I had known before we bought our house and that have come in handy whilst house hunting with my sister:
Do a room inspection. Try to spend enough time in each room to see if there are any cold spots, especially rooms with two outside walls. It’s also worth asking about the insulation in loft rooms. If you need to insulate the roof or put in another radiator, make sure to budget for these.
We bought our house in the winter and the estate agent did the age old trick of blasting the heating before we arrived for the viewing (the house was vacant). I really wish we had spent more time in each room figuring out the cold spots because we definitely didn’t put in enough radiators downstairs or in the hallway, which has an external wall.
Take a look at the water tanks. Unless they have a combi boiler, there’ll be a hot water cylinder in a cupboard somewhere, and possibly a cold-water tank in the loft.
Err, I can’t quite emphasise enough how much I WISH we had thought to do before we bought our house! As it turned out there was a very full cold water tank in our loft that froze and split the tank during the very cold winter whilst the house was vacant. When the tank thawed, you guessed it, there was a very big leak! If only we’d known to look out for it we could have made sure that tank was empty.
Does the house have lead pipes? If it was built before the 1970s, the house you’re buying could have lead pipes. Check under the sink, they’re larger than copper pipes and dark in colour. You’ll probably want to replace any lead pipes with plastic or copper, especially the ones that supply drinking water.
This is something that would never have occurred to me and we actually found lead pipes under the sink in the house my sister is interested in, which was really helpful as it helped her budget for work that will need to be done.
Flush the toilet. Listen out for knocking noises from the pipes. There should be a good powerful flush, even with a tap running. Continuous filling is a common issue with toilets, wait an extra minute to make sure the refilling finishes properly.
I would never think of flushing the loo in a house I was viewing as I wouldn’t want anyone to think I had used it (lols!) but actually this makes so much sense. I remember in the studio flat I sold the pipes started making horrendous noises when I flushed the loo just before I sold it.
Check the plug and sockets aren’t damaged. Any blackening or scorch marks could be signs of over-heating. Check any cables and leads too, for melting on the plastic coating and signs of fraying. Don’t forget the light fitting hanging down from the ceiling.
This is a good tip that I used when viewing a house with my sister as I only really thought about turning on lights rather than checking the plug sockets themselves.
Take a look at the full First Time Home Buyer Guide for yourself as if you are in the process of buying a property at the moment it really will help the process from checking the plumbing, electrics and heating to the plastering and odd jobs that will need doing. These checks will either help you negotiate a price reduction on any offer you want to make or they will help inform your budget for work that you will need to do. And of course if you do need jobs done Local Heroes can match you to tradespeople, such as plumbers, who have been vetted and they are backed by British Gas. Happily for us our house purchase went through and our renovations were very successful so we now have a lovely house that we love but if you had told me that a year ago I would’t have believed you!
I really do hope this helps if you are in the potentially tortuous process of buying property. Would love to hear your experience if you think it may help others going through the process at the moment.