Ask Apartment Apothecary – decorating a blank canvas

You’re probably thinking what on earth has the image above got to do with decorating a room. Don’t worry, all will become clear. Tia recently asked me over on my Facebook page whether I had any advice on how and where to start when decorating a completely blank canvas. At the time I told her that I usually begin with one object that I really love, like a print, a particular fabric or a piece of furntire to help me plan a colour scheme. However, that can be tricky when you pop down to the paint shop and end up with what you think is a perfect match for the colours that you love but they actually end up being way off. I have found a solution to that problem!

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited by the Amara Interior Blog Awards team to their first blogger masterclass at the KLC School of Design. When I was still teaching I used to look at Interior Design courses on offer at KLC and dream about what could be so it was a real treat to be given this opportunity.

Established over 30 years ago by Jenny Gibbs, one of the 2015 IBA expert judges, KLC is one of the most highly acclaimed design schools in the UK and the masterclass was held by the school’s Deputy Director of Studies, Julia Begbie, focusing on colour and pattern.

Julia did a great presentation for us and then we did a hands on task that I thought would be a really useful thing to share with you here as it is an invaluable tool for building up a colour scheme for a room.

Julia gave us a range of ‘concept images’ and she had used the software Color Explorer to draw out the constituent colours from these images. So, for example, I was really drawn to the image below from my Pinterest account but if I were to think about creating a colour scheme using that image as inspiration I would only identify light pink and mint green. However, this programme is much cleverer than that and extracts a range of colours and their RGB and Hex codes (the way computers display colours).

Using a concept image to create a colour scheme for decorating a room | Apartment Apothecary

You can then use this programme to convert the RGB number or Hex code to a RAL number, which you can take to paint shops and have paint mixed to that specific colour. Colour scheme created!

Using a concept image to create a colour scheme for decorating a room | Apartment Apothecary

You can then begin to think about where you would like to use those colours – walls, wood work, floors, fabrics, furniture and so on. Julia gave us a black and white copy of a room that we stuck in the middle of a large piece of paper. We then cut out the colours from our concept image and placed them around the picture to help us work out where to use the colours.

Using a concept image to create a colour scheme for decorating a room | Apartment Apothecary

Hope you find this useful. If you are interested in doing a one day class or even a full course at KLC yourself, pop over and take a look at the courses they offer.

Thank you again to KLC and the IBA team for such a great day.

Katy x


Ask Apartment Apothecary – Photo styling tips

*Spoiler alert* This post contains a terrible quality video of me!

Last month I was invited to speak at BritMums blogging conference about styling photographs for blog posts and Instagram. Everyone who came to my session was so lovely and complimentary so I thought it would be a good idea to share a small section of my talk here, especially as a couple of you had asked me about this for an Ask Apartment Apothecary post. I hope it will help those people who are thinking about starting blogs or want to improve their styling skills – for everyone else, I hope you enjoy a ‘behind the scenes’ insight.

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

I went through some general styling rules at the beginning of my talk (maybe I will share those another day) and then showed this video of me setting up a styled dining table (it’s very basic styling – nothing too exciting and hopefully something everyone can relate to in one way or another) for blog photographs. Please forgive the horrendous quality as it’s the first video I’ve ever made and I stupidly didn’t ask anyone for help. The first thing to explain about styling something that is to be photographed is that what looks beautiful to the human eye does not necessarily translate to film. If I were to style a dining table for guests to eat at the process would be completely different. When I style something to be photographed I am not thinking about how it looks in ‘real life’ I am constantly thinking about how it will look on film. Have a look at my process…

When I am ready to take the final photographs of my styling, the shot choices I make will totally dictate how effective my styling looks.  Here are a few tips (and please remember I am not a photographer!)…

1. Take shots from intended angle

As I was styling the table I always had in my mind that I was going to take the photographs from the right end of the table. The left end acts purely as a backdrop. Therefore, there is no point taking photographs from the left end as there is nothing to see there.

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

2. Make sure overhead shots are straight

There is no point in going to all of the effort to choose and place objects so carefully if you take a photograph at a skew-whiff angle. Make sure if you are doing an overhead shot that it is completely straight (straighten it up on photoshop if needs be). I had to partially stand on the table for the straight shot on the right.

3. Take tight shots

When you style something you do not need to take big wide shots that capture all of the clutter and bits of random furniture, dog toy baskets and mirror reflections. Keep your shots tight, especially when photographing things in your own home, as you probably don’t have the benefit of studio-like surroundings.

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

4. Take shots head on

When taking a front-on shot you may need to kneel down, crouch down or move other furniture (I’m on my sofa for this shot) in order to make the shot straight. Don’t come at it from a strange angle because it will make the styling look strange too!

5. Focus on your styling

If you have styled something make sure you take pictures of the styling itself. I love my Ercol chairs and in ‘real life’ they look great round this table. However, if you take a photograph of all of them together they look heavy, bulky and dominant (far too many spindles all in one frame!). Focus on your styling, capture a slither of the chairs for context and the photo will be a lot more balanced.

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

6. Think about the perspective of objects

If you take a photograph of objects from certain angles you can capture unpleasant looking shapes. For example, my table is a rectangle but if you take a photo from the angle below it becomes a trapezium and looks quite ugly. Therefore, by taking a shot at a slightly lower angle and by capturing only half of the table top, I don’t create horrible shapes.

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

Styling tips for blog photographs | Apartment Apothecary

I hope all of that makes sense and is useful. I also spoke about quick fix ways of turning your home into a ‘studio’ so do let me know if anyone is interested in another post about that or general styling rules.

Katy x


Ask Apartment Apothecary – combining a guest room and home office

So, I have done a lot of list-making, a lot of paper shuffling, a lot of flicking between tabs but not much blogging the last couple of weeks. My rhythm has been broken by numerous events and commitments but I have a pretty clear run through to Summer from this point onwards and I am really craving getting more hands on again and doing some fun DIY’s, so watch this space!

One of the other things that I have let lapse is my Ask Apartment Apothecary column that I really enjoy but there has been so little time. I STILL have a queue of questions from some of my lovely readers about issues in their homes that they need help with. I’m going to start today with one from Cate.

Cate has a beautifully stylish home that she shares snippets of over on her blog. However, she has a specific issue that she wants a bit of advice about. In her words:

“My second bedroom is a lovely, light room with a big sash window, but the main problem I have is that it has two functions – a bedroom for guests who come to stay from Airbnb (twice a month roughly) and a home office with our computer and all my architecture and design books I’ve picked up along the way. It needs to be a nice, calming space that’s fairly anonymous and doesn’t have too many personal bits and bobs for guests, but it also needs to work for me when I work from home. So how do I tie together the bedroom part with the office part so it’s once cohesive room, where one doesn’t overpower the other?”

Here’s a photograph of Cate’s room (totally jealous of such a lovely, big, bright second bedroom!)…

Combining a guest room with home office | Apartment Apothecary

It’s actually a really great room and I was surprised when she said she wanted to change it. However, the main problem, as the room stands, is that the ‘bedroom’ and the ‘office’ are too distinct. So how can Cate bring the two together?

1. Blind

At the moment the shelves and the blind, which are the same colour wood, are very dominant and very clearly define the office. I think Cate needs to get rid of the blind altogether. It doesn’t work with the rest of the room and is a bit too ‘officey’.  However, proper lined curtains, needed for blocking out the light for guests, are extremely pricey. What about a cheap white blackout roller blind that is completely rolled up except if someone is staying? Add to this a linen cafe curtain to soften the window and for practical purposes to diffuse light on a computer screen. Cate could choose a light grey linen for the window that would tie in with the bed and bedlinen bringing the two sides of the room together. I’m going to do a tutorial for this on Monday so keep an eye out for it.

2. Shelves

Cate wants to keep the shelves but they are screaming ‘office’ at the moment because of their colour. Painting them the same as the wall colour will help to make them less obvious. However, she also wants to hide the books, which is very tricky if you need direct access to them. Shelves can be made to look more streamlined with storage boxes or baskets but this isn’t really suitable for books that need to be used. I would suggest replacing the shelves with a vintage wall cupboard – this would lose the office vibe of the shelves and the books could be hidden behind closed doors. This sort of cupboard or this one, that could be painted, would give more character to the space above the desk and tie in with the beautiful bedside table.

3. Accessories

Another easy way to add warmth to a room is by using soft textiles and art work; these will also help to unify the two parts of the room. By adding more art prints and a new cushion for the desk chair, Cate could easily add more softness to the room.

4. Office storage

Cate really wants to be able to store away her office stationery, printer, books but she only has a few drawers in the desk to do so. If she wanted to take her mini-makover a step further she could think about a major DIY project. What about replacing the desk and shelves with an ‘office’ cupboard?! I know there isn’t an inbuilt cupboard in Cate’s bedroom like the one below but she could convert an armoire-type cupboard. Have a look here for ideas.

Home office in a cupboard | Apartment Apothecary

Image via Stijlbloem blog

Or, a bit more understated, if there is room at the end of the bed for a chest, it could provide valuable office storage space that can be shut away and serve as a handy seat/extra surface in the room. The printer could be stored in this, too. Take a look here for an example of what I mean.

Hopefully, a bit of food for thought for Cate. Whatever she does, I can’t wait to see the updates because I know it will be super stylish, as always! I’m off to Ardingly antiques fair so I will report back on Thursday with how I get on (hopefully having not spent too much money!).

Katy x


Ask Apartment Apothecary – an easy way to touch up paint work

WARNING: This is NOT an aesthetically pleasing post. There is a whole lot of yellow and a plastic peanut butter jar features far too much!

I haven’t done an AAA for ages and I’ve got quite a few to catch up on. Today’s question came from Karen who posted a question on my Facebook wall about tips for keeping her walls white, after noticing that much of my flat is painted white.

I have to say, that before Jules and Otto moved into my flat the walls were as white as can be and the odd scuff mark was very rare. Today is a different story. Dog slobber, mud and general Jules mess has taken its toll on my white walls. I also have to take some blame as I am constantly nailing and screwing in pictures, hooks, mirrors, shelves and then moving them all around so there are plenty of holes that I constantly have to fill and paint over.

Obviously, cleaning is step one for cleaning off dirt and marks and these magic sponges that Claire introduced me to a while back are brilliant. However, more stubborn marks and filled in holes do require painting over. I have previously shared a tip to always keep a brush and a plastic jar filled with your wall paint under your sink so that you can easily whip it out and paint over marks or holes with ease.

I have now developed this idea to make it even easier to touch up your walls with no need for a brush (and the annoying cleaning of the brush bit).

How to touch up paintwork quickly and easily | Apartment Apothecary

1. Use a plastic jar to store your wall paint colour. Label it clearly with the room and paint colour/make. Peanut butter jars are perfect (don’t use a glass one as the lid will rust).

2. Cut a piece of sponge – I used a bog standard kitchen sponge – that will fit into the jar snugly otherwise the paint will drip down its sides and end up in the lid, rather than in the sponge. The sponge must be thicker than the height of the lid  and the thicker the better, actually. I think I’m going to add some height to mine as you don’t want the lid to come into contact with the wall when dabbing on paint. Stick the piece of sponge to the inside of the lid with glue.

3. Pop the lid on the jar, shake it up so the sponge absorbs the paint.

4. Dab it onto the mark or hole you want to touch up. Once you are done, screw the lid back on very tightly and store under the sink for the next time you need it.

The added bonus of using a sponge is the texture is more similar to a roller, which is what our walls were painted with. In the past, touching up with a brush has been quite obvious due to the stroke marks.

Hope this idea helps some of you. I don’t know if this type of thing is sold anywhere; if it’s not, I’m going to start mass marketing it 😉

Katy x

Ask Apartment Apothecary – Where to use chalkboard paint

Happy Monday, all! It’s time for another AAA but I’m afraid this is the last for a month or two as I’ve got a big queue of questions and I’m having lots of hospital treatment this month so don’t have enough time to answer them all. Apologies if your question is in the queue, I promise to get to it asap!

Today’s question is from Amy who really likes the idea of using chalkboard paint in her toddler’s room but can not quite visualise where to use it, other than on the back of the door. Also, it can be a bit unnerving painting a wall of black and can seem too permanent or overpowering. So, I have put together some alternatives that I hope will inspire Amy and anyone else bwho wants to use chalkboard paint but isn’t quite sure where to put it.

How and where to use chalkboard paint | Ask Apartment Apothecary

An easy option is to mask off a section of wall and paint it to create a traditional chalkboard. Image: Petit and Small

How and where to use chalkboard paint | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Get more creative and use the chalkboard paint to draw out a shape/animal/tree etc. In this case they’ve added an educational element. Image: Babies Kin Mag

How and where to use chalkboard paint | Ask Apartment Apothecary

If the idea of allowing your young child free reign with a chalkboard and chalk in their bedroom terrifies you, why not create a chalkboard in your garden? I love this idea. Image: Pinterest

How and where to use chalkboard paint | Ask Apartment Apothecary

If painting part of the wall or a door is a step too far, what about painting toy storage crates? Image: Lisa Barrett

How and where to use chalkboard paint | Ask Apartment Apothecary

You could paint a piece of furniture in the child’s room with chalkboard paint. This toy box, a small table top, a set of drawers. Scandinavia Toy Box from Argos, £34.99.

Really hope that has helped and inspired. Have a lovely week, everyone.

Katy x