Ask Apartment Apothecary – what to do with an unused fireplace


A pretty tricky AAA today from the lovely Florence, who blogs over at Flossie Teacakes (you must read her blog and follow her on Instagram – she writes so beautifully and with such extraordinary detail – her words are almost mesmerising, I find). She sent me a picture of one of the rooms in her home, where her family spend the majority of their time. It is a really well proportioned room with high ceilings, lovely pieces like a Lloyd Loom chair, one of Florence’s amazing wallhangings, chapel chairs and a vintage sewing machine. The problem is that they have never been able to figure out what to do with the unused, blocked up fireplace in this room.

Up to this point, Florence has tried painting it, placing photograph albums in it, a beautiful bowl and then a terrarium but none of these solutions looked or felt quite right. Normally, it isn’t too difficult to fill this sort of space; a lovely plant, candles or a large ornament can be really rather beautifully framed by the gap where the fireplace once was.


What to do with an empty fireplace | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Building shelves into an unused fireplace creates great storage and fills an unwelcome gap. Image: decor8

What to do with an empty fireplace | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Filling the fireplace with logs adds natural warmth to a room. Image: decor8

What to do with an empty fireplace | Ask Apartment Apothecary

I think this tiled fireplace is absolutely beautiful – that yellow is amazing. Image: A Perspective of Design


The problem Florence has is that the two alcoves surrounding the fireplace are filled with books from the bottom up. Therefore, adding something to the fireplace can make that lower half of the room look too heavy and confused – basically, there’s too much going on. Also, the fireplace has no surround, which means it isn’t a natural feature. Have a look for yourselves…

What to do with an empty fireplace | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Florence’s room.

I think the main problem is the books, not the hole in the wall – controversial, I know. The shelves need to be higher, starting above the level of the fireplace as their current position is making everything seem out of balance and bottom heavy. Ideally, in-built cupboards on either side of the fireplace in each alcove would make the bottom half of the wall much plainer and more able to cope with a feature being made of the unused fireplace.  Personally, I would tile the hole and add a beautiful grate, like the picture above. Obviously, you couldn’t use this, but it would make the whole wall look more like a traditional, period home. You could also choose really beautiful tiles that would give a focal point to the room and add some colour. Failing that, and I understand it may feel weird for some to construct a faux fireplace for no other reason than aesthetics (and relatively expensive), I would fill it with logs (I’ve always loved the way that looks even if there’s no working fireplace in sight) or a beautiful plant or large vase of flowers but I think changing the height of the shelves is key. The picture below, is kind of how I envisage the changes (as close as I could find without going to Florence’s house and DIYing it myself!). So, the alcoves here now look more balanced with the cupboards below, shelves above and the hole can be filled without it looking messy or over the top because it is no longer competing with books either side of it. Does that make sense?

What to do with an empty fireplace | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Image: Decoracion

What do you think? What would you fill the hole with taking into consideration the rest of the room?

I really hope this has helped you, Florence!

Katy x

P.S. If you would like to Ask Apartment Apothecary, please do post a question on my Facebook page or email me.

Ask Apartment Apothecary – what colour should I paint my home?

Even though I dream of owning a house and decorating it from scratch, the decisions that come along with that are quite a responsibility and very different from improving your home gradually over time, which doesn’t phase me at all.

Recently, one of my friends bought her first house and her question to me was what colour should she paint the interior. She wants a blank canvas, she wants to unify the ‘look’ of the house as every room is a different colour, each door is a different style, even the light switches and door handles are all mis-matched, and not in a good way.

I really like the look that my friend, Katie, created in her London home (see the full home tour here) because she cleverly used the wood work throughout the house to tie together each room and this also served as a design feature in its own right, so it wasn’t just white wall after white wall. I also did something similar in the first flat I lived in after university. I wanted to bring a bit of interest to the room, but keep the light, bright walls so I painted the window frames dark green and it looked great. I have found other images of homes where the owners have done the same, painted the walls white and highlighted all the woodwork with a subtle colour, and I really love the look.

So, if you want to maintain a blank canvas but bring a sense of cohesion and an element of design to the look of your home this could be the answer…

Katie Shillingford home tour photographed by | Apartment Apothecary

Photographed by Katharine Peachey. See the full home tour here.

Painted woodwork | Apartment Apothecary

Image: Ledansla

Painted woodwork | Apartment Apothecary

Image: Ledansla on Instagram

What do you think? My friend has followed my advice and has chosen Farrow and Ball’s Purbeck Stone for the wood work in her home, including the skirting boards, picture rail, dado rail, doors, window frames. I’m going over there next weekend so I’ll let you know how it looks.

Katy x

P.S. If you have an interiors related question or problem drop me an email (katy@ or post it on my Facebook page and I will try to answer it here.


Ask Apartment Apothecary – how to start a blog

I’ve had a few emails recently, a couple from friends and a couple from people who read my blog, asking me how to start their own. I know full well that if I didn’t have a partner who develops websites for a living, there is no way in hell that I would have had the first notion of what to do and how to get started.

I would like to use today’s post to briefly outline how to get started for those that have asked me. However, I really can’t go into a huge amount of detail for the very simple reason that Jules did so much of it for me. Luckily, over at Blogtacular there is a weekly series that is currently being published so you should definitely check that out for more in depth information and insight.

What I can tell you is what I have done and where my blog is hosted, as well as a little push to get started, which I will give you at the end of the post because starting a blog is without doubt one of the best things I have done in my life as it has enabled me to realise dreams I didn’t even know I had.

1. Buy a WordPress hosting package

My blog uses the WordPress platform, which I am really happy with. It is one of the most widely used and therefore the most widely supported platform and because it is open source it is constantly being updated and secured. You need to pay for some hosting that will support a WordPress blog (basically a server that sits on the internet so that anyone who searches for your blog can see it). I bought some hosting from 123-reg and it costs about £129 per annum.

2. Buy a domain name

During the process of buying some hosting, you will be asked for your domain name (the address of your blog) on 123-reg. There will be a search tool so you can figure out whether the names that you have come up with are available to buy. I chose my blog name partly because it is difficult to spell and say, which hopefully makes people think about it more – the more generic, the more easily forgotten. When you have found a name that is still available you will need to buy it (mine costs about £11 per year).

3. Choose a theme

When you have bought the hosting and the domain name you will need a blog theme, which will structure the layout of your blog and the way it will look. Go to WordPress and search the free themes and try to choose one that best fits your needs and your style (mine is called Troy). Lots of the themes aren’t particularly aesthetically pleasing and I’ve been hankering after a new theme for a while and I know there are lots of beautiful ones over on Blogzilla, which cost between £30-£40. Check out A Quiet Style and Lapin Blu to see these themes in action. Just remember, you can change your theme once your blog is established, so don’t be afraid that you have to commit to one for life.

4. Create a header

Once your blog is all set up you will need a header with the name of your blog. This can be text, a logo, an illustration – it’s totally up to you.

5. Set up social media

If you want as many people as possible to read your blog, you will need to set up any or all of the following:  a Facebook page, Pinterest account, Instagram account, Twitter feed. You can advertise your most recent blog posts through these channels. You can also sign up to Bloglovin’ which will display your latest blog posts for your followers. Another good idea is to have an email subscription button on your blog, which you can get through the WordPress plugins page.

How to start a blog - Ask Apartment Apothecary | Photograph by

Photograph by Katharine Peachey.

These are the barest bones for starting a blog and exactly what I did. There are loads of tips and guidance for how to do each step e.g. how to choose the best name, how to design the most effective header, how to use social media to its potential. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I would say don’t get too hung up over the finer details; get a basic blog up and running, focus 100% on creating great content and the rest will follow. There is so much to learn and I think it’s best learnt along the way otherwise you will never get started. I tried to make my blog look perfect for six months before I could publish anything (“but what will people think if it’s not as good as Design Sponge?” Ha!). Obviously, I failed dismally and all I achieved was wasted time. Jump in at the deep end, figure it out as you go along and learn organically. For me, that is what makes a blog authentic and makes the learning process so much more enjoyable. It’s also exciting to discover your style through the process and there’s no way you can have a really clear concept of that before you begin, in my opinion.

Nearly two years down the line and there are still hundreds of things I want to change about my blog from the ‘Follow Me’ buttons to the ‘Categories’ to the lack of an ‘About Me’ page but I always try to remind myself that progress is a lot more important than the quest for perfection, which doesn’t exist anyway.

If you would like any more specific information about the five steps above, leave a comment below and I will try my best to help (or in other words I will ask Jules ;)). Otherwise, do follow the Blogtacular Starting a Blog in Five Minutes series as it is really clear, thorough and provides loads of invaluable insight.

Katy x



Ask Apartment Apothecary – how to declutter

For the first Ask Apartment Apothecary of 2015 it seems appropriate to focus on decluttering, which I always feel is a priority at this time of year, especially if you have had your house full of house guests and lots of decorations over the festive period. January is all about stream-lining and refreshing my home, ready for a new year and new beginnings, and I’m also desperate at this time of year to let more light in, which inevitably means getting rid of ‘stuff’. So,when Mary emailed me asking for tips, I decided to try to put a post together.

Coincidentally, as I wrote this post last week before I had seen it, this topic very much ties in with Heather’s and Sarah-Lou’s new project #TheEverydaySpruce. Pop over to Growing Spaces and Lapin Blu to read more and look out for the hashtag on Instagram – I can’t wait to see more, they are both women after my own heart so I’m super excited about it.

On a separate note, and another coincidence, I was inspired by the lovely Florence who blogs over at Flossie Teacakes to begin a decluttering spree just before Christmas. She posted a picture on Instagram (pop over and have a look at the pictures of her dog – Nell is Otto’s twin!) of her newly decluttered kitchen cupboards and so I went on a day-long decluttering mission myself, knowing that we would be away all over Christmas and New Year and how lovely it would be to return to lovely organised cupboards. The coincidence is that I had linked to her in this post when I wrote it last week and then I saw that she had linked to me on her blog last week and said so many nice things that I was blushing all day. So, thank you for the wonderful mention, Florence, and thank you for inspiring me to declutter!

Anyhoo, back to today’s tips…

1. Tidy the room you are decluttering

This is the absolute key to successful decluttering. You must have a clear space otherwise the stuff you are trying to get rid of will just get mixed up in the mess and you will end up in one big mess. This is when people lose the will to continue and you can end up in more cluttered space than you started with. You need a clear floorspace and clear surfaces so you can declutter in an organised, neat way and having a tidy room will make you more aware of not making a mess. If you only follow one of these tips, you should follow this one.

2. Be focused on what you need to declutter

Don’t just wander around your home aimlessly, plan exactly which cupboard, which wardrobe, which shelf you want to declutter. I usually hone in on those areas that aren’t functioning well (you know, the cupboards that you are scared to open because you know the contents fall on your head every time you do).

3. Store similar items together

If you are clear about what type of items should be in  any particular cupboard , drawer or shelf then you can more easily clear out the dissimilar items that need to find a new home.

Tips for de-cluttering | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Image: Tempur

4. Give yourself time

Lots of people suggest doing tiny areas at a time, but I find that giving myself a whole morning, afternoon or even a day is much more effective, as otherwise I can’t focus on what I am doing; I am more concerned about where I need to be or what I need to do next.

5. New homes

Line up four boxes next to the area you are decluttering: rubbish, charity/giving away, recycling, selling. As soon as you remove one item from the shelf or cupboard decide where it’s new home should be and put it in the appropriate box. This way you will not create one huge mess, which is very daunting and stressful. Remove the boxes that you fill from your home immediately!! If not, they may hang around forever creating more clutter and after a while you won’t even notice that every time you need to go to the bathroom you have to step over the ‘Charity’ box.

6. Declutter in daylight

Use the light to help you feel motivated and it just makes seeing what you are doing that much easier.

Decluttering tips |Ask Apartment Apothecary

Storage in my home office.

7. Know when you have decluttered enough

If you want spaces in your home to function well then it is crucial to know when you have decluttered enough. Lots of people make the common mistake of thinking that as long as they can use evry last inch of a cupboard, drawer or shelf then they have done a really good job of decluttering. This is not the case. You need to get rid of enough stuff so that there is room to manoeuvre, which makes a space truly useable.

7. Declutter one space before you move to the next

Do not flit between declutttering lots of different spaces or cupboards in your home. Focus on one particular area, get that done, fill your four boxes and then move to the next space. if you don’t finish the first space, you probably never will and you create more problems for yourself.

8. One in, one out

When deciding what to get rid of start with the rule that if you have new items then you should replace the old and get rid of them. For example, I was given new wine glasses for Christmas so I gave away the old set to my neighbour. Don’t hold on to things for the sake of it or because one day you might need 24 wine glasses because if you don’t have enough space to store them, you home can not function properly so it is not worth keeping them. One in, one out!

9. Don’t get others involved

I know this is controversial and you may not be as brash as me, but often I will declutter without telling Jules anything about it. I won’t ask his opinion or his permission to get rid of certain things, even if they are his belongings! Harsh, I know, but some people, like Jules, can’t say goodbye to totally pointless items even if they have totally forgotten they own said items. I can be safe in the knowledge that with some things I can get rid of them and Jules will never even know because he hasn’t touched them for years. I hope he doesn’t read this!

10. Don’t get stuck down memory lane

If you schedule in seasonal declutttering sessions, which is what I do, clutter doesn’t build up too much but more importantly you don’t get stuck down memory lane every time you try to declutter. If you have been through those old photos or rifled through the knick knacks just a few months ago, you won’t be utterly overwhelmed by nostalgia. Get into a routine with each change of season to get rid of the surface build up and then you won’t have to delve too deeply, which is the danger zone.

Tips for de-cluttering | Ask Apartment Apothecary

Image: Ikea

Any plans for a declutter this month? Start small, be realistic and be organised about it and then the decluttering joy will begin!

Katy x

P.S. If you would like to ask me a design or interiors related question, drop me a note at katy@ or post on my Facebook wall.


Ask Apartment Apothecary – homemade Christmas presents

Today’s AAA is for Becky, who got in touch to ask for homemade Christmas present ideas. She finally has time to be more creative and has begun projects that she has wanted to do for years. Becky now feels inspired to make some Christmas presents, which are more personal and also have the added bonus of saving money. I definitely want to make some presents myself this year, so I really enjoyed looking for ideas that I will use too. All of these craft projects do not involve a sewing machine, as Becky doesn’t have one, so anyone can do them.

Here’s what I found…

Small token presents for neighbours, colleagues, family friends

There are always groups of people that I want to give presents to at Christmas time, whether it be neighbours, your child’s teachers, colleagues or distant cousins, but to do so would cost an absolute fortune.  I am in love with this idea though; so cheap, so easy, so quick and what a lovely thing to be given, perfect for the festive season when you entertain in your home to make it smell lovely and Christmassy. Find the full tutorial on Dandee and see the ones I made here.

Homemade Christmas presents | Apartment Apothecary

Homemade Christmas presents | Apartment Apothecary

Image: Dandee

Or, what about these lovely DIY candles and you could make pretty labels for them? Perfect to hand out as small gifts. The tutorial is on Style Me Pretty.

Hand printed cushions or bedlinen

This is a really lovely idea, that is perfect for the novice crafter but can have a big impact. Buy a cheap, plain cushion cover, bedlinen, tea towels or napkins and hand print any pattern you desire – polka dots, scallops, triangles. You can even use a potato or make a stamp with a piece of lino and a lino cutter. I think I’m going to print a few cushion covers for presents this year. This tutorial by Oh No Rachio is a good place to start or here at Creature Comforts blog where she uses the rubber tip of a pencil (something that I have done before and it is super easy).

Homemade Christmas presents | Apartment Apothecary

Image: Poppytalk

Personalised crockery

There are so many ways that you can personalise crockery or glassware to make them the ideal Christmas present. There is a great tutorial on Garland of Grace.

Fabric flower pots

I find it really difficult to find pretty plant pots and this craft idea is really easy and the results are very effective. You can buy plain terracotta plant pots from your local garden centre very cheaply and then use fabric to cover them. Find a full tutorial here.

Painted furniture

What about personalising a piece of furniture for a present? This could either be an antique piece that needs a good paint job or something as simple as an Ikea stool. Either way, this is relatively cheap, fun to do and shows a lot more thought than another pair of slippers (or whatever you always receive at Christmas).

Clay bowls

Imagine how creative you could get with air dry clay! You could stamp patterns onto them, etch words, use different paint effects and what a lovely gift these DIY bowls would make. The tutorial is over on Alice and Lois.

Keepsake board

This no-sew keepsake or notice board would make a lovely present and is relatively easy to make. I would really enjoy choosing different fabrics to make these. Find the tutorial on the Liberty blog.

Mason jar light

I think this would make a really unique gift and wow whoever you gave it to when you tell them you made it yourself. There’s a good tutorial on in.gredients and I noticed the other day when I was in Heals that they are now selling gorgeous combinations of flex and light fittingsas well as Edison bulbs.

Homemade Christmas presents | Apartment Apothecary

Image: Woon blog

These are just a few possibilities and if you want more inspiration head over to my craft projects board on Pinterest. Have you got any good homemade Christmas gift ideas? Please do share them in the comments section below.

I hope some of these projects will inspire you, Becky!

Katy x

P.S. If you have a craft or interiors related question, or any sort of design dilemma, please do post it on my Facebook wall or email me katy@ and I will be happy to help.


I absolutely love it when readers get in touch to tell me they have made something they have seen on my blog. I love it even more when they send me a pic of their make. This is Helen’s photo of the fig-secented candles she made using the tutorial on the gorgeous Really Pretty Useful blog. These are going to be one of my first makes of 2015 – thank you so much, Helen, for the inspiration x