Design: First-Class Deliveries No 2: Maison

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The Independent Culture
OF ALL the myriad mail order catalogues, Maison, and its offspring Maisonbis (the mail order 1998/99 supplement), are among the most beguiling. Beautifully photographed and designed, the two catalogues are bulging with stylish home accessories eminently suitable for Christmas presents.

Launched last year, Maison is the mail order branch of Grand Illusions, three shops set up 10 years ago by Nick Ronald and David Roberts in Twickenham, which are well-known for attractive furniture in a rustic vein. Ronald describes their style as "Certainly European... vaguely French country. We are not wildly commercial, we only sell things we like. It would be easy to produce a catalogue of bestsellers but we are not interested in that." Maison features a wide range of furniture including dressers, cabriole- leg side tables, dining chairs and chests of drawers (all available in either a waxed or painted finish), as well as a first class selection of simple, inexpensively priced ceramics including a very attractive line of "La Cuenco" Spanish earthenware, described in the catalogue as "Divinely simple... hand-dipped in Vanilla and Heavenly Blue". Coffee mugs pounds 6.50, large fruit bowl pounds 28.50, small jug pounds 10.50.

Maisonbis brims over with ideas for Christmas presents: bone-china mug and bowl sets for children featuring either a bird, a boat or a mouse (pounds 19.95 for a boxed set), which are enchanting without being cloying; a jolly felt hot water bottle pounds 18.50; an Odeon espresso cup and saucer in delicious chocolate or chic grey.

Best item: La Cuenco large fruit bowl, pounds 28.50

Cheap item: Mini Versailles cast iron urn, pounds 8.95

Worst item: Wooden ship on wheels pounds 29.50

Maison and Maisonbis are at Grand Illusions, 2-4 Crown Road, St Margaret's, Twickenham, Middlesex (0181 744 1046). Last date for Christmas delivery (subject to availability) is 18 December