An English woman's home is her postbag

mail-order junkie by Genevieve Fox
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Indy Lifestyle Online
In dreams begin reality, Yeats once said. Well, I have been dreaming all the usual, cliched dreams for as long as I can remember - of waking up next to a handsome prince in a castle oozing velvet and roaring fires, living on a tropical island, winning that wretched lottery. I have even taken to sleeping longer so as to increase my dream time. And still no joy. That castle will be a long time coming; in the meantime I will content myself with injecting some life and colour into my flat.

The gold and black star jacquard throw (pounds 35) from the Wealth of Nations' new home catalogue, which features a small but interesting selection of goods from India, should jazz things up a bit. Thrown over a rich berry- coloured Retro sofa from Next Interiors (pounds 499), it might match nicely with Wealth of Nations' yellow Rajasthani bobble-edge mirror (pounds 49 or pounds 85), all of which would look jolly complemented by a coat of Etruscan Red paint, one of the subtle, natural-coloured hues produced by Farrow & Ball for the National Trust.

I will need some objets to break up the colour. The British Museum's plaster cherub wall plaque, taken from a 15th-century Italian original (pounds 29.95), might do the trick. Alternatively, I could buy the handsome hand-made Shaker-style cherrywood console table (pounds 595) from Ocean and pop the BM's resin head of Hypnos, god of sleep, (pounds 450) on top of it.

The Ocean catalogue, incidentally, is an occupational hazard. Nearly everything here is desirable. Its sand-blasted glass vase in a swirling wrought-iron stand is a Must Have, as is Daphne. She looks like the contorted tankards from which you imbibe mineral waters in Eastern European spas. She is, in fact, a ceramic oil pourer, and at pounds 34.95 is worth putting on the dining table just to see whether guests shove it in their mouth, place their buttonhole in it or pour it over warm bread, as recommended.

My old curtains will look pitiful amid these Eastern reds and yellows, but the prospect of competing with eager housewives up from the Shires in John Lewis is too daunting. The Curtain Exchange comes to the rescue. It is just starting to do smart-looking ready-made calico curtains (pounds 176 lined, with a 2.56 metre drop) which sit well with contemporary or traditional decor. Had I been overtaken by the desire to transform my urban hovel into an English country retreat, I could of course have got everything from swags to chintz in the Laura Ashley Home catalogue (which, by the way, has plenty of frill-free ready-made curtains) and finished the look off with reproduction brass light switches (from pounds 25) from Oliver's Lighting Company.

It is the modern and sinfully luxurious items promised by Space, the young designer mail-order company, that really appeal. Skim through its newspaper-format catalogue and you, too, could find yourself signing up for 10,000 jellybeans trapped against a duck-egg blue background masquerading as a door knob (pounds 95 a pair from Maaz Design) or, better still, nestle your behind into one of Tom Dixon's sprawling "baby fat" chairs made out of wrought-iron and rush (pounds 250). If you still cannot find what you are looking for, then call The Design Line: this is the tele-service that will tell you where to find everything from door knobs to decorators.

Wealth of Nations 0171-371 5333; Next Interiors 0345 100500; Farrow & Ball 01202 876141; British Museum 0353 666390; Ocean 0800 132985; The Curtain Exchange 01206 263660; Laura Ashley 0800 868 100; Oliver's Lighting Company 01322 614224; Space 0171-229 6533; The Design Line 0171- 792 0100