If you plan to spend Easter weekend up a ladder with a paint roller in your hand, you are not alone. Ann Treneman on the worrying symptoms of deco-addiction
There is a bird out there that has become something of a DIY legend. "In the spring the male has to build this little wonderful wacko nest for the female," says Ilse Crawford, editor of Elle Decoration, with a soft laugh. "And she just trots along and, if she doesn't like it, she kicks the strand that it is hanging from and he has to start again."

The bird does not live in Britain, but it should. The next two weeks are our nesting period and during it B&Q alone will sell 2.3 million litres of paint and a half a million rolls of wallpaper. "It is like Christmas for us," says a spokeswoman. Everyone who has ever attempted to enter a DIY store on Easter Monday knows what she means: this Thursday B&Q will keep four stores open for 24 hours so we can deco shop around the clock.

They are already feeling the heat on the street. "I've been told to paint all five bedrooms before I can watch any rugby," moans one man to another in a butcher's shop early one morning last week. "Can you believe that flippin' Barbie wallpaper is pounds 6.50 a roll?" says a tired mum as she waits at the school gates. So far the Barbie room had cost more than pounds 300. "Thank God they do not make a Barbie carpet."

Deco-addiction has spread like magnolia-coloured paint over the past few years. Everyone from the reader of Wallpaper* to The Sun is doing it. People used to be happy to live with the same walls for life, but no longer. "People are undoubtedly more into decorating and it's hardly surprising. Every magazine lavishes pages on this," says Jocasta Innes, Paint Magic maestro. "Once in a while somebody asks me if it will all go away and we will have walls made out of crushed steel or something but I just do not think the media will let it happen. It's not just us that is pushing it."

At the top of the market, simplicity rules but at the bottom every room is a potential theme park. Sarah Ford has seen her share of those as an in-store interior designer for B&Q in Fareham, near Southampton. "It used to be that, for a children's bedroom, people would want a border and perhaps a few fun characters on the wall. Now they come in - no doubt influenced by magazines or design programmes on the telly - and say: 'I want it like a ship. The bed's going to be made with MDF shaped into a ship and I'm going to make the window into a porthole and there are going to be ropes and knots all over the place.' "

A day after this conversation the BBC2 decoration programme, Changing Rooms, showed a room being converted into something between the Titanic and a beach hut. The wheeze each week is to redecorate a room and then present it as a fait accompli to the people who actually live there. "The real question is, Does she like green?" says a man as he paints a wall the shade of new mown grass. "Dodgy subject that," says a fellow painter. "She doesn't." Actually, after the unveiling, she claimed that this green was very nice and she had real tears in her eyes. She said they were of joy.

The signs of deco-addiction creep up on you. It may start with wanting a Pumpkin sitting room but it can end in a Pompeii Red temper as you insist that your partner spends a third weekend brandishing a roller covered with yet another orangey shade. If you have memorised the names on the paint card and find yourself quoting wallpaper prices to friends on the phone, you are in trouble. When you think it is normal to wake someone up to explain how the tunnel that is your hall can be made to look light and airy, you need help. When you start to enjoy buying dust-sheets, it is time to go cold turkey.

One place to soothe a Pumpkin-furrowed brow is in the cool, clean pages of Wallpaper*. The asterisk stands for "The stuff that surrounds you" and its editor's name is Tyler Brule. In this world the walls are putty coloured, spring is a time to "edit" your house, the pantry is making a comeback and, as Mr Brule says, "if we are going to look at the Seventies then let's go beyond shag rugs".

This is good advice. First - and most important - because everyone is now "referencing" other floor coverings and second because you're still wondering what to do with all those kilims from the Morocco phase (now out, though Brule says all things Moorish may be coming in). Stop now or face the prospect of deco-addiction.

Mr Brule has a theory about this. "There are several types of addicts. There is the type we like because they buy a magazine and vicariously decorate their homes through us. They get out the graph paper and the pencil and rules and replan all the rooms in their house. It's fantasy - that's our role."

Then there are the tinkerers - rich and poor - who never stop and probably are addicted in some way and, finally, there are those who are merely answering the call of the wild.

"I'm sure that it is animal," says Ilse Crawford, who is thinking of bringing some "interesting colour" in to her home this spring. "I think we are entering a less rational period. It is going to be more emotional and I think people are going to choose colours for how they make them feel. That is terrifically important. Men have been around for however many millions of years but civilised for only a few thousand. I think our primal instincts are pretty important in making us feel happy in our environment. It's foolish to ignore how you feel."

Jocasta Innes knows how she feels and it is not good. "I've been in my house in Spitalfields 15 years and the outside is a disgrace. It lets down the whole street. That is no good for the Paint Lady. We are going to lime-wash it so that should be exciting. At the moment it is piebald render but it is going to be a deep Venetian red lime-wash."

Next comes her bedroom, last decorated four years ago in Napoleonic green with grained woodwork. "It sort of looks a little sad now and it makes me feel a little sad." Out goes the Empire colour scheme, in comes hand-blocked wallpaper. "I'm having in a kind of brownish mauve, a sort of heather, on an ivory background. It is a sort of puce but not bright - a wistful, romantic colour."

Deco-groupies take note: Jocasta Innes is rarely wrong. So what else is new in the world of interiors? Mr Brule believes the time has come to play with purples. "I think there is a purply blue type of thing that works," he says. Walls are going touchy-feely: you can now buy ready-to- go stucco by the pot. Warmer, sunnier colours are coming - "a wheat or slightly limey green or orange" says Ms Crawford - and at B&Q the colours that are "flying out of the store" are jade green, lemons, terracottas and apricots.

And so, go ahead, indulge in another pot of purply blue or add a touch of Moor to the sitting room. After all, it is spring and it is only primeval that your hearts desire is to spend the entire weekend experimenting with applications of Pompeii Red.

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