If walls really did have ears, what a debate they'd be privvy to. To scumble or not to scumble, to stipple or spatter, rag or drag, Mexican hues or National Trust colours?

These are the dilemmas facing all those still high on the DIY feeding frenzy, fuelled by countless television programmes (not even Cheggers Challenge could halt the bandwagon, for goodness sake).

Walls have never had it so good. They may not be treated much these days to sponging or stencilling ("those in the know wouldn't" according to Jocasta Innes, author of the seminal interior design manual Paint Magic), yet there's always an outside chance of a bit of dragging or marbling. So much for the minimalist Nineties.

As for colours, according to Tom Helme, director of upmarket paint suppliers Farrow and Ball, who produce more than 50 National Trust colours as well as their own archive colours, Britain now leads the world. "We've travelled a lot on the Continent recently, and been amazed at how little colour they use," he explains. "In this country, interest has come alive in the last 10 years. Whereas before, people were more concerned with fabrics and curtains, colour on walls is now integral to decorating a house or flat."

While Helme admits that the latest trend seems to be towards brighter hues, he resists the notion that we're all slaves to the images in glossy magazines. "The special orders we get don't actually relate to the copylines in many of these magazines. Yellow is still predominant, and greens are coming back into fashion."

Helme should know: his clients include the Royal Family and the BBC (the company's paints were used for the interiors in Pride and Prejudice).


Colour washing: Thinned down paint lavishly applied a la Home Front to give that washed-out look

Ragging: Dab glaze over basecoat of plain colour using any natural-fibred garment from your old clothes bag

Scumble glazing: Upmarket, elaborate version of colour washing, involving tints and pigments

Sponging: Very Eighties. Splodge colour on with dampened, you've guessed it, sponge! Helpful in hiding uneven walls

Stippling: Aggression-busting technique whereby paint is stabbed on wall using bristled brush

Stencilling: To be used sparingly yet boldly for maximum effect. Avoid teddy borders at all costs


Dulux Advice Centre (01753 550555)

Sanderson (0171-584 3344)

Farrow & Ball (01202 876141)

Special Effects decorative paint courses, 251 Archway Road, Highgate, London N6 5BS, (0181-348 1182)

Paint Magic Studio courses (0171-354 9696)