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Magnolia Man - if she says so

HEAD bowed, he approaches the shop assistant with a tell-tale nervous smirk. Then he stabs at the palest colour on the sample card and waits for his pot of emulsion.

He is Magnolia Man, the terror of paint-store owners everywhere. For, all too often, his first, precipitate purchase is followed the next day by a visit from his wife. Can the paint, she asks, be exchanged for a bolder colour?

Not any more, she can't. A home decor shop in Aberdeenshire has had enough. Allan Gordon has put up a sign in his Alford premises warning that men will only be served with paint if they can show accreditation from their spouse.

"We will not supply husbands with coloured paint without a signed note from their wives," it reads. Mr Gordon's theory is that securing a woman's approval beforehand will save time for everyone. "The sign is just meant to be lighthearted," he says, "yet there is more than a wee bit of truth behind it. We find that women tend to rule the roost when it comes to picking paint colours. I suppose men still pick the cars, so women like to decide on the home."

Part of the blame for women's enthusiasm for brasher colours has been stirred up by popular TV shows such as the BBC's Home Front and Changing Rooms.

Thousands now watch each week as Swot teams of stylists are sent in to transform dreary dens, armed with no more than a roll of muslin, an improvised guava-print stencil and a pot of radiant orange daub. "There is a lot more experimenting going on," says Mr Gordon.

Graham Wynne, one of Carol Smillie's decorating sidekicks on Changing Rooms, acknowledges this. "There might be a whole rash of zebra-skin patterns going on all over the country," he admits

According to Wynne, Magnolia Man is already an endangered species. "In the past, men were scared of having an opinion, but now they are beginning to take part. It is all part of the design revolution."

But even south of the border there is at least one Magnolia Man still thriving - style guru Wynne confesses that his own home is done out entirely in inoffensive cream.