Crazy ways to scrub a floor

Gone are the days when spring-cleaning meant trundling round the house in an old apron and manky rubber gloves. Hip stores are currently bursting with kitsch pinnies in blowzy prints and nattily designed rubber brooms with fluorescent bristles. Housework has become something to dress up for.

"Housework is sexy," insists the cult retailer Emma Bernhardt, whose new store - specialising in Technicolor household goodies so fab, groovy and downright wantable that they can make otherwise slovenly individuals (like your reporter here) want to clean their homes - opened last month.

"My cleaning style is to invite a friend over late at night. And we have to have a bottle of red wine or champagne," confides Ms Bernhardt. "I whack the heating on full blast, swing the windows wide open so there's a nice breeze and we can pretend that we're somewhere hot - and I always have plenty of salsa music playing, very loud."

Forget tired old concepts such as utilitarianism. Ms Bernhardt's heart- shaped buckets and electric-pink "scrubbers" are so cute, they can make your living space look gorgeous without your even having to use them. Likewise, her favourite "cleaning uniform" has more to do with flamboyant aesthetics than with dowdy practicality. "High heels are essential," she says without a trace of irony. "I always wear plastic flowers in my hair, or a little crown. And I have a beautiful little pinny from Mexico made of gingham, with embroidered flowers and frilly cuffs. It makes me feel like a Sixties Miami housewife married to the mob."

Or could that be married to the mop?

Tyler Brule, editor of the cool interiors magazine Wallpaper, also believes that role play is the key to spring-cleaning without tears. His, though, is a more austere vision. "Anyone with deep-seated Minimalist tendencies can spend a couple of days editing everything out of their house and pretend that they are truly a Minimalist for a fortnight or so. It's very liberating."

Mr Brule's cleaning outfit of choice consists of pyjama pants and T- shirt. And his must-have accessory? "A Dyson vacuum cleaner - you can actually see the garbage twisting round the transparent pipe."

Of course, a large degree of whimsicality lies behind the success of many a premium-priced designer objet pour la maison. After all, if you have to scrub a toilet bowl, it's so much more fun to do it with a wacky- looking object. Alessi's lavatory brush, The Merdolino, which looks like something very phallic indeed sprouting out of a plant pot, and costs pounds 38, is currently selling like hot cakes. (So what if you could probably get 10 for half the price down the market?) Likewise, a black rubber broom, decorated with purple plastic flowers (pounds 18), has been hugely popular at the gift chain Octopus.

Cynics may regard the notion of reinventing mundane household tools as desirable designer gizmos to be nothing but a sick conspiracy to oppress even further those of us who really bear the brunt of household chores - in other words, women. Yet my personal take on the housework-as-fantasy trend is that anyone who feels like slipping into an Agent Provocateur nightie before running round the lounge with a duster in their hand is simply trying to inject a bit of frivolity into something that's normally very boring indeed. And that certainly goes for the fellas, too.

So for the easiest - though not necessarily the cheapest - way to indulge in a little fantasy while you get on with the housework, here are some ideas for treating yourself to the brightest, breeziest, rinky-dink household accessories around.

Lipstick-pink feather duster, anyone?

Wash the floor from a heart-shaped bucket that comes in baby pink, baby blue or red. pounds 12.50, by Emma Bernhardt, 301 Portobello Road, London W11

Scrub the kitchen table with an old-fashioned scrubbing brush - that has yellow or green bristles. 95p, from Cath Kidston, 8 Clarendon Cross, London W11

Or try a spot of cleaning with a Day-Glo plastic scrubbing brush by Emma Bernhardt. pounds 2.75, from Emma Bernhardt and the Conran Shop, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 6RD

Flick a lipstick-pink feather duster around your living room. pounds 1, from Kilburn High Road One Pound shop and similar emporia (0171-351 7674)

Prance around in a blue gingham and rose print pinny, pounds 8, from Cath Kidston, as before

Put flowers in a handy rubber-glove vase - made from one of those single gloves you get left with when its partner has either got lost or sprouted holes. pounds l4.95, from Graham & Green, 4, 7 and 10 Elgin Crescent, London W11, or by mail order (0171-727 4594)

Sweep the floor with a black rubber broom while wearing kinky gloves decorated with crazy plastic flowers. Both pounds l8, available from Octopus, 54 Neal Street, London WC2, and branches (0171-836 2911)

Do the dishes with the help of a blue washing-up brush with feet, by Koziol. pounds 7.50, from Brats, 281 King's Road, London SW3.

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