Ask Alice

Do you have an interiors dilemma? Consult our resident specialist
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The Independent Online

Q. Dear Alice, I want to refit my kitchen, but I'm torn between having a free-standing kitchen or a built-in one. Any thoughts?
Giulietta Cruickshanks, by e-mail.

Q. Dear Alice, I want to refit my kitchen, but I'm torn between having a free-standing kitchen or a built-in one. Any thoughts?
Giulietta Cruickshanks, by e-mail.

A. I love free-standing kitchens because you can include antique furniture, such as a dresser or sideboard. I also love having my cups and glasses on display, rather than hidden away in a fitted cupboard. But it's true that fitted kitchens are much more practical: crumbs and dust collect under freestanding units, and if your glasses are on shelves they get pretty grimy after a while. The other advantage of a non-fitted kitchen is that you can take it with you when you move! I find many of the cheaper fitted kitchens a bit soulless, although the smooth line of built-in cupboards is hard to beat for a sleek, modern look.

Q. Dear Alice, I recently bought a cottage in the country and the vendors told me that it used to have a beautiful weathervane, which blew off in the storms of 1987. Where can I source an old example to replace it?
Mary Chester, Hove.

A. The salvage experts Lassco (020-7749 9949; www.lassco.co.uk/antiques) have some beautiful weathervanes in stock, including a Moby Dick whale in a verdigris finish for £290. Lassco can supply you with the right brackets to attach it to your roof or chimney stack, too. Another firm worth checking out is Forging Ahead ( www.forging-ahead.co.uk), which sells different weathervane designs, starting from £250.

Q. Dear Alice, I have a large and extremely heavy, round Victorian table that is inlaid with different kinds of marble. Sadly, the top was damaged in storage and several "wedges" of marble were broken. Do you know of anyone who could do repairs? The tabletop is so heavy that it would have to be collected by professionals.
Robin Miller, by e-mail

A. FW Poole in Clapham (020-7622 5154) are marble masons who provide a restoration service for antique marblework; they are happy to collect and deliver in the London area. First, though, they would need to know if your table has a slate base, in which case there might be a structural problem, making the cost of repair prohibitive.

Q. Dear Alice, after getting divorced, I have decided that without my husband around I will have to give in to my better instincts and get a gas-fired barbecue. Is there a model that looks a more attractive than those huge Australian-style examples?
Sylvie Hacker, Bristol

A. Yes, Sylvie, it's hard to recommend those huge ugly "barbies", which look ridiculous in anything other than a garden the size of Melbourne. I think you should try a great product from Weber, called the Weber Q Baby (£150 at John Lewis, or visit www.weber.com). It looks a bit like a flying saucer, is very simple to fire up with a push-button control and, crucially, it is powered by a disposable camping gas style canister, which means that you'll be able to move it around easily.

Design dilemma? E-mail askalice@independent.co.uk

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