Ask Alice

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

Q. I've just bought a period house with three connecting rooms downstairs separated by arches, which will eventually become my sitting room, dining room and study. Should I paint them contrasting colours?
Amy Fletcher, Highgate

Q. I've just bought a period house with three connecting rooms downstairs separated by arches, which will eventually become my sitting room, dining room and study. Should I paint them contrasting colours?
Amy Fletcher, Highgate

A. No - theoverall effect might prove jarring. But you could paint them in shades of the same colour, which would draw the eye through the whole space, unifying it as well as marking out the separate rooms. My preference would be to mix a pale lavender and a pretty light blue with a silvery grey, making sure that all the shades come from the same colour spectrum of whichever manufacturer you choose. Paints have an amazing habit of changing tone before your eyes, depending on other colours nearby.

Q. I have a resident bat in my London garden and want to buy a bat box to encourage it to stay. Where can I find one?
Teresa Martin, Peckham Rye

A. Have a look at the website of the wildlife specialists Wiggly Wigglers (01981 500 391; www.wigglywigglers.co.uk), which sells an impressive range of wildlife accessories from its centre in Herefordshire. Choose between a basic bat box (£12), or the more elegant oak bat box (£24), which has two chambers, making it ideal for roosting and nesting. Both are Bat Conservation Trust approved. The Wiggly Garden is open on Sunday from 2-5pm as part of the National Garden Scheme, where you can see many of their products in action.

Q. I have a very dark, dingy upstairs landing. I would love to add some natural light, but there is no outside wall where I could install a window. Do you know any tricks?
Gloria Westman, Isleworth

A. Have you considered installing a light pipe? These tubular skylights are perfect for areas where standard skylights or windows may not be practical. If even a small area of ceiling gives access to the roof or the side of the house, a pipe can be installed to collect and reflect light, maximising available sunlight and transferring it inside. Light pipes are also available with an add-on light kit, so that they can continue to light the landing even when the sun has gone down, for a small extra cost. A 250mm diameter pipe costs £350, and a larger 350mm pipe £413, including delivery and VAT. The system is easy to fit as long as you don't suffer from vertigo; otherwise, a fitting service is available for around £175. Visit www.solalighting.com, or telephone 0845 458 0101 for further information.

Q. I have commissioned a modern concrete fireplace for my sitting room, and am considering options for the hearth. Can you suggest anything that would fit in with the fireplace's contemporary style?
Lily Talbot, Maida Vale

A. A friend of mine, who also has a modern fireplace, has tiled the hearth in mirror tiles. When the fire is on, they reflect the flickering flames and look stunning. Tilescome in such a range of sizes that you should be able to find one that will fit into the measured area of your hearth without the need for cutting. Your local glazier or DIY store should stock a selection of sizes.

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

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