Ask Alice

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

Q. I need a new doorbell, but I'm not impressed with the tinny-looking (and tinny-sounding) range at my local DIY store. Where can I get something more upmarket?
Sue Bradley, Hampstead

Q. I need a new doorbell, but I'm not impressed with the tinny-looking (and tinny-sounding) range at my local DIY store. Where can I get something more upmarket?
Sue Bradley, Hampstead

A. I've sourced a marvellous, albeit slightly surreal, new invention that is guaranteed to make Hyacinth next door purple with envy. Launched last month by Jacob Jensen, the Bell That Knocks plays five polyphonic tunes, ranging from a town hall chime to one specially designed for the hard of hearing. If the tunes fail to impress, you could always set the doorbell to play a "knock, knock" which was recorded by Jensen at his own front door. With an operating distance of up to 150m between the bell push and the chime, the chime can be wall-mounted or free-standing. At £85, it's not cheap, but it's certainly cheerful; for stockists, contact Absolut Form, www.absolutform.co.uk.

Q. I have a 400-year-old oak chest that has a white-ish ring on the surface left by a wet vase. Polish hasn't helped so far - how can I get rid of it without sandpapering off the mark?
Leonard Westcott, by e-mail.

A. Banish the thought of sandpapering your antique chest - when it comes to precious furnishings, weathered surfaces must be interfered with as little as possible. When water has penetrated the surface of the wood, there are many folk remedies, the best being the application of a thick layer of mayonnaise, which is left on for 15 minutes and carefully wiped off. Then rub down the coffer with Liberon's Black Bison wax (buy from good DIY outlets), which has the most heavenly scent and will protect the wood well.

Q. As a celebration of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, I would like to commission a stonemason to create a decorative carving for their house in east London. Do you have any ideas?
Sinead Alexander, by e-mail

A. Why not commission something romantic for the lintel of your parents' front door? Paula Haughney (020-8709 9754) will carve you a beautiful panel, using limestone, granite, alabaster and soapstone, from her studio in Bromley-by-Bow, east London. Having "roughed out" the background, using a chisel, she finishes the fine details with a normal hammer and chisel. Haughney's recent commissions include sculptural seats, foundation stones, fonts and fountains. She charges about £450 for a 45cm-square panel.

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

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