Ask Alice

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

Q. We have big picture-windows in all our reception rooms. Unfortunately, this means that we can be seen by the world and his wife passing by. We don't like nets and don't want to draw blinds or curtains in the daytime. We don't wish to spoil the lovely open look of the house. Any ideas?
Rosalynd Grant, by e-mail

A. What you need to do is to create an opaque surface on your window-glass that will still let the light pass through at the same time as providing privacy. There are several ways that you can achieve this. You can apply window-film, available from Brume (, 01364 73951) which will provide the effect of etched glass.

If you would like to be able to see out of your windows, you should choose an all over cut-out design or one with the cut-out at eye level. Film to cover a 150x100cm window would cost you around £76. Alternatively, you could commission Creative Glass (, 01642 603545) to produce genuine etched glass for your windows.

For a more economical option, Abode Window Films (, 0116 2849911 ) makes mirror film, at £12.99 per metre, that might look stunning on the outside of a modern house and allows you to see out while providing you with total privacy. A final thought - why not grow something delicate around your windows, like a rambling rose, that you can allow to drift across in front?

Q. I would like to do something with the old floorboards in my bathroom, but as it's quite small I don't want to paint them all a solid colour. Have you any suggestions for effects which might be easy? Ideally I would like a pale grey colour.
Melanie Hartmann, Muswell Hill

A. One solution would be to sand the floorboards and then give them a quick coat with a wash of subtle grey colour (have a look at Farrow and Ball's Cornforth White, which I adore). The paint should be diluted with an equal amount of water, which will provide a lovely washed-out effect. For a sparkly final touch, stir a generous sprinkling of glitter into a pot of acrylic varnish, and give the floorboards three coats.

Q. We are having a kitchen built by a skilful carpenter friend, who has designed beautifully simple cupboards that will be clad in black formica. We have still to choose the worktops and are finding this difficult. What are the main options that we should consider, please?
Gina Roberts, Penzance

A. Basically, these are your choices: laminate (low maintenance, low budget), blocked oak or beech (higher maintenance, from around £38 per metre), limestone (from around £60 square metre), stainless steel (from around £200 per metre), hardwood (but don't forget to oil it, from around £200 per metre), Corian (huge range of colours, from around £300 per metre), concrete (beautiful but very heavy, from around £400 per metre) and glass (available in a huge range of colours, from around £500 per metre). My choice would be Corian, as it gives you endless scope colour-wise, feels divine and once it's there, you can forget about it.