Ask Alice

Do you have an interiors dilemma? Consult our resident specialist
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Dear Alice,

I've just bought a house in Chiswick, the outside of which is a vile sludgy brown shade. I'm agonising over which colour to re-paint it - my husband wants white, but I want something warmer. Can you advise?

R Fielding, Chiswick

Rachel, you're right: white can be too cold for the exterior of a house in London, though it's fab for a country cottage. Choice of paint colour is an instant indicator of bad taste, so it's worth consulting the charts of good paint makers. One stunning, warm, neutral I've found is Slate IV, at The Paint Library (020 7823 7755; It's a truly beautiful beige, and guaranteed to make your neighbours throw up with envy - especially the ones who have slapped a yellowish superstore cream on the front of their homes!

Help. My Edwardian tessellated hallway is looking a bit the worse for wear. Who could restore it to its former glory before I sell this Spring? G Henchnor, Gerrard's Cross

A tessellated hallway is one of those original features guaranteed to get buyers frothing at the mouth. One hallway tile expert who comes highly recommended is Ricky Taylor at the Victorian Tile Company in Edmonton (07976 937667). Or try Original Features (020 8348 5155; tessellated floor specialists who can provide a full restoration (from pounds 1,000-pounds 2,000) as well as supplying hand-cut tiles and encaustic tiles - square tiles with an embossed pattern embossed in layers of coloured clay. Original Features also supplies a Victorian Tile Floor restorer, which will clean your hallway back to the bare tile. Buy of the week (left): a 1850 blue, black and white tiled floor from a finishing school at Lassco (pounds 2,500; 020 7749 9949).

My grubby twins have smeared fingermarks all over my gorgeous pale blue linen sofa. I can't afford a professional cleaner; is there anything I could try myself?

J Byrne, Glossop

Furnishings are even more prone to staining after chemical cleaning, so I'll reveal one of my mother's techniques. Take a piece of white sliced bread, squeeze it into a ball and gently roll it across the smudges. The marks disappear as if by magic - but do remember to scrape the jam and butter off the bread first.

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