Ask Alice

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

Q. I am looking for a really good sofa bed. I have browsed through all the usual outlets, but would like something a little bit more upmarket. Any suggestions?
Hilary Fairfax, Loughborough

A. Have you seen the huge selection offered at Espacio (, 020 7511 1431), which has three stores across London, and also sells online? I particularly like the Matrix three-seater sofa bed (£1,731), which comes with an optional "chaise" unit (£1,601), that forms a right angle to the main sofa and features a useful storage space within. It's chunky, soft and very well built. For a less expensive option, I suggest the Helios three-seater (£1,344).

Espacio also offer a huge range of leather and fabric upholstery choices. Another option is Giuseppe Vigano's "Squaring Penisola" bed (£2,430). This is more of a bed with a sofa incorporated, upholstered in square-shaped quilting which is designed to form an island in the middle of the room. It's my most beautiful bed of the moment and sold by Bonaldo (

Q. I'm redoing my daughter's bedroom, and have painted the walls and stained the floors in various shades of pink and lavender, which looks great, but unfortunately I cannot stretch to replacing her cupboard and chest of drawers, both of which have dark, varnished wood. Have you any suggestions, please?
Gaby Ronson, by e-mail

A. The dark wood possibly looks rather out of place and is probably not very popular with your daughter, so firstly, I would suggest that you rub both pieces down with sandpaper, and paint them white, or possibly a very pale grey-blue, using eggshell paint. Then, using a stencil ( have a great selection), apply an aerosol glue such as photo mount, available from art suppliers, to the painted surface. Carefully remove the stencil, and shake fine glitter, perhaps silver or magenta, depending on your background choice, over the glued area.

When this is dry, blow away any stray glitter and varnish over the entire surface with two coats of clear acrylic varnish. For a finishing touch, replace all the handles and knobs - visit for endless choices.

Q. I've just bought an early 20th-century house in north London which comes from the arts and crafts era and has lots of wonderful period detail. I want to furnish it with arts and crafts pieces but before I start buying I would like to learn a bit more about the period. Where do I start?
Barbara Parks, by e-mail.

A: I've found a wonderful resource called The Arts and Crafts Home (01273 327774;, which describes itself as a "Design source for Home Decoration" and which will inform, entertain and sell you a fantastic range of original furnishings. Look out for handprinted wallpapers by the likes of Pugin, Voysey and CR Mackintosh and specialist door furniture including brass escutcheons, cast-iron door knockers and cabinet handles. Another obvious resource: the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

Design dilemma?