Ask Alice

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The Independent Online

Q. I have a large sitting room with lovely high ceilings and have tried over the years to find the perfect decorating scheme for it. No matter what I try, the room still looks empty and barren. I can't afford huge paintings, and smaller pictures look out of place. I am keen on browns and greys. Have you any tips?
Jake Chesney, Newbury

Q. I have a large sitting room with lovely high ceilings and have tried over the years to find the perfect decorating scheme for it. No matter what I try, the room still looks empty and barren. I can't afford huge paintings, and smaller pictures look out of place. I am keen on browns and greys. Have you any tips?
Jake Chesney, Newbury

A. If you can concentrate on one wall - probably the one that you face most often as you sit in the room yourself - and make a feature of it, the rest will fall into place. How about using a wallpaper with a large print in fairly muted colours, so that the effect isn't too overwhelming? Cole and Son ( www.cole-and-son.com) have some stunning items in their recent collections, including the Waldorf collection. Evocative and glamorous, with strong American influences, the collection includes metallic foils that add excitement to large rooms by enhancing light. Prices range from £40 to £65 per roll. To paper a typical 12ft-high wall, 15ft wide, should cost less than £350. Then treat the remaining walls with colours that reflect those in the paper. I'm sure this will brighten up the room, by adding texture and interest. Perhaps you could also invest in some tall candle holders, to provide a flickering effect that will reflect in the metallic foil. Visit www.onestopcandleshop.co.uk for some affordable iron candle holders - a pair of 45in-high holders at £22.50 each should do the trick.

Q. I've got a tiny kitchen and have sourced all sorts of small units to fit in it, but I am still looking for a sink which can fit into a corner. Any suggestions?
Mary Fenton, Dulwich

A. Carron Phoenix, which sells a good quality range of sinks, taps and accessories, have just launched the Lavella 888 (from £335-£399; 01324 638321; www.carron.com), which will make the space in your kitchen go further. It's a double sink which fits neatly into a standard 900mm corner unit, with a large single bowl, a larger than average half bowl and a well placed drainer which turns the right angle to make the corner. The sink comes with optional accessories including a chopping board and wire basket.

Q. We have a small, east-facing garden which, in spite of a new decked area, beautiful seating and some stylish planting, mainly of aloes and grasses, feels rather cold and uninviting. Can you suggest anything to cheer it up?
P. Hutton, by email

Sometimes, the contemporary gardening style can look slightly sterile and chilly. Try some hot colours as bedding plants; tobacco plants in lime green can combine with any other flowers in bright colours to heat up the beds. This would also be a good excuse for buying yourself a pretty Indian Pipli appliqué parasol, £125, at Ganesha at Gabriel's Wharf in London (020 7928 3444; www.ganesha.co.uk). An outdoor fireplace might help and would stretch the garden season well into the autumn. Look at Style Outside ( www.styleoutside.com), which sells wood-burning braziers and firepits from £70.50. They are all safe for use on modern patios and decking.

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

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