Ask Alice: About bins, coffers and colour schemes

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

Q. I am searching for the perfect kitchen bin. Aesthetically, I am drawn to a bin with a removable lid, but they are so inconvenient. The last pedal bin I had was a tall, slim, chrome model but I had great difficulty removing the bag when full and ended up kicking it in a fit of rage, leaving an unsightly dent in the front. Are there any tried-and-tested bins that you could recommend, please?
Stuart Longman, by e-mail

A. Although you can pick one up on any high street for under a fiver, the sky's the limit when it comes to spending money on a bin. It is important to go for quality, or your bin will look horrible as it ages. Brabantia makes robust bins in a good range of sizes, and they are widely available. Its 40l touch-top bin in matt black opens with light pressure (£79.99 from Argos). A pedal bin with a difference, the Simplehuman Butterfly bin (£109 for 38l model from John Lewis) has a lid that opens in two halves, and its slim rectangular shape saves on space. Alternatively, the Dome bin is good-looking, simple and cheap, and comes in shiny red with a chrome lid and push-in opening (£29.99 for 30l from Argos).

If you live in London and want something unique, visit the Conran Shop (81 Fulham Road, London SW7) tomorrow at 6.30pm. Vipp bins, with Conran, has asked 18 designers, including Ron Arad and Nigel Coates, to decorate its iconic pedal bin. The results will be auctioned, with all proceeds going to Oxfam. Most of the designers will be there and refreshments will be served. Probably the best bin-buying experience going.

Q. We have an antique oak coffer that has darkened to a beautiful brown, but some areas at the front have developed a black, sticky coating that attracts dust and fluff. Can I remove this without damage to the patina, and if so, how?
Cheryl Lister, Leatherhead

A. A build-up of wax can become sticky, particularly in areas where there is less wear. It is simply rectified, though, with a rag dipped in mineral spirit or paint-thinner. This removes the wax in thin layers so you can decide when you have gone far enough. In the future, an occasional wipe with a damp cloth will remove dirt and dust, and stop it getting into the wax. A quick buff afterwards with a dry cloth gets the shine up again.

Q. We are redecorating our sitting room and are struggling to reach an agreement on style. My wife wants subtle neutrals on the walls and a hardwood floor. I appreciate that this dates less, but I want something more exciting. Can you help?
G Ramos, by e-mail

A. Nobody wants to commit to something that will need replacing in a year, but why not combine both of your ideas, using the neutral colours on the walls and floor, and injecting some strong colours in your soft furnishings and accessories. A bold patterned fabric with a large repeat looks fantastic covering a sofa or armchairs, and paintings are an obvious way to introduce more life.

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