Ask Alice: About deckchairs, Venetian blinds and garden furniture

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

Q. I would like to buy a pair of deckchairs for a wedding present. Can you recommend any that are suitably special?
Lorna Wheeler, Chessington.

Rosablue (, 01242 701107) has a lovely website offering a vast choice. Its standard, unpainted wooden frames (or painted, for an extra £10) are available with a huge choice of printed slings in floral, striped or graphic patterns for £45.

It also offers a bespoke service, allowing you to submit your own choice of fabric design which will be printed for you and made up as a chair for £65.

Or how about a deckchair made for two? Southsea Deckchairs (see details on, 02392 652 865) makes a range of striped or plain chairs in printed or woven cotton, from £59.95. Its "Wide Boy" chair (from £89.95, depending on fabric), is 930mm across, perfect for newlyweds who cannot bear to be apart.

Q. I have several Venetian blinds that have not been regularly cleaned. They are now just too grimy to respond to finicky cleaning of one slat at a time. Is there anyone that offers a "cleaning in situ" service for blinds, like the carpet and upholstery cleaning that is available, or will I have to remove them, have them professionally cleaned and then put them up again?
Ann Page, by e-mail.

Dirty Blinds (, 0845 450 2036), based in south-west London, will collect your blinds, take them away and clean them using an ultrasonic system and then hang them back up for you, all within two days.

It charges £25 for cleaning a single blind of average size, but discounts apply to multiple blinds and collection and delivery to a local address starts at around £50. You could hang them over the bath using suction hooks, available from DIY stores, spray the blinds with a good grime-removing spray, leave them for an hour and rinse with the shower spray.

Q. Do you have any tips to improve my motley collection of garden furniture? I have a slightly rotten wooden bench, four rusty wire chairs and a cast-iron table. They have all seen better days but I would like to make them last another season if possible.
J Gordon, by e-mail.

The great thing about metal furniture is that it can be painted again and again and there is no reason why it shouldn't last almost indefinitely.

Rub each piece with a wire brush to remove rust and then, using spray paint, apply a coat of metal primer before finishing with two topcoats.

You will find the widest colour choice available in car paints; my favourite colour for the garden is a bright lime green, which looks especially good with new growth at this time of year.

The wooden bench sounds salvageable, too. Treat it with a fungicidal preserver such as Ronseal or Cuprinol, and use a painted or oiled surface to finish.

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