Ask Alice: About dens, exteriors and crockery

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

Q. I am creating a "den" for my 13-year-old son. The room is very plain and boxy with a small window, so I would like to do something fun to the walls to brighten it up. I have looked at wallpapers, but nothing that I can afford has grabbed me. I am not very creative and would love your help. Any bright ideas, please?
Sophie Keegan, e-mail

A. How about an instant forest landscape, reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, from Stamford Murals ( www.stamfordmurals.com; 07802 497 659). For £89.95 you get a giant print, measuring 384x265cm, supplied in eight panels, rather like an advertising poster, ready to paste on to the wall. I suggest you avoid the rather kitsch palm trees and sunsets and go for the tranquil and lovely woodland scenes.

Q. We live in a very comfortable but rather unprepossessing house built in the Sixties. The outside is flat and square, with wooden window frames in an asymmetrical style and an integrated garage. To make matters worse, the house has been clad in lumpy textured cement, painted white, that I gather is almost impossible to remove. What could we do to improve the look of our house?
Emma Bennet, Bournemouth

A. There is a company called Back to Front Exterior Design ( www.backtofrontexteriordesign.com; 01252 820 984) which specialises in disguising the less than attractive aspects of your home. They offer an adaptable range of services to fit most budgets, beginning with a postal service based on your own colour photos. They can then provide you with colour visuals of their suggested improvements and alterations, and take you right through to the planning and building stages, if that is what you require. Their website shows some remarkable "before and after" shots of completed projects. If this seems like too big a project, changing the style of your windows alone could do a lot to improve the looks of your house. There are plenty of companies that can advise you and build replacement frames to fit, such as Bespoke Design, based in Poole ( www.bespoke-design.com; 01202 670770). As for your textured render - oh dear - try panelling large sections of the façade with trellis and planting a few fast-growing ramblers, such as the rampant Rambling Rector, which should engulf your house within a couple of seasons and smell delightful.

Q. I'm looking for some pretty crockery to give as a gift to my mother-in-law, who lives in a very colourful house in the country. Any suggestions?
Richard Beers, Southfields

A. One colourful collection I recommend is Rosanna crockery, currently on sale in John Lewis ( www.johnlewis.com), which is delightfully bright and pretty - the teacups come in four colours per set, so it should suit your mother-in-law. For further inspiration, you could visit the Crafts Council's current exhibition, Table Manners (until 26 February at the Crafts Council Gallery, 44a Pentonville Road, Islington; 020-7278 7700). Billed as the most important display of ceramic tableware in the country for 30 years, the exhibition celebrates the diversity of contemporary tableware, and is great fun.

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