Ask Alice: About furniture paint, tiles and garden furniture

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

Q. I have a collection of six old wooden dining chairs. As they do not match, I thought that I would paint them in one colour to make them look more of a "set". I would like to achieve a shabby-chic, country look. Do you have any tips, please? Which is the best sort of paint to use for this job?
Trudy Bant, Glossop.

A. Annie Sloan (, 01865 768 666) produces a wide range of water-based chalk paints that are suitable for a variety of uses. They have a very high proportion of pigment, so they cover very efficiently and dry to a beautiful, velvety matte finish.

Remove the varnish from your chairs with sandpaper before painting them with two coats of chalk paint. Then apply a good coat of clear wax (which is also available from Annie Sloan) with a brush or a cloth. Then, using medium-grade sandpaper, remove the paint from the areas where the chair is likely to have become most worn: the back, the bottom of the legs and the seat. Add smaller touches elsewhere, but avoid an even approach as this will make it look contrived.

When you have finished doing this, apply more wax and then polish it off to protect your effect. For a prettier, less basic feel, you could try painting an undercoat in a pale colour - light blue, for example - and allow this to show through, rather than the wood colour itself.

Q. We have recently moved into a Twenties house with a terracotta tiled roof. However, the roof looks almost black and has moss and lichen that needs to be removed. How can this be done without damaging the terracotta tiles, and is it possible to treat the tiles or clean them, to try to return them to their lovely original terracotta colour?
Niamh Sherwood, by e-mail.

A. Terracotta roof tiles are delicate, beautiful and worth preserving. They can be cleaned by a specialist such as Jonathan Bryan (07968 980 351), who uses a carefully regulated pressurised system that cleans the tiles using a gentle acid. The pressure of the jet is carefully adjusted as the job proceeds, to remove lichen and grime without undue force.

Q. We are trying to get the garden ready for summer and would like to find some pretty garden furniture for our three-year-old twins. Do you have any suggestions, bearing in mind that we have a tight budget?
Lisa Stuart, Edinburgh

A. Check out the outdoors collection at Woolworths, which includes a "Bug" kids' bench and matching folding table (£7.99 and £6.99 respectively). They are both decorated with a colourful retro-inspired theme of bugs and spots - and they're guaranteed to get your twins sitting straight down for their summer teatime snacks. Woolworths also sells matching Bug windmills (£1.99), terracotta pots (£1.49) and watering cans (£3.99) - all are great fun for kids and guaranteed not to bust the bank balance (

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