Ask Alice: About window views, paint stripping and showers

Do you have an interiors dilemma? Consult our resident specialist
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Q. My daughter's bedroom window looks out over a post office depot. The room faces north and doesn't get much light. I have tried hanging muslin drapes to mask the view, but this makes the room even darker. I would like to plant window boxes but the window opens outwards. Have you any ideas to cheer up this aspect?
Anna McDonald, by e-mail.

A. A muslin drape cuts down on light entering a room, and increases the "blueness" of the light, making a north-facing room feel colder. Have you considered a lace blind covering the window's lower half?

Depending on the depot's height, this might obscure the ugly view, while still letting in enough light. Some antique lace attached to a wooden pole could be fixed to either side of the frame.

You could hang strings of white cotton thread and tie on little plastic or paper flowers and insects to create a window mobile. Attach the threads at the bottom to a thin pole just above the height of the window sill; this will stoptangling and let you move them out of the way.

Dutch by Design (, 08708 921 903) has a big bunch of flowers in the form of a window sticker, 30cm high, in five designs, for £4.95. This would prevent maintenance.

Q. Our banister is painted white. I would love to remove this paint but I am told it is almost impossible to get the wood completely free of paint. Any suggestions?
John McIntosh, by e-mail.

A. Stripping paint from banisters and newel posts can be arduous and time-consuming. Paint applied before 1960 can contain lead, so it is vital to keep any fumes or dust to a minimum. The safest way is with a paint-stripping solution such as Nitromors "Superstrip".

Apply this to the paint and leave for 24 hours, keeping children and pets well away. Remove the paint, using a scraper thenwire wool. Treatstubborn areas with a second coat and repeat. Sand the wood with very fine grade paper and apply a coat or two of Danish oil.

Q. My house has a full bathroom on the first floor and a shower room en suite on the top floor. I would like to have a large walk-in shower in the bathroom but it would mean removing the bath. Is a house with no bath bad for resale purposes, and can you recommend a very good shower?
Dorothy Brown, by e-mail.

A. A house without a bath would have been considered lacking recently. But environmental concerns say we should shower, which should have an impact on buyers' expectations in years to come.

Your shower will depend on whether you have a gravity-fed system or a combination boiler. Mixer showers use more water than electric ones, but they use the hot water supply, saving energy, and are easier to install and less bulky.

Ask a plumber for advice. A good walk-in enclosure is "Sloegrin",with simple glass panels and a plain white tray, in two sizes, from Wilson Dobson (, 0870 766 2741). Prices from £499, plus delivery.

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