Ask Alice

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

A. I understand, Jessica - who wants to live in a geek's paradise? Don't worry, though, there are lots of alternatives. If you want an oriental look, The Pier (, 0845 6091234) has a choice of two large television cabinets which should be more sympathetic to the style of your home. "Shanghai" (£349) is a large stained pine cabinet with brass handles, while "Shogun" (£449) is made from waxed pine with bamboo panels and Chinese-style closures. Oka (, 0870 160 6002) sells an ornate, hand-painted, antiqued cabinet made from rubber wood, called "Kangxi" (£1,150). My favourite cabinet is from Next (, 0845 600 7000); "Toscana" (£699) is made from lacquered birch with two large drawers below, and is well-proportioned. All of these are designed to house your home media systems and have wide doors to allow a good view of the telly.

Q. Dear Alice, space is short in my contemporary kitchen and I would like to find a matching table and bench where the children can all squash up together at mealtimes. The only ones I can find are old and very narrow from antique shops - is there anything more modern on the market?
Anna Long, Newcastle

A. Habitat has just the thing - the unfussy Parker dining room table and bench made from solid oak (table £549; bench £179). The table seats up to eight, and is also wide enough to accommodate more substantial backsides, so you should be be fine during dinner parties, too.

Q. Dear Alice, we live in a light-filled open-plan warehouse flat. However, when we moved in, the walls were all treated in the same duck-egg blue paint, which we would like to improve on. This has proved harder than we thought, as we would like to vary the colour scheme to break up the space without spoiling the sense of unity. Can you help us, please?
Dick Clarke, Berkshire

A. It is essential to concentrate on keeping a feeling of continuity throughout the open-plan space. Stick to one colour for all the woodwork, though not necessarily white - strong colours could work well here. This will unite the space well, allowing you a little more freedom in your choice of colours for the walls. A continuous area of one type of floor will unite the space, too. If you want to vary the paint colours, choose a palette of three complimentary shades, or even some patterned wallpaper, and alternate them as the layout of the room allows.

If you use wallpaper at one end, you could then pick out one or two colours from it and use them at the other end. Or choose some patterned fabric for curtains or upholstery that allows you to do the same. Don't be afraid of sticking to one colour, either, because variation of shade, tone and texture through accessories and fabrics can produce an effect full of interest.