Ask Alice

Do you have an interiors dilemma? Consult our resident specialist
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A. I'm with you on this one, Alex. If you can't afford the real antique thing, I'd be tempted to forget the repro and go for something contemporary. Heals ( has a good compromise - the Agra table, at £825, which has chrome legs and a white lacquered top - unashamedly modern but with a certain classic elegance, too.

Q. My wife has asked for a pair of kitchen scales as a birthday present, but the only examples I've found in my local kitchen shop seem very expensive and a bit soulless. Can you give me other examples?
Eric Martin, SW19

A. Here are three suggestions: try the Typhoon Classic Spring Scales (£25 at John Lewis), which come in a range of delicious retro colours, including vanilla and Buick red. I'm also fond of Sebastian Conran's beautifully curvy and award-winning Equilibrium Scales (£57.99 at Scales Express; 0870 010 8507), made from polished chrome and available in clear or translucent blue. If she likes old-fashioned stuff, scour junk shops for an antique example.

Q. I have been searching for a patterned ceramic-tiled floor for my north-facing kitchen, but without success. Most of the designs that I like are too shiny and cold - I would like something quite warm and inviting. Can you suggest anything?
Tim Hart, West Wickham

A. Glazed tiles can often cast rather a cold aura, particularly when used in a day-lit environment. I would suggest that you take a look at encaustic tiles. Fired Earth ( has a selection of beautifully natural-coloured designs, produced using liquid clay to give an authentic, soft, antique appearance, while being bright enough to enliven your kitchen. Prices from £3.76 for a 20cm tile.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield ( produces a lovely range of encaustic tiles in geometric as well as traditional designs; visit its website to find a local retailer. Or for something new and exciting, check out the selection of concrete floor tiles by Cho Cho San ( They are printed by hand, with images of Persian carpets, and their warm colours are bright but mellow, effectively reproducing the tones of a lovely old rug (£47 per 30cm tile).

Q. I would like to commission a dining-room mural along the lines of one of my favourite Matisse paintings, but there are so many muralists out there - can you recommend anyone?
Sally Feltz, e-mail

Q. One company that springs to mind is eclectic 3 (; 020 7272 8111; prices vary) which can reproduce a picture from any photograph of your own. It can also produce a mosaic version, where your photograph is reproduced in tiny tiles, and then installed on your wall or floor.

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