home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback



home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback



home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback



home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback


home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback



home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback



home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback

home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback



home bookshelf latest books how to buy ideas news & views biography feedback


 Do you have difficulty finding plain fabrics in bright colours for covers, blinds and cushions? (And even for curtains?) I certainly did. After searching and getting fed up with searching, I bought a quantity of inexpensive pure linen and dyed it in my washing machine using hot-wash dye of the type you can buy in any good hardware outlet. The results are fantastic. I have a chair in my sitting room, which is a bright sunny room, with loose covers in a brilliant cherry red. They haven’t faded at all after nearly two years, and the covers are removable and washable. Cold water dye is also available if you want to do tie die, seep die (where you put one end of the fabric in a bucket of one colour, then the other end in another when the first is dry) or simply paint your dye on in a free-hand design of your own. Good luck, and have fun!

 Click Brilliant Colour


 We all have boxes of photographs of friends, family and places we have visited over the years, and we don’t know what to do with them all. Once they’ve gone into the ‘snapshot’ drawer we hardly every look at them again, and when the drawer (or box) gets really full we can hardly bear even to think about them. We’re told that the age of digital technology, with pics on disks, is changing all that, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy sitting at my computer to look at photographs. I want to be able to sit down on my sofa or in the garden with a cup of tea and the photo album and browse through all those pictures that bring back happy memories of sunny summers and the warmth of friendship… 

This is what to do. Every time a packet of photographs comes back from the processors’, write today’s date on it. Have a quick look through the snaps and add a note on the cover of the packet, briefly listing the events in the photos and the dates when they took place (consult your diary or calendar). Keep a box or bag clearly labelled with this year’s date, and put the packet in here after you’ve had a good look through it. At the end of each year or two, depending on your output as a photographer, buy an album (I favour the type with cardboard pages onto which you stick the pictures) and arrange the previous year’s photographs across the pages. You can give as much or as little space to an event as you want, relative to others in the course of the year. At the beginning, on the front page, write the date(s) of the year(s) in large letters. At the end, save at least one spread for all those photographs that friends send you at Christmas. And throughout, with a decent pen that writes neatly and clearly, caption the pictures with dates, events, names of people (but no jokes – they’ll make you squirm later) and any other important information. Presto! You’ve created an heirloom.

Click Perfect Order



 If you have a beautiful rug or kilim but no floorspace left, hang it on the wall. The best tribal rugs are superbly designed artefacts, works of craftsmanship (craftswomanship, actually, as the true nomadic Persian examples are all made by women) to treasure. This is especially true since it is by no means certain that their nomadic way of life, which enables them to peg out their rugs on the hillside and weave alongside their other domestic activities, will survive the twenty-first century. Square foot for square foot, a fine Persian tribal rug is excellent value as a piece of art on the wall.

There are many ways of hanging a rug. The simplest, and the method I use, is to  screw to the wall a length (a couple of inches shorter than the width of the rug, or the length if you are hanging it lengthways) of carpet gripper. This is a piece of wooden lath that has rows of sharp nails sticking out of it at a slight angle. Carpet layers fix this to the floor around a room and attach fitted carpet to it. You screw it to your wall with the nails pointing slightly upwards, then lift the rug onto it and press it down gently onto the nails. Very occasionally, my rug falls off the wall, but rarely. In spite of this, I believe this is the best method.

Don’t forget to use a vacuum cleaner behind a hanging rug from time to time. A warm, dark, undisturbed place faced with a delicious woollen surface is the ideal home for moth.

For more about ways of decorating with rugs, look at The Kilim and Tribal Rug Book



 I am in the process of transforming our dank and pokey downstairs loo into a spacious, modern shower room. It’s easy when you know how. And, interestingly, the transformation is as much due to electrical works as it is to plumbing and decorating. There’s new lighting to install – recessed halogen spots in place of the depressing single pendant bulb. Also an extractor fan, sited on the ceiling near the shower so that steam is instantly sucked away. The shower itself is electrical, so that anyone in the household can have a searing hot blast at any time of day or night. Then there’s the shaver socket near the basin and mirror. And, finally, we’ve installed an oil-filled heated towel rail. This provides hot, dry towels (once you’ve lived with them you notice the difference) and also makes the room distinctly warmer than it was.

 The main influence on the temperature of the room, however, besides the heating, is the colour of the walls. The room is all white – walls, china, fittings, shower hose, ceiling, lighting, switches, woodwork, everything… except one wall and the floor. I have painted one wall a rich, bright pink. Not delicate baby pink, and not deep cerise, but a warm, strong, rosy pink that reflects flatteringly onto your skin when you look at yourself in the mirrors all along one wall. This is especially reassuring first thing in the morning when you are feeling a little bit frail. The cheerful pink perks you up no end. Wonderful – the effect of a touch of bright colour.

For more about the positive effects of living with bright colour, look at Brilliant Colour.



 It is thrilling when you succeed in buying a handsome piece of old furniture at auction or in a dingy junk shop – not fine polished antique furniture but the sort of sturdy, solid piece that will give you good service – or finding it long-forgotten in a relative’s attic or garage. It might be a table or cupboard perhaps, or a sideboard that will help furnish a truly recycled kitchen. But once you get it home, how do you begin to clean it?

 I have had great success with good old-fashioned soda crystals. You fill a bucket with hot water, tip in a handful or two of these crystals which can generally be bought in any well-stocked supermarket and many village stores. Swill them about with a brush to dissolve them and then, wearing old clothes and rubber gloves, give the piece of furniture a scrubbing of such vigour, inside and out, that it will never forget the experience. Ideally do this outdoors in warm dry weather, so that you can rinse the piece thoroughly and not worry about the water.

 The results can be amazing. I have seen decades of grease and dirt streaming off old paintwork, leaving it smooth and clean, not needing any further attention once dry (so long as you like the genuine lived-in or distressed finish). Or, if you intend to strip or re-paint the piece, you know that you are tackling the real thing, not battling through layers of disgusting grime.

 For more about old furniture, see the Cottage section (and indeed the other three parts) of Country Style, and the Natural Kitchen pages of my forthcoming book Kitchen Living, to be found in Latest Books.


I recently renovated a pair of 1960s (or maybe late 1950s) ceramic lamps. When it came to replacing the flex, I decided to dispense with boring brown, and the plastic coating of most ordinary modern three-strand flex was completely incompatible with the elegance of these Italian lamp bases. Instead, I bought yards of flex finished with silk (or some other silky fibre) of a wonderful vibrant bright blue, from a specialist lighting shop. Then I found that I had a problem.

 Electrical flex in the ‘50s and ‘60s had only two wires inside – the live wire and the neutral. But today’s flex includes three wires – in Britain at any rate – namely, live, neutral and earth, the latter to help prevent you being electrocuted. But… of course… three wires are fatter than two. The hole in the side of the lamp neatly accommodated the old flex, but the new flex was too fat to fit through. What to do?

The solution was to buy a length of tile-cutting file – actually the blade of a tile saw. It is easy to cut off the fitting at one end with a pair or pliers or wire-cutters, leaving you with a short length of round, rough wire. I inserted this into the flex hole in the ceramic lamp and rubbed away the edges until the new flex fitted through. Voila! New blue flex in old china lamps.

 For more ideas on how to introduce touches of bright colour into your home, consult Brilliant Colour



 I’m often asked what the difference is beween a kilim and a rug. The answer is that a rug has a pile, with the pattern created by the tufty bits sticking up all over the surface. Kilim is, literally, flatweave. There is no tufty pile, and the pattern is on the woven surface of the piece, which is rather like a very thick cloth.

A kilim is constructed of warp and weft, which is to say the threads of wool going up and down (warp), or from side to side (weft). In addition to the warp and weft, a rug has a pile made from pieces of wool looped around the warp and kept in place by the weft.

Persian tribal rugs sometimes have an attractive strip (usually quite narrow) of kilim at each end, between the fringe and the pile. This is designed to help the strong construction of the rug and to add decoration. Perhaps confusingly, the term ‘rugs’ is commonly used as a collective noun for rugs and kilims together.

To find out so much more about Persian tribal rugs, their history, the way they are made and used by the tribes, and how you can use them to decorate your home, look at The Kilim and Tribal Rug Book.


Back in my new shower room (see the item above on flattering colour), I have been trying a new (to me) product called (not very helpfully) VC175. Actually it’s called VC175 Tropical Strength Mould Killer. I am not anticipating there being any mould in the room – it has an opening window and an extractor fan, and there was no mould before its conversion. But, just to be on the safe side, and because I like trying new things, and because my job as a writer about all matters relating to interior decoration gives me a good excuse, I have acquired a very small bottle of this stuff.

You only need a tiny bottle, I was assured by Gary at New Guard Decorator Centre in Wakefield, because it’s so strong. 50ml treats 5 litres of paint. You can also add it to mortar, grout or adhesives. So. I have added it to the paint for the walls, and Tom, my plumber, has mixed it in with the grout between the tiles. There’s nothing more repellent, I think, than grout that has discoloured over the years. I am hoping that VC175 will prevent this happening. I shall report back in due course…

My forthcoming book, Paint (exact title not finalised, but find it in Latest Books), due to be published next year in the Decorating with Fired Earth series, is packed with practical ideas on making the most of paint, historical and modern. In it I have also looked at the ways that paint can bring the power of colour into your home.


Do you sometimes despair of all those little bits and pieces, so useful that you don’t want to throw them away, but mysteriously invisible when you actually need them? Anything and everything from tubes of glue for sticking all sorts, to socket adaptors, to picture hooks and plate racks that are temporarily redundant… Then when you can’t find them you have to go out and buy another, dammit! (and such a waste of money and the world’s resources). The solution to this problem is that wonderfully simple item, the cardboard box.

As we all know, cardboard boxes come in all sizes and various proportions. Use a selection, including shoe boxes for large items (children’s shoe boxes, which can often be cadged from appropriate shops, are a good size too). Smaller boxes include large matchboxes and various sizes of gift wrap as well as presentation packs for things like photograph frames. Stack these high on top of a cupboard or shelf in a garage or cupboard, each clearly labelled on the end with a marker pen, and forget about the contents until you need to find one of the bits or pieces. Then you simply go to your B&P filing system, no hassle.

For 101 bright ideas on organising the storage in your home, take a look at the storage solutions on offer in Perfect Order.