Home Decorating Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose a good-quality sofa?

I want a sofa that I’ll be able to keep for years. What should I look for?

Hardwood frames that are glued and screwed in place are the most hardwearing. Quality sofas have individual coil springs; mid-price versions use zigzag springs; and budget ones have webbing. Washable, loose covers are good for families, and close-woven covers are durable. But to check if it’s well-made, simply sit on it!

How do I make old floorboards look good?

Sand them with a specialist machine, starting with medium-grade abrasive paper, then going over it again with a fine-grade one. Give the floor three coats of varnish, sanding lightly by hand between coats.

Which blinds are best in lofts?

I’ve just had my loft converted and need to get some blinds for the windows. Is there an alternative to plain roller blinds?

You’ll need blinds in your loft as the light will be very strong and will wake you up early in the morning in the summer. If you’re after something a bit different, pleated blinds have a soft, pretty effect and diffuse light, while traditional roller blinds will help prevent light reflecting on computer and TV screens. Blackout versions are worth considering – they fit into channels at the sides of the window to stop light getting in around the edges – they’re perfect for light sleepers. Venetian blinds are another option, allowing you to tilt the blinds as well as open and close them for maximum flexibility.

How do I try out paint colours without ruining my walls?

I can never decide which paint looks best in my room before I buy, and I don’t really want to put patches of colour all over my walls for weeks. Is there a simpler way that will help me choose the right colour for my room?

Instead of painting tester pots directly onto the walls, use them to paint a large sheet cut from lining paper. The lining paper can then be easily moved around so you can try it on different walls, without spoiling the look of your room.

Can I use bold wallpaper in a small room?

My bedroom is tiny but I want to use a bold-patterned wallpaper. Nice or nasty?

Nice! A big pattern will have an impact in a small room, but use it on just one wall. Choose the colour of the wallpaper carefully – brights will make a small room feel smaller, and soft colour contrasts in the paper create a sense of space. Balance the overall effect by picking plain colours, subtle textures or small motifs for other furnishings.

How do I create a relaxing lighting scheme?

I’m fed up with only having an overhead light, as it doesn’t make the room look very welcoming. How can I make it more relaxing?

Recessed ceiling-mounted spotlights or a pendant light will give you good overall light, but if that’s your only source, the lighting can feel harsh. Soften the overall effect by adding a table lamp next to your sofa and a floor lamp or reading light near your armchair. You should be aiming for around two to three separate light sources for an average-sized room to create pools of light where you need them.

What’s the best layout for a formal living room?

The kids have left home so I want to create a more formal living room. What’s the best way to lay out it out?

If you want a formal room, whatever your style, the one rule is symmetry! Arrange furniture symmetrically and you’ll give your room the grown-up look you’re after. If you have plenty of space, move your sofa so it’s facing two identical armchairs or an identical sofa. You can also use tricks like adding a pair of side tables with matching lamps, or arranging a set of four prints in matching frames on the wall. If you don’t have the space for all of these different elements, choose smaller pieces such as carver chairs instead of upholstered versions. Then just arrange them around a focal point – whether it’s a fireplace, window or a coffee table.

What good-value curtains work with sash windows?

I’ve got high ceilings and beautiful sash windows – but a tight budget. How should I dress them?