x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Second-hand furniture and becoming the perfect host

House doctor Damask wallpaper and vintage furnishings are among the design queries.

I have often thought that a ­second-hand store would do really well in the Emirates as the population is in a constant state of flow. People arrive and leave in quick succession and sourcing furniture for a home can be an expensive business, but unfortunately there are no such stores to my knowledge in existence. Getting rid of household items has always been the forte of store noticeboards - Spinneys and Choithram do an admirable job, but I think the noticeboard at Park & Shop in Jumeirah is possibly one of the best because of its catchment area. I would, however, recommend that you think about online selling and in particular the Dubizzle website (www.dubizzle.com), which is the definitive classifieds website in the UAE and has recently undergone a major reinvention. Not only does it guarantee a high frequency of visitors (in June they recorded more than four million page views) but it's a great community website with blogs and the opportunity to comment on expat life. I'm sure you'll find some ­buyers for your furniture there. ­Expatwoman.com is another equally great website.

What a great idea for a birthday gift. On the contrary, there is a return to old-fashioned wooden toys right now as well as a host of play tents for both boys and girls. I saw a great Knight's Tent from Haba recently and this plus other models are available at Kid Inc in Dubai (04 340 5059). I recommend you also try Hollands & Burton (050 654 6472) and Just Kidding (04 341 3922) as they both have nautical-themed tents and other innovative ideas for children's bedrooms and play areas.

Your study sounds fabulous and I think there is only one place to start, and that is with de Gournay. Their beautifully hand-painted designs are used to re-create the grandeur and sophistication of the past or in a more up-to-the minute way that is both stylish and vibrant. Their new silk damask collection is a celebration of colours and has 28 shades ranging from dramatic black, amethyst and chocolate brown through ­neutrals and stunning jewel brights. I particularly like their duck egg shade, which can look great with gilt frames, ­butler trays and a feature desk. Contact @email:info@degournay.com; www.degournay.com.

Firstly, don't panic. Sadly, we live in a competitive environment where even dinner parties can be seen as sport and not as relaxation. Remember, however, that what is on the plate is more important than how it is served. I always take my cue from the Italians, who in even the most sophisticated restaurants are very minimalist when it comes to what is pretentiously called "l'art de vivre". There is a course I would recommend if you want to learn the basics. Finishing Touch, The Academy of International Etiquette and Savoir Vivre, offers one-day courses in the art of inviting, the art of table dressing as well as looking at host and hostess duties. They are based at Dubai Knowledge Village and have an excellent reputation (04 427 2452). I'd also recommend ­Genevieve Lethu's store in Mercato Mall (04 344 8810). This French brand ­specialises in fine dining ware and often have table set-ups which may provide inspiration as they change regularly.

If you have a design query send an e-mail to @email:thehousedoctor@thenational.ae.