House doctor Answers to your questions about granite worktops, framing antique jewellery and warming up cold rooms.
Making your house a home
a You will find that most picture and photography galleries will offer this framing service but I think the experts in this area have to be Showcase Antiques. Based on Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai, they're highly experienced when it comes to framing local antiques and artefacts. For a more contemporary look, though, hanging jewellery directly onto a wall also works, especially if you have built up a collection.
I think blue and white is a classic combination and most cultures have taken the shades and made them their own. Think about the crispness of Scandinavian interiors in these colours contrasted with the richer blues of Provence and the classic English country look of Spode and Willow pattern plates on a Welsh dresser. Blue and white suits all seasons and climates. I've only really found blue a problem in bedrooms, but that depends on the shade used. For a sitting room, I think warmth can be created by the amount and type of accessories. When we stay indoors more, our focus naturally turns to hobbies and perhaps reading material. A coffee table with some well-chosen books or photo albums and journals can provide a lived-in look rather than that showroom feel which is "colder". Add a neutral throw to the sofa or introduce another colour with cushions. Red works very well with the combination you are suggesting and can add instant warmth.
Some kinds of granite require more maintenance than others. In general, highly-polished surfaces show marks more easily than the honed, satin-finish kind and black stone shows streaks and smears more readily than lighter coloured speckled granite. New granite worktops are usually sealed when they're installed to prevent dirt from penetrating the stone, and some suppliers suggest resealing two or three times a year. For day-to-day cleaning, wipe with a damp cloth and then buff with a soft, dry one. Micro-fibre cloths give particularly good results for minimum effort. If you feel that something more than water is required, a specialist cleaner like the natural stone kitchen top cleaner from HG International will shift grime and give a streak-free result. www.hg.eu/uk
When it comes to outdoor furniture there are broadly four styles: wood, wicker, metal and plastic, and each has its pros and cons. I particularly like wicker and if you want to stick with this look then I would suggest you have a look at Kettal's range, which has cornered the market with its latest line, the Kettal Maia designed by Patricia Urquiola. Apparently it offers "an industrial reappraisal of handcrafted plaiting". However, if you are intending to make a long-term investment, I suggest you visit Nakkash Gallery in Garhoud (04 2826767), as their Dedon range is elegant and cosy at the same time. The Dedon range is created by artisans and weavers from the Philippine island of Cebu which brings an Asian twist to the modern, European designs. Their new collections are called Zofa, Phoenix and Spa, and while more expensive than most, they are durable designs and look good in a conservatory area as well as outdoors on a patio. Otherwise, Rattan House offers a wide range of outdoor and indoor furniture that suits most budgets (04 3382977).
Don't be afraid of dark wood. It can be used to wonderful effect. Many steer away from decorating with dark wood, worried it will bring a gloomy, heavy feel to interiors, but this needn't be the case. The trick is to keep rooms uncluttered and to keep the walls a shade of soft ivory which, against the rich, chocolate brown of aged oak, gives a striking and surprisingly contemporary look. I'd recommend you visit Caspaiou on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. The showroom is designed as a home and includes a dining and drawing room, lounge, bathroom, study and kitchen. It also includes a conceptual summer and winter room. The last time I visited, the furniture displayed was of heavy wood but it was given a modern edge with minimalist artwork, and striking design-forward accessories. www.caspaiou.com, (04 3388276).
Colour and paint can transform any room in an instant. I've found that painting a thick border around windows, doors and a focal point (say a mock fireplace) instantly transforms a room. If you have children in the house, it's also a great idea to paint a door, cupboard or wall with blackboard paint - then you can let them loose with the chalk.
If you have a design query send an email to email@example.com