Ask the designer

Interior designer Denise Walsh of Donovan Walsh Design Ltd in Limerick,, answers your design dilemmas. Email your queries to

Q I’ve decided to give my home a makeover for 2012, but I have no idea where to start — where can I find someinspiring ideas?

A. Everyone faces redecorating at some time or another — and though a daunting prospect, the best advice is to think positive and get organised! Start by creating a design file for each of the rooms you intend to overhaul and stick in pictures or samples of anything that floats your boat. There are any number of glossy interior design magazines out there to help you decide — but you don’t have to spend a cent to be struck by a bolt of inspiration. Search the web, dig through your wardrobe or visit art galleries to get an idea of the styles, colours and textures you like. The important thing is not to get overwhelmed by the myriad of choices available to you — be brave and have fun.

Q. We’re replacing the worn-out furniture in our sitting room — in your opinion, is fitted or free-standing furniture better?

A. Provided the free-standing piece fits the space in question properly, I’m all for it. However, as most homes have awkward corners — such as odd-sized alcoves on either side of the fireplace — standard store-bought furniture rarely fits perfectly. This can leave the room feeling uncomfortable and disorganised, so most of my clients tend to go for fitted furniture. As well as being made to fit, the beauty of bespoke furniture is that it can be made to suit the style and colour of the room too. Generally, larger rooms can take more decorative pieces, whereas smaller rooms are better suited to simpler contemporary pieces. However, I love to mix ‘n match — pairing minimalistic furniture with a flamboyant Venetian-style mirror, for example.

Q. I read somewhere that ‘Tangerine Tango’ is the colour of the year for 2012 — but how can I apply the trend to my home?

A. Each year, the Pantone Color Insititue in the US chooses its ‘Colour of the Year’ inspired by everything from fashion to art and technology. In recent years, the economic climate was reflected in the rise of more muted colours like cream and brown. But this year, the industry colour experts have elected this vibrant shade of orange to “provide the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward”. Chosen because of its “sophisticated and dramatic undertones”, Tangerine Tango looks great teamed with cool grey — try Farrow & Ball’s ‘Skimming Stone’ or ‘Pavilion Gray’. With such a bold hue remember to exercise restraint — a bold orange cushion or throw is enough.

Q. I accidentally spilled some milk on the carpet last week — but there’s still a lingering smell. Help!

A. There’s nothing worse than the smell of sour milk. Try baking soda to remove any remaining residue. Pour it on the stain and dampen it slightly to keep it in place. Allow it to stand for up to 24 hours and then vacuum up. Alternatively, sprinkle distilled white vinegar on the spill before rinsing clean with cold water a few hours later. Depending on how bad the odour is, you may have to pull back the carpet and treat the underlay too. Remember to patch test your carpet before trying any home remedies.

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