The Really Useful Column

Make a change from drab drapes with stunning shutters, If you fancy an alternative to curtains, consider shutters. Traditionally, wooden shutters have been expensive and thus out of most people's reach. Liberty Shutters, the brainchild of Peter Wellings, has created a range made of low-cost polywood, which, although a form of plastic, is almost impossible to tell apart from wood. These shutters have the distinct advantage of being easier to maintain and are about half the price of wooden blinds at £160 a square metre. They also come in 3,000 different colours (matched to any swatch you produce). The good news for allergy sufferers is that they trap far less dust than curtains. For information on stockists and sizes, call Peter Wellings or Nathan Clarke on 01273 888233 or visit

SILVER SERVICE If you have always dreamed of commissioning something in gold or silver but don't know where to start, visit The Goldsmiths' Company's new online directory at Whether you want to design a whole set of cutlery or just a salt pot, the easy-to-use directory will guide you to the best person for the job by outlining each designer's background and giving examples of their work and contact details. Prices start from £100.

ALL THAT GLITTERS I am always surprised by how difficult it is to find good-quality reproduction period light fittings. The ranges on offer seem very limited. So I was delighted to discover Dernier and Hamlyn, designer and manufacturer of reproduction lighting since 1888. It doesn't just produce standard chandeliers, it has seven collections - including Georgian, Adam, Pugin and Lutyens - all with period detail. Fittings can be modified to the buyer's requirements. The company claims to offer one of the widest and most comprehensive ranges of quality reproduction lighting on the market. Dernier and Hamlyn also offers a restoration and chandelier cleaning service and has an excellent website at www. Dernier and Hamlyn, 3 Egerton Terrace, SW3 (020 7225 5030).

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK Discount shopping is big news (Matalan is one of the fastest growing stores in the UK at the moment) and bargain hunters should consider a trip to a BAA McArthurGlen shop, part of Europe's largest chain of designer outlet centres. As with many discount outlets, you have to travel outside London to enjoy low prices, but if you are prepared to make a trip to Ashford, Swindon or York (all easily accessible by train), you can take advantage of their huge homeware departments that sell popular brands at a fraction of their original cost. Look out for Liberty, Wedgwood, Dartington Crystal, Edinburgh Crystal, Tefal, Rowenta, Whittard of Chelsea and more famous names. Call 0800 316 4352 first to check what's available or see

GOING GREEK Classical statuary - urns, columns, busts - has the ability to add a touch of elegance to almost any interior. Elinor Wynne Lloyd is one of the few people in London dealing exclusively in top-quality bronze and marble reproduction pieces.

Made in Greece and only sold in the UK through Wynne Lloyd, the hand-picked range includes statues, vases and relief panels. Prices start from just £24 and reach £1,800 for a top-of-the-range piece. The quality is high and Oxford classicist Wynne Lloyd is an expert in her subject. To view the stock, call 0845 330 3864 or visit

REALLY USEFUL NUMBERS The London Tradesmen's Directory on 0906 780 8888 (premium line) is a list of recommended and reliable London-based workmen from all trades. All you pay is the price of the telephone call (about £2). It even offers a competitively priced emergency callout service for plumbing problems, storm damage, lock-outs, break-ins and vandalism. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please note: some mobile and office lines bar premium-rate calls.

Do you know of any people, places or services that should be featured in The Really Useful Column? If so, e-mail me at and I'll investigate.

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