We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts.
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Photo 123RF.COMI
Photo 123RF.COMI

I accidentally spilled milk on the carpet and now it smells awful. How can I clean it up?

There’s no use crying over spilt milk so once it happens, act quickly as the longer you leave it unattended, the worse the smell will get. First, blot as much of the milk as possible by pressing a folded clean kitchen paper towel, hand towel or microfibre cloth over the area. You will want to place your entire body weight behind the press to extract as much milk as possible. Once the area is dry, pour some water over it to soak the spot and dilute the remaining milk residue. Repeat the pressing with a clean dry towel to draw up the diluted milk.

The next step is to either use a carpet shampoo or mix your own cleaning solution of two cups of warm water (never hot as this might set the stain) and one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent. Apply some solution to the stain and dry using a clean white cloth or paper towel.

The smell should be noticeably reduced, but if it still lingers, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda liberally over the area, rubbing it into the fibres. Leave it for a night then brush it gently and vacuum it all out.

Is it possible to add wainscoting details to an existing wall that is wallpapered?

Yes, says Jenny Lewis, the managing director of Bode Fabrics and Furnishings, though most contractors will be more familiar with the term “panelling”. Generally, wainscoting occupies the bottom third of a wall, so for a room height of 2.6m, the height of the wainscoting (including skirting) should be about 86cm. Designs with beading give a Hamptons look, but if you’re looking for something more modern, she suggests vertical strips of walnut where the focus is on the beauty of the wood grain.

How do I remove a coffee ring stain from a marble tabletop?

Gorgeous as marble and granite are, they are porous and will absorb liquids. Marble stains happen when a liquid is absorbed into the stone and is trapped beneath the surface. It is therefore very important to have marble and all stone surfaces properly sealed.

You will need to make a poultice to absorb the stain. A poultice is a thick paste of an absorbent powder material and a solvent. Everyday materials like baking soda or bicarbonate of soda are effective.

Apply the poultice thickly over the discolouration and cover with plastic cling wrap. Leave it overnight to dry. Remove the dried poultice the next day and wipe the surface clean with a mild soap. Repeat if needed.

Photography DARREN CHANG
Photography DARREN CHANG

I like to lay out food buffet-style when I entertain, but find it usually looks boring. What are some key platters/servingware I need, and other simple ideas on how to decorate the table?

There are no hard and fast rules about what essential servingware you need as it really depends on your style of party, cuisine and number of guests. Here are some suggestions:

• Large serving bowl for noodles, pasta or rice

• Several small to mid-sizde serving bowls for food with gravy/sauces, side dishes and even bread rolls (place a folded napkin at the bottom of the bowl)

• Oval platter for roast meat

• Square platter for cupcakes, brownies, kueh or cookies

• Big cutting board for appetisers

• Serving tray with deep sides for easy handling

• Glass drink dispenser

• Tongs (not the flimsy barbecue kind), ladles and large spoons

The basic rule is to lay food and drinks in varying heights as this makes it easier for guests to see everything at a glance and also adds interest to the buffet table. Use simple wooden boxes (natural, painted white or wrapped in paper) to lift platters and large bowls. Stand breadsticks in a tall vase or pitcher. You get the idea.

Start the buffet with plates and end it with cutlery and napkins as this leaves hands free to hold plates and reach for food. Keep the line moving by packaging cutlery rolled up in napkins.

Save the middle of the table for a centrepiece like a trio of vases filled with chocolates. Or, chuck in a few limau purut (lime leaves) to impart a zesty scent. Gather a few potted succulents and wrap some pretty paper around the pots and tie with string, and raise them on a cake stand.


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