Q. Dear Andrew, we have just moved to a house where the living room is long and thin. How do I avoid it looking like a bowling alley?

A. Everyone would love large square rooms in their home, but the reality is very different. However, even with a long thin room you can achieve a stylish, well-designed look if it is planned correctly.

One of the main things to avoid is placing everything in a line against the walls, as this will only accentuate the dimensions. It is a good idea to divide the space into sections and create “rooms” within the room. The definition of the areas can then be achieved through the positioning of the furniture. You could choose to have a TV area at one end of the room and a chilled out reading area at the other end. If you look at your existing furniture and it appears too large, replace it, as no amount of visual tricks will ever disguise the size. Also in a room of reduced proportions try not to crowd the space as you don’t want to be constantly walking around furniture.

Remember that to avoid drawing the eye to the far wall, you don’t want any standout features on it – this isn’t the place for feature wallpaper. To visually double the width, you can hang very large mirrors on the side walls – or have a wall of mirrors professionally installed. Antique mirror glass is great for this as the aged look has a beautiful subtlety. Striped wallpaper should be avoided – if the room is very long the stripes will appear to go on forever. Choose a calm neutral scheme and then add splashes of colour around the room to highlight different areas.

Your choice of flooring will also be a determining factor. If you lay a wooden floor the direction of the planks will help with the perceived size of the room. It might be easier to lay them lengthways and avoid cutting the wood, but if you do this, the eyes will follow the length of the planks and just reinforce the bowling alley feel. Running the planks side to side avoids this problem.

Follow these tips and your new living room should easily have a warm embracing style no matter what its shape or size.

Q. Dear Andrew, over the Christmas break we want to start planning some redecoration for 2012. How do I plan my colour scheme?

A. Plan your colour scheme well and it will make your house feel like a home – get it wrong and you will never feel at home. The colours you chose will help to set the mood of your home. You should decide if you are looking for a calm scheme or whether you want to go edgier with bright colours. Consider purchasing a colour wheel, as this will help you understand the relationship of colours. A colour scheme can be either tonal, harmonious or complementary. A tonal scheme focuses on one colour palette in different tones. This gives a very calm ordered look but you can add interest by using different textures. A harmonious scheme will use colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel, such as red and orange.

A braver choice is a complementary colour scheme using colours that are opposite each other, such as blue and orange. This scheme can provide a very dramatic look. Try to remember to consider the relationship of different colours throughout the house. This is especially important if you have a small home. Also it is essential to try samples of paint at home before you decide as colour charts are never a true representation.