February 8, 2013 7:27 pm

Bog-standard reading

Why are lavatories always in the smallest room in the house? I would definitely make it as large as possible

Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

Why are lavatories always in the smallest room in the house?

I have never understood why lavatories are always in the smallest rooms in the house. Even more stupid is when they are designed in vast houses to be in the smallest rooms in the house. When there is ample space, why have a loo from which you can touch all the sides? I would definitely make my lavatory in a room as large as possible. I would design surrounding bookshelves with some sort of mechanism by which I can press a button and cause the books to reach me where I sit. A small Dalek with a discerning arm would be very useful. Just as important, and something I already possess, is a table in front, preferably kidney-shaped for supreme topology – and on it, a DVD player or iPad, as Radio 4 or Classic FM are informative alternatives to James Joyce’s stream of consciousness (an author who is, after all, no stranger to the machinations of the men’s room). The engagement of the loo should never be rushed, but enjoyed in the most relaxing atmosphere. In China, where my wife and I occasionally visit, I designed a bathroom with two loos separated by a beautiful Chinese screen, but only waist-high, so that we can have a chat looking at each other through bevelled glass – a marvellous way of diffusing an argument as we look at each other and realise how ridiculous we must look together.

. . .

I am seeing so many incidents of bad manners, such as people bringing fast food on to trains – usually burgers and chips, pizza and recently a curry! What are your views on this behaviour or am I just getting to be a grumpy old man?

You are getting to be a grumpy old man. You would have spotted me looking rather furtive last week as I boarded the 7:06 from Paddington to Tiverton Parkway. It was a morning of freezing fog, and I did not fancy flying down to the west country to shoot. So I got up at dawn and decided to “let the train take the strain”. As I arrived on that ghostly concourse of Paddington, I noticed a warm and inviting stand selling an array of freshly baked pasties. As I had not had one since probably my school days, I bought a Cornish and another with chicken and mushroom. They were still warm in my hands as I boarded the carriage, which, thankfully, was empty. My wife always tells me that I eat rather noisily, so I am always conscious of sitting close to those who suffer from misophonia, which is irrational rage caused by the sound of people eating! As the train left, you would have seen me tucking into my delicious pasties whose smell, I confess, slightly permeated up the luggage racks. Then I saw the trolley that was wheeled round carrying rock-hard sandwiches and a selection of appalling processed food. I had a sense of triumph for having looked after my own breakfast. If you had been on that train, you would not have minded if someone had brought a cooking tajine! So don’t be too snooty about bringing one’s own food on to a train. You should complain and ask those idiotically overpaid “directors of operations” to wake up and smell the coffee and start serving palatable food.

. . .

My granite kitchen countertops are looking fatigued. Is white marble a classic, or has it been done to death? What are your favourite materials for countertops?

I wouldn’t rush to use white marble as vinegar stains it immediately, and you wouldn’t be able to get it off. And if you are one of those quintessentially bijou housewives and care how things look on the surface, you would go instantly mad. I don’t like granite because it reminds me of the floor. I would have wood – any kind of wood – as my countertops. They should be treated like the deck on a boat, beautifully varnished and waterproofed and slanting gently, with imperceptible grooves towards the basin for gravity to work on the latent water. And don’t let people tell you that wood is impractical. We have been using natural wood to prepare food in, and eat out of, since time immemorial.

. . .

I would like to ask you two questions, if I may. First, what is your idea of a well-decorated house? Second, which is your favourite philosophy, art of living, or book?

Why don’t you ask me a more general question? I don’t think this is general enough. Surely, I must be given more latitude.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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