January 31, 2014 6:18 pm

How to sleep like James Bond

‘There is no greater luxury than sitting next to a fire, having a crumpet with a cuppa’

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

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David Tang

What are your views about flowers in the home? Should they only be fresh? Are artificial bouquets ever acceptable?

Plastic flowers should only be used as part of a deliberate kitsch design. Sometimes it is amusing to have kitsch, although there is always good kitsch and bad kitsch. But I have never written off plastic flowers as a total joke because it is a well-known fact that Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Asia, started his business with plastic flowers and therefore they must have good feng-shui! As for other types of artificial flowers, I only like the ones in glass because they look like works of art.

But nothing beats freshly cut flowers, and I would only want them in their normal blooming seasons. So daffodils and tulips in spring, although Holland now produces tulips all year round and, worse, some stained with artificial colours. That’s bad news. Equally bad news is when arrangements similar to those found in hotels are used at home. Bouquets tightly bunched together look sterile and inanimate.

I was always impressed by what Mark Birley put around his home and in his clubs. The flowers were always gathered together with abandon in perfect clashing colours. And I have never found any florist in London able to offer bouquets that come anywhere near them. There are now fewer and fewer florists in the capital and their gradual disappearance is because of a lack of aesthetics, or high rents, or both. Thankfully, there are some florists, like my friend Flora Starkey, who are creative, using uncommon plants and flowers and attempting to recreate the sumptuous arrangements seen in old Dutch paintings. Extraordinarily, the originators of this movement came from Brooklyn. It is high time New York’s Upper East Side grandees started taking note that most of the flower arrangements in their houses are not what well-to-do people should be proud of. I do hope the imagination of florists will re-emerge and bring about a renaissance of flowers and their arrangements.

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Thank you for confirming that I am not the only person in the world driven bananas by hotel duvets being tucked in. I have simply no idea what would possess somebody to do something that is not only irritating but pointless.

The problem about a duvet tucked in like a blanket in a made-up bed is that it is almost impossible to untuck it once you get into the bed, unless you have calf muscles like Linford Christie. And because it is tucked in, it becomes too short to cover one’s face which, for some of us who like to sleep with our head inside a duvet, is highly irritating.

I once stayed in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), which did not record the finest moments in Australian history regarding the Aborigines. Add to this the frightening legends of the last Tasmanian tigers. As a result, I was absolutely petrified in the darkness of my bedroom and only wanted to crouch under my duvet all night. So housekeeping in hotels should sacrifice neatness and let the edges of a duvet flow freely over the bed.

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Would you regard a fireplace with a real fire essential in a home? Or do you prefer central heating all round so that you don’t have to be bothered by anything other than a thermostat?

I regard a real fireplace the height of luxury in any home, modest or grand. It is one of the best inventions of the west in interior decorations. We Chinese had the “kang” which was a bed heated from underneath with the fire out of sight. Thereafter, we never progressed to any naked flames, which have to be one of the greatest comforting sights in the cold. Any country house without a real fire is not worth having, no matter how charming, delightful or grand it is.

In London, there are restrictions on burning logs, which are the best fuel, but gas is not such a bad substitute as long as there is a flame flickering and giving out heat. In the cold there is no greater luxury than sitting next to a fire, perhaps having a crumpet with melted butter and jam and a builder’s strength cuppa, reading a book or having conversations with others or even, God forbid, looking at one’s iPhone or BlackBerry. The ultimate is, however, to have a roaring fire in front of a bath, or to sleep with another in a bedroom with a fire’s shimmering shadows as if one was James Bond with his belle de jour! So forget about dreaded central heating with its ugly metallic grills, or underfloor heating, which is too hygienic and clever by half.

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Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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