Sunday, October 31,1999
Life section: Page 4

No chaise longue, just chaste daybed

At Ease

Lay your sleepy head on my faithless arm as I tell you about my futon and tatami mats

TELL IF YOU are afraid that you'll fall off from your bed, then sleep on the floor, so goes a Turkish saying.

For the most part of the last 15 years, I have slept on the floor, on a futon mattress. I don't worry too much about falling down from a proper bed; it's just that I was sold completely on the idea of the futon and the tatami mat after I had watched in an overseas cinema, Nagisa Oshima's 1976 classic, In The Realm of The Senses.

Futon on tatami mat forms the backdrop of much of the 104-minute movie, which follows a couple's exploration of the extremes of physical love to its tragic end.

Realm remains one of the best movies I have ever seen, although I won't recommend it to everyone. It is still banned in Japan, and I'm sure it won't pass the censors here, and perhaps just as well.

If you need a walk on the wild side, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut is a safer bet, it won't knock you off your bed.

I had my first futon from Habitat, when I moved into my studio apartment in Upper East Coast Road. I didn't know it then, but my flat had what real estate agents call the "right facing" -- south-east.

I slept with my windows open, and the sun would wake me up each morning, after it had crept up from my feet to my face.

In my present apartment, I use a futon from Ikea, since Habitat, a personal favourite, has been long gone. And I actually have tatami mats in my bedroom.

Before you say, "Aha, so you want to live out a Realm of the Senses!", be assured -- or disappointed? -- that I lead a fairly unexciting life.

Like the rooms in the artist's home in Hermann Hesse's Rosshalde, my bedroom knows only "work and self-denial, where one could find nothing festive, nothing useless, no cherished baubles or bric-a-brac, no fragrance of wine or flowers, no memory of women".

So sad, but that's the lot of ageing singles. Ask my good friend, Conrad Raj of The Business Times. You see him at all the parties because they are a better prospect, or so I dare to presume, than returning home to his huge, but unshared, bed with its celibate white sheets.

At the risk of scaring off potential buyers of my flat, I must admit that my present bedroom is far from ideal. It's too small, and the windows open to a busy road. And since it does not face east, I don't get woken up gently by the sun.

I retire to my bedroom only when it's absolutely time to sleep. Otherwise, I spend most of my time at home in the living room, which is expansive and airy, and offers a soul-healing view of "mature trees" (another real-estate agent gem).

I like very much my new daybed in the living room, which the designer, Juan Peck Foon, had adapted from a classic Mies Van Der Rohe number. Although known as the Barcelona Bed, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, the father of modernism who gave us glass skyscrapers, among other things, had designed it for the furnishing of Philip Johnson's New York apartment in 1930.

Its hardness and clean lines that suggest discipline and uncluttered order have an appeal for me, in a way the Corbusier chaise longue, which I had previously, didn't have.

I watch cable TV on it, with a glass of Barcadi coke and a jar of groundnuts by the side. Other times, I perch on it to cast myself off into cyberspace, on the used Spartacus which I had bartered for with a desktop Mac and a powerbook.

The Spartacus, a collector's item released by Apple to celebrate its 20th anniversary, comes with a Bose system that delivers pellucid sounds. It's great for the heartbreak songs of Cai Qin, played during the small hours of the night.

Recently, after the Old Rafflesians Association's dinner, some old friends came over, and danced to the Platters, which brought back memories of our pre-domestic years. I'M looking to move to a larger place, if I can only get round the 20 per cent cash upfront which I'll have to fork out.

I'd like to have a larger bedroom, which has its own balcony. What depresses me about many of the new developments here is how they are built more for temperate climates than for the tropics.

So few of them have balconies. So when you chance upon a flat whose master bedroom actually has a courtyard that opens up to the sky, like the maisonettes in the new Bedok project, the Casafina, it's such a treat. Pity the courtyard doesn't come with a view.

This time, I shall have a proper bed -- something like the one that Philip Starck did with Cassina, which The Inspiration Shop stocks, but of course not at that kind of price.

The bed is an important piece of furniture in the home, but it isn't as important as the mattress, or so asserts Terence Conran, the man behind Habitat and a most influential designer. You've got to buy the best you can afford, or you may end up with a bad back for the rest of your life.

His advice: It should be firm enough to support your spine but not so hard that it throws the hips and shoulders out of their normal curvature. If it is too soft, it impedes your rolling from side to side, which makes for healthy sleep.

To come back to the Turkish saying: Sleeping on the floor is not the answer to fears of falling off the bed, as I have found out.

On my futon on the floor, I sometimes dream of falling, as off a precipice into a deep dark void, and falling hopelessly and endlessly -- until I wake up, hyperventilating.

It may have to do with my futon being placed such that my feet are pointed towards the shoji screen door -- only coffins should be pointed towards the door, as feng shui masters maintain -- but it's one more reason I'm hoping to be a victim of an enbloc sale.

Archive 1

21/11/99 Hit me with the Blues

31/10/99 No chaise longue, just chaise daybed

17/10/99 Tell your tale and watch it take off

03/10/99 Goodness, its been 25 years now

19/09/99 To have a productive day off

27/08/99 Conduct yourself well

08/08/99 Liberalisation and the small man

27/06/99 An ATM at home that knows me

30/05/99 Why fleshy hips and jiggly thighs

16/05/99 A dressing-down for the interns

02/05/99 I've the best seat in the house

04/04/99 I may take China, drop my 'mistress'

21/03/99 When the lens harden

07/03/99 Among dreamers and risk-takers

07/03/99 Lives will be transformed

17/01/99 Look for me at the movies

03/01/99 Hardy, hungry, but a cause for worry?

15/11/98 Goodnight Irin, while I think of New Orleans

01/11/98 'Sexy' and 'Cool' is what sells today

04/10/98 Letter from melancholic anonymous

20/09/98 Men behave like sperm

01/08/98 Global is good, but local matters too

26/07/98 4 books I can't renounce

28/06/98 49 and the genes are calling

14/06/98 Beep beep for every kid

31/05/98 Soft goods, soft power rule

10/05/98 Be still--and be open to constant change

05/04/98 Fight heat at home, then soar the skies

15/03/98 Bond Breakers and my brother and sister

15/02/98 If you love her, set her free

18/01/98 Romancing Cambodia