Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Lady in Red and Valiant Knight are both freelance writers. The Lady is from East Malaysia and the Knight is from the Peninsula. Their writings in this column will e based on the real facts of life in this society. They can be contacted at




In Malaysia, when you buy a house, it’s usually not furnished, but today, most developers make it attractive with a package, bedroom set, dining room set, kitchen set and even the toilet set.
Most men are not particular about the style and the quality of furnishing compared to women. Since we are still in the men’s world, women spend most of the time at home if they are housewives or at least a quarter of the 24 hours in the house if they are working.
Most houses have three bedrooms, a master room with attached bathroom, sitting area, dinning area and the kitchen.
Living Room Area
Most sitting areas have a big screen TV , a hi-fi system and sitting settee in this area with bright lights. When you get into the house, the sitting area will be the first you notice, so this is most important area where furnishing needs more attention. I found most sitting areas among the Malay community very well furnished with attractive settees. I believe they use to change settees very often especially during the festival seasons like Hari Raya. Unlike the Chinese, who seldom change their settees until they move house. A sitting set usually cost between RM 500 to RM 3,000 depending on the type and quality. It usually comes with one sofa, three singles and a table top.
Also among, western people who are my tourist friends, buy comfortable furniture of good quality that will last for a long time. I also noticed that most Asian do not display their books because most of them do not read except for newspapers. I have visited my expatriate friend’s homes; they keep a small library with good books in their sitting area.
Dinning Area
We spend three times eating a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. So furnishing in the dinning area also has to be dwelt with. One would need the most basic items like a table with either four or six chairs. In the olden areas, my grandmother used to have a big round table with stools where family believe in gathering to have a family reunion dinner which signifies the unity of a family. Some people are very particular of the quality and do not mind paying a price which can go up to RM 6,000 to RM 10,000. A basic dining set usually costs between RM 400 to RM 2,000 again depending on the quality.
Kitchen Area
This is the area most men would leave to the women to decide what they want. After all, this is the area the woman folks want to enjoy cooking and washing. My sister in Brunei told me that she is very possessive of her kitchen area where she would want to have build-in cabinets where she can store her kitchen stuff. She would be very particular about the oven, the fridge, the washing area and she wants a big kitchen where she can move around. Today, most houses have dry and wet kitchen areas. For me, I just want a small kitchen with the basic necessities where I can cook a simple meal that would not take so much of my time. Preparing and cooking a meal can take hours, eating a meal takes less than half an hour and washing up may be takes about 20 minutes, so I usually have two of dishes, meat or fish and a vegetable for a meal.
Bedroom Area
Again women are very particular about the choice of bedroom furnishing. A bedroom set usually comes with a bed, a wardrobe and a dressing table. I do agree with Valiant Knight that this is one of the most important furnishing that set a good mood for couples. It does work well with newly married couples with the setting of dim lights, sweet aroma of freshener, good quality mattress that does not squeak when you toss around. Well, after 10 or 20 years, all we need is a comfortable bed, mattress and pillows. Children are all grown up, there is no intention to have any babies anymore, romance seems out of track, so no matter how much you put into furnishing the bedroom, it does not arouse romantic moods for old couples anymore.
Toilet Area
I find this area the most sensitive area for western people; I am very impressed by carpeted toilets with everything in pink and with lots of toilet accessories. Asians are not very particular in trying to beautify the toilet area. As long as they are dry and clean, it’s OK.
These are all observations from my visits and travels as well as based on what how my house is furnished.


After deciding which house to buy, a newly married couple would want to decorate and equip the house to their taste and needs. However, two people would have some similar and opposing views and aspirations. Furnishing a house is not merely an exercise of putting things into the building; it is also an exercise where by the aesthetics of the house would be a result. Therefore, what they purchase is not only relevant for the needs of daily existence in that building they want to call home but also later on for the offspring that would follow.
The taste of a man would definitely differ from that of a woman. This is something that couples living together must understand. However, when it comes to buying furniture and putting up fixtures in a house, they tend to forget this fundamental difference. One would want to impose their likes and dislikes on the other.
Basically, as a practical man, I find this problem easy to solve. All new married couples need do is divide their requirements into three categories. What the man needs, what the woman needs and what they both need and when children come along later, a fourth category can be added – what the children need.
However, it is never easy to have clear cut demarcation lines between the categories and often there is not enough space to accommodate all the categories into a small house that initial couples would have purchased. Therefore, there are lots of compromises! Setting up home is really part of the long series of tests new couples get to see if their marriage is made in heaven or in hell!
BASIC NECESSITIES yet they can cause conflicts
In the Kitchen:
Yes, we need kitchen equipment so that food can be prepared and cooked. Many feel that this is the domain of the women and men should stay out of decision making here. However, very often the women who are suppose to make the kitchen into their second most frequent visited room is not savvy enough to understand the technical qualities of modern kitchen equipment? Therefore, when deciding on the type of stove you may need or whether a fridge should have the freezer compartment at the top or bottom and whether you need a hood or an extractor fan in the kitchen, there is a need for consultation between the man and the woman. Failure to do so will result in equipping a vital room in the house with white elephants and making it rather unpleasant to do the regular daily chaos of preparing food!
In the Bedroom:
We spend practically two thirds of our day in the bedroom! Shouldn’t this room which take up more than half our time at home be the most important room? How often we find young couples just throwing a mat on the floor and lying on it night after night? Wow, I wouldn’t want to share their experiences on it!
Having a comfortable bed, mattress and pillows (Dutch wives if necessary) is most important for a good night’s rest as well as other activities. Without them, many couples will wake up in a nasty mood and not be ready to start a new day properly. Since most couple share the same double bed, it is most vital that they decide together what sort of bed they want.
In the living room:
Here again is a common domain. They spend some time here to relax, to read or to watch and to listen to music. Men and women have different body shapes thus different type of chair would be needed. Friends and relatives (including the frightful mother-in-law) who may visit once in a while can do with lesser comfortable chairs. What is most important is the man and the woman of the house get a nook to rest their butts comfortably after a long day of work to enjoy watching their favourite TV program or listen to their selection of music or read the papers or a book.
Do not forget the lighting and an ambience of the room. After all, it is from here that the couple move up to the bedroom and if the mood is not set correctly, what may follow or may not follow in the bedroom will be affected. Whether we get offspring or not may be at stake!
So, this week, I have merely touched on certain rooms I feel need to be equipped with some sensitivity. My writing partner may tell you her views from a woman’s perspective. I tried this week to be more neutral (as if I can). Next week we talk about a huge headache – budgeting and finances!


Lady in Red and Valiant Knight are both freelance writers. The Lady is from East Malaysia and the Knight is from the Peninsula. Their writings in this column will e based on the real facts of life in this society. They can be contacted at


Comments from Readers


When we first got married, the first agenda on the list is to buy a house. In those days, houses cost as low as RM 35,000. I am not very particular about what type of house and the location as long as I have a home where I can have my privacy. Unlike most women, they are very particular about their type of houses they are buying, one of the reasons of course is to make a good impression on their relatives and friends that they can afford such a home.
I do agree with Valiant Knight that men are more realistic and practical; the first thing that comes in their mind is the location. Most people want to live in a place where shops or supermarkets are nearby so that we can get our groceries. Valiant Knight is stressing his point in west Malaysia where public transport is accessible. In Sarawak, public transport is poor, they only service in certain residential areas in Kuching or in Miri. And most people in Sarawak have their own cars and their only concern is the access roads to and from their work places and fetching their children from schools. Traffic jam is not a constraint to Sarawakians yet ,as parents, fetching their children only happens during peak hours and our roads in Sarawak are accessible to the schools. I know of a bachelor friend who buys a house where there is a bus stop right in front of his house. He didn’t have to worry about parking fees and after making a survey, he found that he had actually saved a lot on transport. Sometimes, he gets a free ride from colleagues.
In West Malaysia, people go to work, they start their journey as early as 7 am and only comes home around 8 pm or even later than that especially among the singles. In Sarawak, the people start their journey at around 7.30 am and get off from work at 5 pm, the latest 6 pm and they can go shopping, or go for a game and go straight home. For those who have children, they would be early to send their children to school and some can still go home to have their breakfast before they get to work.
Security and Neighbours
People in Sarawak are not very particular about their neighbours. When a new residential area was launched, most people (especially among the Chinese) would choose a good number for their house and be concerned about the “feng shui” of the house. Some are particular about their neighbours and would check out who are living next door to them. You will be lucky if you get good neighbours but sometimes you get inconsiderate neighbours and then it’s too late to withdraw because you have already committed to buy the house. This often happened because some owners buy a house to rent it out.
Most house owners are not worried about the security because “breaks-in” are not frequent in those days. Buying houses in areas of “High Class Residential” or “Low Cost Housing Area” makes no different nowadays because “robberies” or “break-ins” are common everywhere. I know of a huge mansion, surrounded with high stainless steel fencing, security system and security guards in a high class residential areas in Miri, this house was robbed and the victims were shocked and refused to stay in the lovely mansion. They moved into a condominium where security is better.
Most people don’t fix security system until their houses got broke into.
Finance and Insurance
I was lucky that I am not involved in contribute part of my salary when my husband first bought a house. I only feel the pain when I got my second house in Miri and I am still paying the loan, although I can easily just pay off the balance, but I am reluctant to let go because of the insurance terms that benefit my husband when I die. The people with the government agencies are lucky because they can get special housing loan with interest rates as low as 4 %. Those in the private sector usually get bank loans. I can see the trend of young people buying their own house, of course with strong backing from their parents. EPF have special withdrawals schemes to help buy houses. For a working couple, with an average income of RM 3,000 per month, they can afford a monthly payment between RM 800 – RM 1,000 for a 25 year long term, depending how much they borrow.
It is not the trend yet for singles to get their own home early yet. My niece hits 26 years old this year and still lives with her parents and some as old as 40 years old still do the same. Unlike in western cultures, once they are over 18 years, they want to stay on their own and most of them would consider to rent rather to buy a house.
House insurance often comes in a package when buying a house. Single premium depending on how much you service the loan will benefit your beneficiary when you die. One has to name someone to benefit from this, however will making is not popular yet in Sarawak.
I conclude by encouraging young couples to buy a house once they are financially stable, to set aside a certain sum of money to service their housing loan. Start young and get use to live a life moderately.