I’ve never been the DIY type. Well, perhaps occassionally decor bits – I can remember sewing a pair of curtains for a digs in Grahamstown years and years ago. I loved that digs – a delightful little cottage set in a garden and my first house. I’ve lived in many, many places since then. For the most part, my homes have been marked by impermenance. There was a little flat in Mobray, Cape Town where we decorated the lounge in bright colours and I bought new linen and curtains, but for the most part I’ve lived as though I might move on at any time. That song, old now I guess, “Life for Rent” has always struck a chord.
For some reason, the move to Joburg has been different. I suppose it is partly because I know I need to be here for at least two years to do the qualifications I’m hoping to do. Perhaps it’s that I’m getting older and feel the need to have a place that is both comfortable and beautiful. Whatever the cause, this move has seen me rent an unfurnished apartment, with which comes the excitement (or trauma, depending on when you ask) of buying furniture).
First off, furniture is expensive. Mutter, mutter, grumble, grumble. Second, furniture turns out to be quite a lot harder to find than I had anticipated. Okay, to be fair, this may be partly a consequence of living in a part of Johannesburg where most people probably have the time, money and/or interior designers to go in search of furniture outside of the areas where they live. The result is a remarkably limited number of furniture/home stores in the Rosebank/Sandton area (and an even more limited number with anything vaguely affordable).
Constrained by lack of choice, I braved the heretofore unknown world of flat-pack, DIY furniture. The first things I bought were a desk, a chair and a TV stand. It took me a week to make the choice and to get up the courage to place the order. I ordered them to be delivered (I live on the third floor, so paid manpower makes sense). They arrived, eventually (have I mentioned that I have a strong and growing dislike of delivery people), with the minor inconvenience that the first delivery included only two of the items, so that I had to leave work early for a second day running to receive the final piece.
For two days (well, evenings), I sat in my flat and looked at these boxes. It couldn’t be that difficult could it? Other people did it all the time. Gulp. Some of the things needed screw-drivers. I delayed another day so that I could buy a set of screw-drivers on the way home from work – what? I’m not a handy-man type. I began with the chair. It’s an office chair with wheels and a seat-height-adjusting-thingy. I was expecting instructions. I took out each piece. There didn’t seem to be any instructions. With a deep breathe, I started putting things together. As I placed the final piece, I came across the instructions. I’m not sure they would have helped. I moved on to the desk and then the TV stand (this time with instructions). Apart from the fact that I ended with one more screw than I needed (which I gather from books and TV shows is normal?), I seemed to have succeeded. I had, with my own hands, put together a desk, a TV stand and a chair. I couldn’t believe it.
It felt pretty good. I was pleased. But I wasn’t at all convinced this would be a repeat exercise. Oh, in between I’d also ordered a fridge, which came all put together already (although I somehow ended up with an extra screw for that too). So when it came to the great couch decision, I wanted to go for a ready-made, all-put-together couch.
Apparently this ideal was not meant to be. Couch ordered and paid for (multiple trips to Sandton later), arrived at my flat several hours after it was expected (delivery people – !). The two guys lugged it up the stairs, with difficultly, and along the passage to my front door. They took off the cushions and brought them inside. And then they tried to bring in the couch. And tried again. And again. It didn’t fit. The couch I had so carefully picked out – the comfortable, pretty couch I was so looking forward to collapsing down onto after a long day – did not fit through my door. I phoned the shop and spoke to the man who sold me the couch. “Don’t you have another door?” he said. My flat is small. Really small. And on the third floor. There are no other doors.
I sent the first couch back to the shop. What do you do when you’re now convinced that ordinary sized couches are likely to stick in your doorway and you do not want to have to go through the rigmarole of looking and ordering and waiting and being disappointed again? You buy a flat-pack sleeper couch instead.
The second set of orders (couch, barstool, bookcase) had similar delivery issues (delays in delivery annoy me so very much). Again, I spent a day looking at these boxes before I started the assembly process. I was a little more confident this time, although the couch was pretty intimidating until it was done.
It’s an odd feeling to think that the furniture you’re sitting on and using was put together by yourself. I’m still a little nervous that the couch might collapse when I sit down, but so far, so good. And on the positive side, I have a new set of skills I never anticipated having. Never again will I be stymied by the lack of suitable furniture selling shops; I’ll just do it myself.