Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Furnishing My Dovecot

I moved into my flat because it’s unfurnished. This might not seem important, but the absence of that omnipresent grubby chintz or those businesslike, wipe-clean, leather sofas is even now a source of some considerable happiness.

I don’t own much furniture. Thanks to less than diligent removal firms, my worldly goods diminish with every move. My previous relocation relieved me of my bed frame (well, as I belatedly discovered, all fittings and screws, which extensive research proved to be irreplaceable, rendering the frame useless) and ruined my beloved posture chair. The removal man said: ‘Don’t worry it’s fine…’
(Except it wasn’t.)

But I can’t go on like this. I wonder if there’s a specialist firm making fold-up, easy-store shelves, which (here’s the tricky part) don’t require being attached to the walls for stability. Holes in walls lead to deductions from my deposit, after a long sentence in America’s toughest prison. Next, my head is shaved, and I will be paraded around bearing a placard proclaiming: ‘Evil Vandal Who Dared To Own Possessions Above Her Station And Then (And Then!) Left Holes In The Plaster!’
After which they will shoot me.

Unfurnished private rented flats are rare, so much so that when I asked the letting agent if such a thing existed, he looked at me funny and backed away, as if I’d asked for a log cabin under the canal, with space outside for a few chickens. Then he consulted my landlord, who realised that letting the flat unfurnished was cheaper, less hassle and avoided wear and tear on his goods.

Furniture in most new builds is awful: mean spirited, second rate and Spartan. My neighbours were provided with blinds reaching partway down the window, which their landlord refuses to replace. Other flats are kitted out like rooms in a Travelodge; I bet the owners even provide tea making facilities, with those cute little kettles.

I avoid collecting too much stuff, because I move so often, but it’s pretty Zen around here, and now I need a coffee table, a desk, light shades, and a bigger settee. Most of all, I am desperate for shelves. I need smart techno floating shelves which hover next to the wall, and do not leave dents or holes.

I am currently battling with my landlord for blinds. It was agreed before I moved in that he’d provide blinds and a shower screen, being as I won’t be able to take them with me when I go. He’s ignoring my requests, so this issue could be the one that will force me over the edge. I’ve offered to organise the process and installation with his approval after providing estimates, but still he’s ignores me. I can’t stay here without blinds, and can’t install my temporary solution, as this would leave…holes in the walls! My only bargaining chip is that he wants to avoid the hassle and expense of finding another tenant.

I am currently overlooked by boorish, nosy builders from the site opposite. I suspect one of them is filming ‘Rentergirl The Documentary.’ Look out for me on You Tube.


Anonymous said...

Two solutions:
(a) Bookcases and cupboards by IKEA. Standard bookcase heights 1 m, 2 m and 2.40 m, width 800 mm gross (760 mm shelves). Ideally the 2 m need one screw for stability, but it is probably not essential. The 2.40 m definitely needs a stabilising screw. You buy the 2.40 m bookcase as a 2 m one plus a top add-on. Measure up first.

(b) DIY book shelving: a supply of clean new bricks and some pine planks from a builder's merchant. Support them every 30" (760 mm) mm with the bricks: go for 3/4" (19 mm) planks. Cheap, cheerful, absolutely no fixing involved. You could always stand the bricks on the cardboard from your IKEA purchases if you are worried about marking the floor.

Unless you want your landlord to walk all over you when the time comes to leave, you must be prepared to fight your corner in the Small Claims Court if he tries deposit tricks. If it does come to a court case, you claim counter-damages for breach of contract (the blinds and the shower curtain).

One screw should NOT be a cause for complaint if you cover it up and take digital photographs of everything before you leave.

Good luck!


RenterGirl said...

You know your stuff! Is this a possible business opportunity for someone; or a book? How to furnish the unfurnished with no money and (for me) no flair.
Thanks Dave!

Stef said...

Hi Penny,
when it comes to furnishing the unfurnished with no money, you can't beat http://www.readymademag.com, which IMHO is also a pleasant read.

As a former renter who lost erm... left stuff behind in more than one continent, I'd like to add to Dave's comment that the bricks + plank option is immensely more stable than Ikea, which is always a bit flimsy and comes with tiny strips of ribbon that you're supposed to use to fix the shelves to the wall.
Bricks and plank is also more "scaleable", as the shop/builders' merchant will cut the planks to any size you like.

Be sure to protect the floor though, just like Dave said, as bricks do tend to have rough edges.

Bed-wise, I once got a pallet manufacturer to cut me a pallet the size of my existing mattress, took it home, sanded and painted.
It took them around 15 minutes and cost me less than £50 altogether including paint, sandpaper, fixings, two adjustable legs for the back and two giant castors for the front (alas, I was young and quirky). The end result was the comfiest bed I've ever had, and there was lots of competition amongs my friends when I decided to give it away.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Stef!

Anonymous said...

Dave's pointing to IKEA's Billy bookcases. I have two of the 2m tall ones. Mine aren't tied to the wall. The key is centre of gravity - put heavy things on the bottom.