Sunday, 16 October 2011

Furnishing The Unfurnished

Some friends recently found an unfurnished flat. I am surprised this isn’t more common, but most rented flats are still furnished, no matter how trashed and tawdry the alleged furniture is in reality.

They placed requests on social media for donations of spare or unwanted furniture, as they even had to find white goods, which is unusual even in unfurnished places. There’s Freecycle of course, but people in the UK seem to use it instead of abandoning collapsed, stinking mattresses in a layby.

Ebay works of course, but for larger goods, The Salvation Army and Emmaus sell reconditioned fridges and repaired beds, (although I’ve heard of problems when buying white goods from the former) and you get the glow of not adding to the world’s fridge mountain.

Second-hand shops are so overpriced that even pre-owned (that’s the buzz word now) Argos stacking chairs are priced as antiques of the future. Then of course, there’s the trusty IKEA catalogue. Ever wondered how much it would cost to fit a small one bed from scratch with their cheapest products? By my calculation it’s about £3000.

You might need a telly, and all kitchen stuff like saucepans. And don’t get me started on carpets – god, add that on to the IKEA list and it rockets off into space.

For people in low-pay/no-pay lifestyles, it is technically possible to equip a house for nothing. Friends might help with moving stuff, but there’s national glut of man and van companies, so you can hire one of those by the hour (just help with heavy lifting, they operate alone, usually.) There is a whole world of ways to upcycle newly acquired old things. Planks of wood and brushed bricks can make shelves, and decorating tables can stand in for their permanent cousins.

Then there are skips – you can usually find something in a house clearance. In Germany there is a sub-culture of leaving unwanted furniture and household items in the street for others to rescue – fine unless it rains. In fact, in some circles buying new things is frowned upon, and trains usually have one person lugging a chest of drawers back from flea-market.

Auctions are good as well – they sometimes sell cleared house contents when an elderly resident has died (that’s fine as long as you don’t believe in those haunted bread-bin urban myths, and I know you’re all too wise, aren’t you?)

But seriously, if there’s one thing I will always buy new, it’s a mattress. I’m not fussy about a bed-frame (although it’s nice) but the frame you can hoover diligently and then scrub (and apparently should regularly in case of bed-bugs) but a mattress….

I shall tell this story again.

I visited a house with view to moving, and wasn’t impressed, but when I saw the bed I was horrified. It looked like that Anish Kapoor had been practicing his paint gun but with germs. I said what anyone in their right mind would say: “Uuurrrgh! Yuk! It’s horrible!” The landlord sagely nodded his head: ‘Art students,’ he explained.

Mattress covers. People: we need mattress covers.


Yin said...

Agreed with the Mattress Cover. My last house was similar to the germ ridden 'thing' you were subjected to. I walked an hour and half to the nearest tescos to buy a mattress cover. and back again.

RenterGirl said...

I know Yin. And I ran at speed several miles to avoid the aforementioned mattress...Thanks for reading!

space cadet said...

And still the landlord saw fit to show it, in that condition. Morals of a [insert your own word here].

Majority of places coming UNfurnished now, from what i can tell! Who in their right mind wants to be buying all that stuff? Especially with tenancies being such fickle things. Landlords should be obliged to provide all the basics, and leave tenants to provide their own mattress.

RenterGirl said...

Yeah I Space Cadet - he didn't even buy a cheap mattress - he was going to let it stay! Mostly in Scotland places which are 'unfurnished' provide white goods (ie a cooker, fridge etc) and tenants provide beds etc.

Dazzla said...

I've never been in the poaition of having to buy a bed and white goods. What happens at the end of the tenancy when you have to move it all? Do you do it, or do you just leave it?

space cadet said...

I had the letting agent show me one last week - it had a fly infestation. Of course, the letting agent pretended to know nothing about it. But you knew she was lying, she didn't even pretend to be surprised / bothered / shocked. Only when i went on and on about it did she even half-heartedly suggest that she'd "ask the managing agent if he knows anything". (letting agents weren't actually managing this place) They wanted 675pcm for this little treasure. And half price fees of "only" £230. Now i always ask bad letting agents "Tell me, how do you work in such a morally corrupt profession? Does it make you feel good?"

RenterGirl said...

Space cadet - that's horrible! And Dazzla - you end buying the goods, and then looking forever after for a place that needs...white goods.

RenterGirl said...

Sarah said (another cheeky ad deleted!): Really nice set of tips here RenterGirl. However you want to do it, it is acheivable - my living room lampshade is converted from an old birdcage i found in the street, and very nice it looks too! - but I have to agree, making sure you have a comfortable, clean bed to sleep in at night is of the utmost importance.

Another potential solution is furniture hire , which is a great way of getting all the furniture you need, for as short or long a period as you need it regardless of what the landlord has or has not provided.

Shoe said... is good, and also local sites. Not to mention garage and car boot sales.

Or ask around. A lot of friends of mine furnished new houses with furniture kindly donated by friends and famiy.

Unfurnished is sometimes better than coexisting with Grannies 30 year old minimalist broken furniture.

Tony said...

I think you're being too hard on Freecycle/Freegle - I've found it an ideal way to kit out at least some of the furniture in a new flat, and the donators can be incredibly helpful such as offering to deliver at a suitable time.

Another good source of cheap decent-quality furniture is Gumtree: I've paid a small amount for some excellent quality stuff, usually from people who are emigrating or moving in with a partner, so they no longer need two sets of everything.

RenterGirl said...

Shoe and Tony - you're both right, but then you've been lucky. Reconditioned white goods - I have only negative experiences. Furniture is a different matter - that can be great.