Tag Archives: Ikea

My unexpectedly flat-packed table and chairs: some tips on home assembly

Tips on home assembly of flat-packed furniture.

My new house is bigger and generally of a different layout to my old house and, therefore, the furniture, shelving and storage needs are different as well.  I am blessed with a kitchen just big enough to have a table and chairs in it and on Sunday afternoon I hot-footed it into Kettering Argos and purchased a small pine table and four chairs.I was slightly taken aback when two flat boxes appeared on the conveyor belt, but I had ordered them and it was the cheapest set I had found, so I wrestled them manfully into the car.  I arrived home with the enormous boxes and took them into the kitchen.  I peeped gingerly inside.

Oh my God.  Four hundred and eighty thousand pieces of cut and drilled timber, screws, bolts, washers, dowels, brackets.  I may even have seen a floral oilcloth, a vase of flowers and a kitten but I may have been hallucinating by this time.  I was expecting to have to put the legs on the table, but I genuinely was not expecting to have to carve the bloody chairs out of pine tree trunks which I had cut down myself whilst whistling The Lumberjack Song and eating a Yorkie.  No, no not the little dog you ghastly people (the hairs gets stuck in your teeth for one thing).

This afternoon I rolled up my sleeves, READ THE INSTRUCTION LEAFLET and began to remove the pieces from their packaging.  I am a methodical person so I laid all the wooden pieces and the associated ironmongery out on the floor in their groups; 4 x legs, 1 x tabletop, 4 x brackets, 8 x bolts etc.  I then counted out all the small fixings and placed them into ramekin dishes and bowls.  Next, the tools needed for the job were laid out on the worktop with the precision of a Harley Street Surgeon; “Allen key, small hammer, tape measure, screwdriver – no NOT a flathead, Nurse, for heavens’ sake where DID you do your training!” I barked to myself (barking, I suspect, being the operative word).

I soon had the table up and very nice it looks too.  The chairs are tomorrow afternoon’s little project.

It’s very important not to be intimidated by a flat-pack.  Nine times out of ten, all the pieces are there and the instructions are relatively clear.  It is sometimes necessary to substitute your own screws, particularly with shelving units as the screws provided are nearly always of inferior quality. But with furniture, it ultimately boils down to reading the instructions and being orderly in your conduct.  I also often use my own socket set rather than the miniature spanner provided as this will usually offer more leverage for manual tightening.

  • Lay all the pieces out and check them carefully
  • Place small items such as screws or dowels into bowls to stop them getting lost
  • Make sure you have the correct tools to do the job
  • Make sure you have left yourself enough time to complete whole elements of the job, eg the table or a whole chair, otherwise bits may get lost or you just irritate everyone because you’ve left things lying around
  • If you are easily irritated, try to be alone in the house when attempting an assembly.  This way no-one gets hurt
  • Read the instructions carefully before you start
  • Look at the photograph of the thing you are going to build so that you understand what it should look like when you’ve finished.  This avoids a Dali-esque item which, although perfect for draping soft boiled beans over, serves no functional purpose and will almost certainly not be displayed in The Tate

Failing that, many handy-persons now advertise that they will assemble flat-pack furniture for you for a hefty remuneration.  Whilst this undoubtedly stimulates the local economy, your first duty is to yourself and with petrol now marginally more expensive than ground unicorn horn and bread at £47 per slice, I would advise you to do as much for yourself as you are able in the interests of domestic economy.

This time tomorrow I shall be sitting on a solid and reliable pine chair.  Hurrah!


Filed under General DIY

My experience in a Great Big Shop

Right.  Let’s get back to power tools.

My new house is small and rather poorly equipped and in order to accommodate my books and all the other stuff with which I surround myself, I am obliged to put up shelves, perform some necessary repairs and put up a new kitchen cabinet.  To this end, and with the help of  ‘Sean’ the rather scrumptious Southern Irish manifestation of my SatNav, The Boys and I set sail for Ikea in Coventry.

When we arrived, we thought we’d start by finding the cafe and having a drink and a biscuit to fortify us on our quest for cheap, mass-produced, flat-packed items.  We were herded into a fenced off queueing area such as one might see at a livestock market at the end of which was a long counter with food of various kinds.  We were instructed to take a tray and a mug or glass for our drink and make our choices. 

This should have been simple but it just wasn’t; where would I get tea?  At what point should I pay for it?  How much was anything?  It turned out we had to pay for our drink before we actually got it, then go to another shelf where we picked the tea from a bush on the next floor, milked a cow then proceeded to the nearest steel plant to press out our own spoons.  Then, and only then, could we have the longed for cup of tea and an, admittedly tasty, slice of apple cake.

Just be aware that at this point we have not even ventured onto the shop floor.    I decided to try to get my kitchen cabinet before I did any browsing in the Market Place – always do the Work first – and found a pleasant looking man to help me.  I described exactly what I wanted, showed him the dimensions by stretching my arms out to the required width, picked my cupboard door and prepared to get my stuff.  But oh no, it couldn’t possibly be that simple.  First I had to go to some enormous shelves to find the cabinet and load it onto my trolley.  Then I had to go back to the man at the service desk and get a chitty for the door that I could take to the till and pay for and thence to the Customer Collection Area to collect the door.

This was a complete pain but about 20 minutes later I was at the Customer Collection desk with ……  the wrong door.  This meant, of course, that I also had the wrong cupboard.  A terse conversation with the retard behind the desk revealed how I was going to spend the next hour of my life.

I put the children into the Play Area after managing to convince the woman behind the desk that Boy the Elder was only ten (when he is well on the way to being 13 – “mmmm – very tall for his age”) and proceeded in the general direction of Customer Services.  Here I had to explain my problem to another half-wit who eventually refunded my money and sent me back to the shop floor to select the proper cabinet.  Except that I suddenly realised that in order to do this I would have to go back to the main entrance and go right round the entire shop to get back to the department which was a tantalising 20 yards away behind a row of tills that was protected by gun emplacements and searchlights.

I went into Mad Woman Mode.  I put my arms in the the air and said in a very loud voice to the many, many lines of people, “I have lost the will to live and I can feel my life force ebbing away .  I have been in this shop for over three months now and I cannot face going right the way round this massive store just to get to those shelves 20 yards away.  Please let me through before I start crying!”.

It was like tha parting of the Red Sea – some people laughing, others backing away nervously – and I pushed my trolley straight through to the kitchen cabinet district (left bank).  I collected the cabinet, paid for it, queued to collect the door, picked up the children and left.  We were the last out.

If anyone from Ikea is reading this, may I make a suggestion?  When customers come in through the door, ask them if they’ve ever visited an Ikea before.  If the answer is no, whisk them off to a training area where they are given a short induction course in The Way of the Swede.  If they refuse, hand them a leaflet which has a map of the store and instructions on how to use the cafe and how to purchase tricky items.  Failing this, a meditation room with soft lights and pan pipes might be in order.  And perhaps a punch bag.  Or better still, the presentation of a GCSE in Retail Exploration.  Only a matter of time……


Filed under Community and shopping, General DIY

How to make an Interesting Table Lamp for about £6

After  my last tirade, I think it’s about time we did something lovely with beads and ribbon.

The Wartime Housewife has a bit of a taste for the Victorian, but she does like shiny things.  I detest harsh lighting, so tend to have lots of table lamps dotted about so that the light can be both subtle and adaptable to one’s activities.  But table lamps are often very expensive and even plain shades are rarely less than £7 or £8. 

My first port of call whenever I need anything new in the household department is the local tip.  Many council tips now have a shop where one can buy all sorts of useful things that often just need a good scrub down or a coat of paint and are very reasonably priced.  Charity shops don’t sell electricals so leave those out, but car boot sales and jumble sales are full of treasures.  I found the lamp (incl the shade)  featured in this article at a local antique/collectable shop for £2.50.  It should have been £3 but naturally I haggled.  Always haggle – you’ve nothing to lose.

Plain shadeLamps are so hard to photograph so I’ll describe it.  It has a marble base, a crystal stem and a plain shade.  I have decorated several lamps before using crystal drops and mirrored ribbon and I had just the corner to put it in. 

I bought the ribbon with crystal drops and the mirrored ribbon from a haberdashery stall at the market for about £2.00/metre each.  A good haberdasher is a wonderful thing and it’s worth wandering round these  and other craft shops just to see what they hRibbonsave in stock and one can get so many ideas just from seeing what’s available.  I like bold, sparkly things but you may like something more subtle, so look around and see what there is.  Measure your lampshade circumference top and bottom and then get half a metre more than you actually need, just in case.  Any spare will always come in useful for other projects.

Glue gunThe next essential is a hot glue gun.  These are available from all good craft shops and I would recommend getting a small one which is light in your hand and can do finer work.  Mine cost about £5 and the replacement glue sticks are around £2.25.  The glue sets very quickly so you can attach things to each other without having to stand there like Soft Ned while everything sets.  Take some time to practice with it first on scraps of fabric or card until you get the hang of it.  You do get tiny strands of glue hanging about but these pull of easily when you’ve finished.  Do remember that this is a HOT GLUE gun and be careful as the glue will be unsurprisingly hot.

Ist layer - beaded ribbon

Ist layer - beaded ribbon

Firstly, lay out your beaded ribbon, right side up.  Starting at the seam of the shade, apply two thin parallel lines of hot glue, the width of the ribbon, to the base of the shade  about 2″ (5cm) at a time.  Apply the ribbon immediately and do another strip.  I would recommend NOT cutting the ribbon to the circumference of the shade as you will waste less this way. Work you way along the base of the shade, pressing the ribbon down firmly, until you come back to the seam.  Cut the ribbon neatly, allowing a small overlap.

2nd layer - mirrored ribbon

2nd layer - mirrored ribbon

Then do the same with the mirrored ribbon, making sure you cover the ribbon neatly underneath.  Pull off any tiny strands of glue.  You could try layering the beaded ribbon to create a cascade effect or even using two colours which would look very dramatic. 

And that’s it, and it took about half an hour.  As I say, lamps are difficult to photograph, especially at 11.30 at night when my eyes feel like they’ve been sandpapered, but it really does
look very effective.Finished lamp
Switch off the television and do something creative instead, it’s incredibly satisfying.  Put your own stamp on things; it doesn’t have to be perfect and it’ll be a heck of a lot more interesting than some homogenous lump of plastic from Ikea.

Green version

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Filed under Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Make it yourself, Tips, Skips and Scavenging