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!