Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Building the beast

The weekend was calm and relaxed and I did less than a slug. The triumph of the weekend was all V’s as he completed assembling a chest of drawers without the help of any ‘promising’ friends. Now this may sound like nothing to expert DIYers and regular IKEA goers but please, allow me to explain.

We have built in cupboards with nothing but a rod to hang stuff off and a shelf above it. The shelf is too high for me to use on a daily basis without the aid of a step ladder. At the moment our stuff is stored neatly in baskets arranged on the floor of the cupboard. It’s inconvenient to get to anything not on the top of the basket but an achievement in my mind to be out of suitcases. So from the hanging rod to the floor there is no option but to fashion some sort of shelving system. Or else buy 300 hangers.

Intent on not trudging out of town to IKEA we hunted around a bit and decided on checking out the options at a chain of cheap-ish furniture stores. A few weekends ago, measurements in hand, we went to MFI. For those not in the know, MFI is a chain furniture store selling everything from bedrooms to bathrooms to kitchens. Their slogan is ‘You dream it. We’ll make it happen’. Whoever thought that one up was either blind / dumb / had never visited a store/ never purchased something from them / been brainwashed / paid a load of cash.

So anyway, drizzly morning and a warehouse type store filled to the gills with ugly furniture. Amongst the monstrosities we found the prefect candidate. The most basic chest of drawers with a plain, neat maple finish and dimensions to fit our cupboard. Its three drawers making it the perfect height. There was the small question of whether it came assembled or would need to be magic’ed into something useable.

The very large store and huge pieces of furniture made it difficult to find the very well hidden store assistants. Once we found one, the question of assembly was swiftly answered. It was a do-it-yourself situation but, and I quote, “you will not need anything more than a screwdriver”. That is what swung the vote for us. We bought three sets.

A week later they were delivered. Flat packed. With instructions on how to join them with other bedroom furniture (into a wall of furniture) but no instructions on how to build the actual unit. Idiots. It took us three days, numerous phone calls, email exchanges with the ‘customer support team’ (who, what?) to get the correct instructions. And so it began.

V opened out the flat pack for the first set and spread it around himself. I took a mental picture at that moment. Of V, sitting amidst a forest of wood with 243 nails and screws, two types of screwdrivers and the instructions akin to building a small jet plane in the comfort of our home. Picture taken I fled the scene, never to look back again.

It’s a good thing our second bedroom has nothing but an ironing board and piles of books awaiting their shelves. In the past 3 weeks it has been the epicenter of construction. Every evening, after a long hard day at work, V has attempted some part of DIY. The initial triumphs were the making of the drawers. And here let me interject the numerous ways in which MFI is so user unfriendly. Instead of simple instructions, all the tools and wood with pre-drilled holes (like IKEA stuff) this MFI carcass came with rocket science instructions, superglue, the need for a drill and a small piece of wood. I have a good mind to go and thump the store assistant who told us otherwise.

First the drawers, which had to be nailed, glued together and left to dry. Then the outside walls needed runners fixed to them. Then the side walls, back wall and top needed to be joined together. Then runners needed to be fixed to the drawers. V refused to buy a drill and instead improvised with a 3pence nail. Ever so often I would be summoned in to hold two pieces of wood together while nails were hammered in at the appropriate spaces.

All these weeks while V has slaved away bit by bit with the drawers of wonder, I have occupied the day bed and watched endless TV. Full credit to V for tackling what I would not have even begun to take on. This Sunday evening a shout of joy indicated that the exercise was complete - all with just measurements, screwdrivers, a hammer and a good eye. Oh, and I forgot, some grouching about bl**dy MFI.

One set of drawers sits resplendently under a row of business suits, fitting perfectly in the space albeit without door handles (which are for sissies and people without perfectly smooth runners). His baskets have been banished and cufflinks have been arranged to neatness. His ironed clothes will remain ironed. His eyes gleam with the joy of accomplishment and he walks around looking like he's tamed some wild animal. I understand.

Only two more sets to go.

Meanwhile I’m still wearing the shirts from the top of my basket.

I dislike MFI more intensly than ever before. And I would not recommend them to anyone.

Take it on good authority - this will be a long autumn.


  1. Hats off to V!What a wonderful husband :)

  2. Anonymous11:02 PM

    Seriously the DIY is awesome

  3. Anonymous11:39 PM

    Now, I really appreciate IKEA's 'Instructions for Dummys' and quality control. We recently put together a shelf from Argos - it felt like cork, pictures and boards did not match and we were up past midnight figuring it out like a jigsaw puzzle. But ofcourse, your story takes the cake!

  4. Thank goodness for husbands. I'd rather gnaw my own leg off than assemble these things. Was MFI's customer support in a call center in India? :) (just kidding)

  5. Anonymous12:24 AM

    poor V...you should send BC a ticket...he will come there and "mantle" all that stuff for you. 40in2006

  6. Anonymous1:09 AM

    To people for whom DIY is hell on earth, I would recommend this great shop called Lords in Westbourne Grove (the Notting Hill end). It is run by Indians who cut the wood your require to size, so you dont have to depend on MFI, Ikea etc; explain in idiots English exactly what you have to do and basically make DIY almost easy.......well not easy but atleast you dont feel like selling the house and moving to an island.

  7. Wow! We would be dead if we lived out there, assembling things not being a strength in our family. Thankfully, here they will come and do it for you. And even when we move house, they will send someone to dismantle and assemble the furniture for a small fee. Are you green yet? :)

    And thanks for the link. Will return the favour in a bit...

  8. Inquisitive: He is wonderful

    Beks: Let me here you say that when you have moved abroad and are struggling witha bookshelf!!!

    Pea: yes, Ikea rocks compared to this nonsense.

    Gg: I so agree. husbands are wonderfully handy. I couldn't assemble anything even if it came with serious instructions (left side, right side of brain nonsense is my excuse - better than saying I am just plain lazy!).

    40in2006: I think V has sorta got the hang of it now But that's an offer not to be scoffed at!

    Anon: My new mantra is just not to buy anything that requires DIY. Whole and made up already please! But thanks for that tip!

    Rohini: Yes, we are wasting an obscene amount of money getting stuff done for us. Mainly because we've never had to do it till now (willing Indian labour zindabaad!) and are now unwilling to learn (lazy or stupid - take your pick!). This makes V's achievement even bigger - although when he will get around to making up the other two even god does not know!