Tom Gutteridge: Flatpack furniture isn't child's play

Decorating a bedroom should have been a dream, but quickly turned into a nightmare for Tom Gutteridge

Putting together flatpack furniture isn't always plain sailing
Putting together flatpack furniture isn't always plain sailing

Izzy was worried about her new bedroom, so Jo tried to reassure her.

“You’ll have all your dolls there, and Ariel the fish.”

“But is it going to be purple?”

A long pause. Then Jo said: “It will have purple curtains.” I hoped they had purple curtains in Fenwick’s sale.

“And there’ll be bunk beds too?”

Behind Izzy’s back I was vigorously shaking my head at Jo. No, no bunk beds, please. But Jo’s mouth was already open.

“Yes, definitely bunk beds.”

That clinched it. Our daughter screamed and did her little happy dance.

Izzy has been desperate to sleep in a top bunk. At Nana’s house the upper deck is reserved for her older cousins. Now she was to have her very own, in a room with purple curtains. Paradise.

They arrived on Friday, and I went to London to greet them: four huge boxes. It took two men to lug them up the stairs. Jo had chosen something called the Domino (“Look, it comes with little shelves where she can put her toys”).

I had to admit it looked quite nice on the computer screen. It wasn’t even very expensive. Apart from the additional cost of two mattresses. And two days of my life.

They didn’t put that in the advert. “This cleverly constructed design meets the stylish design aspirations for the kids of today,” was the claim.

Stylish design aspirations? Izzy? She wants the entire world painted purple. And as for “cleverly constructed”, they hadn’t reckoned on the constructor – me.

Self-assembly is a nightmare. I get cross putting together a salad spinner. Of course I didn’t expect the thing to arrive fully formed, but this was worse than Meccano.

When I opened the first box, a torrent of wood spewed across the bedroom floor. The entire room was awash with planks of various sizes and packets of screws.

I had inadvertently invented a new game called Deal or No Deal: Flatpack Version. The aim is to find the box with the instructions. You’d think they’d be in Box 1, but you’d be wrong. If you think they want all the parts out on the floor before you’re allowed to read the instructions, then try opening Box 4. Wrong again: it’s full of wooden slats.

If you carefully lift out a single plank without realising they are all joined together, a cascade of heavy wood lands on your feet. Great game.

When I eventually found the instructions in the final box, I was relieved to see that a mere child could put together the whole thing in 16 easy steps.

At least there was a cartoon of what looked like a 12-year-old with a sad face clutching a hammer with a pile of broken wood behind him.

In the next picture the same child stands before a completed bookcase with a happy smile, and holding a leaflet. I assumed it was instructing me to read the instructions, although I hoped I didn’t end up with a bookcase.

Other than the ominous line “Please allow at least 3 hours for 2 people to complete”, there were no words at all. Just drawings of bits of wood with holes in, and screws and things filling them.

I guessed 3 hours for 2 was the same as 6 hours for 1, so I started at 5pm, confidently expecting to be finished by Match of the Day. By 3am I had only just assembled the toy shelf. Then my mobile phone went ping.

“This is what it should look like,” was the message from Jo, attaching a photo of the completed bed. I gazed at the debris on the floor and resolved to call a friend.

The two of us finished the job late on Sunday night. Our hands and backs were sore, and we were mysteriously short of one key bolt, but we were pretty proud of our achievement. I was just about to send Jo a picture of the completed edifice, when my phone pinged again.

It was a picture of a desk she’s just bought to go with the bunk bed. Self-assembly, of course.


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