How I furnished my house for nothing
Bar stools, unused Ikea furniture, Casio keyboards: Australia is a scavenger’s paradise
I was at the beach when I got the call from my friend, S.
“I’ve just spotted two very nice chrome-and-leather bar stools that might work in your new house.”
“Just tell me where.”
“By the bushes at the top of my road.”
By the time I got there, the two bar stools had been reduced to one, standing alone in the shade of a fig tree, as though it were waiting for a bus. Underneath the inches of grime, it was – as S had promised – in perfectly good nick. I rescued it, hosed it down, and it now sits in the nook under my kitchen counter, the perfect spot for a sneaky glass of wine at the end of a day’s scavenging.
You don’t need a big budget to furnish a house in Australia. In fact, you don’t need any budget at all. You just need a friend like S, a car with a very big boot, and a little patience.
S and her husband R and their four lovely children returned to Ireland last weekend, and left us (my family and I are living in Sydney for 10 months) the entire contents of her house, from her children’s Lego to her L-shaped sofa – all in exchange for a derisory sum of money and a bottle of wine. When I was standing by the car, creaking under its eighth load, I asked her how we could ever properly repay her. “Pay it forward,” she said.
Paying it forward
“Paying it forward” is a particularly Australian notion, even though they would probably consider the phrase a horrifying Americanism. The following day, we were driving back from the beach when we spotted another pile of furniture neatly stacked, like the bar stools, by the side of the road.
This time, under the battered director’s chairs and the dusty suitcases – everyone here seems to upgrade their suitcases at least once a season – we found a set of mini drawers for a child’s bedroom. We popped the boot and in they went.
We managed to drive another hundred yards before we spotted the chairs.
By the time we got home, we had acquired four, apparently never-used Ikea Vilmar chairs, a pink Pillow Pet, a wood-framed kitchen whiteboard, a large-size fishing net and – our prize find – a full-size Casio keyboard in perfect working order, on which my seven- year-old is now learning to play My Heart Will Go On (well, there’s no such thing as a completely free lunch).