x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Furnishing my flat with Dh10,000 is a squeeze

My wife and I were in agreement that we should make an effort to furnish our one-bedroom apartment without spending more than the allowance my company allotted.

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Like most couples, my wife and I have different spending priorities. She prefers to allocate her discretionary income to clothes, anything made by Apple and decorative pillows and baskets - lots and lots of pillows and baskets. I prefer to invest in things that are far more important in the grand scheme of things, namely golf and fantasy football. But Alison and I were in agreement that we should make an effort to furnish our one-bedroom apartment without spending more than the Dh10,000 allowance my company allotted. Seeing as how we arrived here without any furniture and a lone appliance - a Bose iPod dock - it was going to be a challenge.

The first purchase, naturally, was a bed. I found a flyer on the bulletin board at work for a king-size bed, used only in the guest room by a middle-aged British couple, John and Linda. Alison drove out to Mohammed Bin Zayed city and declared the bed - as well as John and Linda - to be apparently bedbug free. We also took two bedside tables, a dresser and a mirror off their hands in the bargain. Total price: Dh900.

For the bedding, we capitalised on the Abu Dhabi Shopping Festival to pick up linens and bedding at The One for 40 per cent off. Cost: Dh300. Next up was the kitchen. We shopped online and several second-hand shops for suitable stoves and refrigerators, but ultimately decided this was an area where we wanted to splurge. We rationalised our profligacy by thinking that if we have a pleasant, reliable kitchen, we are more likely to cook at home and save money by not eating out all the time.

We settled on a Sharp refrigerator from LuLu, with a free blender thrown in for good measure, and a Siemens stove from an independent retailer in the Tourist Club area that was offering it for Dh400 less than the same model at Carrefour. Then we picked up a butcher block work station at Ikea, and loaded up on sensible Swedish utensils, plates and glasses as well. Overall kitchen price-tag: Dh5,945.

Through Dubizzle, we found a leather sofa and love seat from a Maliyali couple in East Mousaffa. Alison bargained them down to Dh1,000. Another area in which we concluded we should not scrimp was the curtains. Our apartment features marvellous 12-foot- tall windows across the front of the building that will undoubtedly bake the interior mercilessly throughout the summer if not adequately covered. Alison selected the burnt-orange fabric from a local shop, which also agreed to sew in the blackout material and install them for a total of Dh1,600.

At this point, we were close to exhausting our budget. Fortunately my wife knows how to stretch a dirham when she puts her mind to it. While walking through the Tourist Club one day, she passed a pile of discarded 2-by-4s at a construction site. She found the foreman and told him she wanted to buy the wood. Understandably perplexed, he wanted to know why. I want to hire a local carpenter to build a dining room table, she said. The foreman replied that he had a friend who was a carpenter. He would talk with his friend and call Alison in a few days.

Sure enough, the foreman called less than a week later to report that the table was ready. He even sent one of his workers to deliver it. Alison asked how much she was to pay him, and he insisted that she should not pay anyone, not even the delivery man. "We are friends now," he said. The obvious upside: we scored a free dining room table. The downside: the carpenter seemed to be under the impression he was building a table for Shaquille O'Neal.

No worries. We paid another carpenter to shave off the legs, sand it down and apply a coat of linseed oil. Total cost: Dh250. By now, we had a place to sleep, a fully-stocked kitchen and a reasonably comfortable living area. We just needed some personal touches to make the space feel like a home. We framed a Mexican tapestry of a wedding scene that a friend gave us as a gift last year, and we put up pictures of our friends and family. But we still wanted at least a bit of local flavour to signify that we are not planted in just another anonymous outpost in the global village. We are in Abu Dhabi, and glad to be here.

We finally found just the right piece. At a used furniture shop in Muroor, Alison found a wicker coffee table and three mismatched chairs that gave the dining table the vintage look she was after. And propped in a corner was a slightly faded poster of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan. He is wearing sunglasses, looking like a young Al Pacino, and his image was transposed over the relatively modest Abu Dhabi skyline of the 1980s.

"It's perfect," I told Alison. "We will have that the rest of our lives." Our total cost thus far: slightly more than Dh11,000. We didn't quite meet our goal, but we are proud of the results from our effort. breagan@thenational.ae