On being ... a bargain?

By Ingrid Sapona

It all started innocently enough when a friend and I found ourselves near the store where I bought my couch three years ago. I haven’t been in that neighborhood or store since. We decided to stop in to look at their chairs.

A chair has been on my wish list for a long time. Cost is one reason I haven’t gotten one -- decent chairs run almost as much as my couch. But, the main reason I haven’t even looked for one is that in order for a chair to fit, I’d have to move a bookcase I had custom made years ago, and I don’t know where the bookcase might fit. (It was too expensive to get rid of and besides, it’s full of books.)

To my surprise, the store had a very comfortable, not overly-large, leather recliner -- on sale. It had been made for someone and then they didn’t like it. Knowing it would fit my décor, I took down the dimensions and went home to think about it. Though the chair was a good deal, the big question was whether I could part with something in the office/den so the bookcase could go in there. After much deliberation, I decided that with serious culling I could sacrifice a filing cabinet in the office. A few days later a friend with a hatchback helped me bring the chair home.

At about the same time I was losing my internet connection once or twice a day. It was either my aging computer or aging router. After many calls to tech support, my internet service provider sent me a new router. When that didn’t solve the problem, I realized the time had come for a new computer.

I considered my needs and budget and, after measuring to make sure it would fit into my computer armoire, I bought a 23-inch all-in-one. My friend who configured it noted that because it sits so high in the armoire, it might cause neck strain. Unfortunately, the shelf it was on was not adjustable. I hated the idea of getting rid of the armoire because I’ve had it for as long as I’ve been in business and because it was roomy enough for the printer, as well as books and office supplies. I figured I’d make the best of it.

Soon after I started using the computer, however, I realized the neck strain was a real issue. The computer shelf, which rested on two narrow ledges, was screwed into the sides of the cabinet. Below the ledges were support beams that held up a drawer and keyboard shelf. If I could unscrew the shelf and cut it so it simply rested on the support beams, the height would be fine. It was certainly worth a try.

A friend came over with power tools and we made the alterations. For good measure we also removed the armoire’s legs (saving about two more inches). Voila! The height of the shelf on which the computer sat was now perfect. Problem solved. Or so I thought…

About a week after the alterations I noticed the drawer and sliding keyboard shelf were kind of loose. When I went to adjust them, they came off. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get them to stay on. That’s when I realized the shelf we had altered was, in fact, a structural element and without it being fixed to the cabinet sides, the frame of the armoire shifted just enough to prevent the drawer slides from staying in the tracks.

With the armoire unworkable, I was left with no choice but to re-outfit the office -- and pronto. Complicating matters was the fact that I had already sacrificed valuable filing space when I moved the bookcase in to make room for the chair, and I couldn’t afford to sacrifice any more. So, my mission was to find a way of fitting the computer, printer, office supplies, books, files, and space to do work, in an organized, aesthetically pleasing way in a room that measures a bit less than 8 feet by 10 feet.

Armed with measurements and sketches of possible layouts, I went in search of office furniture. I looked everywhere -- on-line and in person. Among the places I tried was that well-known Swedish superstore that has all sorts of interesting things, but that never seems to have anything that meets my particular needs. (Mind you, if I liked the white industrial look, maybe I’d be more enamored with their stuff.)

I knew that whatever I’d end up with would be a compromise, but it was still tremendously frustrating and time consuming. I ended up buying a small corner desk and separate bookshelf. Though far from ideal, at least I have a place where I can work without suffering neck pain. And, I think I’ve figured out a way of modifying the desk in a manner that would give me a wee bit more space to work. Of course, to make those changes I’m going to need someone with carpentry skills and tools. In the meanwhile, I’m making do.

The whole chair and computer shopping spree has been a royal headache. In reflecting on it, I realize it proves something I’ve always believed, but clearly forgot: there’s no such thing as a bargain. Though the chair may have been a good deal in itself, the ripple effects from it have been anything but…

© 2010 Ingrid Sapona


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