A couple of years ago on a trip home from the beach with my mate Petey, I spied a 1960’s sideboard dumped on the side of the road. I braked quickly, u-turned dangerously, and quicker than you can say ‘Matt Blatt sucks balls’, we were valiantly trying to get a near mint condition Tony Parker-made unit into the back of my car. We tried at least 17 different seating arrangements, but it seemed that this wonderful piece of FREE furniture wasn’t going to fit in my station wagon.
Not prepared to miss out, I was left with only one option. I pushed the front passenger seat completely forward, and angled the sideboard hard up against the dashboard. With some tight maneuvering, we just managed to slide it in and close the wagon door. Although I was excited, there was a downside. There was no longer any room for Petey in the car. It was close to two hours before I returned to pick Petey up after dropping the sideboard at my house. Even after making him suffer that ordeal, I still made him come back to my house and help me carry my new acquisition up the stairs.
My obsession with bargain furniture started in the ’90s when I was at LaTrobe University. Student poverty ensured that 90% of my wardrobe came from Op shops. We trawled for ’70s body shirts and tight fitting Bonds t-shirts with iron on transfers. My uniform was a brown vinyl jacket, black cords and a faded western shirt. Essentially I dressed like I was the bass player in Frente.
With a large share house to furnish, my attention at Op shops soon expanded to furniture. I was obsessed with getting our lounge room just right. I had our TV sitting on the base of an old pinball machine I’d rescued from the tip, and we had a ’70s bar with a faux fish tank and inbuilt lights. For our couch, I’d taken an old high jump mat that Dad slept on just before he split with Mum. I’d covered it with some Aztec material (okay it was my brother’s old curtains) and I’d also found a roll of Marrimeko fabric under the house at Mum’s that we hung from the ceiling like a tent. Soon I was obsessed with lamps. Any ’60s or ’70s lamp I found I’d grab, and soon we had so many our house started to look like a Brunswick St Café.
The only thing I didn’t like was a beanbag that our hygienically challenged housemate Killer had plonked in the lounge room. It was covered in that striped furry material that ravers made pants out of in the mid ’90s. I hated the thing, and we had some pretty heavy arguments over whether it could stay or not. In the interest of harmony in the house, it was declared safe in the short term, after being deemed ‘comfortable’ by the quorum.
One afternoon, after returning from a mega haul in Footscray, I noticed that my newly purchased purple lamp with an orange shade had a busted plug. Using my trusty ‘student screwdriver’ commonly known as a butter knife, I rewired it effortlessly. Unfortunately my sparky skills weren’t up to scratch, and I copped an electric shock that literally picked me up and threw me four metres through the air, across the lounge room, where I landed directly on top of the beanbag.
Killer, who watched the whole thing unfold from the couch, looked up from his two-minute noodles. ‘I told you it was comfortable’ he said. The beanbag stayed.
Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross is a comedian who collects Mid Century Modern furniture.
Jeffrey Phillips is an editorial and commercial illustrator based in Melbourne.