It’s that time of year again when many students will be moving into new flats or preparing to move into halls. An experience that would not be complete without a mandatory trip to IKEA – a trip I have made at the start of every academic year since being at university for those affordable finishing touches, to make any shell of a scruffy room feel like home for the year ahead. However, this year I took a trip to a slightly different furniture outlet: Steptoe’s Yard near St Cyrus. Both are great options for students on a budget but that is where the similarity ends.
At Steptoe’s, you won’t find inspiring model rooms but a maze of furniture, decorations, crockery and appliances crammed into every nook and cranny. You won’t find difficult-to-pronounce Swedish product names that make everything seem that little bit less ordinary, instead there are stickers with lot numbers on almost everything from when they were bought at auction. You won’t find arrows on the floor to guide you around a bright and spacious store, instead you are left to your own devices to navigate the dusty warren of stuff. You won’t find numerous staff in smart blue and yellow uniforms but the friendly yet gruff owner in a flat cap with resident cat and dog wandering around. They both sell almost everything you could possibly need to furnish a home under the same roof. Except at Steptoe’s, it isn’t all under a roof – crockery, ornaments, furniture, spill out of the various buildings into the yard area where they may be drenched by rain but fit for second-hand re-homing nonetheless.
Nothing is priced so you are not drawn into buying things you don’t need and probably don’t even like that much because they are only a couple of quid. At Steptoe’s, the challenge is finding the thing you need; whereas at IKEA, it is resisting all of the things you don’t need. After weaving through the labyrinth of furniture and rifling through things stacked high on top of each other to find a gem you must then take said gem to the owner, Frank Harrison, and let the bargaining commence.
In my case, I went with the intention of finding a full length mirror and left with a full length mirror in exchange for a fiver. Yes, there is some wear and tear around the frame which is a gaudy gold colour I intend to transform with paint and yes, the word ‘knob’ was tastefully inscribed in the thick layer of dust coating the glass. But the best thing about this purchase: no packaging. No cardboard to cram into the recycling and no mixed material plastic that is not currently recyclable to feel guilty about. The closest IKEA alternative I could find was the MINDE mirror, and what it lacks in character it makes up for in cost at £19.
Of course, IKEA is a still a very affordable furniture retailer which does consider sustainability and the environmental impact of its existence as a business. But before you go on autopilot to the nearest IKEA for your next home-ware need, why not take a trip to your local savage site and see what second hand treasure you can find. You’ll likely save money, help the environment, and gain a unique and quirky piece of tat that no other student has in their room.
Although each item you find at Steptoe’s is unique, this site near St Cyrus is not the only one where you can find some affordable second-hand home-ware. In Glasgow, just across the Clyde from IKEA, you will find Glasgow Architectural Salvage, less than 3 miles from Byres Road. So why not pop in and pick up some one-offs to compliment your mass-produced necessities from the big blue and yellow box?