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Furnishing a flat on a shoestring

Background information

You and a friend have come to London to study here. You have managed to rent a small unfurnished flat without any heating. The flat consists of two rooms, a small kitchen (too small for a table and chairs!), and a bathroom. You have to buy furniture and household equipment. You have Ј550 to buy the most necessary things for the flat.

Task 1

Draw a plan for the flat. Use the scale 1:50cms. Remember, the flat is small. Decide whether you want to share a bedroom and have a sitting/dining room, or whether you each want your own bedroom. If you choose the latter, discuss where you would eat if you invite friends for a meal in your flat.

Task 2

Make a list of the most necessary pieces of furniture and household equipment for each room on the chart.

Task 3

Look at the newspaper advertisements and select the necessary things for your flat.

Before you start, what do the following abbreviations mean? eves, o.n.o., v.g.c., in, ft, cu ft

Find examples of these abbreviations in the ads and see whether you and your partner can guess their meaning from the context. Then check by looking in the envelope marked ‘abbreviations’.

eves = evenings
o.n.o. = or nearest offer
v.g.c. = very good condition
in = inch(es)
ft = foot/feet
cu ft = cubic foot/feet

Task 4

Fill in the chart with information from the newspaper advertisements.


Under Ј200

BLACK & DECKER chain saw, Ј25.

BLACK LEATHER bomber jacket chest 44, v.g.c., Ј45 – 341 2594.

BLACK VELVET lace V-back dress size 10, (new), bought at Ј40, selling price Ј20 – 579 3479.

BLUE TEXAS HO.MECARE bed settee, nine months old, excellent condition, bargain, Ј49 o.n.o. – 579 3463 eves.

BRAND NEW chrome sink with taps fitted, v.g.c., Ј50 – 554 3421.

CHEST OF DRAWERS solid oak, eight cu ft, Ј100 – 567 4433 eves.

МОUNTAIN BIKE suit 12 years upwards, Ј150 – 567 8921 after six pm.

TELEVISION 20 In screen, colour with remote control, Ј70 o.n.o. 555 4423 eves.


Task 5

List six or more problems you might have to reckon with when you ring the telephone numbers.

name of item measure-
ments in cms
for which room? telephone number price alternative measure-
alternative telephone no. alternative








Task 6

Name three or more problems which might face you when you look at an item. Compare your answers to tasks five and six with possible answers in the envelope marked ‘tasks five and six.

1 sold already
2 item wrong size (too big or small)
3 you cannot get through to the people
4 you have to collect the item, i.e. arrange transport for something potentially bulky and heavy
5 the people live too far away
6 they are ever at home only when you are supposed to attend lectures at college
Possible answers to task 6:
I it’s shabby; 2 it’s ugly;
3 it’s not working properly

Task 7

You have finally managed to buy the furniture for your flat. Cut out pieces of paper, using the same scale 1:50 cms to represent the pieces of furniture you bought. Note that a number of advertisements give the dimensions of the articles for sale in ‘ft’ and ‘in’. One ft (foot) is roughly 30 cms, and one in (inch) is about 2.5 cms (1 ft = 12 ins.)

Discuss how and where to arrange the furniture. When you agree, glue the cut-out pieces of paper onto your plan of the flat and label and/or colour them, as you like.

If you have any money left, what would you spend it on?

Task 8

Each of you must write a letter to someone who has been working in a different pair and tell him/her about your flat. Here is a guide to help you:

• describe the empty flat
• describe the problems you faced:

1) very little money

2) a whole flat to equip and furnish

3) disagreements with your friend?

• describe how you solved the problem
• describe any new problems which turned up
• say how you solved them
• describe your flat as it is now
• say how you feel about your flat.

When you describe the order in which something was done or happened, you might find the following expressions useful:

to start with, in the beginning, first, initially, next, then, after that, afterwards, later, in the end, finally, at (long) last, now. Can you think of more?

Task 9

What could on a shoestring, mean in the title of this task: Furnishing a flat on a shoestring. Describe in English what you think it means.

Task 10

You are enquiring about an advertised article on the phone. Write the dialogue together with your partner. Choose one role each and practise it by reading it aloud several times with your partner. Try to memorise the gist of your part of the conversation. Sit back-to-back with your partner and let another pair of students/the class listen to your telephone conversation.