One of my housemates wanted a desk so, to my delight, this necessitated a trip to Necessary Furniture. Necessary is essentially a big, dusty warehouse in the middle of nowhere, full of goodies that other people have discarded. It is a co-operative that sells second hand furniture and other bits and bobs. Anyone can go there and buy, but they give discounts and free stuff to people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged (if they are referred on by Social Services, Catching Lives, the Housing Dept or other such organisations). Even if you pay 'full price' you're still paying a fraction of what something would cost new or even second hand in any other place.
The reason I like it so much is not only it's socially responsible credentials, but because it's fun. This is not a pretty, well laid out, antique-hunter's shop. There is no pomp or ceremony, just piles and piles of furniture, nominally placed into groups, for you to sift through, climb over, crawl under, inspect, ogle at or generally appreciate. Since most of this stuff comes from a wide variety of places, the styles vary immensely, as do the items on sale. There are stacks of new office chairs, kitchen stools, dining room chairs and threadbare wingback arm chairs. There are desks, wardrobes, bedside tables and antique china cabinets. There are piles of sofas all on top of one another, higgledy-piggledy. There are washing machines buried under mounds of kitchen cabinets. There are knick-knacks, glass decanters, ceramic kitchenware and 1970's ashtrays. And, up the iron staircase (that resembles a fire escape) books. Not that many shelves, granted, but enough oddities to keep me up there for far longer than I should have been. I finally permitted myself to get one and it cost me the grand sum of 25p. 25p. You can't even get a cup of tea for that these days! And these aren't trendy, shiny books, they are (as you would expect) dusty, old, cheap books that are as varied as the furniture.
I love going and looking around for the sake of looking, seeing all the different ways in which a chair can be a chair or a table can be a table. Like people, they all have their own personality. And in this dusty, huge warehouse, you can look at all the jumble of furniture and imagine people coming in, spotting things they like and carting them away, starting to furnish a new life.