So if you have been following my social media channels over the last 3 months you will have seen that I’ve been undertaking a seemingly endless DIY project rufurbishing my house. Luckily the hard work is mostly over now with ceilings re-skimmed, laminate floor laid, walls painted and I even installed a wireless Nest heating system!

With the house looking in a better shape Sarah and I decided it was time to also upgrade the furniture. There was nothing particularly wrong with our old furniture other than that we bought it for our previous house which was a lot smaller. This meant that the sizing wasn’t quite right for our current house so we could do with upgrading everything.

After a little shopping around we decided to buy a new dining table and 4 chairs from John Lewis’ Alba range in the soft grey/oak combination – we headed down to the Milton Keynes store to place the order. When we arrived and saw the full range set out however I figured it would be better to upgrade the whole room to ensure we had a matching set (complete sucker for visual merchandising). Suddenly our £400 trip turned into over a grand, leaving the store having bought the table and chairs but also a large sideboard and bookcase!

Ordering from John Lewis was incredibly easy and as we could choose our delivery date it made things really convenient for us. The furniture arrived as flat pack and after a bit of banter with the delivery guys we unloaded it into the conservatory.

Alba Bookcase

The first part of my flat pack build was to put together the bookcase as it was the biggest and bulkiest item.

The usual assortment of lettered bags…

And lock screws…

And drawer runners…

Putting the sides on was fairly challenging to do by myself as there were so many parts needing to be aligned.

Screwing the back board onto flat pack furniture is always a pain – with the Alba bookcase there were about 50 screws to put in and the holes in the wood weren’t pre-drilled so it needed a lot of effort – pretty bruising on the palms!

Next up, the drawer!

And that was it, all done!

Alba Wide Sideboard

Next up was building the Alba sideboard. First things first though, laying out all of the pieces.

To start this construction it required screwing a number of pieces into the underside of the sideboard’s top piece – the sofa proved to be a perfect workbench for the task!

The build then continues through building the vertical supports before mounting the top piece on the dowels and bolts.

And once again, the task of screwing in 50 wood screws reared its ugly head once more… next time I’ll make sure I charge my electric drill!

With the unit solid, the doors can go on…

And finally, time to build the 3 drawers…

Sideboard complete!

Alba 4-6 Seater Extendable Table & Slat Back Chairs

Building the table and chairs was less of an effort than the rest of the flat pack units as luckily there were only a few pieces to screw together – after 4 hours of building the other units this was great news!

In the main box things were pretty tidy with every part securely fastened and protected.


I removed the table top from the box and laid it on the floor on some of the bubble wrap to protect the surface from any scratches.


With the table top out of the box, attaching the legs was really easy simply requiring 2 bolts per leg.



With 4 legs attached, flipping the table over was then a 2 person job as it’s pretty heavy!


With the table the right was up I could test the extendable element. This required pulling the ends apart and then lifting out the fixed middle section which is hinged.



And that was it, fully assembled with 4 chairs it really does look the business and fits the dining room space perfectly.

Ease of construction

Like all flat pack furniture it is a bit of a love it or hate it affair – the pain of having to get all the parts out, hope they’re all there as required, not damaged and then be able to read the instructions and decipher the diagrams!

The John Lewis Alba furniture was however absolutely faultless. Every unit had all the holes drilled in the right places, the parts were all there and the instructions were extremely easy to follow. Sure, I paid a premium to buy from John Lewis however building the units was so straight forward, albeit time consuming, because everything was exactly as they said it would be.

Furniture quality

Now when it comes to furniture, quality can vary wildly. The dining furniture I replaced for example was bought from Next around 6 years ago and hasn’t held up particularly well to the day to day wear and tear that it experienced. The new set from John Lewis however all fits together snugly, none of the bolts are loose and the quality of the finish is far superior to my old set so I expect it to last a lot longer.


So things don’t come cheap when you buy from John Lewis – but you buy knowing that you have quality and a fantastic returns policy if there are any issues. So what did this all cost?

So all in the complete dining set came to £1,544 – not cheap but having shopped around a little, in my opinion, worth every penny!

Overall experience

This is the first time I have bought big ticket items from John Lewis and the entire experience has been a really positive one.

Ordering was a doddle, as was being able to arrange our delivery date, and the construction of the units was really easy due to the clear instructions. Not only that but John Lewis have clearly put a lot of care and attention into the packaging of their furniture – it all felt a little Apple. Every part had its rightful place in the box, tightly packed in with cardboard and polystyrene so nothing could get damaged.

The only downside? My 3 trips to the tip to dispose of a mountain of packaging post-construction!

Thanks John Lewis, the build was dead easy and the Alba range looks fantastic in my newly refurbished dining room! 10/10

By Nick

Nick is the founder of Life of Man with a passion for trying out the latest technology, eating out at the best local restaurants, trying the latest IPAs hitting the craft beer scene travelling the world. As a parent Nick loves to spend time with his family and write about days out as dad blogger.

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