Tansu Chests – Practical Storage Stairs from Ancient Japan
Centuries before they became chic collectors items, traditional Tansu chests from Japanese country farmers were used for storage by simple country folk.
Tansu chests include a tremendous variety of uses, from ship’s strong boxes, families’ clothing storage, peddler’s chests and kitchen cupboards. Tansu reflect what Japanese treasured and safeguarded, used daily and kept private. Tansu might hold swords, valuables, tea utensils, fine kimono, documents, foodstuffs or tools.
The humble Tansu embodied Japanese aesthetic ideals such as asymmetry, rusticity, and quiet elegance. These chests, some of which were also used as a staircase, have been passed down for generations.
Kaidan dansu or literally stair-chests doubled as staircases. Ancient Japan had no building codes, so there are no railings to make for a safe climb, and of course a rowdy horde of hefty teenagers could not race down these stairs. Care and respect was ingrained in the culture, and it took a careful and slender householder to navigate this stair.
Borrowing from the Japanese tradition, modern woodworking shops have undertaken to produce Tansu-inspired storage in stairs, even when there is no side access at all, as here.
Although there is no stringer in a Tansu stair chest, it is safe to stand on because each step is a complete box, laid on a sturdy foundation of boxes below. Tansu can make practical way to get to a loft space, as the Hollywood cabinetmaking companyThe Laboratory shows.