Most Japanese houses, though the rooms generally are smaller than in most parts of the West, have really large closets in the sleeping rooms. These closets are built to accommodate futon sets which, after having been aired out, are folded up for storage, allowing the room to be used for other purposes until it is time to turn in.
Some apartments however do not have these large closets, and neither do western homes generally. So, in Japan one can obtain a storage box for futon/bedding sets. Here’s one example:
The above example is pressboard and veneer by all appearances, and interesting that it features bifold louvered doors. The sizing, for those that do not immediately apprehend metric dimensions, are about 47.25″ wide and tall, and 29.5″ deep.
When I got to thinking about a cabinet designed to hold beddings, the first thought was a blanket chest, more particularly the earliest form of Japanese tansu, which is a storage trunk, or nagamochi:
There are wheeled variants of this form, the precursor to the ornate wheeled chest known as kuruma dansu. The wheels were means to be used in cases of emergency – fire conflagrations – whereby the owner’s possessions could be wheeled out of the house and down the street. Sounds interesting, however, when these type of cabinets became commonplace they actually caused a sort of furniture traffic jam in the streets when fires happened, and were in fact later banned in Tokyo.
And wheels on a chest are fine if the piece is meant to be moved frequently about a house, but that didn’t describe the brief from the client in this case.
Thinking more about the louvered doors, and how ventilation was a key feature for a cabinet like this, reminded me of certain Chinese cabinets in which the fronts and sides are largely, or entirely, composed of latticework panels, like this example:
Another one, out of a book of mine, appears distorted when it is not in reality:
I really like the above cabinet, but it was not to the client’s taste. Although the client spends a fair amount of time in Japan annually, he did not want the piece to look too “nippon ichiban” if you catch my drift.
With that in mind, I set to work on a design. The necessary dimensions were pretty well set from the outset, as it was to hold two sets of beddings like the box seen in the first picture above. That said, the client wanted me to keep the height down as much as possible. Unlike the long struggle I had with the design for the client’s sideboard this design came fairly quickly, and has only been revised in minor ways a couple of times since. It was a real comfort to come to a place of satisfaction with the design so early on.
This, then, is what I am building:
The cabinet’s final dimensions come out at 50″ tall, about 48″ wide, and 30″ deep.
A view with the doors removed shows the interior, featuring a pair of drawers:
I thought the drawers were a useful addition, and would allow for the storage of sheets, alarm clock, etc.. I’ve drawn them with Macassar ebony fronts, however that remains provisional.
The end walls will be composed of hexagonal latticework, done with a trick joint so the kumiko appear fully woven, and an added bonus to the latticework is that, like a Town Lattice truss bridge, it provides terrific shear load resistance though the redundance of many interconnected bracing elements, which will keep the cabinet box from twisting or deforming over time:
At the moment there is a panel of Honduran Mahogany in the middle, and this is but one option. I may use another wood, and I am toying with the idea of orienting the panel’s grain, if it is a VG piece, vertically. I really like the ‘see-through’ aspect of having lattice at each end of the cabinet, and it also makes the interior bright and airy when the doors are opened.
Next, the back of the cabinet with its two-panel frame assembly with dovetailed stiffening battens, which will attach to the carcase via clips and be demountable, as is now a standard feature on my cabinets:
Detail of corner:
I’m having a little fun with the 3-way connection at the corners of the cabinet.
The doors on this cabinet will swing 270˚ open, thanks to some angled knife hinges which I will be fabricating. The door handles shown are to be replaced by pull knobs. The draw handles will likely be of similar form to those seen in his sideboard.
There we have it -how do you like it?
Got some time in at the shop today and, somewhat regrettably, the client’s last slab remnant was sliced up to yield the last of the required panels. I’m glad to have obtained the panels, most of which are 100% quartersawn, however it would have been nice if I could have had a more efficient conversion of the original slabs into panels.
I’m waiting on a delivery of some more Cuban (Floridian) Mahogany, which should be in my shop in a couple of weeks. In the meantime I’ll keep working the panels down to size and same sort of thing on the frame elements.
Thanks for visiting!