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Tansu…Japanese for awesome?!


I had never heard the name “Tansu” until this morning when meeting with my client (also my mother in law…ha ha). We are trying to find an interesting chest for her entry and I suggested what I called “one of those stacked drawer/latter chests” and she said “you mean a Tansu Chest?” As a designer I should of course know everything about design right?! We’ll that would be great but with so many beautiful pieces of furniture, artwork and other design terms this one seemed to slip past me.

What exactly is a “Tansu” you might ask…in case my discription didn’t help, a “tansu is the term given to the antique cabinetry of Japan made principally between 1860 and 1910, the bulk of the Meiji period. Developed from the Japanese need for storage that would not clutter their small living spaces, most tansu are portable chests made to be kept in storage lofts or kuras (fireproof storehouses). A dramatic combination of utility and beauty, each piece carries a unique history. Its careful construction conveys the region of origin, intended use, its owner’s status, wealth, and often profession. From samurai sword chests to merchants’ sea chests, from inventory chests to kimono chests, from mizuya (kitchen tansu) to cha-do (tea tansu), tansu dominated Japanese furniture design until western influences swept Japan at the beginning of the 20th Century.” (http://www.shibui.com/Products/Tansu)

Currently these helpful beauties are mass produced as well as still imported from it’s original place of origin, Japan. Pricing ranges any where from $300.00 to $3,000.00 depending on if it is “real” or not. If you are lucky you might be able to find an authentic one and not break the bank but in the mean time check out your local swap meets and antique stores. If desperate, cheap versions can be found online. There are even variations of them that are very trendy as they have a more contemporary look. Either way which ever you chose they are very charming and handy pieces of furniture and I’m glad I now know it’s name. 🙂

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