Saturday, July 7, 2012


A tansu was not our first thought for a solution to our kitchen storage needs.  We have a small kitchen (the standard 10x10), naturally, as Americans, we need more room for our stuff. We looked at many different hutch designs and found them to be expensive and many too big for our space.  We both admire and respect Japanese design; the frugality, simplicity and modesty of it.  Perhaps you've seen a Japanese tansu in the form shown above or as "step cabinets."  Either way, you've probably remarked, "I'd love one, but they are so, well, 'Japanese.'"  Tansu purchased we did; confident that tansu transformation could we effect.  

We bought it from Shogun's Gallery in Portland.  They described it as about a one hundred year-old  "mizuya dansu" or kitchen cabinet.  Constructed of a kind of Japanese cedar, it is very lightweight at perhaps 30 pounds for the upper and lower parts combined.  It measures 15" deep, 36" wide and 68" tall.  Here's how we Americanized it.

To make it into a hutch, two pieces were added:

  1. A matched back portion for the bottom half and
  2. An extension to the top part.
Fortunately I happened to have some 50 year-old cedar barn wood that is a close match in grain and color to the Japanese cedar. Unfortunately I did not have enough of it, but the newer cedar will darken with age. We debated a long time over the counter top material and we finally settled on black granite which we purchase from Alpha Stone Works.

Both units were securely screwed to their newer parts and those  parts then attached to the wall.  Thus the granite "floats" sandwiched between the two halves.

I'm most pleased with the spice rack on two counts.  I made it at another location and when I brought back it slid right in like a part of the Space Shuttle.  Second, the full extension slider mechanism is completely hidden.

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