Japanese tansu chests may help solve storage problems

Judging from the questions I receive, finding enough storage space ranks as the No. 1 issue bedeviling readers of this column.

I guess it’s partly because homes are designed differently today than half a century ago. Most new houses lack the basements and attics that can serve as capacious and conveniently out-of-sight storage spaces.

There’s still the garage. But when it gets too crowded to accommodate a car, you know you’ve got a storage problem.

Accumulating less and giving away more can solve the problem, of course. Yet how many of us actually change our lifestyles in this way — despite repeated resolutions?

Q: I need storage space for linens and blankets in a hallway off the master bedroom of a contemporary-style home. The space is long and wide. Can you suggest a suitable storage piece?

A: A built-in cabinet would be one possibility. It may actually be the best option for meeting your specific requirements and aesthetic preferences, but custom-designed furniture of any sort is seldom simple to commission and it’s always expensive to purchase.

An appropriate storage piece shouldn’t be too difficult to find on the commercial market. A Mediterranean-style armoire would be something to consider, as would a painted decorative wardrobe. You might be able to locate reasonably priced pieces of these kinds in a shop specializing in high-quality second-hand furniture.

And are you familiar with the Japanese tansu? If not, permit me to introduce it.

As the photo shows, a tansu consists of a variety of storage compartments, some of which are enclosed by sliding doors. The components can be separated and stacked into whatever configuration may be most serviceable.

Furniture for a traditional Japanese home is quite different from the American norm. But the characteristic low tables and storage pieces such as the tansu can be wonderfully practical as well as beautiful additions to a contemporary American home. After all, Japanese design has been a highly influential inspiration for Western furniture makers for the past 100 years.

The diversity of furnishings in today’s interiors — in terms of both styling and countries of origin — is highlighted in a recently published book from The Taunton Press entitled “Celebrating the American Home.” The tansu photo is taken from this beautifully illustrated volume, which was compiled by Joanne Kellar Bouknight.

A tansu that fits the dimensions of your space may prove elusive. The range of choices in the United States simply isn’t very wide, despite growing demand for this Japanese import. You might get lucky by searching the Internet, however.

And if not, there’s always the custom-design approach.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at rsca@ritastclair.com.

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