Tansu: Step Chests

Kaidan-dansu Some of the earliest examples of Japanese cabinetry were literally built in consort with the home. The stairway or step-chest exemplifies a singular marriage of the demand for attic or second story access with storage needs. This cabinet hybrid originated in central Honshu during the Edo-period, (1615-1868)... most likely in towns where the first two-story buildings were found. The earliest chests were the product of an ingenious carpenter who efficiently blended stairs and house walls with a framework which was filled in with doored compartments and drawers. Whether a single section or made of multiple pieces the Kaidan-dansu exhibited a variety of drawer/door configurations. These seem less indicative of a particular style than simply the site-specific nature of each chest, and the specific storage needs of clients. This fascinating chest can be seen with very narrow treads and considerable height... noting the darkness of early homes and the usual absence of handrails one cannot look at such cabinetry without thinking they taxed the balance of individuals who ascended and decended with objects in hand.