Monday, January 20, 2014

The Lowrider of Tables: Japanese Low Table Part 1: Making a Plan

A Plan Hatches: In which I decide to build a Japanese low table.

Japanese traditional furniture. Picture a traditional Japanese room, the kind with the tatami floor and all the cool, clean lines.

Not a lot of furniture? Well, traditionally, if you need something, you can pull it out. Space is a premium, and you need to think outside the box that you live in. Your living room can also be your dining room and bedroom. It can be anything! (Except a bathroom- that's the rules, man.)

You can add futons. Easy to drag out.
In the morning, pack them away and you can bring out a table.
Not to say that all Japanese houses consist of one room, but I think I'm pointing out how darn practical Japanese furniture can be. And how much I like those low tables. We had a low table in the last trip at Koya-san in the monastery.
I think to myself- no way I can buy furniture in Japan and stuff it in my suitcase. And no way I'm paying crazy shipping either. Solution: make a table.
To start, I wanted to see what variety there is. I quickly learned that there are distinctions between standard low tables like this that can be desk/dining table/coffee table and other types of tables.
You're probably familiar with kotatsu.
The major difference here is the fact that it's made to hold a flat heater unit insulated with a thick comforter between frame and tabletop. Heavenly for wintery places! Like, not Florida places. Next:

Translation: tea table. Cool. Looks similar to a regular Japanese low table, except...they're mostly round. And kinda intended for tea. Okay, round it nice and all, but I just want a standard grade A table.

I can't find the name of a this. It is just "table"? I know the name of the cushions one sits on at such a table (zabuton), but what about the table itself? The important thing is I know what it looks like.
And I know what it feels like. And I can measure how tall it needs to be to fit over my American thighs. I can personalize it with shelves. I can pick out the wood I want. I can build it, too, because I have an expert wood craftsman on staff, aka "Dad".

The Plan
Here's my Sketchup mockup:
Now to pick out wood! There's a wood warehouse place in town. Lots of varieties, and it looks like a lot of exotic wood if from Africa, and does not have a Japanese vibe. The teak looks very nice, and is the only Asian wood in the place. I would jump on that if it weren't for the fact that it's $17 a board foot. Okay, so I narrowed it down to:
Mahogany, below
Walnut, above. I went back and forth. Both hardwoods, good for furniture. Mahogany is a little cheaper. Walnut has a pretty dusky brown color. Mahogany is reddish. I decided to go for mahogany. Maybe it was that little girl in me that remembers all the pretty mahogany furniture in historic houses I've seen. Maybe I was afraid the dusky brown Walnut would look too dull in a bright carpeted room. I dunno. We'll see how it turns out. Tune in later as this thing gets off the ground. (But only by 12 inches.)

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