Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Step Chest

We received an email from Michael Ramsey of Greentea Design out of Toronto. The Canadian based Asian furniture retailer deals in both antiques and contemporary pieces with customers throughout North America. Their main claim to fame is that their contemporary pieces are made from reclaimed wood so as to be more environmentally friendly. We were intrigued by one of their pieces and the history behind it, The Step Chest:

History of the Step Chest

The most recognizable piece of Japanese furniture is the Kaidan Dansu or Step Chest. It first appeared in the late 1700s in stores and homes with loft spaces.

The idea was simple -- why not have a staircase that could actually act as storage space as well?

These giant pieces (usually about 7 ft. high) would be constructed by the local carpenter who would build it to the owner’s specifications.

The chests would usually consist of a combination of sliding doors and drawers and different-sized storage spaces.

Then the next clever idea was spawned. Since the government at that time taxed owners on their livable floor space, someone thought of making the step chest in pieces.

The idea was be that when the tax inspector came around, you would simply disassemble your staircase and claim that your loft was only storage and had no permanent access. This worked for a while until, predictably, that loophole was closed.

These antique step chests remain one of the most unique and collectible pieces of Japanese furniture. Because of this, prices remain very high and availability is limited.
Isn't it amazing how people work around intrusive government?

Bev & Mike
Landfair Furniture + Design Gallery
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