When we see Japanese designed furniture or architecture, what is the first thing we notice? Japanese style of furniture design has certain unifying elements that make it simple and elegant, clean lines that harmonize with function and Asian aesthetics.

Generally, Japanese style includes the following elements: clear obvious joinery, such as through mortises and tenons, dovetails, pegs and splines. There is no effort to hide the joinery because it is part of the artistic element of the piece and shows the viewer how it was put together. The joinery generally does not involve the use of metal fasteners, yet it is tight, strong and secure. Fasteners can wriggle loose; well made joinery is a permanent connection of wood to wood.

Most Japanese style furniture is solid wood rather than plywood with a microns thick veneer that can be easily damaged and difficult to repair. If a solid wooden piece is scratched or dented, the scratch or dent can be removed by sanding without fear of losing the integrity of the surface of the piece. That is not true of veneer, which when sanded can actually result in the substrate of ordinary plywood or particle board to show through. That is very sad to see and impossible to correct.

The true beauty of Japanese wood furniture is in the many beautiful woods used, because of their lustrous and engaging grains and colors. Fruit woods are particularly beautiful, and include apple, pear, cherry, and persimmon. They only get more beautiful with age and the adding of patina or surface texture and color.

Typically, Japanese furniture is oiled and waxed, rather than heavily varnished or lacquered. Of course, there is a style of Japanese furniture that is lacquered, but this is not the style that we emulate. We strive for natural wood feeling, smooth, clear, exquisit grain and figure that captivates the eyes.

Examples of fine Japanese style furniture include the tansu. What is a tansu? It is a cabinet typically with sliding doors, of very pleasing proportions. A tansu may be found in the bedroom, living room, dining room or kitchen. There are even bathroom tansus. They vary in size from quite small, almost the size of a bankers box to quite large, multi-tiered cabinents with dozens of doors and and tiny drawers. They hold clothing, stereo units, china, books, and just about anything. They can be lighted inside, They may have some glass panel doors. But, whatever the purpose and size, the tansu is classic Japanese style, employing all of the elements described in this article.

Ultimately, Japanese style furniture is an extension of Japanese aesthetics and culture. It makes the simple, obvious. It enhances its environment by its subtleties, warmth and the clear impact of a highly-skilled and artistic human hand on wood.

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