Friday, February 3, 2012


Photo courtesy Flickr

New Yorker magazine once ran a hilarious cartoon of a Japanese house. Behind the formal restraint of the traditional mat room was a storage area crammed to the ceiling with the junk of modern life.

I don’t favor chaos, but finding efficient working storage can be tricky. There’s an old European technique that turns a dining area into a workshop and does so for close to nothing. Simply cover the table with a floor-length cloth. For meals, top the table with a smaller cloth laid over a waterproof layer. The table itself can be nothing, an office supply’s two by six foot folding plastic affair, a thrift shop beater, or a door set on cheap folding plastic sawhorses. The long skirt acts as a lap robe, saving heat, and you can raise the working height of the table with plastic bed risers.

This “board and trestle” is a basic furnishing of a medieval hall house. It was set up and taken down for each meal, and it’s the prototype of the dining system we use to this day. Knowing the origin makes sense of why the dining table attracts every project under the roof.

I was happy to cover my table with two heavy cotton bedspreads that are the same color as the sea grass matting on the floor. Matching the color reduces the visual bulk of the covered table. The recent holidays came and went smoothly, and I’m getting some follow-up projects finished. There’s a bit of shipping to do, and one parcel is bulky and half-packed. The table’s the right place to work, and under the table is the right place to stash the mess until it’s ready to go.


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