shopping 06.4.18

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Before the Container Store, there was tansu. In Japan's Edo period, beginning in the 17th century, craftsmen developed a style of cabinetry that was meant to be portable. Wheels or handles were used to move the box, chest or cabinet throughout a home or during travel.

From elm, chestnut or pine came a trunk or kitchen cupboard, clothing chest or safe. Locks were used to keep your possessions out of the hands of baggage handlers, just like today. Some of the trunks were lacquered, others not. These pieces were created to serve a purpose but to the 21st century eye, they are gorgeous to behold.

Owner Dane Owen moved his store Shibui, 38 Washington [Water/Plymouth] 718.875.1119, from Santa Fe to Vinegar Hill in 2008, and to DUMBO in 2014. It's a large, basement-level space filled with striking pieces of tansu of all sizes and many purposes and configurations. There are also baskets, ceramics, sake sets and home accessories.

Mr. Owen knows his stuff: he co-wrote the 2002 book Japanese Cabinetry: The Art & Craft of Tansu, highly regarded and now out-of-print. A copy will set you back $125 or more. But a walk through this industrial space, filled with handcrafted treasures, is a free, transporting pleasure.

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