Table=Chest

Folding Table
1995 (designed), 1997 (made)
Table=Chest thumbnail 1
Table=Chest thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Furniture, Room 133, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This ingenious piece of furniture can be used as a small chest of drawers or unfolded to make a low table. The unfolding motion between one state and the other does not disturb the contents of the two drawers. Furthermore, the handles in the drawers, which can be opened from either side, allow it to be easily moved when it is folded as a chest. The design maximises space-saving within a small home by incorporating the potential for various uses. But unlike neutral, modular space-saving storage systems, this remains an elegant piece of furniture which stands alone.

Tomoko Azumi first showed the Table=Chest at her 1995 Royal College of Art degree show. The potential flexibility of uses for furniture was a popular idea in 1990s design, of which this is an excellent example. But unlike most folding furniture, which can only be used in one position and folds to be stored, the Table=Chest remains useful in both its positions.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.
(Some alternative part names are also shown below)
  • Folding Table
  • Chest of Drawers
  • Table=chest
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
Materials and Techniques
Beech and beech veneered MDF
Brief Description
Table=Chest, folding chest of drawers / occassional table, beech and beech-veneered MDF
Physical Description
Three tier chest of drawers comprising two drawers separated by an open area, which folds out to make a low occasional table, constructed of beech and beech veneered MDF
Dimensions
  • Height: 98cm
  • Width: 86.8cm (Note: The sloping top is H: 62.5 x W: 86cm (34 x 24 1/2"); excluding edge battens: 54 x 75cm (21 1/4 x 29 1/2"))
  • Depth: 56cm
  • Weight: 52kg (Note: Weighed 26/3/2021)
Production typeLimited edition
Gallery Label
  • Text for special display in main entrance This ingenious piece of furniture can be used as a small chest of drawers (as shown here), or unfolded to make a low table. The unfolding motion between one state and the other does not disturb the contents of the two drawers. Furthermore, the handles in the drawers, which can be opened from either side, allow it to be easily moved when it is folded as a chest. The design maximises space-saving within a small home by incorporating the potential for various uses. But unlike neutral, modular space-saving storage systems, this remains an elegant piece of furniture which stands alone. Tomoko Azumi first showed the Table=Chest at her 1995 Royal College of Art degree show. It is representative of a contemporary way of designing furniture, in which flexibility is central to the idea. But unlike most folding furniture, that can only be used in one position and folds to be stored, the Table=Chest remains useful in both its positions. With her husband, Shin Azumi, Tomoko has designed several other transformative pieces of furniture including Bench=Bed, Stool=Shelf and Armchair=Table. The Azumis live and work in London but do not produce their own furniture. A high quality contractor manufactures the Table=Chest in batches to order. The delicate tapering of the sides provides structural stability, but the unusual angle of the joints makes it expensive to produce. The Table=Chest is shown with a Japanese lacquer tiered box, traditionally used for food. The principle of the stacked boxes clearly influenced the design of this innovative piece of furniture.(01/01/1998-31/03/1998)
  • 103-6 TABLE=CHEST Designed by Tomoko Azumi (Japanese, born 1966), 1995 Made in 1997 Beech veneered MDF, beech wood Inspired by the folding and stacking furnishings and boxes of her native Japan, Azumi designed this combination chest-of-drawers and coffee table while still a student at the Royal College of Art. Multi-functional and space saving design was a particularly active area of furniture design in the 1990s. Together with her husband Shin Azumi, Tomoko has designed products for a number of European manufacturers. W.6-1997(2006)
  • ‘Table=Chest’ 1995 Designed by Tomoko Azumi (born 1966) England (London) Made 1997 by Frank E. Bailey, Sleaford, Lincolnshire Solid beech and beech veneer on MDF Museum no. W.6-1997 Multi-functional and space-saving furniture has been made for centuries. Most European folding furniture has one position for use and one for storage. In this design inspired by Japanese furniture two configurations are possible. Closed, ‘Table=Chest’ forms a neat cabinet with double-ended drawers. Open, it resembles a low Japanese writing table, used seated on the floor. The two hinged sections can be closed without disturbing the contents of the drawers.(01/12/2012)
Historical context
The Table=Chest was first shown by the designer at her degree show at the Royal College of Art in 1995. Examples were subsequently shown in two Crafts Council touring exhibitions ("From Prototype to Production" and "Flexible Furniture". Both the Crafts Council and the Geffrye Museum have acquired examples of this object.
Production
The Table=Chest was in self-production in the UK until 1999; the designer orders batches from the sub-contracted manufacturer as and when they are commissioned. Between 1995 and 1997 eighteen were made. In Japan, Abode started manufacturing the object in 1997 for Japanese market. It was relaunched internationally by Röthlisberger (Switzerland) in 2007.
Summary
This ingenious piece of furniture can be used as a small chest of drawers or unfolded to make a low table. The unfolding motion between one state and the other does not disturb the contents of the two drawers. Furthermore, the handles in the drawers, which can be opened from either side, allow it to be easily moved when it is folded as a chest. The design maximises space-saving within a small home by incorporating the potential for various uses. But unlike neutral, modular space-saving storage systems, this remains an elegant piece of furniture which stands alone.



Tomoko Azumi first showed the Table=Chest at her 1995 Royal College of Art degree show. The potential flexibility of uses for furniture was a popular idea in 1990s design, of which this is an excellent example. But unlike most folding furniture, which can only be used in one position and folds to be stored, the Table=Chest remains useful in both its positions.
Bibliographic Reference
Taylor, Louise, ed. Flexible Furniture. London: Crafts Council, 1997
Collection
Accession Number
W.6:1 to 3-1997

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record createdFebruary 2, 1998
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