Friday, 12 May 2017

Shelves for an airing cupboard

My telephone sometimes tries to be smart and puts together photos I've taken into cute albums of what I have been doing. Unfortunately, I use my phone more as a note-taking device than a scrap book of life-defining events, so a significant proportion of my photos are of the dimensions and prices of items in hardware shops, as you can see here.

Five years into living in this house we still haven't reached peak shelf. The new airing cupboard presents a particular challenge to storage.

I realise that the concept of an airing cupboard may be confined to the UK, or at least to northern Europe. It's a simple enough idea though. You have a cupboard next to the hot water tank, which stays warm and is a good place to dry clothes. Hot water tanks have been standard in UK houses for a while, and damp weather has been around even longer. These hot water tanks are always inside so that any heat lost from them goes into the house, in contrast to Japan where hot water tanks are become more common but are invariably outside the house, even in areas like mine where it drops ten degrees below freezing.

Airing cupboards are particularly useful in the UK where it is often raining or damp, especially in the winter, and drying outside is not an option. I remember my Australian friend talking about hanging out washing in the summer, and the first bits being dry by the time they finished hanging out the last bits, so airing cupboards are probably not so important there. Years of cheap electricity in the US mean that people dry laundry in machines, and it has been suggested that hanging it anywhere else is a confession of poverty.

Drying outside is possible in Japan for most of the year, although the rainy season can sometimes give you few opportunities. Another problem we have is with allergies and when it is pollination season for all the now mature cedar that were planted after the war, we don't want to hang washing outside.

We have an indoor hot water tank, and I'm not really sure why we didn't make it into an airing cupboard from the start, but I have recently converted the door into it, and there are nice spaces around 30 cm wide on two sides of the tank.The door is diagonal, so you can easily get into these two sides. The one on the right is about 50 cm deep, the other on the left almost a metre. 

I was trying to work out the best way of utilising the space. The shallower gap on the right is about one hanger-width deep, so the best plan is a couple of things sticking out of the wall to hang hangers, one high and one low. There were various options available in shops, but the best things I saw were the shop fittings that their products were hanging off, and I haven't seen them for sale anywhere. As usual Japan seems to have a massive range of products that are all tailored to a very standardised set of architectural constraints. So there are hangers designed to fit on the backs of doors, or on the frames for sliding aluminium windows. Not much is available for screwing into a wall. 
Not the hangers, the thing the hangers are hanging from

I imagined some kind of drawer system to pull out racks to hang socks and things on, that would then push back into the deeper space on the left. Several sketches of ropes and pulleys, levers and pivots, and rails on rails followed, but in the end, simplicity prevailed. I got a foldaway hanger that can be screwed into the wall, but it is a little too narrow. There are also extendable poles that fit on the wall on one side and the boiler on the other. Luckily the boiler is square.

The best solution was simple brackets sticking out of the wall, with some nuts and bolts at intervals along them. Then we can hang hangers off them.