DIY Kotatsu


Japanese people have used kotatsus for centuries to stay warm in the cold, damp Japanese winters. A kotatsu is a low table covered with a comfy blanket; when you sit at the table and stretch your legs under the blanket, a heat source keeps them warm. In the days before electricity, it was common to use a charcoal heater called a hibachi, but today, it's more practical to install a special kotatsu heater, which is safer to use than a room heater -- or a hibachi.

Things You'll Need

  • 3/4-inch hardwood-faced plywood
  • 4-by-4-inch lumber
  • Circular saw
  • Inexpensive coffee table (optional)
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Stain
  • Spray lacquer
  • Kotatsu heater
  • Heavy blanket
  • 4 zabuton
  • Construct a low table. It will be hidden by a blanket, so it can be very basic. Make the top 30 inches square or a 30-by-36-inch rectangle. Using a circular saw, cut it from 3/4-inch hardwood-faced plywood. The legs can be anywhere from 6 to 12 inches long; cut them from 4-by-4 lumber and screw them to the bottom of the tabletop.

  • Modify an existing coffee table from a second-hand store by cutting the legs as an alternative to building a new one. The table should be high enough for you to be able to stretch your legs underneath it and low enough to use for eating or writing. Eight inches is a good average height.

  • Construct a cover the same dimensions as the tabletop to provide a surface for eating and writing after you've draped a blanket over the table. Cut it from 3/4-inch hardwood-faced plywood; sand it with 150-grit sandpaper and stain it an attractive color. Finish it with two or three coats of spray lacquer.

  • Turn the table over and install a kotatsu heater on the underside. Use screws to attach the 120-volt, 500-watt infrared heater to its brackets. The power cord, which has a built-in switch, extends out from under the table so you can plug the heater into a wall outlet.

  • Place the kotatsu in the center of your living room or bedroom and cover it with a heavy blanket that is large enough to reach the floor on all sides. Arrange four Japanese seating cushions, or zabuton, around the table and plug in the heater.

  • Place the cover on the table to protect the blanket and keep it in place. The kotatsu is now ready.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the kotatsu by sitting cross-legged at the table and draping the blanket over your legs. On a cold day, you may want to take advantage of the heat by stretching your body under the kotatsu and sleeping on the floor.
  • If you like sitting on the floor, another way to stay warm is to purchase a Japanese-style electric rug. This comfortable innovation is available from some companies that supply kotatsu heaters.
  • Kotatsu heaters are designed with safety in mind, but you should never leave it on when you aren't at home.

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  • Photo Credit Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images
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