Lack IKEA+Kotatsu-786366

Published on January 10th, 2012 | by Jules Yap


Japanese/Swedish Kotatsu (made in Australia for Canadian conditions)

Materials: Lack coffee tables x 2; Mysa Gras quilt; Snille chair backs

A Kotatsu is “a low, wooden table frame covered by a futon, or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits. Underneath is a heat source, often built into the table itself. Kotatsu are used almost exclusively in Japan, although similar devices are used elsewhere.” (Wikipedia)

We discovered the luxury of a Kotatsu during a stay at an unheated Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Japan in December 2010.

I looked for a Kotatsu to buy locally when I returned to Australia, but the ones I found had two drawbacks: they were extremely expensive and looked crappy.

In September 2011, my son moved to Ottawa, Canada (aka Ottograd) to attend Carleton University (aka Cartoon U). Simon loves Ottawa, politics and everything Japanese. I wanted to make him a gift that would remind him of good times in Japan and help him maintain his love of Ottawa through the freezing local winters.

I opted for 12v power for three reasons:
1) International compatibility (I’m hoping he’ll want to relocate to Australia when he finishes his degree)
2) Can be used when camping (the idea of sitting under this in a tent or under the stars strikes me as v. awesome)
3) Reduced fire and shock hazard (to be honest, sitting with 120v and 240v electricity that close to my sensitive bits scares the hell out of me).

I picked up two Snille chairs without legs for $5 each in the Clearance department at IKEA Melbourne, to use as Japanese-style chairs with the kotatsu. These are ‘nice to have’ but not essential– it’s perfectly comfortable to just sit on the floor.

Construction steps:
1) Shorten the legs of one of the Lack tables to 20cm (measure twice, cut once). CAUTION: Make sure you’re cutting the bottom of the legs and not the top.
2) Attach the legs to one table top
3) Attach the 12v heater to the underside of the table using the self-adhesive Velcro tabs supplied, keeping the heater off to one side to allow maximum knee room underneath
4) Lay the quilt over top
5) Place the second tabletop atop the quilt. I found that the friction/weight of the upper tabletop is sufficient to keep it from sliding around.

Bill of materials (prices in Au$):

Lack coffee tables x 2 @ $9.99 ea: $19.98
Mysa Gras quilt, 200cm x 200 cm: $14.99
Eivor Ord quilt cover, 200 cm x 200 cm: $24.99 on sale
12v heater, Ebay: $14.99
Snille chairbacks without legs (optional): 2 @ $5 ea (clearance dept)

Total: $84.95

Updated 11 Jan
I meant to mention that by buying Lack tables in two different finishes, you can get two completely different looks for your Kotatsu by swapping the tabletops.

I went with the two ‘natural’ finishes (birch effect and black-brown).

Also, I think I might have referred to the Lack coffee table. I actually useed the Lack side table, the one that’s 55cm square (and 45 cm tall before surgery)

~ David Hunt, Melbourne, Australia

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The Author

Jules Yap

"I am Jules, the engine behind IKEAHackers and the one who keeps this site up and running. My mission is to capture all the wonderful, inspiring, clever hacks and ideas for our much loved IKEA items".

13 Responses to Japanese/Swedish Kotatsu (made in Australia for Canadian conditions)

  1. Kotatsu says:

    awesome instructions and neat idea for everyone who feels it is too expensive or to complicated to import a Kotatsu from Japan. Love it.

    Keep up the good work

  2. Looks great! I was wondering how long it took to build your kotatsu table?

  3. kotatsu says:

    This is a nice cheap way to build one…but It would be nice if the kotatsu can fit more people. Lack is kind of small.

  4. So that’s how you can make your own variant of the kotatsu. I’ve always wanted to have one of those back home to use for the winter months, but I get discouraged to get one at the last minute because the ones I regularly see on Japanese shows are big, wooden tables. I’m definitely picking this idea up.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am inspired also. I’m going to try my 12 v rv/marine ceramic heater with option for outlet or battery. Typically it mounts under dashboard to defrost in bitter winter weather. Will safety check-and see how in goes///

  6. Damo G says:

    A DIY kotatsu is a great idea!

    But you need to be careful when choosing a heater- it needs to have some kind of reliable thermocouple -so that it turns off when it gets to a certain temperature rather than running flat-out on a certain setting!
    The heater will effectively be running under a blanket which will be a much hotter environment than it’s designed for.
    The replacement kotatsu heaters i’ve seen on ebay don’t appear to contain any plastic parts even though they have proper thermocouples..

    before building, i would do some controlled testing on the heater. Run it 24hours in a kotatsu-like environment. If it survives and doesn’t set your house alight, disassemble it and inspect for signs of melting/burning.

  7. Anonymous says:

    OMG, I was dreaming about having a Kotatsu but it’s way above my budget if i buy it on ebay (it was like over 380bucks). so, i just went to google for help. Jeez, i’ve got the same IKEA tea table as you do and was inspired so much by what you did for your lovely son! i decided to make one by myself as well. but as mentioned above by woolywoman, how and what kind of heater did you plug into? thanks a lot for your creativity!

  8. woolywoman says:

    Wait, how do you plug in the heater? All the ones I see have the jack to plug into a DC car socket. ( The socket formerly known as the lighter, for those of us old enough to remember the odd custom of purposely burning tobacco leaves while driving) I’m confused as to what or where you plug the heater into. Please help the confused American…confused and chilly, and wanting one of these things soon.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey- I am also from Ottawa and both my husband and I went to Carleton—it is a great place to live and go to school and yes, it is bloody cold!!

  10. Maggie says:

    Who knew? Educational and toasty. Plus my downstairs gets super chilly in the winter and we were just about to try to do something about it– I had no idea there were $15.00 heaters to be had! Your post may have just saved my family hundreds of dollars. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is one of the things I miss most about Japan!

  12. Rebecca says:

    I’m from Ottawa (and a Carleton Alumni) and it gets so so COLD there! I hope this helps you cope with the winters!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I love learning new things! I had never heard of a Kotatsu before. I think my cat would love this!!

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