Sunday 1 February 2015

Ikea ZAISU - Floor chairs for our kotatsu

A year ago I setup a DIY kotatsu using an Ikea LACK coffee table, but never got a proper futon-mat, nor any Japanese style floor chairs to go with it: 座椅子 (ざいす, or zaisu). I'd been seriously pondering importing zaisu chairs when I stumbled on a blog comment suggesting using the top half of an Ikea swivel chair.

So I went back to the Edinburgh Ikea and attempted to check all their chairs to see which (if any) might be used without legs as a simple zaisu. I came home with a pair of Ikea VÅGSBERG swivel chair shells (and nearly bought the Ikea JULES junior desk chair shell as well - a little small for me), and a new thick rug.

Ikea kotatsu & zaisu: LACK coffee table with Metro heater, VÅGSBERG chairs,
ALMSTED rug,  Euro-King size MYSA STRÅ duvet with LYCKOAX cover


Where Ikea sold a chair and its legs separately, I tried the chair part directly on the store floor. I was looking for something similar to the simple one-piece curved wooden zaisu readily available in Japan which have a flat base.

The Ikea VÅGSBERG (£25 without legs) and Ikea JULES (£10 without legs) were the best bets, stable and reasonably comfy on a hard floor. Note that both have a front lip which will dig into your carpet or rug. I rejected the Ikea VILMAR seat shell (£21 without legs; it rocked left/right), and the Ikea MARTIN seat shell (£10 without legs; it tips over backward very easily).

There were some more expensive possibilities sold with the legs - but most were unsuitable. The Ikea ERLAND (£40) has a curved front lip so would rock left/right. The Ikea TOBIAS (£65) clearly would not work due to where the legs were attached. The Ikea PREBEN (£80) was nice but has a slight bulge in the centre underneath which put me off. I was quite tempted by the Ikea BERNHARD bar stool (£100), without the legs the base is almost flat so should be stable on a carpet or rug. One worry with these upholstered chairs is the underneath is not really designed for the kind of wear it would get if used as a zaisu.

Ikea Rugs

For our kotatsu we laid a couple of old blankets on top of the carpet to sit on, supplemented with cushions. I was looking for a nice warm rug, thick enough not to worry about the Ikea chairs not having a perfectly flat base. Our kotatsu was made from the Ikea LACK 118x78cm coffee table, and I was aiming for about another 50cm on each side for people to sit on, meaning a total rug size around 220x180cm. I had looked at the Ikea selection online before hand, but this was something I really wanted to touch (and sit on) before buying.

I was very tempted in store by the Ikea ALMSTED wool rugs, which seem to be about 1cm think and short pile,  available in medium (140x200cm) and large (170x240cm). Confused by conflicting price tags, the floor staff explained that the black and brown versions were being discontinued and reduced - both sizes were on sale at £75 (down from £190 and £300 each online!).

I came home with a large brown Ikea ALMSTED rug, and am pleased to say it fits nicely, the colour seems to go fine with the rest of the room, and it is a big improvement for sitting on directly. The only catch is I'm still looking for some kind of carpet protectors for the table legs...

Large Ikea ALMSTED rug, which I carried through the store on my shoulder
(in a poor imitation of Arnie in the film Commando)

This might not impress the Ikea Hackers, but I'm happy, and wrote this post sitting under an "Ikea KOTATSU" in my new "Ikea ZAISU" chair :)


  1. Great article and great finds. I feel obliged to comment on your carpet and couch though... That is a lot of green... :D

    1. Yep - but the green carpet and sofa came with the house. Since setting up the kotatsu the old sofa has turned into something to lean on rather than sit on 😉

  2. Thanks for the insight! Just dropped by Ikea and bought some Vagsberg shells for a low-sitting dinner table of mine. They look great!

  3. Do you use this set up? Would you recommend this over buying pricier zaisu chairs? Thanks

    1. It depends on your seating position, but I found the Vagsberg shells tolerable for short spells (eg working with laptop on table), but they are not comfortable if trying to sit relaxed leaning back (eg to watch TV), even with a cushion over the back. If you can get authentic zaisu chairs they are likely to be more comfy, look better, and not dig into your carpet either.