DID YOU KNOW?
The tea house, according to one authority, is a “tiny cosmos separated from the daily world, where the mind can become clear, and the harmony between people restored.” Traditionally tea houses were built in the garden, detached from the house, because the tea house and the tea ceremony were a way of stepping away from everyday life to commune with nature. The entry doors were so low one had to stoop, reminding all who entered that they were, after all, merely human.
Japanese Tea House and Garden Shed
Zen-inspired simplicity + versatility
The scale and symmetry of this little timber frame make it extremely versatile, as the name suggests. We originally designed and built it as a very refined Garden Shed for a family in Charlotte, North Carolina. Larger and a bit more complicated than the timber frame firewood storage shed, this is a storage space, plus! In the wings on either side are two large lockers: One side holds the big tools—lawnmower, string trimmer, wheel barrow, and the like; the other offers hanging storage for rakes, shovels, and spades, as well as shelves for small tools, fertilizer, lawn seed, and gardening supplies. When you’re done gardening for the day, the swing gives you a cool perch to survey your domain and rest your weary bones.
My wife Evy saw this picture and sighed, “Ahh …. I would love one of those!” And then, without missing a beat, reminded me, “You know, I’ve got an important birthday coming up later this year.” My wife’s vision for this structure combines both of its potential uses: a fully enclosed garden shed/she shed, with tools and supplies, shelves for garden books, seed catalogs, and so on. But she’d also work in a chaise lounge for relaxing and a small round table and chair set to invite her girlfriends over for tea or wine. (Notice I am not on the invite list.)
I personally would be tempted to use it as a Japanese Tea House. The core design of this structure embodies the Zen-inspired aesthetic principles of “simplicity” and “rusticity,” which I love, and it’s built with what I consider one of the most noble of woods, Western red cedar. I’d build it pretty much the way you see here, but enclosed with glass for year-round use. I’d surround it with a ground level deck so you could move from the inside to the outside. And yes, I’d build a traditional tsukubai, a Japanese bamboo spout fountain. The splash of the falling water is meant to wash away the sounds of the outside world, and boy does it. Years ago, I created a tsukubai, and it was magical. I never built the Tea House to go with it, though. Maybe it’s time!