If you have been thinking of adding a backyard structure to your landscape, but are not sure what direction to take, allow me to suggest the emulation of a Japanese Tea House. Called a Chashitsu in Japanese, these small buildings were designed to hold traditional tea ceremonies. While a beautiful and ancient tradition, you don’t necessarily need to commit your backyard tea house to Japanese tea ceremonies. Instead, you can use it to embrace the Far Eastern ideals of meditation, contemplation, and unity with nature.
Use a Simple Wood Structure: Tea houses were traditionally created from wood. Using a backyard cabana designed with large screened windows and a double roof to emulate pagoda roofs will serve you well. Of course, an open gazebo will also work, but I suggest adding screens to still create a place of tranquility. You want your space to be connected with nature, but still separated enough for inward concentration. Western Red Cedar is the most likely to blend in seamlessly with your surroundings.
Place it in the Garden: This style is perfect for those who have already pursued gardens. The Japanese often see gardening as a symbol of uniting and learning the sacred ways of the natural world, and tea houses most traditionally situate themselves within these gardens. Try to situate your tea house within a grouping of trees, instead of doing major landscaping to remove them. Allow your garden to sit close to the structure so you can view it from the windows.
Employ a Bridge: A bridged entryway to your tea house is beneficial for two reasons. First, adding water or, at least, the illusion of water to your tea house will truly emulate the Japanese landscape. Plus, water is calming and encourages natural reflection. Further, you can recall Japanese tradition with specialized bridges. Far Easterners often use bridges to give the feeling of transition. Using a garden bridge to cross over into the peaceful sanctuary of your tea house will give you that same feeling. Many of their bridges were designed to zig zag, as it was thought that evil spirits did not have the ability to move in anything but straight lines. But, when you open your mind and move out of the straight lines, you can avoid evil.
Provide Simple Furnishings: Traditionally, a tea house would contain no furniture. Instead, the host and guests would use mats and sit on the floor. But, unless you are looking to completely recreate a Japanese Tea House, you may want to consider just transitioning to simple outdoor furniture, instead. Using cedar patio groupings or even more American-style rustic outdoor dining sets will help characterize it as uniquely your own, without taking away from the original intent. If creating a seating room instead of a dining area, don’t be afraid to use low-to-the-ground outdoor coffee tables to reflect traditional chabudai. Don’t hesitate to throw some outdoor furniture cushions around the table for an afternoon tea, as well.
Decorate Naturally: There’s no need to go out and get exciting and rare décor, stick to simplicity. Potted flowers, a vase full of bamboo sticks, or even a strip of mutely patterned fabric hung from the wall will all invite tranquility. You may want to go as far as purchasing a bonsai tree to set in the tea house to truly bring the entire theme together. If you do decide to use outdoor furniture cushions, try to steer clear of patterns or jarring colors. Remember, just keep thinking, “tranquility.”
A Japanese Tea House is a wonderful endeavor if you’re looking to create an outdoor space that acts as a secluded oasis of relaxation. And even if you’re not interested in such a large backyard project, using some of these simple techniques will help to bring Far Eastern harmony to your outdoor living area.