Beautiful Chashitsu Japanese Tea House - Small and Simple DIY Garden House Kit You Can Build Yourself at 76 Without Building Experience

A 76-year-old psychologist in New Zealand fulfilled his dream, building a tea house

Interview with Chashitsu Japanese Tea House 76-year-old Builder
Interview with Chashitsu Japanese Tea House Owner in South America
Tea House Kit Construction Process
About Chashitsu Japanese Tea House - Style, Concept, Origins

Interview with 76-year-old builder

Your Tea House looks very well and detailed built, are you a carpenter or did you have professional help?

I am not a carpenter or in any way, a general builder. I have no previous building experience. My background is in Psychology, Education, and Theology. I have always wanted to attempt a building project. I had no professional help, nor any help from my family and friends.

What did make you choose Chashitsu Japanese Tea House?

The initial idea was to build a garden summer hut, perched on a hill in the garden. With strong prevailing winds on that specific location, it was always going to be a problem sitting there and enjoying the view. I considered different ideas, such as movable walls to protect us from the varying wind directions. I found a picture in a Japanese garden book which was more of an enclosure, but I struggled with the “how-to”. Searching on the Internet, I found the “perfect-looking” teahouse.

What became the most challenging thing for you during the whole process and why?

Three days after the building material arrived at my property (beginning June 2020), I sustained a knee injury and subsequently was booked for surgery in September 2020. So, I started my project on crutches. There were a few physical challenges due to the injury, having to climb ladders and get onto scaffolds. However, two structural challenges stand out. The centre piece of the roof and figuring out how to build the sliding doors, the round window and the skylights.

Did you make some changes in comparison with our original plans?

I guess I was too much of a novice which made me tethered to the plans – did not want to deviate in fear of “losing the plot”.

How long did it take to build a whole Tea House?

All in all, over a period of 12 months, it took about 4 months physically to build, due to the injury, long periods of planning and figuring things out, and of course, at 76 you do get slower.

How did you deal with the building permit restrictions in New Zealand?

Fortunately, early 2020 a new building law in New Zealand was passed, which meant that anything under 30sq meters no longer requires a building permit. It does still require that building would still be according to regulations and building codes, which I considered throughout the process.

Are you practicing Zen Buddhism? Are you interested in Japanese culture?

I do not practice Zen Buddhism, but being a follower of Jesus Christ, I meditate and enter into prayer all the time. Yes, indeed I am very interested in Japanese culture and have travelled to Japan several times. I have a great interest in the people and their culture, also visiting their temples.

Any recommendations to DIY Garden Japanese Tea House builders who are just about to start their building journey or are deciding to buy plans?

To anyone, especially people of my age and people with no building experience, if you are up to it, then buy a plan of your choice and just enjoy the process. The plans are easy to follow. However, take time studying all the documents, draw your own little diagrams of how you understand certain aspects and how you visualise the process as well as the completed steps. If you are going to build solo, just make sure you have all the necessary tools, machinery and equipment AND lots of clamps!

Tea house kit DIY plans for sale you can find here

Tea house kit DIY plans for sale you can find here

Interview with Chashitsu Japanese Tea House Owner in French Guiana, South America

Where are you building your teahouse?

I live in French Guiana (South America); we have equatorial weather with a raining season ( it can rain up to 600 mm to 1000mm in may) and a dry season ( July to December). The weather conditions were a big challenge for us, we needed to adapt the materials to the humidity rate (90% and up) and the temperatures ( 25 to 35d Celsius). The measurements were kept, and only materials were adapted to the local conditions. Doors couldn’t be covered with rice paper!

Have you been choosing between more of our designs?

I really wanted a Japanese tea house kit with a Japanese zen garden. I use it as a meditation spot. My daughter was getting older, and I transformed her sandy playground next to our house into this little peaceful Japanese spot. I love to sip some tea early in the morning, looking at the birds.

Have you been building it yourself (DIY) or with some professional help?

I asked a friend who is a really good carpenter to build it and adapt it with local woods ( Wapa wood for the roof, ebony mainly, and Saint Martin wood). He was very excited and involved in this original construction project.

What became the most challenging thing for you during the whole process?

The WAPA roof is always challenging to build as it is very technical, but my friend knows how to proceed with my help ( cutting the wood correctly is very hard). We put some white plexiglass pieces on the doors to look like rice paper. I also put in air conditioning and electricity; I can use the house to host friends or to have a nap even when it’s hot outside.

How long did it take to build your tea house?

About 4 months.

Any recommendations for new tea-house builders who are just about to start their building journey or are deciding to buy our plans?

Buy the plans, adapt the materials to the weather conditions, and ask professionals for information about materials.

Did you apply any of the sustainable living ideas in your tea house? e.g., reusing the rainwater


Any more comments you would like to add?

It is now my favorite spot in the garden. A terrace with a jacuzzi and gym ( indoor bike and rower) is to the side of it and completes my little heaven place.

Tea House Kit Construction Process

About Chashitsu Japanese Tea House - Style, Concept, Origins

The tea house is a facility built for Japanese-style tea ceremony where the organizer of the tea ceremony (master, host) invites guests to serve tea. There are two basic types, one is Kusan-style and the other is Shoin-style, but in general, it often refers to Kusan-style. It may be built as an independent building, or it may be built inside a building such as a shoin. In either case, it was generally accompanied by a garden, but in modern times it is sometimes built in hotels, public halls, and commercial buildings. The standard is four and a half tatami mats from Zen Buddhism's "hojo". It was developed from the end of the Muromachi period to the Momoyama period, and it occupies a special position in Japanese architecture.

The architectural style that was developed for the construction of these chashitsu is known as the sukiya style (sukiya-zukuri), while the word sukiya (数奇屋) can also designate a chashitsu. Another Japanese term related to "tea houses" is chaseki (茶席), which broadly means "tea place", and includes any type of space where people can sit down to participate in the tea ceremony, and enjoy a chabana ( "tea flowers"), the style of flower arrangement typical of the tea ceremony.

Typical features that make up a chashitsu are the sliding shōji windows and doors made of wood and covered with translucent washi paper, the tatami mat flooring, and the tokonoma alcove, all in the simple, subdued colors and style widely used in shoin. The size of an average chashitsu is 4.5 tatami mats (7.29 m² or 78 ft²).

Architectural concept

For Japanese architecture, the chashitsu must be totally independent structure, designed specifically for tea ceremony, with adjoining rooms, all of which serve as halls to receive guests at the tea ceremony.

"Tea houses" are usually small and simple wooden buildings. They are located in gardens or backyards of private homes. Other common places to find chashitsu are temples, museums, and parks. The smallest tea house will have at least two rooms: a main room where the host and guests gather and tea is served, and a mizuya, where the host prepares sweets and utensils for the Japanese tea ceremony. The entire structure could have a minimum total area of three tatami mats (4.86 m²).

Large "tea houses" may have several tea rooms of different sizes, with a large, well-appointed mizuya, resembling a modern kitchen, a large waiting room for guests; a welcome area where guests are greeted and can remove and store their shoes, separate toilets for men and women, a changing room, a storage room; and possibly several anterooms, as well as a garden, an outdoor waiting area for guests, and even toilets.

The 'tea house' may use a portable brazier (furo) or a sunken floor hearth (ro), especially for making tea in winter.

Historical origins

The term chashitsu came into use after the beginning of the Edo period (circa 1600). In earlier times, various terms were used for the spaces used for the tea ceremony, such as chanoyu zashiki (茶湯座敷; "seating space for chanoyu", sukiya ("place for poetically inclined aesthetic pursuits [Furyu, 風流] as the chanoyu") and kakoi (囲; "partitioned space"). Perhaps it was the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa who built the first chashitsu at his Higashiyama country house in Kyoto, which was described as a a small 4.5 tatami room that was separate from the shogun's main residence.

According to the Japanese historian Takeshi Moriya in his article Mountain Dwelling Within the City, the ideal of wabi-cha (a highly traditional style of Japanese tea ceremony associated with Sen no Rikyū) had its roots in the urban society of the Muromachi period (1336–1573), which took shape in the "teahouses" that the townspeople built in their residences, and which affected the appearance of thatched-roof huts in mountain villages. Prior to this, the tea ceremony was generally enjoyed in rooms built in the shoin-zukuri architectural style, a style frequently used in teahouses built today.

Teahouses first appeared in the Sengoku period, from the mid-15th to the early 17th centuries, at a time when the central government had almost no practical power and the country was in chaos, wars and frequent uprisings. Samurai were busy, acquiring and defending territories, promoting trade, and overseeing the production of farms, mills, and mines, as de facto rulers. As the poorest were eager to seek salvation in the afterlife according to the teachings of Buddhism, the "tea houses" were built mainly by Zen monks and also some feudal rulers, warriors and merchants who practiced the tea ceremony. Simplicity and tranquility, central principles of Zen philosophy, were sought. The recognition of simplicity and straightforwardness is one of the central motivations of the "tea house", which became a distinctive Japanese tradition in later periods.

The "Golden Tea Room" was a portable golden chashitsu built during the Azuchi-Momoyama period of the 16th century for Japanese regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi's tea ceremonies. The original room has been lost, but several replicas have been built. The "golden tea room" was built to impress guests with the regent's power. This contrasted with the rustic aesthetic ruled by the tea master Sen no Rikyū, although it is speculated that Rikyū may have collaborated in the design. In any case, the opulence of these types of rooms was very unusual and could also to have been against wabi-sabi norms. At the same time, the simplicity of the overall design, with its clean lines, could be seen as within canon. The extent of Rikyū's involvement in the room's design is unknown, however, the master was present on several occasions, when tea was served to guests in the room.

Tea house in Japanese architecture

The ideal "tea house" is surrounded by a small Japanese garden called a roji and is divided into at least two parts by a gate called a chumon. Along the path is a waiting bench for guests and a pergola. Aside from its own garden, the chashitsu may be arranged together with other traditional Japanese buildings such as the zashiki, the oku no zashiki, and the hanare zashiki, all around a larger main garden.

Near the "tea house" is a stone basin, where guests rinse their hands and mouths before entering the tea room through a low, square door called nijiriguchi, or "crawling entrance", because it requires bending down to cross it. The nijiriguchi symbolically separates the small, simple and quiet interior from the noisy, overwhelming and crowded world outside. The nijiriguchi leads directly to the tea room.

The tea room has a low ceiling and no furniture: the guests and the host sit on the floor in seiza style. All the materials used are deliberately simple and rustic. In addition to the guest entrance, there may be several other entrances. At a minimum there is one entrance for the host known as sadōguchi, which allows access to the mizuya.

There is a tokonoma (scroll niche) holding a calligraphy or brush painting scroll, and perhaps a small, simple flower arrangement called a chabana (茶花), but there will be no other decorations.

The mats that can be found in a large chashitsu are called hiroma ("big room"), while the smaller ones are called koma ("small room").

Something that influences the construction of a chashitsu, as a space for an iemoto master or for a family head, is the iconography of their ancestors and personal or family memories.

Beautiful Chashitsu Japanese Tea House - Small and Simple DIY Garden House Kit You Can Build Yourself at 76 Without Building Experience