A most hip and hidden house can be a house that was never intended to be lived in. Teahouses have a function but not for dwelling in the sense of sleeping. A teahouse is a respite from the world, a place of refreshment and harmony. It is often hidden in the woods and is a small, simple space. It can take many forms but it has essential characteristics of Japanese wooden-house architecture, built specifically as a place for the mind to be freed from worldly cares. Its simplicity, its small scale, its thoughtful arrangement of space, light and design, make it programmatic on the one hand and, on the other, an aesthetic object to be revered.
This teahouse, at the Humes Japanese Stroll Garden, on Long Island, N.Y., is magical. As you meander through the hillside moss garden, encountering stone steps, steep grades and compelling overlooks, one of your final destinations is the teahouse. It is diminutive, geometric, beckoning – much like a folly or gazebo in a European landscape. But it has a higher purpose, as a spiritual way-station, a place of contemplation. Its grids and formal shapes structure your experience; and, yet, there is something freeform and suggestive about its feel, its textures calm and welcome: an empty vessel to be filled by whomever encounters it.
O, that residential architecture were so loaded with feeling as this teahouse is. This one is generous in its interaction with its site, welcoming and embracing the landscape around it and adding a bit of style and simple geometry to its natural world. It is a perfect pairing of natural and manmade, contrast and conjunction, yin and yang.