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A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast

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A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast

November 6, 2013

When a Connecticut couple asked their architect friend Naomi Darling to design a gazebo on their property, she gently insisted they build a teahouse instead.

The couple–photographer and writer Sean Kernan and writer Karen Kernan–envisioned a structure perched on the high point of their property on Connecticut’s coastline. According to Darling, “I wanted to focus on the idea of creating a pavilion based on simplicity and natural materials.”

Darling spent her childhood in Japan with her art historian parents; studied pottery in Hagi, Kyushu; and worked at Olson Kundig Architects in Seattle before settling in Connecticut (she teaches at Yale, where she also earned her masters in architecture). In addition to teaching, she practices architecture at Darling Loeffler-Puurunen and collaborates with her husband, sculptor Darrell Petit.

Photography by Sean Kernan.

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: The open structure is built from untreated, unfinished cedar, which is rot-resistant. Steel plates connect the structure to four concrete posts: “I didn’t want to anchor the building, I wanted it to hover,” Darling says. “Theoretically, you could unbolt it and move it somewhere else.”

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: The hanging hitching-post ball belonged to Sean’s father; it acts as a counterweight to the wooden sliding panel.

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: The teahouse sits beside a bamboo grove planted two decades ago by Sean from a seedling given to him by his Chinese calligraphy teacher.

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: Darling and Petit sourced the granite threshold from a local quarry. “I wanted it to function as a demarcation to the entry,” Darling says. “The stone is an anchor to this place and to the earth. It sits in opposition to the roof, which slants upward to the heavens.”

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: The walls are stained plaster and the rice-paper-like screens are made of a fiberglass paper.

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: Sunlight filters through the structure in “irregular patterns that mark the transition of time,” according to Darling.

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: A view of the notched cedar decking and the hitching post ball.

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

A Teahouse on the Connecticut Coast portrait 6

Above: During the warmer months, Sean and Karen use the teahouse as a place to read and meditate.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 23, 2012 as part of our Wabi-Sabi issue.

For more exterior design ideas from architecture to furniture and accessories, browse our Outdoor Spaces posts.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the location of the tea house on the Connecticut coast?

The tea house is located in Guilford, Connecticut, United States.

What is the purpose of the tea house?

The tea house was built as a quiet retreat for the homeowners to sit and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Connecticut coast.

Who designed and built the tea house?

The tea house was designed by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and was built by local contractors.

What are the features of the tea house?

The tea house has a simple and elegant design with a sloping roof, glass walls, and a wooden deck. It is also equipped with a small kitchenette, a bathroom, and a sleeping loft.

Is the tea house available for rent or public use?

No, the tea house is a private retreat and is not available for rent or public use.

What was the inspiration behind the design of the tea house?

The design of the tea house was inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony, which emphasizes simplicity, harmony, and beauty.

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