Tea house moving forward again

Since I last posted  about the “Stabbur” project not to much have happened with the project. I was distracted be the urge to first get a propper bathroom inside the main house, then to make sure the main building was properly drained. Since that last drainage activity was quicker than anticipated I was left with a two day vacation to try to get something done on the Tea house. During the summer I was able to finish ut the south wall of the “Stabbur,” as shown in the first photo.

This Thursday to Sunday is dedicated to the Tea house. Some work had perviously been done on the west wall so I decided to start with that.

Thursday saw the lower part to completion. Friday I started tearing down the old planks of the upper section, then reconstructing the wall according to modern building practice. I added more support beams, and covered up with huge boards 120cm x 240xm that i designed to keep the wind out and also give some insulation. These was then covered with a water resistant layer. Finished it of with small 1” x 2” that I later will attache the planks too. This allows air to circulate between the water/wind layer and the wooden planks preventing rot.

I’ll keep updating this post over the weekend, so look back if your interested in following the progress.

Elevating the tea House to New heights

It has been a while since I have had time to work on the tea house. I found some immediate problems with the cabin’s main building that I had to repair. My dad came out to help me with that, but we also got time to do some work on the tea house 🙂

We added boards underneath the building, to prevent a draft from coming up trough the floor. The idea is that the insulation will rest directly on these boards. Also we prepared the floorboards inside the house. Next weekend I hope to be able to add insulation and seal the floor up.

While doing all, this my dad discovered that the building was crooked. Using his engineering skills he discovered that the NE corner needed to be lifted 4cm and the NW corner 7.5 cm.

The very next day I ran out and bought at jack meant to lift cars. I inserted it underneath the beams of the tea house and lifted it up enough so that I could insert a wooden board between the beam and the concrete pillars that it was resting on. That way I was able to lift the NE corner 3 cm and the NW corner 6 cm. Measuring inside, the tea house was almost perfectly level after this operation. I’m a bit proud, I have never elevated a building before 🙂

Finally I was able to go the lumberyard and pick up all the exterior wood. I bought Siberian Larch. Supposedly this can stand untreated for a hundred years. It’s a huge pile of wood, and it is going to require a lot of work to get it onto the building.


Storehouse to Teahouse

Since the Chabarn ended up being too expensive, I have started a smaller project. At my cabin, there is a small storehouse (“stabbur” in Norwegain), that I am going to turn into a combined Tea-house and guest-house. I’m looking at three mats and a 80cm by 320cm mizu-ya.  But first I need to renovate the building. I have started to demolish most of what was there originally, and intend to keep the frame only.

During my six day vacation, I was able to remove all the interior wood. This was a lot more work than I had planned for. I removed the interior walls on the ground floor, as well as in the loft. In addition, I tore down the interior part of the roof, along with the floor between ground floor and the loft. See attached photos of the huge pile of removed wood.

The wood I removed on the first day, was all burned on my Easter-pyre, but the rest is left for another day.

I was able to replace the entire south wall, and half of the west one. I removed the old planks and replaced it with wood fiber boards, and a layer of soft wind barrier, that also happens to be water and vapor proof. In reality, this is the wall, but to protect the barrier and to make it more appealing to the eye, one would normally add wooden boards. I’m going to do this, but I didn’t have the wood available, so I haven’t started on that task yet. in the photos you will see a network of 1” by 2” beams that have been nailed on top of the wind barriers, this is to get some air between the barrier and the wood. In all essence this is the way most Norwegian wooden houses are built.


The Dream

Burning Dreams

I had a dream that went up in flames. After a lengthy process, I got some price quotes for building the Tea barn. Unfortunately, they were two-to-three times higher than expected. This makes it impossible for me to build the barn. :'(

I’m currently working on some other plans that might be more affordable. Last month, the government announced a change in building policies, starting from July this year. With these new laws, I can build more without applying for building permit. I have a small storehouse, and after the government announced their new policies, I started dreaming about turning this into a mizu-ya, and build an almost identical Tea room next to it. I even envisioned a corridor between the two so the host wouldn´t be bothered with rain when going from one to the other.

We are spending Easter at the cabin, and the first thing I did was start measuring. Turns out, the storehouse is so high that I would not be able to build an identical building even within the new laws. So while I am looking for other ways to build my dream Tea house, in the meantime I have decided to upgrade the old storehouse, making it a Tea house with a tiny mizu-ya. That way I have a nice place to practice Tea while I ponder the best way to build my Tea house.

Chabarn: Second Draft

Last week I got the second set of drawings from the architect. They are built upon his first draft, with revisions and ideas that came up when we met with him Monday the same week. I was not super enthusiastic about the first drawings, but my enthusiasm got a significant boost from the meeting, and even more from seeing the second draft. This is almost perfect.
So what has changed from the first to the second set of drawings? I made him draw the barn one meter longer, which allowed us to widen the kitchen and make room for a toilet upstairs. Also, during the meeting it became clear that I would need a technical room to hold a ventilation system, and water heater among other things.

The architect also recommend that I install a system to heat the ground floor by pumping heated water through a series of tubes installed underneath the floor. This can be combined with a few different systems for heating the water, his recommendation was to drill into the ground and install a system for heat exchange with the ground. Once installed, this gives virtually free heating and hot water, but it probably goes with out saying that the initial cost is high. But it is possible to only do the necessary, initial preparations now, which will allow me to install the rest later if I choose.

Ground floor 

When you open the front door, you will enter straight into a zen garden, or roji if you will. It will be open all the way up to the ceiling. At its highest point it will be about 6m high. The garden will contain the building’s only fire place, and a spiral staircase to go upstairs. It will also have two large doors in glass facing the garden.
In the drawing, there is a tea room marked “3 sov”. This will either be a three mat room as shown on the drawing or a two mat and a daime (3/4 mat). Next to the tea room, I will have a mizuya, marked “2 sov.” This will be four mats large, using one mat for the sink. These rooms will both officially be bedrooms, and I plan to use them as such during the night, and as tea room during the day.
This floor also holds the building’s western style rooms – the kitchen and the bathroom. The kitchen will have a dining place and two large windows. As mentioned, the purpose of making the building longer was to allow some extra space here.

Next to the kitchen, there is a bathroom. I want the bathtub to be lowered into the ground so that when you sit in the bathtub, your head will be just above floor level. In the corner there will be a panorama window allowing me to sit in the tub enjoying the view of my farm. If you by any chance wonder what the dotted line next to the toilet is, it is just a empty place. The government require that any new bathroom have a circle of 1.5m in diameter empty space, to allow for a wheelchair to turn. In case you were wondering, no, I am not in a wheelchair, but the rules still apply.


In the left corner there will be a four and a half mat tea room, with space for a one mat alcove, and a small closet to store utensils and futons in. In addition, there will be a small 1,5 mat mizuya or hallway so that the host can enter the tea room from a different entrance from the one used by the guests.
The main feature of this floor is the large tea room marked as “12 Stue”. A lot of thinking has gone into this room. I want a 8 mat room, but because of the width of the building and the placement of the windows, it made sense to have the room cover the entire width of the building, making it 10 mats. I hope I will be able to design the interior so that the room can be configured in one of the following ways depending on need:

  • A big room with 10 full mats and one daime (3/4) in addition to the alcove
  • A big room as above, but with the daime closed off so it is only 10 mats.
  • Closing off one end of the room, so that the two lowest mats become a hallway and the rest becomes one large 8 mat room
  • Splitting the room in three to make 2 bedrooms of four mats each in addition to a hallway, allowing access to the toilet without passing through the other bed-room.

We will keep the outside looking pretty close to the original barn. So even if the bridge that in the past lead up to the upstairs part of the barn will not lead to any doors, we will still keep it. It will now instead just lead to a pair of large windows. This will be very practical for getting large and heavy items such as tatami mats upstairs. We have decided that the main walk way to the house will be under the bridge instead of walking around it.
Also we have kept the small one story out cropping in the northern end. This currently the outdoor toilet. In the new barn, I guess it will become just a storage area.
On the overview map the black building is the cha-barn. The yellow buildings are the existing outhouse and main building.

Whats next?
We are quickly approaching two very exiting milestones for the project, and that will make or break the whole concept. First of all, soon I will have drawings that are detailed enough to ask entrepreneurs to price the project. After that, the municipality need to approve the demolition of the old barn and the rebuilding it as cha-barn.

Chabarn: First draft

I have been impatiently awaiting the first drawings from the architect. They should have arrived last week, but instead showed up on my birthday this week. This is his first draft of how he envisions the barn, and is heavily influenced by my input and suggested design. While I think it is a good start, I had hoped that there were more major or radical changes to my sketches. What I really wanted from the drawings, were some super smart ideas that I hadn’t thought of myself.

From the drawings, it looks to me like he has been unable to fit doors at the top of the barn bridge, and instead put windows there. I guess this is to make room for the necessary height for the ground floor. I have to ask him about this. Also, it look like there is no chimney for a fireplace. We have a lot of trees to chop down on my new estate, in addition to about 3500 litres wood already chopped up by the previous owners. So a fireplace will definitely cut the cost of heating for me.

The most important thing is that the architect has been able to incorporate my wishes into something that can be approved by the municipal. In Norway, there are strict criteria a room must follow to be a so-called “permanent living room”, which basically means a room you spend a lot of time in, such as living room, bedroom, kitchen etc. Most of the rooms will adhere to these rules, which in turn will enable me to use them as guest rooms when I am not doing Tea. This is especially important because the old cabin does not have many spare rooms.

The architect has asked for a meeting on Monday to go through the interior design. I guess Japanese rooms are not part of his everyday work 😉 Based on his drawings I have a few new ideas for the interior, which might influence the exterior and in particular the placement of windows. At this point I’ve started to dream about extending the barn with about one meter, in order to fit in even more Tea rooms.

As promised, here is a copy of the documents I received:

One more thing

In the past few weeks I have mostly spent my effort on the chabarn, but I did some work on my home tea room too, or rather I finished up one thing that has been bugging me and some of my guests for a while. Inside tokonoma there is a hole leading to a venting shaft. IMG_8129Thisis a nice feature as it lets fresh air in. With the coming winter the annoyance with this hole increased. Every morning I come down to my tea room and it is a bit colder than the day before. Untill I get my wool naga juban on it is freezing. So finaly I decided to do something about the hole. I put in place a small wooden board attached it with hinges to the wall, and a piece of string to adjust the angel and that was it. I debated what color to make it, first I wanted to make it the same “mud” colour as the wall to hide it, in the end I decided to use a different colour, and now I’m happy I did. Along the same line of thinking I decided to have the hinges on the outside so they would show.

Having thicked off this one thing from my todo list, I only remember one more outstanding thing in the tea room. I need to add white papers to the bottom of the walls. For this task I have a excuse at least, I have tried to get paper and glue but have had some trouble with it. I hope I some day will get it right 😉





The dream has been outsourced

Illustration: ddpavumba http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Illustration: ddpavumba http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

I have dreamed of a house where every room except kitchen and bathroom is covered with tatami, and serves a function during a tea ceremony. I want to turn my barn into such a place, but to get there I need some help. Yesterday, I hired an architect to help me get there. I have of course sent him the same floor plan that I posted here, and I have talked at length about what I want. I have also emphasized that I want him to think independently, and find different solutions than the ones I have concocted. With his experience, he will be much better at seeing possibilities within a building than I am, so it would be a shame if he felt too constrained and ended up just refining my floor-plan. I’m looking forward to receiving the first sketches in three weeks time with a mixture of emotions. I have put my dream into his hands and hope that what he does will surprise and amaze me.

When I received the original quote for the architect a month ago, I reflected on how different a quote feels when you are on the receiving end rather thanthe one giving it. In my work, I propose tasks of similar size to my project owner and customer all the time, it is almost an everyday activity. However, receiving the quote and deciding to accept it was a special feeling and required a lot of thinking on my part. Of course, my customer counts money in millions whereas I count it in thousands, so this sum is much larger for me than for my customer.
Now that the contract is signed, I have taken the second step on this exiting journey. Next milestone will be seeing the sketches for the first time.Check back in three weeks time to see what the architect has come up with!

The professional opinion

IMG_3944It has been a few weeks. I have had a few people come and look at the barn, some professionals and some not. After the first few visits, I believed I just needed to have a the roof changed. Then I hired a carpenter to look at it, and he thorouly crushed my optimistic ideas. In his professional opinion, the best solution is to demolish the barn, and rebuild it from scratch. He pointed out some weaknesses that had escaped me and others before me. It is not that the barn can’t be saved, but it will require a complex series of manoeuvres, raising the barn up and replacing rotten wood. So much so that it will, in fact, be cheaper just to start from scratch.

In addition to the problem with rotten beams, the carpenter also explained that the barn was built with the weakest possible structure. Some old barn are built with over-sized beams, but not mine. This made it even less worth saving in his mind. Before the end of September, I’m supposed to receive an estimate of the costs associated with the carpenters suggestion. Meanwhile, I have been in contact with an architect to enlist his services. In Norway you can’t just build whatever you want on your land, you can’t even use a building that is already there for whatever you want. I need permission to remove the old barn, build a new barn that will include bedrooms, kitchen and bathrooms, none of which the current barn has. The architect is hopeful that I can receive such a permission, but then he is also trying to sell his services.

To summarise the current state of affairs. I’m waiting for a price estimate from the carpenter for demolishing the barn and rebuilding it. I’m also waiting for a price offer from the architect for making the necessary drawings for the application process, writing the application and then if I get the approval, draw construction drawings for the carpenter. While waiting I should be emptying the barn, which is a tedious task.

I have played with a Live Interior 3D too see what I could possible get into a barn like this. Below I have added some early drafts of what the barn could contain. I fully expect the architect to tell me that I’m entirely mad and that it won’t be possible because I haven’t thought about x,y and z. However, I will not let that stop me from dreaming. What do you think of my new dream Tea House?


My cabin is my castle

I stole the title from a research paper by The Research Council of Norway.

Main house from 1924
Main house from 1924

Norwegians love cabins, and they are a big deal here. A big deal! There is no exact definition of what a cabin should look like. A cabin can be a simple hut that provide shelter but has no electricity and the only running water is that leaking through the roof. On the other end of the spectrum, a cabin can be almost like a country estate with garage, internet and jacuzzi. Most people who have cabins, have something in-between these two extremes.

During my youth, I spent probably one out of every two weekends between Easter and October on my uncle’s cabin by the sea. In the last few years, I have been able to borrow cabins from family members and have enjoyed tremendously bringing friends there for a relaxing weekend. This weekend I got my own!!

We bought an old farm about one hour and fifteen minutes from where we live. It is close to the Swedish border. The farm does not have much in the ways of farming land, as that now belongs to other farms in the area. It does have 15.390 square meters of land. More than enough for my purposes.

The main building was built in 1924, but has since been renovated a bit. Though that renovation is probably many decades old. It needs a fair bit of work. It has both running water and electricity. Toilet facilities, not so much. That will be one of the first things that we need to remedy.

The annex, 3x3m
The annex, 3x3m

In addition to the house there is small building (annex), that we might use as a guest room. It has no electricity and is only about three by three meters. Looks like it originally had a wood roof, but that has been covered up by cheap metal roofing sometime in the past. From the inside it looked dry and the structure of the roof sound. Therefore we will probably not do anything about it this year.

The farm also has a barn. The barn is quite large, six by twelve meters. It is in poor condition. If it is possible, I want to turn the barn in to several tea-rooms that can double as guest rooms. Which is the reason for me going on and on about cabins on this Tea blog. It might be my next big Tea project. A sequel to The Making of Chashitsu?

I have a lot of work to do on the barn before we get to the Tea part of the project, though. First of all I’m not a 100% certain that It will be standing next spring unless I do something to support it before we get snow. I’m hoping to enlist some professional help in deciding what has to be done to prevent it from keeling over on it self. Next, as you can see from the images below, it has a glassless “skylight.” Or put another way: there is a big f-ing hole in the roof. That has to be covered up one way or another. In a ideal world I would either have enough time or enough money to have someone else change the entire roof.

Next all the wall planks ought to be changed, and a layer of wind proofing added underneath. That way it would be ready for insulation, which can be put in from the inside. Talking about the inside, there is a lot of stuff on the inside. Mostly wood. Some firewood, some junk wood and some planks that could be used on the outside. But it all has to be cleared out eventually.

In summary, the barn will be a lot of work. In addition, I need approval from the municipal building authorities to change the use of the barn from farm-use to a place for people to sleep and stay. This also include a permit to add some windows. I envision a few actual skylights, and some windows on the side facing into the property.

Received ownership of the property last Friday. We spent the weekend trying to fix the most dire issues. This included covering the barn with tarpaulin to prevent more water from leaking through the various holes in the roof. It was not easy to get the tarpaulin up there, and to fasten it. The roof is not a safe to walk on, and we had to pull the 6x10m tarpaulin over using ropes. Since the old roof is filled with bumps, bent metal sheets and nails sticking up, this was a struggle. It had been impossible to do alone, and I’m very grateful to the kind friends and family members who helped us during the weekend (Ola, my mother, Thomas, Jan, Øystein).


If your curious about the Norwegian cabin culture, just type that phrase into google and you will find many foreigner that has been surprised by the Norwegian obsession with cabins. I hope that the future will give me as many if not more fond memories at our farm as I have from my childhood cabins.