The Making of Chashitsu, the door won

After a prolonged battle with sadoguchi I’m surrendering. This weekend I took down the entire wall that was hiding the door. I’m going to install a very different type of system for the door. Previously I have had a door that has been sliding like a proper shoji/fusuma. Now I will instead install a metal railing behind the wall from which the door will be hanging. The railing and hanging mechanism is shown on the one of the photos in this post.

Result of this weekends effort
Result of this weekends effort

Over the weekend I was able to get the railing in place, and also install a hanging door. Though I’m not entirely happy with the material I chose for the door so I plan on heading to the lumber shop again to get a bit thicker wood and redo it.

Mechanism for hanging the sadoguchi from the ceiling

While I was at it and had the wall down I was able to thread a IKEA led light behind the wall perpendicular to the one I removed. I have cut a small window in the wall. This window will be just in front of the host. My goal is to light up the host and the utensils a bit, so that the guests better can see what is happening. I’ll be prioritizing completing the wall and the door first. Then I will start looking at installing a window in front of the led light

Window for LED lights to make the host more visible

The never ending story


The door is stuck again… seems like I have to make another attempt at a door. I have lost count of how many times I have redone this. I guess it is time to take some drastic measures. I’m planning to remove the entire wall, so that I can access the area behind. Instead of a sliding door like I have to day I want to make it a hanging door. I have one of those in the mizuya, and it has given me absolutely no hassle, and that is what I want from my sado-guchi too.

I’m not looking forward to the work this will involve, not to mention that the room will probably not be usable while I’m working on it. The only advantage is that I might be able to make a window in the new wall to fix the lighting issue I was talking about in this post.It would ideally go on the wall perpendicular to the one that is coming down, but it is tempting to just hit two birds with this one wall.

The Making of Chashitsu, skills and tools

I was asked what I knew and what resources I used to build my Tea room. I actually thought that was a very good topic for a blogpost. So here we go.

I stayed one year in Midorikai and had the pleasure of seeing a lot of different Tea rooms. So I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the room to look like. I refereed to a very nice book to confirm my Tea-room layout. It is a great book so I have included a image of the cover. It is probably 10x as good if you can read Japanese, but even just looking at the images provided me with valuable aid.
The room I was using forced some constraints on me. For instance there is no way I could make two entrances, or make the tokonoma full size. So there I had to improvize a bit.
Design book

To figure out exactly how much space I had available and how to distribute pillars and tatami I used Live Interior 3D. This is a software for Mac that is very easy to use and create great floor plans. It even made a movie of my design. I posted the movie in a earlier post. I sent the floor plans and the movie  to the Tea teachers I know asking for feedback. They gave me good advice on things that I had forgot, or improvements that I should consider.  After a few iterations I had a final design.

Then to the woodwork. I’m not a carpenter. However, neither am I the least handy person I know. My dad loves building and renovating. He built our first home from scratch and renovated a house from 1935 as our next home. So this has exposed me to a certain amount of carpentry, but mostly as the assistant fetching tools and wood. Also I might note that this is not my first Tea-room. I’m going to make a image post about the evolution of my Tea spaces later. Sufficient to say I have tried and only partially succeeded in making a room based on shoji walls, but I had previously made fake mud-walls successfully.

From my experience with the different rooms I have made Tea rooms can be a fairly simple structure. Basically you need a frame around the tatami and some walls. The walls can be as simple as a painted sheet of wood, or as complex as a real mud wall or fusuma. I believe that with some experience from renovating, making a garden fence or some such thing that most people should be able to make a decent room. The main problem with making a room I guess is that unless you have seen a lot of Tea rooms you need a few iterations to get it the way you wanted. Some one once told me that if you are building your own home you need to to it five times to get it perfect, I guess Tea-rooms are the same in this regard.

The most challenging things for me was:

  • Making a platform for the entire room to rest on. It has to be perfectly even and stable. The main purpose of this was to allow a sunken ro, but also to reduce the height of the room.
  • Hiding the fact that I had cheated. I want the room to appear authentic as much as possible. That is no visible torx, no apparent modern materials and so on. My room is far from perfect in this regards, but there is very few obvious cheats visible.
  • The level of details involved in cutting every piece of wood the exact right size. I got some small gaps that should not be there because I failed in this.
  • Making shoji.
  • Trying to get everything as “correct” as possible from a Tea perspective. I very much want to avoid to having to settle for workarounds. Again that was impossible for some things like the doors and tokonoma.

Over the years I have accumulated a decent selection of carpentry tools that helped me a great deal while making this Tea room. I also used the Tea-room as excuse to buy some new ones 😉  This is a list an the main tool and the what I used them for:

  • Electric drill, everything in my room is fasten with torx screws. So this has been a absolute must have tool for me.
  • Jigsaw for cutting the boards I used as walls
  • Miter Saw with Laser Marker, for cutting all the planks and pillars. I could have substituted this one for a handsaw and about a million calories. I would still be working on the floor if I had not had this.
  • Sanding machine, all pieces of visible wood was given a quick sanding with this machine. Again something that you could do without if your willing to put in the extra effort and do it by hand.
  • A machine to make grooves in pilars. Sorry could not figure out what it is called in English. All my walls slide into groves to make the transition between walls and pillars as smooth as possible. This is not strictly necessary. The only place you really need it if for the doors. They need to go into grooves if you do not want to cheat and use a modern solution with wheels or something suspended from the roof.
The main lessons learned from building my room is:
  • Thin plaster walls are easy to work with and cheap to buy. However, if I could do it over again I would have made it all with the 21mm wood sheets instead. The plaster bends slightly and will not support any weight if you touch them.
  • Make the mizuya shelves very deep. I got only 20cm, but 27cm would have been way better.
  • Lighting the room by using a shoji window with spotlight behind works very vell. But it would have been a good idea to have more than one window. With only one window spots can become very dark when someone or something is blocking the only window.

The Making of Chashitsu, Day 13-17

q5I have been painting, painting and painting the last few days. The first walls were easy, as I could remove them from the sliders and just place them on the floor to paint them. The sand looked really nice on these. The walls that could not be removed was more work. There I had to mix sand into the paint, and be careful not to paint the birch. After two coatings the room looks almost finished. I got some feedback from a friend in Kyoto that I should have placed the main window differently and have made it bigger. I’m still waiting for details. This is also the only wall segment that has not been painted.

Behind the left walls when entering the Tea-room I have some storage space. I had not thought about the size, since the layout of the room pretty much dictated how it would be. I have brought all the Tea items I own down, and I could just fit all the boxes in the storage area 🙂 Which means that it will be some free space in there as soon as I start putting items out in the mizuya.

The Making of Chashitsu, Day 12

Finally the room is starting to look like a Tea-room. Was able to finish up both the tokonoma and the rest of the walls today. Made two small windows. One in the side wall of the tokonoma to give some light to the scroll, and a second window to give light to the rest of the room. Since my Tea-room is located in the basement there is no natural light. My windows therefore opens only to a small area lit by two led-spotlights. I’m planning to make small shoji screens to place in front of the two windows. Both to hide the spotlight and to soften the light. The images today is shot without flash, and the room is lit only by the two “windows.” A nice benefit of the larger window, is that from it I can reach both spotlights to control their intensity.

Tokonoma with flower shaped window and the mainwindow

After the photos were taken I went over and applied spackle to all the seams and cracks. Probably need to do that once more when it has dried. Then I can start painting.

Behind the wooden wall next to the entrance there is some open space. I haven’t really thought about the size of it. Measured it today, and according to my calculations I should be able to fit about 20 moving boxes of dogu behind there 🙂


The Making of Chashitsu, Color sample II

Texture test adding sand to the paint

Did a colour test the other day, now I need to figure out how to get the texture of the wall right. The only place I could think of that would have sand in many different granularities was the aquarium shop. My local aquarium shop had a granularity I liked. I have tried two different ways of applying it to the surface. In the left trial I painted the surface and then sprinkled the sand onto the wet paint. After the paint had dried I painted it once more. In the right trial I mixed some sand into the pain. I painted twice, both times with sand mixed into the paint. The end result was much the same, however I liked the control I had when I sprinkled it on the wet paint.

I mentioned it the other day, that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the colours I had bought. So I have been out getting some new colours to try.
Starting from the right side and going left. First I got the original wall colour that I think is too yellow.

Colour test for walls and wood

Than there is a small patch that is a bit darker. This is the original paint, but I got the shop to add more black to it (for free). It is better than the original.
Next is a trial for colouring of the visible wood in the room. I’m thinking of corner pillars, sliders for fusuma and such. I had one earlier that was too light, so I’m trying something darker now. It became more grey than expected. The lower part has two layers, and the top only one.
Next is a new colour for the walls. It is a bit darker and much less yellow than my previous trials. I like this much better than what I got before.
Finally I got one last attempt at the colour for the visible wood. This time it is brown with one layer at the bottom and two on the top. This is more the colour I envisioned that the wood would be, but the grey one is kind of growing on me. Please use the comment field and let me know what you think.

The Making of Chashitsu, Color sample

q9I’m not a 100% certain that I have chosen the correct colour for the walls. The image show how the two type of wall material will look with two layers of paint.

The piece of wood in the middle is a sample of how the corner posts will look. I’m not happy with that colour. Not nearly dark enough. I need to find a different way to darken the corner posts to obtain the colour I want. Today nothing was done on the room.