Tea Houses
by Swatt Miers


Architects Swatt Miers have suspended three glass pavilions over the edge of a valley in northern California (+ slideshow).

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Located in the grounds of the client's home, the three Tea Houses were designed to provide quiet, contemplative spaces that are free from the distractions of television, internet, telephone and even music.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

The largest of the three pavilions provides a workspace that can also be used for hosting small parties, while the second is for sleeping and the third was conceived as a meditative space for a single person.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Overhanging trees shade the transparent glass walls, which are held in place by horizontal steel joists and vertical concrete cores.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

A bathroom bridges the largest of the two rooms and underfloor heating keeps each space warm.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

We've previously featured a music recital room inspired by a Japanese tea house and a meditation hut with a v-shaped roof.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

See all our stories about tea houses »

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Photography is by Tim Griffith.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Here's a project description from Swatt Miers:

The idea for the Tea Houses originated when the client and architect partnered years earlier on the sustainable remodel of the 6,000 square foot main house. During construction the client found respite in a remote location on the site, below a ridge an under a grove of Heritage California Live Oaks. As a high-tech Silicon Valley executive, the desire was to create a place where he could simply retreat into nature.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Years later the vision was realized as three individual Tea Houses. The 270 square foot ‘meditating’ Tea House, nestled under the canopy of the largest oak tree, is a place for individual meditation.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

The slightly larger ‘sleeping’ Tea House, approximately 372 square feet, is a space designed for overnight stays. This structure is joined by a sky-lit bathroom ‘bridge’ to the largest Tea House.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

At 492 square feet, the ‘visioning’ Tea House is for intimate gatherings and creative thinking. The notion of ‘quiet simplicity’ is a consistent theme throughout - there are to be no phones, internet, televisions or audio systems within the structures.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

‘Respect’ and ‘restraint’ are the principles that would guide the construction, and extreme care is taken to minimize impacts to the landscape. The design concept of three separate’ micro’ structures, versus one large structure, enables the project to tread lightly on the land.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

And to ensure preservation of the Heritage Oaks’ root systems, the teahouses are literally lifted off the ground, supported by cast-in-plate concrete structural cores. Steel-channel rim joists cantilever beyond the vertical cores to support the floor and roof platforms.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

The Tea Houses are passively cooled to eliminate the noise impact from mechanical systems. Steel-framed doors and awning windows provide high/low ventilation.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Natural cooling is further enhanced by shading from strategically located landscaping, including evergreen oaks, bamboo, deciduous maple and gingko trees. Heating is distributed through a quiet and efficient in-floor radiant system.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

The sculptural interpretation of a simple tea house has succeeded in a magnificent tribute to the beauty of nature. As the sunlight and shadows move across the hillside the Tea Houses take on different forms- at sunrise the structures disappear into the long shadows; the soft silhouette of the midday sun casts dramatic reflections off the glass; and by evening, the structures glow like lanterns.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Site plan - click above for larger image

Viewed from afar or viewed from within, the Tea Houses are works of art living amongst the trees and grasses of their native California hillside.

Tea Houses by Swatt Miers

Plans and elevation - click above for larger image

  • Aaron

    These are lovely as buildings but I’m unconvinced about their capacity to allow one to ‘simply retreat into nature’. Look at this beautiful location. The best way to meditate in it – or retreat into beauty – would be to sit under a tree. Why put concrete, steel and glass in the way?

    I suppose it’s the curse of money. When you can afford something like this it takes a certain amount of will to just throw down a bamboo mat.

    • Franck

      I share this comment: it’s a nice “exercise de style”.

  • Dean

    This is a beautiful minimalist design, thoughtful use of material, and — for a structure — it does “tread lightly on the land”.

    Alas, it seems to be about “getting back to nature” without… getting back to nature.

  • osusanna

    With recent news on the reflections on glass luring birds to their death I think these buildings should have the glass replaced with non-reflecting types. Or, decals? Ugh, but what to do?

  • Yue-Hong Ni

    I realy like it. It’s pure, pithy and creats intangible beauty.But it seems not a new thing. Its design concept is from the Modernism which was created by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe.

  • Noe Berengena

    Where are the storage units? People accumulate hundreds of objects (many of them useless admittedly) in a typical lifestyle. And if one wants to preserve this pristine look then those things need to be stashed away.

  • theidlearchitect

    Mies strikes again… bwaaahahaaa!

  • Shahram

    I am so sick of these minimalist glass houses. They do not seem either functional nor comfortable. I live in Los Angeles and this concept is nothing but and an old idea. Think of something new.

  • Yojimbo

    These buildings are pieces of art in the landscape. Elegant and thoughtful, and functional too!

  • heather- NZ

    It’s a restful safe place to just think, or not. Imagine the rain running down – what a lovely natural picture that would be. Sometimes when lives are busy we all need a place like this just to get grounded with no distractions.

    I am having this as my desktop background to remind me of a home that’s just pure simple and how we don’t need stuff like we think we do.