Zen Tea Garden in Seattle

Fujita side path
stone patio wall stream river tea garden

Zen Tea Garden by Shepherd Stoneworks

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In 2005, I was hired to make a patio in the Madrona neigborhood. The owner is a Zen Buddhist who was interested in making a traditional Tea Ceremony room in her basement with an accompanying outdoor seating area.  There are several Zen design concepts that were to be implemented in the final product:  large raised stepping stones leading to the basement entrance, a stone bowl with flowing water for the washing of hands, and a style of stone laying which incorporated many happy accidents (a concept the Japanese call “wabi-sabi“) which mimic the patterns of nature.

In the photo, you see a stone river which not only decorates the stone pattern, it helps to carry runoff to the far corner, where a craftily hidden drain sends it safely through a bank of soil to the severe drop-off on the other side.

The wall and pavement are Pennsylvania Bluestone, the wall caps are Wilkeson Sandstone.

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A big part of the purpose of this project was to expand the living area of a mostly windowless basement into the outdoors, and to expand the usable area just outside the door.  Many truckloads of soil were removed by hand to carve out a big sunken area where there used to be only a short stairwell.  A U-shaped seating wall was built around the perimeter, two of the sides having large stones placed as a back rest.  Stone steps lead out of two corners of the patio.

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Here is how the site looked when I first went to meet with the customers.  The deck was rotten, and the wooden stairs served to box in the whole area outside the basement.  I tore it all out and rebuilt it smaller to open it up more, and with the stairs coming down the opposite side of the deck.

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This granite stone bowl sits just outside the basement door and has a tap-fed bamboo faucet for hand washing.  And there is low-voltage lighting imbedded in the stonework throughout the patio.

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The customer wanted a pathway which illustrated a movement from structure (the rectangular patterns in front) to chaos (the random flagstones further on) with a nice transition between the two.  This is another prescribed design feature for the traditional Zen Tea Garden.  The stones in the front are Pennsylvania Bluestone Dimensional Tiles, and the random flagstones are a mix of Bluestone and Three Horse Sandstone.

It was a great opportunity for me to hone my skills, not only at building but also design.  There are so many choices in a project like this that a stone mason has to make, and all of those choices put together make up a design – in this case, a design not drawn on paper but written in stone.

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by Mark Shepherd   www.ShepherdStoneworks.com

(206) 618-0558

Bringing the finest in Stone Masonry to the Greater Seattle Area.

Natural stone walls, patios, steps and rockery of all sizes.

Mortared stone veneers, fireplace surrounds, and interiors.

Integrated landscape design and installation.

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