Tea and tranquility

A simple structure is a peaceful retreat in Santa Rosa

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When a mentor offered to give landscape designer Jeff Allen a Japanese teahouse that the two had built together, Allen felt he'd received a great gift. "My grandfather had just passed away, so the teahouse garden became a special place to honor my elders," he explains.

Allen situated the teahouse in a distant part of the garden so that visiting it would feel like leaving the outside world behind. Beech trees, a dogwood, and 'Yellow Wave' New Zealand flax screen it from the main house. Beside the teahouse is a large 'Kwanzan' flowering cherry tree. In summer, a nearby 'Golden Delicious' apple tree bears sweet fruit. A drift of acorus softens the edges of the steppingstone in the foreground.

The beam over the entry of the redwood structure is just 5 feet high, enhancing the sense of enclosure. (In Japanese culture, the low beam also induces a sense of humility, since you have to duck under it to enter the structure.) Inside, there's a bench scattered with colorful cushions that are as comfortable as they are decorative.

After a tough day, the teahouse provides the perfect respite, Allen says.

DESIGN: Anne-Marie and Jeff Allen, Allen Landscaping, Santa Rosa (707/526-3177)

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