Create a private outdoor getaway with a simple structure from a kit and soft plantings

Sharon Cohoon,  – January 9, 2007

Serenity isn’t complicated: All it takes is getting rid of everything non-essential.

Start with one small corner of the garden ― away from email, PDAs, cell phones, and all other distractions of modern life. Spend as much time there as you can. Then watch how it transforms your state of mind.That, in essence, is the philosophy behind the simple structure pictured here. Architect and artist Tony Gwilliam designed the T House to provide an escape from today’s hectic world ― and, perhaps more important, to put us back in touch with the natural elements.

“American life has moved so far away from nature, we’re almost afraid of it,” he says. “We need to feel the wind again, listen to insects, and watch the moon.”

Gwilliam built his first T House at his home in Ojai, California, where he’d returned after living for years in Indonesia. Pining for the simple pavilions of Bali, he decided to create his own version using readily available American materials. Everyone who saw his finished structure loved it. After building a few more for friends, Gwilliam resolved to make it a business.

In addition to the basic T House, Gwilliam now offers several larger versions, plus custom options ― bamboo blinds, moon windows, hand-carved roof trusses, and more. But he still prefers his original model.

“It’s barely there,” he says. “It’s almost non-architecture.”

As appealing as the space is for meditation, it’s easy to see why some of Gwilliam’s customers choose to use the T House for yoga, massage, napping, dining, drum practice, hanging out beside a hot tub ― even (gasp) office work. The very simplicity of the structure invites you to create an environment that suits you to a T.

Get the look

Consisting of a 6- by 10-foot redwood deck, 8-foot Douglas fir support posts and pop-up kotatsu table, and a roof of waterproof marine fabric, the T House kit comes with pre-sanded wood that is finished with oil and redwood deck stain; pieces simply bolt together. The structure took two people less than a day to assemble from a kit.

The basic kit costs $1,980 plus shipping; for details, including dimensions and prices of larger models, visit or call 805/646-7355. To assemble, you’ll need a carpenter’s level, hammer, power drill, screwdriver, square, stepladder, tape measure, and wrenches.

For information about the grasses shown here or to have a meadow installed, contact John Greenlee at Greenlee Nursery (909/629-9045).

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