Kyoto House – The art of tea is the art of life

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Design: MAKHNO Studio – ph. Naoki Miyashita
Year: 2023

In the ancient capital of japan, in an old house, we created a modern japanese-ukrainian design. This is a home for tea and life – Serhii Makhno


A century-old house where a family with kids lives has a unique history and atmosphere. The waves of time left traces on it, making it unique. Therefore, when reconstructing it, it was important not to destroy these feelings, but rather to refine and enhance them by adding a drop of Ukrainian colour to the Japanese context.

That is why we have preserved many authentic elements in KYOTO HOUSE, such as original tatami mats or textured clay wall surfaces.

And now the owner of the house in Kyoto expresses his respect to you and invites you to “sado”, a tea performance in his humble home. This experience can be one of the most amazing in your life.


The tea action begins at the entrance to the house. There is a small tea garden called “roji”. It is decorated with Japanese ritual stones and Ukrainian DIDO art sculptures from the MAKHNO workshop. These good entities protect the house from sad thoughts and uninvited guests.

The meaning of the roji garden is that on your way to the master’s house, you linger and admire for a minute, opening your heart to restrained beauty and your thoughts to poetic images. And then the door of the house is slightly open. It means that you are expected.


The entrance hall of a Japanese house is called “genkan,” where you take off your shoes and leave them turned around until you leave. On the way to the spacious living room, you are greeted by collectable works of Japanese and Ukrainian art, as well as their owner. He respectfully invites you into the room.


You enter a spacious, bright room, the centre of which is divided by a byobu, a light Japanese screen. The owner explains that the hall is multifunctional: on one side is his office with artwork and a niche for calligraphy tools; on the other is the living room where guests are received. And if they stay overnight, a couple of comfortable futons, traditional Japanese mattresses, are laid out here.

The owner talks about the interior of the “shoin-zukuri” or “study style” of the Japanese house, which originates from the design of the dwellings of Zen monks and samurai of the XV-XVI centuries. It can always be recognized by its characteristic “shoji” – sliding doors, as well as window and room partitions made of translucent sheets of rice paper in wooden frames. This is the first image that comes to mind when you think of Japanese interiors.


After enjoying a leisurely conversation, the host invites you to the heart of KYOTO HOUSE – the tea room, or “chashitsu”. This room used to serve as a bedroom, but now it is an authentic tearoom with a wabi-sabi spirit and all the proper attributes.

Decorated with new tatami and Japanese “vashi” paper, the tashitsu leads you to its centre, where the “ro”, a special fire for making tea, is located. It never goes out. Above the ro, you see a hanging teapot, and the owner is skillfully handling it.

The tea performance does not tolerate idle chatter. Therefore, in order to tune the spirit and soul, the host invites you to immerse yourself in meditation, contemplating the tokonoma.


Tokonoma is the most honourable place in a Japanese home, a sign of an aristocratic house. It is a niche in the wall of a tashitsu where objects are placed to guide you on your tea journey.

Here is a “shepherd” – a special ikebana for a tea party that embodies the principles of wabi and sabi: restrained beauty and the transience of time. It is a minimalist bouquet of seasonal plants, often with only one flower. Chabana symbolizes the heart of the owner of the tashitsu.

The shepherdess is enveloped in a vase by the great Japanese master Shiro Tsujimura. Above it are scrolls with poetic sayings by calligraphy master Shuho Kondo. While your host is preparing tea, you plunge into the depths of paradoxical Eastern wisdom:

“True light surpasses shine and darkness but cannot be seen with the eyes. true light is beyond bright and dark”


Every movement of the tea master is precise and defined. There are no random steps, gestures, or even breaths. This is not a ceremony, but rather a spiritual experience, like a prayer liturgy. This practice is at once an active meditation, a sensual experience, and the highest form of communication. “The art of tea is the art of life,” says the host, and you make a subtle bow of respect.

The Japanese tea ceremony is called “sado,” literally “the way of tea.” Originating in the 16th century, it is a highly ritualized meditative experience that reflects the principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquillity. From that time to this day, this action has been the centre of the Japanese spiritual life.


The master guides you through the path of tea, offering the life-giving liquid in a chawan, a traditional tea ceremony cup. The chawan perfectly embodies the principles and aesthetics of wabi-sabi – a handleless ceramic vessel made by hand, often without the use of a potter’s wheel; simple and perfect in its imperfection. The older the vase, the more valuable it is. Because the history of an object is its soul. At the end of the tea ceremony, the master shows you his collection of Japanese artistic ceramics from different schools and periods: products by Bidzen, Shigaraki, and others.

The owner tells us that the amazing Bidzen ware comes from the region of the same name in Okayama Prefecture, and it has a special native charm due to its reddish hues and slightly glossy surface texture. Bijen products have been created using authentic firing techniques without the use of glaze for more than five centuries, and it is one of the six oldest ceramic schools in Japan.

Shigaraki ware from Shiga Prefecture is also a prominent tradition. Ceramics here are characterized by a special technique of firing coarse clay in wood-fired kilns, which creates strong, golden-coloured vessels with irregularities and a special aroma. This is the epitome of wabi-sabi. Since the 13th century, Shigaraki ware has been associated with tea parties due to its naturalness and aesthetics.


Along with Japanese ceramics, you can also see Ukrainian ceramics. Here’s a whole family of DIDOs created by hand by hereditary potters in MAKHNO workshops. Perfect in every detail, they make a great company for the products of the most famous Japanese masters. After all, they continue the traditions of Ukrainian zoomorphic ceramics, which are more than three thousand years old and are now surprising the world.

Here you can find a ceramic lion by the famous Ukrainian potter Serhii Radko, plates and earthenware by MAKNO studio master Slavko Odarchenko, paintings by artist Oleksandr Babak, as well as traditional and modern Japanese graphics.

Looking at the diverse and restrainedly exquisite art collection of KYOTO HOUSE, you don’t even notice that the house is enveloped in twilight. And while you are admiring the amazingly crafted DIDO, the owner of the house is laying out your futon in preparation for the evening sado.

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