The Japanese House

I saved a house that had been hand-built, in the 1960s, by Teruo Hara, a famous Japanese potter from the Corcoran School of Fine Arts, and his students. When Mr Hara died in the 1980s, the grounds and buildings– house, studio, pottery and kilns–went through a long period of neglect, and then had been boarded up for many years. The property was targeted by developers for demolition and grading, to use as a site for clustered townhouses.

When the economic crash happened, and prices dropped, I was able to rescue the house. Vines were growing over everything, including the bamboo and trees. There was no water, heat or electricity; vandals had broken windows and spray painted the interior; vintage broken beer bottles and squatters’ sleeping bags littered the floors; the kiln roofs were collapsing, and a contractor fell part-way through one; the “trash-out” men had to remove the plumbing and appliances; the toxic and hazardous team had to remove the asbestos concrete panels… etc

When I was about to buy the place, I had my attorney, appraiser, and banker walk through it with me. They looked around at everything, looked at each other, then looked at me, as if I might need some more remedial consultation. 

The attorney cleared his throat and asked, as politely as possible, “So Katherine, what exactly were you thinking of doing with this property?”

“I don’t really know,” I said. “But isn’t it beautiful?” 


(Footnote: It reminded me of my Sausalito Tree House, where I wrote my first two books.)

The story of the rescue of the house was documented by The Washington Post and the ongoing quest appears below.

Evolution of the Japanese House

Japonaiserie, Mon Amour

One August, decades ago, I journeyed to Japan. It was the hottest August on record, the Tokyo sidewalks were scalding, one couldn’t walk on the

The Garden

When I write a piece of music I note on the score the kind of emotion I have in mind. A garden should be calm

Zen is When…

The sounds of Japan are evoked by temple bells, wind chimes, water over stones, wind in bamboo groves, taiko drums (first created, as myth assures

Heaven & Earth

As layers and years of neglect of the Japanese House were peeled away, something interesting emerged: a vision of “the house within the house.” It

Design for Living

Escape from Structured Environment As a child, I’d always wanted to be outside climbing trees, picking persimmons or pears to eat, or buckeyes that bring

Wind and Water (Feng Shui)

“Wind and Water” (Feng Shui) There is a system of building design that precedes Neutra’s by millennia: Feng Shui is the ancient oriental art of

The Mysterious Symbol

The Mysterious Symbol August 8, 2014 Late at night, my first winter in the Japanese house, I was sleeping on cushions on the floor when

The Monticello Connection

One very hot June, shortly after buying the Japanese house, I was standing on the west lawn of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, waiting for us to

Journey to Chogetsu

Part II of The Monticello Connection Fay’s “other house” was quite a bit different from mine: hers was famous. I’d already read about it, in Architectural

Japanese House Restoration

The Studio

Relocating the Kiln

As part of the restoration of the Japanese House, a team of professional potters is dismantling Teruo Hara’s historic, hand-built kilns, which will be reassembled

Dismantling the Kiln

It took a year and a half and a team of potters to completely dismantle Teruo Hara’s kilns at the Japanese House. The potters took apart the kilns, brick

Dismantling the Studio

The kiln house was fully dismantled and a new structure inspired by the old one will be built in it’s place.

Rebuilding the Studio

Putting together the post and beam reconstruction of kiln house studio. Peter Bugler of Acorn Design in Pennsylvania brought me these beautiful cedar posts nearly

Japonisme Influences

Exposition Universelle Paris, 1867 Japan under the Shoguns was isolated from the world for over 250 years, from the early 1600s — and then emerged

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed a magical house, now a museum, where I used to have lunch when I lived in Vienna writing The Magic Circle.

Japonisme Influences