Cha Le Teahouse

Interior Design 

Location / Vancouver, BC
Project Type / Restaurant Interior
Size / 674 sf
Completion / Current
Construction Budget / 

Photography / Ema Peter


Cha Le Teahouse interprets the traditional teahouse with a contemporary character that relies on an interplay of bold geometries and light palettes. A plywood matrix functions as an ordering system for the retail display, while the motif is replicated throughout the teahouse to create a sense of rhythm, depth and shadow through the space. This uniform backdrop lends visual calm and serenity to the sensual experience of drinking tea.

Materiality is central to the tea ceremony – beyond the sensual qualities of the tea, the ‘interplay’ between natural elements in the space and objects of the ceremony equally inform the experience. The ceremony of exchange, and the concentration of awareness towards posture and gestures is articulated through simple objects. The senses are heightened by focusing on a single material, revealing the variations and unique qualities that inherent to items of ritual. The design for Cha Le Teahouse interprets this attentiveness by elevating modest, ubiquitous construction materials to allow for architectural clarity and refinement. 

The focus on wood is economical, and alludes to the sensitivity to materiality that is significant to traditional Chinese tea ceremonies, and often expressed through humble materials. The sculptural mass and quality of the 'tea bar' creates and shapes the space around it, finding inspiration in the Modernist sculptures of Donald Judd, in which materials such as plywood are distilled to their essential qualities.

Cha Le Teahouse makes use of a restrained quantity and minimal tonal qualities in the materials used, expressed through a uniformity in the material palette. Whereas the ordering structure of the space may be described as rigid and orthogonal, we intentionally softened perceptual hard edges by choosing a warm, light palette that adds a sophisticated quality to the overall reading of the space. The teahouse adopts a harmonic and subdued sense of lighting throughout the space. The lighting design for Cha Le Tea House was a partnership with Ombrages. The specified panel lights emphasize and integrate the architectural grid, delivering a softened light to the space. Embedded within the grid, the light hovers in a mysterious manner, blurring over the crisp lines of the grid. Natural light is allowed to flood in through the shop-front, connecting the teahouse to the street-level patio.