Brian Schulze Hand Crafted Japanese Wood Fired Bath House

Categories: Home Stylings


I love the tradition of the Japanese Bath. The ritual of slowly washing and soaking in a calm and beautiful setting, a cleansing of the mind and the heart as opposed to merely washing the body.

Our bath house is a vision I've had since we started the farm, in fact it's heartbeat, the Chofu wood-fired hot tub heater, is the first thing I purchased for our land once we decided to commit to buying the property. Literally the very first thing. While consumed with the neccessary projects of getting the farm up and running, I quietly collected materials, not quite knowing how they would all fit together. Permaculture farming is the art of watching the land and learning how you can use the natural flows of water, sunshine, shade, and nutrients to grow food, in essence working with the land as opposed to a heavy handed approach of imposing your will upon it. The same principles apply to architecture. Watching how people use space one learns how to meet those needs without indiscriminantly dumping cash onto the problem.

Cedars blow down in a windstorm on a friends' property and I peel them and carry them out of the woods. A bunch of 3x3's wash up on the beach and I spend weeks carrying them one by one, destined to become rafters for the roof. Three twenty-year old solar hot water panels arrive at the dump and I buy them for the price of scrap. A plain fiberglass soaking tub is bought at the recycle center for fifty dollars. While fishing for salmon I notice a new cedar log and tie it up to be floated in the next winters flood. The winter after that I mill it into boards, and the next winter I make it into shiplap siding and nail it up inside the sauna. I try to salvage as much as I can. If each piece has a story, then the structure has meaning, it has a soul.

The frame of the structure is notched and bolted cedar poles sitting on an 11'x11' stained concrete pad. Rafters are 3x3's with cedar shakes nailed directly onto spaced sheathing boards. The front half of the pole-frame is infilled with 2x6's, covered with plywood and cedar shakes. This enclosed area creates a room that houses the plumbing for the solar loop, the wood-fired hot tub heater, and provides a small warm sitting area. The interior is filled with plain fiberglass recycled from another project, and covered with a heavy foil vapor barrier, over which I nailed home-milled shiplap cedar boards. The rectangle you see in the bottom of the front wall is a horizontal door that opens to reveal a window that admits sunlight to warm the room in the summer months. The two panels on the roof are old solar hot water panels, and the little photovoltaic panel powers a small pump that pumps water up through those panels when the sun is shining. The panels are drained manually on freezing nights. The tub sits in the open air at the back of the structure. The tiny building you see to the left is a composting toilet.

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