One of the beauties of cultural diversity is that it allows for a myriad of different aesthetics to flourish. Theoretically, each region of the world has its own authentic style, which can be seen in its cuisine, art, clothing, and of course, architecture. Architecture and interior design are often some of the most timeless renditions of a given cultural aesthetic.
Today we will be exploring the Korean style of interior design, which bears many of the hallmarks of Asian design more broadly, yet it differs in distinct ways from say, Japanese architecture and design. With minimalism on the rise, it can be useful to explore specific cultural expressions of the trend. Korean interior design offers a brand of minimalism that emphasizes harmony and functionality. It is unpretentious at its core, which allows the elegance of simplicity to become most apparent.
A common counterpart of an interior design scheme that emphasises the use of natural light is the incorporation of light timber tones throughout. These two components work in tandem to enhance the look of the other.
Here, we can see an example of a light and airy space that is clad primarily in light timber. Things certainly do feel fresh and harmonious! The sense of spaciousness ultimately helps to create a more functional living space. Of course, you can always add more timber in your furnishings or accents as well. We love the look of these contrasting rich-hued wooden chairs amidst an otherwise pale wooden colour scheme. Keep in mind that palm, bamboo, and teak are completely welcome in Korean interior design as well.
One of the main means by which Korean design emphasises spatial harmony is through its use of natural light. Across the board, natural light is one of the most effective ways to illuminate a given interior. This form of light is typically easier on the eyes than fluorescent, and it helps to create a more ethereal atmosphere. Korean aestheticians are no stranger to these facts, and letting natural light flood the space is one of the trademark elements of this form of interior design.
Take this bedroom by Baomida, for example. The abundant natural light emanates from the window and skylight to create a cheerful and inviting interior. If possible, consider adding a skylight to your home in order to compound the wonderful effects of natural light in darker corners of the interior.
Since we’ve established that the main stars of the show in Korean interior design include an abundance of natural light and lots of light wood, it probably won’t surprise you that the colour schemes in this aesthetic are typically kept minimal.
Here, minimal means that things are largely neutral. Favourite colour tones include white, grey, yellow, silver, beige and brown. Stick to these when designing the room, and choose your accents carefully. In this bedroom, for example, the colour scheme predominantly consists of white, timber, and grey. The intentional selection of a few blue items stand out against this palette without taking away from the minimal feel.
If you’re wondering just where exactly these colour accents tend to come into play, Korean design favours quirky accessories and vintage pieces. Therefore, try throwing in a few bolder accent pillows, or hitting up your local flea market for truly unique items that will make a statement.
This living space is certainly quite neutral in colouring, all the better for making this treasured retro tea set stand out as part of the décor. When simplicity is prioritised in the design scheme, it’s easier to accessorise with just a few coveted items.
The Korean lifestyle traditionally includes more time spent on low, flat furniture where functionality is of primary importance, and grandiosity is secondary. Things are kept unpretentious and convenient as much as possible. The result is that more furniture is situated directly on the floor. This has been the case in many areas in Asia since the beginning of civilisation, in fact. Craftsmanship and quality of materials used in creating these necessary items, like floor mats, is still cherished.
In order to adopt this perspective on furnishing, try adding some cosy floor seating or sleeping areas to your home. Use sturdy, well-made cushions as the base for a comfy sitting area, choose a low hung table with cushions over a traditional western model, and opt for a simple mattress or futon for sleeping.
One of the other trademark elements of Korean interior design is to use bookshelves as a function of minimalist decoration. This means that, similar to Scandinavian design, books and other small mementos are displayed as a functional form of ornamentation. A bookcase with exposed shelving is, after all, a pretty simple piece of furniture.
To achieve the look, simply stack the shelf high with your favourite books and volumes. Lean a framed photo or arrange some small statues in the empty areas of the shelf to create a more dynamic and intriguing effect.
Along with adding some quirky vintage items to your look, don’t be afraid go a bit shabby chic. In fact, amidst all that natural light, pale timber, and minimalist décor, a good piece of old wooden furniture can really help to substantiate the design scheme. Plus, a single piece of this nature will stand out against the backdrop of lighter colour tones and sparse decoration. This gorgeous shabby chic armoire is the focal point of this otherwise neutral, minimalist room.
If you are intrigued by low-fuss Korean interior design, you might also like this guide to incorporating a modern Scandinavian look into your home.