If you know anything about Korea, you’d know that Koreans have an impeccable eye for detail and design, whether it be through clothing, art, or makeup. Though Korean culture permeates through all discourse in Western society, we consider Korean-style interior design to be a hidden gem, unique for its minimalism and punctuated quirkiness that many Americans strive to achieve. It is important to understand the things that make Korean interior design different from the interior designs of other Asian cultures, and allow us to appreciate the culture even more.
Specific and functional furniture truly make the Korean-style space what it is, and relies greatly on making the most out of less. Korean interior design is characterized by its simplicity, warm tones, and natural light, meaning when you strut into a Korean furniture store, you’re likely to encounter light wood tones and subdued colors. It is both ethereal and effortless; elegance without grandiosity. It is normal for domestic life to be rather small in Korea, households often holding only one or two occupants, so you’ll find furniture where the value lies in its practicality. If Korean interior design interests you, the Korean Furniture Museum does a beautiful job of preserving the details of Korea’s historical relationship with furniture and design; this is definitely worth a visit!
Furniture shopping is an extreme sport. Whether or not you subscribe to the typical Korean interior, it is both exciting and nerve-wracking to pick out and commit to furniture without emptying your wallet, especially in Korea where the furniture market is highly saturated. So we’re here to help make the process a little easier! Here are six furniture stores in Korea that truly emulate both the modern Korean model and subversive expression you may be looking for.
1. Nonhyeon-dong Furniture Street
The go-to place for furniture shopping is the iconic Nonhyeon-dong Furniture Street, situated in Gangnam-gu between the Nonhyeon and Hakdong subway stations. Started in 1970, Nonhyeon-dong Furniture Street has lived on to garner a reputation as the place to obtain domestic and foreign furniture. Gangnam itself attracts many fashion-oriented folks, which influences the museum-like aesthetics of these showrooms. This street is considered to be the capital for furniture distribution, especially since it separates itself through having roughly 70% imported furniture. Thus, it is known to offer a wide range of household items for offices, kitchens, bedrooms---you name it. Whether you’re looking for vintage, modern, or futuristic furniture, this mecca has it.
This street holds 70 different furniture enterprises for you to choose from, ranging from quaint and delicate boutiques for those household accessories to those massive department stores for your larger purchases. We know how difficult it is to decide and commit to items that can be upwards of 1,100,000 won, or about $900, but here in Nonhyeon-dong, the selection is so extensive in terms of price and design that you’ll never feel excluded.
Not only do some businesses offer higher-end imports of exemplary quality from brands like Potocco and designers like Karim Rashid, but others supply discount furniture or are owned by local furniture designers themselves. Trust us, there is no shortage of any kind of furniture. There are opportunities to support both small and large businesses. With the cornucopia of brands and items, you can likely find most of your furniture here!
2. Hanssem Furniture
Hanssem Furniture definitely deserves a place on this list. This furniture store is based in Seoul, Korea, and has been around since September of 1970. The winner of many awards, Hanssem is keen on creating enriching and exciting environments for individuals and families through their designs, highly influenced by their research of Northeastern culture and history. Their design philosophy includes being more cognizant of how detrimental mass production is on the environment and thus, acting on it by designing furniture that minimizes resource deficiency; they even go so far as to consider the digital options for furniture design!
With seven floors, Hanssem makes it hard to leave empty-handed and unsatisfied. They provide items from curtains to lights to storage furniture, and many other necessities that may slip your mind while shopping for more obvious products. The prices are relatively accurate for the quality; at Hanssem, an affordable, good quality TV stand for the living room may run around 202,000 won, or over 170 USD. Perhaps not as low as IKEA’s, this furniture is meant to last you much longer, which is necessary for those planning on furnishing permanent homes.
Though they offer a variety of items, Hanssem is highly praised for their kitchen-centered selection. Their brand has introduced a new perspective of the kitchen at large, specifically the idea of the “intelligent kitchen” and “system kitchen,” which augments the usefulness of the domestic kitchen by making it a “second living room.” Their attention to detail extends to the design of their furniture, cabinetry, in particular; researching the eating habits and lifestyles of modern domestic dining, Hanssem is able to adapt their products to make life just that much easier. For instance, many Koreans feast on soups and stews that require larger cooking utensils, such as pots and pans, so Hanssem’s cabinets and counter-tops are made larger to accommodate to this common need.
Hanssem is a leader in the furniture market, and their growth in products makes this apparent. They’ve even pervaded the western furniture market and have easily become a staple brand for furniture shopping. If you’re going to invest in good furniture, you’ll want to look into Hanssem; their mission for their customers and the environment makes it all worth it.
I'm jealous! The food at Korea's IKEA below looks so much better than our Ikea food!
3. IKEA Gwangmyeong
Address: 17 Iljing-ro, Iljik-dong, Gwangmyeong-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
IKEA Gwangmyeong lands on our list for many reasons. At 59,000 square kilometers just outside west of Seoul, IKEA Gwangmyeong is currently the largest IKEA in the world. Shockingly, this IKEA is the first built in Korea, and barely opened on December 18th in 2014, yet it proves to be a highly favored location for new homeowners. With their outstandingly low prices, it’s no surprise that this is a popular destination for locals to purchase furniture. After all, South Korea can have some notoriously high furniture prices, so IKEA’s trademark bargain furniture makes it a wallet-friendly option for those small households.
This warehouse-style store offers Scandinavian ready-to-assemble furniture, and the simplicity of it all makes it attuned to the needs of many locals. Many people find a majority of their furniture here because the abundant options for both large and small furniture are quite accommodating to whatever you’re looking for! It also holds over 50 showrooms that provide possible styling choices for their furniture.
The process of looking for furniture can be exhausting. Luckily, this location offers a restaurant and bistro to recharge. And yes! This IKEA does serve its Swedish cuisine: meatballs! This location offers traditional Korean food as well, including kimchi and bulgogi. And if you have kids, IKEA Gwangmyeong offers Smaland, which babysits the kids of guests, allowing parents to shop peacefully.
The prices may lie within your budget; a typical TV stand for the living room can be as low as 16,000 won, or about 15 USD, which is quite attractive to those looking to maximize their budget. These low prices can pose as a threat to local mom-and-pop stores, which many fear will result in the termination of native businesses. Though the IKEA prices in Korea are still considerably cheaper than other furniture retailers, many are dissatisfied with the inconsistent pricing, claiming that the prices in IKEA Gwangmyeong are still roughly double the normal prices at other IKEA locations.
Still, there are many reasons to stop by IKEA Gwangmyeong that will leave you starry-eyed as you walk out.
INART, situated in Daejeon, is another one of your traditional Korean furniture stores; the colors are neutral and muted, perfect for your larger pieces, such as couches, drawers, and beds. These are complemented by various wooden furniture. In fact, they pride themselves in producing and specializing in merchandise made of eco-friendly solid rubber wood. The conventional appliances are juxtaposed with various inclusions of colored furniture to give the room more personality, a normal attribute of Korean households. The CEO, Andy Eom, often refers to the ambiance of a “workshop cafe” when describing INART’s furniture. These pieces are timeless and comforting, meant to stay in style for the long haul.
Again, the prices fall on the expensive end of the spectrum. A wooden TV stand in INART would empty 1,280,000 won, or right under 1,100 USD, from your wallet. Keep in mind, however, that you’re paying for and supporting a sustainable business that seeks to reduce carbon emissions and waste. Additionally, INART contributes to extensive reforestation, so rest assured that buying furniture from this company does more good than harm, in general.
You may not be able to locate intricate furniture for bargain deals in every section, but that does not diminish the value of the furniture. After all, simplicity and reliability is often your best friend when shopping for long-lasting furniture. You don’t need silky curtains, sheepskin couches, or a velvet tufted ottoman to feel like royalty in your own home!
INART is doing good, honest work for the world and its customers, so we recommend making your way to Daejeon to see what all the hype is about.
Multiple Locations, including: 588-18 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
SEDEC is a furniture retailer that has been in the game for 35 years. They have locations all over South Korea, from Gangnam to Busan to Daegu. The furniture at SEDEC is sensible and elegant, ranging from modern and classic designs. At its core, SEDEC supplies conventional, modern Korean interior design, embedding light wood and a pop of color into plenty of their products. Apart from the typical furniture you would find at most furniture retail stores, such as tables, chairs, and bed frames, SEDEC also offers world-class textile and wallpaper brands that truly allow you to customize your abode to the fullest. Their wallpaper brands include the likes of Nina Campbell, Sanderson, William Morris, and many others.
The SEDEC building in Gangnam itself is quite stunning in presentation; the rich architecture, open windows, and attentive showroom designs truly exemplify an appreciation for interior design on their end. The furniture itself comes imported from globally appreciated brands including Ethnicraft, Parlani, and Marchetti. This brand is also keen on providing housing accessories, such as tea mats, cushions, napkins, and bedding. Their selling model revolves less around its own designs and more around the specific brands imported and the themes they offer.
This is the place for those looking to subtly personalize their home’s atmosphere. There are items here that your local IKEA probably won’t have, so it’s definitely worth stopping by. Not to mention, the European brands they sell may not be accessible at your local department store.
6. KARE Korea
KARE Korea is a furniture store established in 1981 and based in Munich, Germany, but has found its way to the homes of Seoul, Korea. The Seoul location can be found in the chic city of Gangnam-gu. Trendy, eccentric, and non-conforming, KARE’s furniture is wonderful for those looking to deviate from conventional Korean interior design. Their furniture ranges from neon paintings to peculiar rugs to motorbike tables; they’re trendsetters at heart! This furniture store accommodates to those looking to spice up their living space with color and unique, vintage-looking items. You may not buy a bulk of your furniture here, but trust us, you won’t get bored at KARE Korea; there’s something there for everyone!
However, because the prices can run higher than your average furniture store, it is a luxury to be able to shop here. An average TV stand can cost you up to 1,760,000 won, or almost 1500 USD. Yeah. That’s expensive. Nonetheless, don’t let that discourage you from finding other unique gems, such as decorative figurines, cushions, or side tables, within your budget. The items at KARE Korea are quite diverse, presenting products made from ceramics, glass, metal, solid wood, and many more; think of the amount of texture you can add to your home!
Your home is most likely the place you’ll spend most of your time in, so don’t take your furniture shopping endeavors for granted. The simple items you use daily, like sofas and dining tables, as well as decorative accessories, like figurines and vases, are capable of turning a house into a home. Though we’ve provided some of the best stores for furniture stopping, we highly encourage taking your time, comparing prices that work for you, and being aware of the sources you furniture comes from.