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[Weekender] ‘For new look, think outside the box’

 For many people, the coming of spring brings an urge to renew their home interiors. But decorating can be a daunting challenge for those who have not kept up with the latest trends.

Revamping one’s home doesn’t necessarily cost a fortune or require much knowledge about what’s in vogue, according to veteran interior designer Kwon Soon-bok.

A new look can start with a simple change. One just needs to think outside the box, she suggests.

“Don’t buy furniture first. Use your own furniture first. It’s important you start by rearranging the furniture you already have,” Kwon told The Korea Herald on Monday.

For instance, Korean living rooms all look similar ― a sofa placed against the wall and a bookshelf or a TV set on the opposite side.

Place a wide book shelf behind the couch, Kwon said, to make the bookshelf a fresh decoration.

“Instead of cluttering the bookshelf with books, you can display just a few of your favorite books, along with ornaments, small photos and paintings on each empty shelf,” she said. 

Kwon Soon-bok, CEO of Magenta (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Kwon Soon-bok, CEO of Magenta (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

That is what Kwon did with the new home for singer-turned-actress Eugene and her actor husband Ki Tae-young. She placed 3-D models of the couples initials on a bookshelf to personalize their living room.

“The living room exists for members of the family. It should have something that reflects the personalities of each family member.”

Kwon, who has been working for more than 20 years as an interior designer, has popular celebrities and sports stars on her clientele list, including former soccer star Park Ji-sung, and actors Park Han-byeol, Cho Jae-hyun and Jung Woong-in. She has also fitted out many shops in Seoul and elsewhere, including the flagship stores of cosmetic brands Etude House, Mamonde and SK Telecom’s pop-up store.

Kwon offered some useful interior advice for Koreans who live in cookie-cutter apartment blocks. 

Placing a bookshelf behind a couch is one easy way to liven up the living room, according to Kwon Soon-bok. (
Placing a bookshelf behind a couch is one easy way to liven up the living room, according to Kwon Soon-bok. (

“You can turn the same boring apartment windows into something unique. Instead of putting curtains or blinds, add an extra window frame with a pattern. This will bring a completely different feel to your typical home,” she said.

Colors and patterns can also bring a fresh feel.

“I once tried bright yellow on the ceiling of the bathroom in one of my clients’ houses. It really brightened the drab bathroom and livened the place up,” she said.

Patterned wallpaper or fabric can be a stylish add-on. A practical way to include patterns is to use a patterned blind wall to hide the air conditioner sitting in the corner of the living room ― a useful idea for those concerned with getting tired of bold patterns too soon.

“Pick your favorite pattern and create an angled blind. That’s going to look like an art piece,” she said.

She shared a tip on how to make a statement light piece for less than $10. All you need is plastic spoons and a white plastic bucket easily found at dollar stores. She put a bulb inside the bucket and turned it upside down and then attached heads of spoons around the bucket.

Korean consumers have been big fans of no-frills, functional Scandinavian interior design. With Ikea opening its first mega-store on the outskirts of Seoul last year, Scandinavian sensibility has begun to dominate Korean homes.

Kwon attributes Koreans’ love for Scandinavian home interiors to interior magazines that mainly feature Nordic styles.

“Other styles are dead here,” she said.

She encourages Koreans to adopt diverse styles to their home.

“Like fashion, you try out different styles and pick the one that fits your personality. You express your personality through your home’s interior,” Kwon said.

By Lee Woo-young (