Story Filter
Back

Escape Rooms

A Seoul-based architect finds new ways to travel without leaving his home

Architect Teo Yang believes that creating a home requires a closer look at who we really are. He has turned his hanok, a traditional-style Korean house, into a place in which he can find inner peace. But spending more time at home has given Teo even greater insight into the psychology of architecture and allowed him to discover a sense of freedom indoors.

Our built environments shape our lives. Increasingly, architects are considering how the spaces we inhabit influence the way we feel about ourselves. One of them is Korean architect Teo Yang, who uses his home studio – a hanok – as a testing ground for impactful design, merging traditional principles and contemporary elements.

His architectural practice creates physical and visual harmony between the (interior) space itself and the environment around it. However, just like most of us, he has found it challenging to maintain this balance in the past year. And like the 60% of people who said they’ve had to change the way their home is organised to do the activities they want or need to do at home, Teo was no exception.

Here he opens up to our writer, Monique Schröder, about why he went ‘Seoul searching’ almost a decade ago, how he describes his relationship with his home, and what he changed in it to restore a feeling of mental wellbeing.

Back

What is a hanok?

Originating in the 14th century, a hanok is a traditional Korean house that works in harmony with nature to create calm and serenity. The architecture considers the positioning of the house in relation to its surroundings, with thought given to the land and seasons. A hanok is built almost entirely of natural materials such as earth, wood and rock which creates a healthy and eco-friendly environment.

Back

“I believe home is equal parts foundation and platform. It’s a place that can morph you into a better version of yourself.”

 

Since leaving home at the age of 19 and studying interior architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, you have worked in many vibrant cities in different parts of the world, such as Amsterdam, Berlin, and Los Angeles. What motivated you to move back to South Korea and live in a traditional hanok?

Teo Yang: Even though I have spent a lot of time abroad – both studying and working – I had the desire to learn more about my roots and dig deeper into South Korean culture. I have always been fascinated by traditional architecture from all around the world and how these centuries-old philosophies embrace a sense of comfort and protection in a very unique way. I believe that they also give insight into how we can find the balance between nature and human-made structures. So, moving back to Seoul naturally went hand in hand with seeking a hanok as my home base. For me, it represents the best of both worlds: the values and lifestyle of South Korea.

What does the concept of home mean to you?

I believe home is equal parts foundation and platform. It’s a place that can morph you into a better version of yourself. It also functions as a notebook for your personal and family history. In short, our homes are an important tool for our lives. And to fully make use of them, it is essential to understand our lifestyle, what makes us happy, what we deem comfortable, and what kind of aesthetic excites us. But it requires some research and a closer look into ourselves.

Has this definition changed during the past 12 months?

Things have definitely changed a lot. Our homes have become a huge part of our everyday life. A lot of people are recognising what is truly indispensable in their lives. Creating a meaningful and functional space has become so important that it has pushed us to rethink our definition of luxury in the spaces we inhabit. Moreover, these extraordinary times have enabled us to uncover what we want to achieve in our lives and how we can integrate more work/life balance in the future. I believe it’s a very positive change because it offers the opportunity to look back and reflect on what is needed for us to improve our overall wellbeing.

Back

“I have lived in my current hanok for eight years. It has enabled me to find true inner peace.”

 

Mental wellbeing has become one of the most crucial elements in the wake of the pandemic. What do you consider a balanced state of being at home? And would you say that you have truly found balance?

Wellbeing means feeling comfortable with yourself and finding places of improvement within yourself. I found the perfect mix of comfort and the willingness to improve inside my own space. It gives me so much joy! I see my home as the physical embodiment of my mind. And a well-designed home provides the perfect setting for the mind to stay conscious and focused. I have lived in my current hanok for eight years. It has enabled me to find true inner peace – a recurring theme that I also focus on in my work. Even though I have remodelled the hanok, which is more than a century old, its original design language and function are still relevant today – especially as we have understood that the true way of preserving an important piece of heritage means constantly evolving and improving it to meet our contemporary needs and wellbeing goals.

With that being said, would you describe your hanok as a ‘home space for your headspace’?

Definitely! It is a great home office as well. It’s quiet and the neutral setting is perfect for creative work. The framed inner courtyard, where I can observe the change from day to evening, helps me to concentrate on my daily schedule.

You mentioned that no matter if you’re designing for a client or yourself, inner peace is an important element of the process. By mixing modern aesthetics with tradition, you have created many spaces that are characterised by a sense of timelessness and wellbeing. What have you learned the most from creating such simple but rewarding spaces?

I believe every creation or improvement needs a good foundation. Carrying traditions into modern interiors is a means to provide us with a notion of where we belong. It also helps us to retain and improve our culture. It’s no secret that the way we design spaces has a huge impact on our wellbeing. And because we start and end our day in the personal environments we are in, it becomes a foundation for everything we do. That’s why I strive to create rituals, for example, waking up in a room with peaceful daylight and going to bed with a soft reading lamp beside me. Doing so wakes up our bodies for the everyday tasks ahead of us – and even more importantly, it helps our minds to find a balance between rest and work. Inside my own home, my daily routines are programmed by the different rooms. I start every day by waking up in the lightfilled bedroom next to my studio office that overlooks the garden and into the dining room that’s completed with beautiful architectural details. I love all the different spaces, especially how the light and surrounding landscape are invited inside.

As a master of balance, was there anything inside your home that you adjusted to reflect your current way of living or being?

I have taken the chance to renovate my basement into a much simpler and more modern-looking space. I always wanted a space where I could isolate myself and relax inside an aesthetically different setting. Every time I step into the new room, I feel like I am travelling to a different world. It gives me a sense of freedom!

 

Interview by Monique Schröder, photos by Shim Yun Suk from Studio Sim

Back

The Life at Home Magazine

A Balanced Place

Learn more about the ups and downs of mental wellbeing at home through the stories and experiences of people around the world.