There may not be a Korean Pavilion at 100% Design London this year, but you don’t have to walk far from the central bar area of Earls Court 2 to find Korean designers.
Just take one pace the other side of the bar and you come across Kim Been’s stall, Beeeen Company, with her range of dancheong-inspired screens and tableware. Unfortunately the stall was closed when I visited yesterday evening, but immediately next to her was another return visitor from last year, NJ Lighting.
Their white, clean-looking ceramic lighting designs looked very graceful.
Before traveling to Earls Court I had searched the 100% Design website for Korean exhibitors, and found three (plus Kim Been, who is listed under Hong Kong). But not one of them was Korea’s most famous brand name. So it was something of a surprise when I came across the Samsung logo, in the shape of Samsung Chemical Europe GmbH, a German operation devoted to interior surfaces.
The stall featured interestingly-designed furniture that demonstrated the versatility of the material – a kitchen island inspired by the shape of a killer whale; a bath by that of an armadillo; a speaker cabinet in the shape of an owl’s head (eye-catching, but everyone’s eyes were on the non-Samsung valve amplifier that was powering the speakers); and a set of furniture covered in white rubber spikes (“careful – one of those spikes is rigid,” cautioned one of the attendants with a wink).
Around the corner was a stall that perhaps characterises best some of the Korean stalls at 100% Design in previous years: homewares that are mildly entertaining and a little bit quirky. Dailylife Lab presented a tiny wall-hung plant pot with a plastic cloud over it: put water in the cloud and watch it rain on your plant. But is it slightly impractical in its current form? Any but the tiniest plants would not fit in the pot, and after a bit of growth the plant is likely to send the rain splattering to the floor. A nice idea though.
But, saving the best till last: UMZIKIM. Often I come away from a design show thinking I have seen solutions in search of a problem, or quite nice things which other people might like but which I wouldn’t give house room to. But UMZIKIM gives you clever design solutions to problems that you now realise you had all along. And you wonder why no-one else had thought of that already.
Like the business card holder on your desk, which sometimes is really fiddly if you just want to get just one card out – UMZIKIM have a solution for that. And propping up a loose sheet of A4: the designers (who are all SNU Mechanical Engineering graduates) have researched precisely the right amount of curvature to give to a piece of paper so that it doesn’t flop over – and their aluminium paper rest provides just that amount of curvature, either in landscape or portrait mode.
While Samsung’s furniture featured extravagant curves and demanded plenty of space in a room, UMZIKIM’s work was compact and full of sharp angles, like a paper dart. And if any of their stuff had been for sale, I’d certainly have got my cheque book out.
More photos at the bottom of this page.
Update 28 September:
- 26-year-old Yang Jaehyuk of UMZIKIM tells me that he has been honoured under the Korean government’s global star designer incubation programme, the 글로벌 스타 디자이너 육성. There are 4 other desigers who have also been included in the honour.
- Kim Been writes to tell me that in fact she had two stalls. I didn’t know about her main stall, but she sent me a picture of it, below. Sorry to have missed it.