Scrap Wood Finds New Life in Contemporary Korean Kitchens

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kitchen remodel, shipping container kitchen

Designer Yong Hoon Choi builds a kitchen out of discarded wood used for overseas shipping. Photo: Yong Hoon Choi

Busan, South Korea’s second largest city, is home to the country’s largest port and is the fifth busiest port in the world. With all those ships making stops in the sunny city of 3.6 million people, plenty of waste piles up, including scrap wood that encases a variety of goods. That wood sourced from across the globe does its job protecting bulk cargo, but is just thrown away after those same ships leave Busan for other destinations.

Originally from Busan, designer Yong Hoon Choi now lives in Seoul but frequently visits his hometown and spends a lot of time at the city’s busy seaport. He became fascinated by the waste left behind as the result of the 13 million shipping containers that pass through Busan annually. Choi realized that wood could be put to good use, and an idea that challenges how Koreans design their homes was born.

The Forgotten Room

Influenced by his time living and working abroad in Los Angeles and New York, Choi decided he wanted Koreans to rethink how they build and design their living spaces.

Although South Korea is now a global focal point for new trends and design, interiors generally do not reflect Koreans’ keen sense of style. In fact, most kitchens in Korea are strictly a functional space and boast little except drab Formica surfaces and prefabricated cabinets. So despite the genuine hospitality Koreans show to visitors, that warmth does not translate into most home interiors.

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Choi sees two opportunities in the stacks of scrap wood through which he rummages when he visits Busan; to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills and to design cool kitchen cabinets and surfaces.

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