recycling materials "being dumped as landfill"
for sale: 1915 Cox Estate Home, Saratoga CA: $1,095,000

traditional meets modern in Andong, South Korea


We just got back from a week in Korea where we met & from which we brought home our adopted daughter. During the trip, our old friend Youngji and her sister Eunji drove us all over the country, including a stop in Andong to visit with their parents, who were staying at their "winter house," an apartment in that city. Just outside the city limits sits the "summer house," which their father designed a few years back and hired traditional craftspeople to build.

The house is new, but traditionally-designed (or at least traditionally-inspired). Architecturally it was a marvel: simple and humble on the outside, but large and beautiful inside. It was wide and low, with a small second story on one side - housing only two small square bedrooms with windows on three sides of each and a bit of storage. The staircase itself was very steep, and with the open spaces underneath looked more like a ladder - or a bookcase!

The wall of screen doors pictured here opens in two ways: the individual panes can be unlatched and swung inward, or the entire wall can be unlatched and swung upward, where its free end can be hung on hand-forged iron fixtures attached to the ceiling beams. This allows summer breezes and light to fill the entire house when the weather is good. The house sits aside numerous rolling orchards and wide-open farmland - surprising in this country that is mostly steep mountains and valleys - and is situated right on the base of a low set of hills looking out over this open land.

The entire house was full of great wood accents, all of them just as much architectural as decorative. The master bedroom, in a sort of satellite peninsula built onto the side of the house with a mudroom/airlock - which acts as a temperature buffer between it and the main house - is built on top of a giant and foot-thick stone slab; a wood or charcoal fire is lit below it, from outside the house, which warms the floor (the rest of the house uses the more typical steam-heated floors common throughout Korea, underneath beautiful Eucalyptus-looking wood floors in the main rooms and a soft organic flooring somewhat like Marmoleum, in the same pale yellow that I saw in many other Korean homes, in the bedrooms).

I am told that no nails or screws were used in the structural work of the house - all the beams fit together, and the walls are made of yellow clay brick covered in a mud mixture, and then wallpapered with rice paper.

The unique coffee table shown here, flush on the floor (the house had no seating other than thin but soft cushions, as all sitting happens directly right on the heated floor), was made from the base of a 300-year old fallen tree. The house has very little furniture - a few small bedside tables, a wooden chest or two, and a big beautiful rough-hewn bookshelf off the master bedroom, so the intricate beauty of something like this table really shines.