Concept stores that inspire

By Lee Woo-young

Multi-purpose places enable visitors to shop, get hair done, eat, view art and listen to music all in one spot

  • Published : Feb 1, 2013 - 20:42
  • Updated : Feb 1, 2013 - 20:42
The boundaries between retail stores, art galleries and concert halls are being blurred by a new breed of multi-concept culture spots in Seoul.

With everything just a click away in the age of smartphones, more places strive to provide a variety of experiences in one spot. Known as “multi culture spots” in Korean, the multi-purpose places enable visitors to shop for clothes, get a haircut, eat, view art and listen to music all in one place.

Many places also serve as networking venues that bring together people from different fields with shared interests, an antidote to today’s high-tech world where individuals often feel isolated.
The Refinery, located on a trendy street near Hongdae, offers a fusion of hair salon, head spa and art gallery.( The Refinery)

On a trendy street near Hongdae, The Refinery offers a fusion of hair salon, head spa and art gallery. The unique concept was the idea of its owner Yoon Jae-hwan, who wanted to create a fun place for his employees and customers. The four-story building features a head spa and a make-up studio on the first floor, a coffee shop and bar on the second floor, a hair salon on the third floor and a rooftop garden on the fourth floor.

“It’s a fun place to be at anytime and for anyone. We strive to make a connection with our customers through different cultural activities,” said head of the hair salon Kim Chang-hwan.

He said various cultural events were held in the outdoor garden and the rooftop before the weather got cold: Indie movie screenings, small concerts and flea markets featuring the work of young designers. The Refinery’s empty walls always exhibit artworks of local artists.

“In the evening, the whole place is transformed into a trendy bar with darker lights. Our staff like to have drinks after work. They don’t go home early,” said Yoon.

The hair salon boasts one of the top hair designers in Seoul with more than 10 years of experience. The head spa incorporates Aveda products and spa rituals such as scalp massages, steam towel wraps and hair treatments, conducted by experienced therapists. Prices for spa programs range from 50,000 won to 200,000 won.

The Refinery is located in Sangsu-dong, Mapo district, near Hongdae. For information, visit, or call (02) 3143-7500. 
Visitors view items on display at Atelier Turning, a cultural spot that displays unique artworks and art-themed products, and holds seminars and concerts in Daehangno, Seoul. (Atelier Turning)

Atelier Turning makes art more approachable and affordable to the public, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in art experiences.

“This place gives inspiration to people and helps them find balance in their life with art,” said Ihm Seung-ho, head of the gallery in Daehangno, Seoul.

Drawing upon his experience in design and travels to northern Europe in search of artistic inspiration, Ihm created a very special ambience full of unique artworks and art-themed products that spark visitors’ curiosity.

Serving as an incubating gallery for young artists as well, the gallery invites visitors into the artists’ studio, located at the corner of the gallery space. It leads visitors to view an artist’s exploration of ideas and process of artwork creation and helps them understand the art on show.

Various products featuring artwork are also on sale as part of the gallery’s movement to help young artists pursue their artistic careers further. Rather than buying pricey original paintings, visitors can purchase a print and mount it on a small frame for an affordable price.

“Artists are paid royalties for every purchase of the art products. It’s a tremendous help for them, enabling them to continue with their art career. It’s also the start of a true art-loving experience for viewers,” said Ihm.

Atelier Turning doesn’t sell coffee, but offers coffee when a visitor buys a cup designed with an artist’s painting. Part of the proceeds also goes to the artists.

To draw more visitors, the gallery plans to select 77 visitors and deliver coffee beans to them every month until the end of the year, in partnership with a roasting company.

The gallery also holds a seminar on weekdays that covers various topics from art and music to science and travel. On Friday evenings and weekends, it hosts small concerts.

Inspired by foreign art galleries, which open their doors to local people every Friday, Ihm hopes to create a similar culture in Korea through the Friday events.

“What Koreans do on Fridays is drinking until the next morning. But I wish we could have more art experiences in our daily life. Life will be much more fun with art,” said Ihm.

The gallery hours are from 2 p.m.-8 p.m., and events are announced on the website For more information, call (02) 393-3735. 
LaBook, located in the basement of the multi-brand store in Outlab in Sinsa-dong, Seoul, sells imported art and design books at discounted prices. (Outlab)

One can find artistic inspiration at LaBook of the multi-brand store Outlab in Sinsa-dong, Seoul.

The bookstore, in the basement of Outlab, is a treasure trove of imported art and design books, sold at discounted prices.

“We offer 30-50 percent discounts on foreign art and design books from their original prices on eBay,” said a manager of the store.

Art students will appreciate the collections of art books focusing on famous artists such as Damien Hirst, Gustav Klimt and even niche subjects such as contemporary art in Brazil, or art encyclopedias like The Art Book.

Fashion books include those devoted to the brands Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta and the Japanese lifestyle brand Muji. Other books include architecture, interior design and cooking.

The upstairs areas feature a clothing shop with global designer brands such as Alexander Wang, Derek Lam and Acne, and the global organic bakery chain Rose Bakery.

Outlab is open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and LaBook opens from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

For more information, call (02) 546-1553. 
Around the Corner in Garosu-gil, Seoul, is a multi-brand store providing head-to-toe styling items.
(Around the Corner)

For those on the hunt for unique and stylish fashion items, Around the Corner on Garosu-gil, Sinsa-dong, is the place to go.

The multi-brand store offers head-to-toe styling items, featuring foreign brands that haven’t been officially introduced to Korea, such as the French clothing brand Orcival, famous for striped shirts; British denim brand MiH Jeans, frequently worn by foreign celebrities; and the German scarf brand Plomo o Plata.

The true gems of the place, however, are the unique Korean designer brands such as the rising clothing brand Thepartment loved by Korean celebrities; the famous street fashion brand See Saw; and Mosca of designer Oh Yoo-gyeong from Project Runway Korea season 4.

The designer clothes are available for between 50,000 won and 200,000 won.

The store also features collections of body products, accessories and interior items, all sourced from around the globe by its stylists.

On the first floor, the Caf Publique is a nice meeting spot for friends, as well as a place to rest for shoppers.

For more information, call (02) 3441-8638.

By Lee Woo-young (