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IHWARUAE Seoul by Z_Lab

Kim Duck-chang

Located in Seoul’s Ihwa-dong neighborhood within the Jongno-gu District, IHWARUAE by local architectural firm Z_Lab is a lodge designed to coexist with history and cultural heritage.

You can still find the traces of time in the shabby chic house on the hill which was built in the 1950′. With the touch of Z_Lab, the old house was reborn as a place where you can have a great party, get a sense of healing, and awaken your inspiration while enjoying the warm embrace of the fortress and the scenic views of Seoul.


IHWARUAE has a special tie with the Hanyangdoseong Fortress. With new light shed on the historical and culture value of the Hanyangdoseong Fortress as the symbol of the 600-year-old capital of the Joseon dynasty, the fortress is expected to be listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Ihwa Mural Village which is at the foothills of the eastern fortress became a major tourist draw as a result of the vigorous effort made by the residents as well as the local government. The residents have been seeking ways to fully utilize the potential of the village and coexist with the historical site. With a new profit model in place, they have converted old residences into cafes, galleries and guesthouses and are offering various visitor programs including the Ihwadong Museum.


IHWARUAE is the combination of Ihwa (Plum blossom), rue (hill) and ae (love) which means a small guesthouse on the Ihwadong hill. The Japanese Mastuya-style building was built around the 1950’s and it retained much of its 60-year-old charm. For decades, the house with 9 small rooms has accumulated the layers of time, and it was almost on the verge of collapse when it was first discovered.


The renovation plan for IHWARUAE was focused on accentuating the old charm, leaving the effect of the passage of time intact rather than making it modern and sophisticated. All the exterior and the interior walls were kept, with only the illegal addition being demolished, and the original Japanese-style roof which has been hidden underneath was carefully restored to tell the history of time.


IHWARUAE features a music shop, an open kitchen and a private living area. The 1st floor is a cafe open to the public where anyone can drop by and relax while listening to the music. At the back of the room is an open kitchen that is connected to the private living quarters, providing a perfect place for a small gathering. The 2nd floor is for urbanites who dream of a special night out. This space full of character is further accentuated with a vintage couch from the Upcycling brand Matter & Matter, and the bathroom door and the countertop made with materials salvaged from demolition.


The biggest charm of IHWARUAE is the open kitchen on the 1st floor which offers an ideal space for private parties. The open kitchen can accommodate up to 10 people. Within the inviting and attractive environment, it is so easy to throw a great party. It was largely inspired by the KINFOLK magazine and aims to offer a place of dream to people who yearn for the KINFOLK life. The private living quarters on the 2nd floor is designed to be a place for a comfortable night surrounded by Ihwadong’s authentic vibe. The entire space is filled with pleasures, from the living room overlooking the view of the city, to the terrace facing the Ihwadong alley, and to a one of a kind open-air bath.


IHWARUAE is a secrete and unique place. The exterior stands with dignity holding the age-old charm while the interior has a variety of unexpected twists. Through the collaboration with the Pastel Music that ‘Ihwadong’ represents, the 1st floor shop serves as a place you can fully emerge the ambience of Ihwadong. The restroom is open to the general public. The 600-year-old Hanyangdoseong Fortress with great historical and cultural value and the village located alongside the wall are inseparable and are seeking ways to thrive together. IHWARUAE is not just a renovation project. It is a great example of successful coexistence; preserving the village’s history and cultural heritage while keeping the charms of the village alive by providing a unique experience with a place to stay and party.

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all images © Kim Duck-chang