|A flower boutique is located inside La Fete, along with a cafe and fashion stores. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Expert says plants give warmth, vitality
By Anna J. Park
One of the Korean buzz words emerging among consumers conscious of health is "planterior," a term coined by the country's interior designers to refer to the use of plants in interior design.
Tired of fine dust pollution that is worsening year after year in Korea, people are starting to feel the need for greenery in their living spaces, as some indoor plants have proven to be effective in purifying the air.
Yet besides the plants' effectiveness in fighting against fine dust, more and more people have begun perceiving them as an integral part of their indoor decoration. Major department stores in Seoul are currently running special plant and flower pop-up stores, and interior design shops have started selling plants and gardening goods.
|A terrace of La Fete beautifully decorated with flowers and plants. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
For those who'd like to take a look at how planterior works, La Fete, located in the embassy-packed Hannam neighborhood in Seoul, is probably the best place to visit to witness an exemplary case of interior design using plants.
The three-story multi-shop building includes flower boutiques, a cozy cafe, clothes and fashion accessories sales, as well as its furniture store on the third floor, separately called The Mansion. Every corner of the store is beautifully decorated. They have a diverse collection of vases, and customers can buy these plants directly at the shop.
Since it first opened as a flower boutique in wealthy Cheongdam district almost 20 years ago by sisters Hwang Soo-hyun and Hwang Si-yeon, La Fete has expanded into fashion, lifestyle and furniture sales. The expansion was inspired by the store's customers, who often made inquiries about CEO Hwang Soo-Hyun's personal fashion or lifestyle items, asking her to buy the goods for them. Although the store now sells a wide range of fashion and lifestyle items, the majority of its revenue still comes from the flower business.
|A Terrace at La Fete. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
The shop's CEO, now one of the most sought-after luxury florists, recalls that it was an interesting journey, from being a young florist working abroad in the U.S. to becoming the leader of a lifestyle brand in Korea. She has also witnessed the development of the nation's indoor plant and flower industry over the last two decades.
"Compared to the past, people nowadays have much more interest in decorating their own living space, rather than decorating themselves with fashionable clothes. Basically, there are three ways to bring changes in a room; change fabrics, change furniture, or place flowers or plants. The last option is the easiest and the fastest way to change the living space. The bad economy also leads people to choose plants over flowers, because they can enjoy plants for much longer," Hwang said, during a recent interview with The Korea Times.
|Every corner of La Fete shows how "planterior" works in interior design. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Despite a surge in the popularity of plants, Hwang said people appeared not to know how to keep their plants healthy.
"The popularity of plants has obviously increased among the public, but it seems most young people are not that familiar with how to care for them. People need to find out the exact amount of water and sunshine a plant needs, and it takes an extra level of care and interest to discover that information from plants."
As an expert in "planterior" herself, the seasoned florist also shared some golden tips.
"The first thing you need to do is to find out where plants should be placed, considering the amount of sunshine and wind available in your indoor space. You need to decide which you prefer more, either the simple display of a large-size plant or a group of smaller plants with diverse sizes," Hwang said.
"If you put a large-size vase near the window of a living room, it completely changes the room's atmosphere. If you put a couple of smaller-sized plants of similar species together also makes the space very pretty," she added.
|La Fete. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
She said there are many advantages to having plants indoors, such as purifying the air and producing oxygen; yet she counts vitality and energy as the best assets that plants bring to a living space.
"A space with plants has warmth and vitality. You know, people spend so much time dealing with lifeless matters like information or technology. By keeping plants, you will be able to really touch and care for life itself. It feels different from having pretty flowers. Plants have roots that breathe. And they are really strong. You can build relationships with the plants," Hwang said.
|La Fete demonstrates an exemplary case of interior design using plants. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
That's why her shop, La Fete, fully decorated with countless plant vases and flowers, has a special vitality that makes visitors feel safe and warm.
"I often go to the cafe inside La Fete because it is visually a very satisfying experience. Whenever I drink tea there, I look at the flowers and plants nearby. It makes me feel like I am connected to nature," Cho Eun-byeol, a customer at La Fete said.
|Grape hyacinth or Muscari is one of numerous plants at La Fete. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Out of so many plant species, what plants are in style right now? Regarding the question, the florist CEO stressed that people do not need to think about trends when selecting plants of their choice.
"What is important in selecting plants is to choose what you're attracted to because fashions change all the time, especially in Korea. But if you want to know what is in style, the Monstera plant has gained back its popularity lately. I also recommend the Korean Spirea and evergreen spindle trees. We don't regard them as pretty because we see them all the time. But if you choose well, some of them are exquisite," Hwang said.
|Terrariums are another "planterior" trend. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
La Fete's CEO Hwang said terrariums ― a collection of plants and soil placed in a glass container ― are another "planterior" trend nowadays. Some terrarium plants can endure up to three to four months without water, so it is extremely easy to keep them at home. Also the plants are encased in glass, no need to worry about water leaking onto expensive flooring or high-priced furniture.
Meanwhile, La Fete's furniture store, The Mansion, is preparing a special furniture exhibition later this month. It will be Korea's very first exhibition exclusively featuring chairs designed by late legendary Danish furniture designer Hans Weger, held from May 22nd to June 15th on the third floor of La Fete.
|Various terrariums are displayed at La Fete. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|