|Plants and books coexist at Daeruk Books. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
By Anna J. Park
Daeruk Books, a local bookstore located in Dongjak area in Seoul, is an exemplary case showing how "planterior" works. The independent bookstore has been run by married couple Park Il-woo, 42, and Oh Seung-hee, 34, since 2015, who took over a local bookstore with a nearly 30-year history. Hundreds of books are exhibited and stacked in this clean, neat space, decorated with dozens of plants.
The variety of plants brings a feeling of nature to the space. The lighting, chairs, and some of plant vases are yellow, giving visitors a touch of warmth and brightness in the atmosphere.
"I think books and plants fit together so well. Both make people heal, just by looking at them. As you can see, the main accent colors in our store are yellow and green, while most of the background color is white. At first, everything was white; we hoped to add accent colors of yellow and green, to give warmth and animation to this space. It feels really good to see our customers enjoy the warmth and comfort here," Oh told the The Korea Times.
|A book-shaped light is installed on the ceiling of Daeruk Books. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
While Oh leads the bookstore's marketing, programming and promotion initiatives, her husband Park has been in charge of taking care of the plants since the bookstore opened,
"As I cherish the feeling of togetherness, I purchased very small plants, so that we can all grow together. Now they've grown so much during the last four years." Park said with a large smile.
|Strelitzia reginae, or Bird of Paradise, boasts large green leaves, almost reaching the ceiling of the bookstore. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
One of the main plants at the bookstore is a Strelitzia reginae, or Bird of Paradise, a plant native to South Africa. Now it boasts large green leaves, almost reaching the ceiling of the bookstore, which is about three meters high. It's hard to believe that this huge, beautiful plant was less than a meter in height four years ago. The couple said the place's calm interior ambiance was created slowly over the years, with the natural growth of the plants.
Now the plants at the store all look amazingly healthy, but Park explained the place is not the best condition for them to grow. For example, there's no direct sunshine. Thus, he has carefully chosen plants that can survive such living conditions.
"I started to like the plants more and more, as I began to work all day long at the bookstore. As I stay at the store all day long, I have a lot of time to dedicate to caring for the plants. In return, I received so much comfort and consolation from them. It's like we have formed a relationship," he said.
|Goldcrest wilma is one of many plants at Daeruk Books. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
He said the key to his successful planterior is restraint.
"Keeping a balance is the key. I always have the urge to bring in more plants, as I love them so much. But I refrain from doing it, so that the space maintains a balance between books, plants and blankness," he said.
|The Korean word for "book" is posted on the wall. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Many regular customers, including Cha Kyoung-hee, said they feel relaxed thanks to the comfortable and green interior.
"I think plants give an animated vitality and energy to the bookstore, which actually can have a very heavy atmosphere. When you come to think about it, other bookstores only store dead trees: from the books to their wooden racks. But here, living plants and dead trees coexist in this place. It feels harmonized and meaningful to me. Because of this special interior design, I come to this bookstore more often," Cha told The Korea Times.
|Daeruk Books serves as an open square for the local community. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Thanks to the space's comfortable cafe-like atmosphere, the bookstore has served as an open square for the locals. Frequent meetings are scheduled for film screenings, book discussions, environmental seminars and lectures for the youth. It is mostly Oh who comes up with creative events ideas.
"Our initial goal of running this bookstore was to establish relationships with local people. We wanted this place to be where people can enjoy what they love together, like watching movies, drinking beer and reading books. I hoped this bookstore could be a place for such sharing. I like that; I wanted to create a place for sharing with local people," she said.
|Daeruk Books is an exemplary case of 'planterior' interior design. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
The couple said they run the bookstore for these feelings of reward and satisfaction, not for the money. Actually if money was the sole factor to decide whether they should run the place, they said they would've quit already.
"This place alone does not yield profits. That's why I still work at another job. It is very difficult to make a profit out of selling books. We do all this, because it is satisfying, not for the money," Oh explained.
|Daeruk Books. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
She added the couple's later dream is to open up another bookstore in a more regional area, where bookstores are not as common as in Seoul. Until then, she and her husband run this place with a clear goal in their minds; creating relationships for local residents.
"I hope more people come and visit local bookstores. I still believe local bookstores can serve as a medium, linking people to people," she said.
|Daeruk Books. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|