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Korean Benches & Stools

An emphasis on balance and austerity defines the design aesthetic of Korean benches and chairs. Korean chair craftsmen strive to showcase the intrinsic beauty of their materials, such as the grain of wood, and typically feature minimal decoration in the form of colored paints or carved designs.

Prior to the 16th century, Korean benches and stools were reserved predominantly for the court while the majority of the population sat and ate on the floor. After the devastation incurred by the Imjin wars (1592-1598 A.D.), the government could no longer afford to employ the craftsmen that had been previously conscripted to produce their royal furniture. As a result, these artisans dispersed and brought their expertise and furniture to all regions and classes throughout the country.

Traditionally, in upper class Korean households, gender served as the determining basis for the implementation of furniture. The patriarch’s room was sparsely decorated with benches, stools, and other furniture to make the room more hospitable for entertainment while the matriarch’s room was typically more decorative and intended for public display to guests of the household.

Quick Facts

  • The Korean stools and benches that adorned upper-class homes were generally composed of utilitarian shapes, namely squares and rectangles, as opposed to the circular and ovoid shapes found elsewhere in European and Asian furniture
  • Until the 20th century, the bulk of Korean patterns for benches and stools were predominantly based on the styles indigenous to Northern China
  • While benches and stools are now widespread throughout Korea and prized largely for their restrained beauty, it is still not uncommon for denizens to elect to sit on the floor as they have since time immemorial

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