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Korean Shelves & Bookcases

Many Korean bookcases exhibit a refined aesthetic, preferring to showcase the beauty of the wood grain and the simplicity of forms over more ornamental alternatives. Korean bookcases and shelves are typically constructed using bamboo and other hardwoods such as Paulownia. While these items are sometimes coated with lacquer or embellished with carvings, Korean craftsmen usually endeavor to highlight the beauty of their materials.

For much of the nation’s history, Korean shelves and bookcases were reserved for the upper class, as the typical Korean home was largely unadorned with furniture prior to the 17th century. But as craftsmen returned to their provinces following the Imjin wars (1592-1598 A.D.), furniture including shelves and bookcases was popularized throughout all social classes in Korea.

Quick Facts

  • In the Choson period (1450-1750 A.D.), shelves were a common item in the male quarters and were used to display the luxury items most prized by the household
  • The Korean Furniture Museum in Seoul houses more than 2,000 pieces of traditional furniture including a wide collection of book cases and shelves
  • Antique Korean bookcases often employed bamboo nails to reinforce joints, a technique that is rarely found in contemporary furniture production

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