Monday, June 4, 2012

Hanji Home Decorating

For the past two years I've been eating off of this rather pathetic table that was in our apartment when we moved in. Actually, the size was perfect, which is why we used it, but it had some sort of paint on it that absorbed every spill, and so after 1 month of using it, it was no longer presentable because of all the odd colored stains on it. From that time on we've always kept it covered with table cloths and it's been our faithful dinner table and been the center of many parties over the years.

As we've been preparing (mostly mentally more than physically) to move to our new hanok house in early June, I keep imagining where I'll put what in my new house, but this table never seemed to fit in in my imagination... A low table with a table cloth just doesn't fit into the house in my imagination... it's just to ugly and awkward for (what I hope will be) our amazing new house.

But then one day an idea struck me. I had seen some cool photos in some magazines, and what if I cut them out into a collage and then lacquered over it to make a shiny, waterproof table that I could use in my new house? Seemed like a great idea and so I went about furiously cutting out magazine pictures and spent a few hours rearranging and filling in gaps with filler photos and things and finally I had a collage.... but the border was the problem... I decided I needed some kind of border around the edge an for some reason thought of hanji (한지), Korean handmade paper. I went over to a hanji store in near Jogyesa in the Jongno area of Seoul and picked up 5 pieces of hanji paper with a print that was a mixture of Chinese characters and hangeul. It was super cheap, just 1,000 won per sheet.

The original concept.... 

I got home and put down my hanji border onto my table first... and then I realized that I rather liked the hanji... and that my artistic ability to make a good collage were lacking... so I just scrapped my hours of work arranging photos and just did the whole thing in hanji.

Just did the border at first....

But, then just kept going... 

Then we had to do the most important part, making it waterproof. The boyfriend went to the paint store and the man there told him the best way would be to use water lacquer. We took it outside to lacquer it up, but we realized that modern water lacquer, unlike it's predecessors has very little fumes because of it's water base. So, after 2 coats, we brought it back in the house. We still weren't convinced that two layers of lacquer would be enough to make it waterproof, so we continued on to make about 6 layers. But, now it seems to be good.

Water based laquer

The boyfriend, lacquering the table, maybe on the 4 or 5th coat.

But, that's not all.... Then we were sitting in our kitchen 2 weeks later and we were looking at what was our microwave stand, that will be our shoe holder in the new house. We picked it up for free a few months ago from a guy in Haebangchong and we almost didn't take it because... well, it was rather ugly. The more we stared at it, we realized that it wasn't naturally ugly, someone had covered it with a really ugly flower print sticker (what Koreans call situji 시트지).  We peeled it off, but a layer of stickiness was left on the cabinet... so... what to do? Just stick hanji on it! Since we won't be eating off it, we don't need to lacquer it, so we were able to do it super quickly. Looks great, right?

So you want to decorate with hanji too? it's quite easy, all you need is some hanji from your local hanji retailer (I recommend Jonggak, or Bangsan Market near Eulchiro-4-ga station, though there are many hanji shops in Insadong, too), glue (we used just flour and water, boiled), and a sharp box cutter to cut any edges. Paste and cut away!

 In our new hanok!

ps. Stay tuned for episode 2 where we hang hanji wallpaper in our new house!


  1. Wow! Good job decorating! :) Please post more on your hanok. I'd love to learn more on hanoks. :)

  2. Looks great! Thanks for the tips on where to get hanji!

    I look forward to seeing your hanok! Please post more pictures in the future. :)

  3. Oh, don't worry Jo, I will! I've been so busy cleaning and organizing I haven't had time to post. We're still far from finished though!!