This project is a ‘house within a house’ built in a 20-year-old warehouse. A year ago, in October, a young couple in their late 20s visited our studio to build their house for after they married. They were the youngest clients who required our design.
The couple was thinking of renovating the concrete warehouse in the bride’s hometown as their new house. They said they wanted to fix it and take it as the starting point of their new life.
Her hometown was a small town next to the East Sea between Pohang and Gampo, which is 240 miles from Seoul. Listening to their story, we could foresee the difficulties of the project and tried to come up with excuses to refuse politely, but when we saw the photographs of the old concrete warehouse standing inside the rice paddy and field like magic, it was like hearing the sound of a pied piper. We already answered that we’d take the project.
The warehouse was built 20 years ago by the bride’s father. He bought some property to start a new business in his hometown, and the warehouse was an animal-feed factory for a chicken farm. To let big machinery in, the height is 16 feet with a reinforced concrete structure. The exterior was finished with mortar on cement blocks.
Her father had been planning to build a two-story house beside the warehouse when the business stabilized. Due to bad fortune, after a year, her father passed away on a rainy day in a car accident. The business halted too soon and the building became farming tools storage for neighbors. Meanwhile, the warehouse became old with small and big holes in the wall. If it rained, water stayed on the rooftop and ran down inside.
Most of the young people in Korea start their newly married life in an apartment, whether it is small or big. Considering economic value, or for convenience sake, it was a very special plan to make an inherited old warehouse into their new marriage home. Many people said that they were burning their money if they invested in the old warehouse, instead of buying or renting an apartment. But the couple said to the people who were dissuading them that they don’t need to worry because they are going to live in the house for their entire life.
Listening to their both wise and reckless thought, we felt burdened. The project to add warmth into a large empty warehouse was a task; it was like putting solid color into a black-and-white photograph and making it high-definition to make a strong cover for the young couple as a background for life.
The budget was prepared to cover about one-third of the whole area. We started from the concept of inserting a house within a house, to provide enough area, as they needed. There was enough height for two floors, so we put a kitchen, dining, living room, and a small hidden library on the first floor, and put family room, bathroom, dress room, and bedroom on the second floor. They decided to fill the remaining space portion by portion as they live.
The admirable young couple got married on October 4th, which is a year after we met them. Because of the courageous constructor, who decided to work despite the distance from Seoul, the house was finished according to plan.
The house within the house was built in a steel structure. Walls in the common space were finished with plywood and lighting was designed to accentuate the warmth of wood. Other spaces were finished with white paint to induce a calm atmosphere. The floor was finished with white tile to make a gorgeous and bright space.
Because the budget was low, there was no extra to fix the rough concrete exterior wall. We promised to draw a mural ourselves. We got the design idea from the bar code. Each of the codes becomes a tree and the trees become a forest so that the information read by the bar code represents the love of the family.
All members of our firm went by car to the site to draw the mural on an overnight schedule. It was the first time we did a mural, so it wasn’t an easy task, but all our staff enjoyed the pleasure of labor by drawing lines and rough sketches and coloring it. On the wall that reaches the rooftop, which has an outside stair, we drew some drawings to represent the warmth of house and family. The drawing of Sugeun Park, a famous painter in Korea, became the model of our drawings.
The towering warehouse surrounded by a rice paddy and field was finally reformed in 20 years into storage for a young couple’s love and life.
It’s like Natalie Cole singing the song “Unforgettable,” which was sung by her father, Nat King Cole, several decades after her father passed away. The daughter put the two-story house inside the warehouse, not unlike a snail’s shell made by her father. So the life and house continues again. We decided to call this house Unforgettable.