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Why Minimalist's design space is anything but minimal

Wochan Lee relaxes in Minimalist's workspace

Wochan Lee relaxes in Minimalist's workspace

Best known as the inspiration for the 2012 pop hit Gangnam Style, the Seoul district of Gangnam is also home to boutique design studio Minimalist. But while the name might lead suggest one of those design offices that's a palace of minimalism, there's not a white wall or Eames chair in sight.

The décor is the work of founder and creative director Wochan Lee, who transformed the residential space single-handedly, the studio sports black walls and an astroturf carpet. A red leather bar stool (1) sits next to the desk. On the shelves two sombreros are perched (2).

Although the darkness helps Lee focus, having painted the walls he was worried the decoration was too solemn – which is where the astroturf came in. "Though it doesn't actually photosynthesise, it is visually environmentally friendly," he says.

Lee's most prized possessions – his camera equipment – are hidden in an unassuming case next to the bookshelf (3). "This ain't a 007 briefcase, but guess what, it's even more powerful than that," jokes Lee. "It's always ready to transform the studio into a photography studio."

This kind of adaptability is key, especially given the constant stream of deadlines Lee's been juggling since the studio's launch – the aforementioned sombreros are a reminder of his almost-forgotten holiday dreams.

In the meantime, he's kitted out the studio with some creature comforts. There's a sofa-bed complete with pyjamas – Lee is no stranger to the all-nighter – and a portable gas stove (4) for snacks. "Design is energy-consuming as well as time-consuming," says Lee. "Instant noodles, ramen, stew... you name it, I cook it."

As for that bar stool, Lee has an explanation that sits somewhere between bonkers and genius. "Too much comfort can often lead you into a sweet slumber," he explains. "You don't feel like you're working when you're sitting on this sexy stool."

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 224.