In's Mill

Jeju, South Korea

Reviving Jeju's Local Culture Through a Café Transformation

On the western coast of Jeju, a lush volcanic island referred to as “the Hawaii of Korea”, a unique café project called In’s Mill has just seen the light of day.

As Jeju has become one of Korea’s most popular tourist destinations with more than 10 million visitors every year, the island has slowly been losing its own local culture and traditions. That’s why the owner of In’s Mill – who grew up on the island – wanted to create a space where both locals and tourists can experience and celebrate the “real” Jeju atmosphere.

To do so, he gathered a whole team of designers, architects and craftsmen who all come from Jeju to carry out an impressive transformation of an old warehouse building that was going to be demolished.

One of the designers in charge of the transformation is Seungji Mun, a furniture designer from Jeju who lived and worked in Copenhagen for two years before moving to Seoul. Today he works with brands such as COS and Samsung and is known for his curiosity and approach to working with recycling and waste materials in new ways.

“It was not an easy task, and we spent a lot of extra time to preserve the framework and keep the trace of time in the old walls and facades. But in the end, we think reusing a building with a long history makes so much sense. It gives the space more meaning and allows us to share our local story.”- Seungji Mun, Head of Design.

The warehouse dates back to the early 1950s and was initially used to store garlic which has been cultivated in the rich, volcanic island soil for centuries.

Instead of tearing the building down, it was carefully refurbished, and most of the bearing constructions, facades and interior are kept as they used to be. Especially the old wooden roof structure with its large visible rafters was the main point of focus for the project to preserve.

“The roof itself was worn out and halfway collapsed, so we had to come up with a way to reconstruct the original design. Just like in Denmark, Jeju is well-known for our old houses with straw-thatched roofs. Few people know how to make it today, but we were lucky to find some local craftsmen who could show us the old technique.” – Seungji Mun, Head of Design.

To complete the vision of making the café feel local and true to old aesthetics, the team used reddish volcanic pebbles for the outdoor flooring and planted indigenous palm trees and cycas in the yard. Plants and materials that cannot be found in mainland Korea but are the backbone of the Jeju identity.

Next to the big palm trees and the red volcano pebbles, you find a range of Skagerak Collection outdoor furniture. All wooden designs, fitting to the warm and raw atmosphere of the landscape.

“First of all, we wanted furniture we knew had a high durability. The weather on Jeju can be rough, and the air coming in from the ocean is really humid. The Skagerak Collection could give us that. On top of that, we knew they had a strong focus on sustainability and the conservation of local communities – not just in Denmark but also globally. That is why we thought it would be a really good match.” - Seungji Mun, Head of Design

Inside the café, old pottery, arts, and tools are exhibited to remind of Jeju’s long and unique culture. In that way, In’s Mill can share the local history of Jeju with the young generation of tourists coming from Seoul while also functioning as a refuge for those who miss the good old times.