How Young Huh’s Early Love Of Korean Folk Art Continues To Inspire


young huh art studio

Young Huh in her Manhattan office, framed by inspiration images and wallpaper samples. The large pink swatch is a custom, in-the-works concept for her country house. (PHOTO: KYLE KNODELL)

Luxe presents “Forces of Influence,” a three-part feature that spotlights designers as they reflect on an indelible spark. Learn what inspires Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Young Huh, and Rayman Boozer.


I was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to Michigan when I was three. Most of my ideas about my home country came from my parents, who were passionate about collecting and preserving Korean art. 

One of my favorite early memories was flying to New York City with my mother. She was shopping for a scholar screen—an artwork meant to decorate the study of a Yangban (a scholar of the highest class). They depict items a Yangban might exhibit to show his refinement: books, a peony, ink brushes. My mother was also searching for folk art—colorful, informal paintings, often with suggestive subject matter. I learned then that there were two schools of Korean art: the school based on courtly formalities, and the folk art hung in the homes of merchants or shamans. 

Adolescent me became fascinated with folk art. Rabbits smoking pipes! Mountains in every color under the sun! The rainbow hanbok of young girls! To me, these visions were the heartbeat of traditional Korean art—and today, they inspire every inch of my design aesthetic. 

Last year, I purchased a home in New York’s Hudson Valley: a classic Colonial in the most idyllic countryside setting. As I dreamt of how to decorate, my thoughts turned to my heritage. One project I’m working on is designing a wallpaper with Fromental, inspired by the papers out of East Asia, which were traded in the New World in the 17th century. I’ll be incorporating both the structure of courtly paintings and the brightness of folk art, all presented in a modern way. 

Some people think decorating is about picking pretty fabrics, but it is rooted in soils far deeper than that. As I design this home, I think of all the people who have lived here over the last two centuries, my family tree that dates back 700 years, and my children who will carry the future—and who, I hope, will tell everyone’s story. 

— As told to Grace Beuley Hunt