Homes become venues for social gatherings
Inside the house, students of Park Ro-sa, a piano teacher at Seoul Arts High School, take turns playing in front of about 50 people who fill seats in the living room and kitchen. The audience is only two to three meters, or less than 10 feet, away from the piano, close enough to even hear the young performers letting out nervous sighs.
As dusk falls, a view of a garden through full-length glass doors beside the improvised stage provides a cozy backdrop to the concert.
These house concerts began with a simple housewarming party Ms. Park’s friend, Kim Seong-min, 38, held after she moved into the three-story house in January. Ms. Kim invited her church choir friends, including Ms. Park, to her new house and they admired the high ceilings and the acoustic qualities of the structure.
Ms. Park raised the idea of hosting house concerts ― something she had experienced often while she was studying in France.
Previously, Ms. Park had hired theaters regularly for her students to practice in front of an audience, but the smallest had at least 200 seats and her students were discouraged by so many empty seats. Ms. Park was also dissatisfied with the tuning of the theater pianos and the hire fee stretched her class’s limited budget.
She suggested that Ms. Kim open her home for house concerts and Ms. Kim agreed. Instead of rental charges, Ms. Park provided a grand piano. It would have cost 300,000 won ($316) every time she hired a theater anyway.
The first house concert at Ms. Kim’s home was in May. Since then, there have been another eight concerts. As the word spread about the events, the audience grew to include more than just the performers’ family members.
“My kids like sitting on the staircase when the music is playing,” said Joo Seong-yeon, 38, who brought her children, aged 4 and 8, to watch a concert earlier this month. “The atmosphere is very laid back. My children can move from the second floor to the third to listen from where they want.”
After the concert, a buffet dinner was served at the top of the house. Fried chicken, sandwiches, assorted fruit and gimbab ― rice, egg and vegetables wrapped in sheets of dried seaweed ― were available.
The idea of hosting concerts, parties or even weddings at someone’s home might seem an unusual idea for modern Koreans, who mostly live in apartment complexes, but it is fast catching on.
And if your own house is too small, why not borrow a bigger one that suits your needs?
Ahn Gyeong-ja, who has organized weddings for almost a year and a half now in Pyeongchang-dong, runs Art Bridal, a house she has leased for 10 years and remodeled to rent out for weddings.
She says it took her more than a year to find the perfect house for her business. It sits on top of a steep hill in Pyeongchang-dong and has a fantastic view over Hyeongje Peak on Mount Bukhan.
The house can hold a maximum of 150 guests, a relatively small number for a Korean wedding. Initially, Ms. Ahn only hosted one or two weddings a month, but her business has grown steadily through word of mouth.
All available dates in October were fully booked by June, she said.
Other house wedding venues include The Bailey House in Samseong-dong and Wedding & Life Company W in Nonhyeon-dong.
Office worker Lee Jeong-mi, 37, also found that someone else’s home could be the perfect venue for a cocktail party. For a night out with her colleagues, she hired out the home of Song Hye-jin, a food stylist, who owns a house with a garden in Buam-dong.
“It was a new experience to spend a night at a comparatively non-commercial place,” Ms. Lee said. “It was more cozy and fun.”
Kim Gyeong-mi, 35, also started renting out her new house in Gwacheon in July, after being overwhelmed by requests from people who wanted to use her home for house parties.
“I guess there are just a lot of people these days who do not like to hold their parties in loud, noisy restaurants,” she said.
by Lee Ji-young