Big Lights has been called a pioneer of natural wines in Korea and continues to present a selection of wines tailored to the tastes of Korea’s connoisseurs. This May, Big Lights moved to second floor of a building that now houses the Fritz Hansen Lounge.
We met Lee Joo Hee, owner of Big Lights, to talk about the new space and the connection between natural wine and design.
Naturally, the conversation included Tetu, the café and natural wine shop next door to Big Lights that is operated by the artist Guk Hwa. Tetu and Big Lights are furnished with Fritz Hansen.
FH. The two spaces are operated in different ways with natural wine as the common denominator. Tell us more.
Big Lights is the first wine bar opened in Seoul. We offer food as well, using only seasonal ingredients and using only firewood and charcoal grill. The changing menu is always designed to go with natural wine.
Tetu is a cafe and natural wine shop operated by artist Guk Hwa where you can enjoy natural wine more casually and comfortably. If Big Lights has an atmosphere like a house party, at Tetu you can drink wine in a quieter setting.
The natural wine selections are similar, so you can buy wines served at Big Lights for takeout at Tetu.
FH. How are natural wines and Fritz Hansen designs connected? And why was this furniture and lighting appropriate for your concept?
Fritz Hansen is a brand with a long history and good reputation; it is trusted by designers and makers. The same can be said for natural wine. Natural wine is the result of determined craftsmanship. It has been called ‘artisan wine’ and the characteristics of its makers carry over into the wine itself. In this way, it is like great design and art.
In the end, natural wine makers and Fritz Hansen designers and makers strive for the ultimate – taste, beauty, comfort. Their sincere effort is buried in their products, and it shines through.
FH. Big Lights uses the Grand Prix™ Chair, except for the lounge chair placed in the waiting area. Why the Grand Prix?
The Grand Prix chair has historical significance, but I also just like the way it looks when someone is sitting in it. No matter who is sitting, the lines of the body and the chair seem to go well together.
I wanted a chair that adds beauty to the space when it is empty, and when it is filled. A space must be pretty when it is, and it should be pretty when it is busy. You must keep both in mind.
FH. Tetu's furniture composition feels more ‘free.’ Is that true?
Gukhwa, who runs Tetu, is an artist who majored in photography in France and returned to show experimental photography and drawing. Like a cafe in Paris, we dreamed of a cultural space that was about more than just drinking coffee, and I wanted it to be more natural and human than formal.
Arne Jacobsen's Dot™ stool, Swan™ chair, and Nendo's NO1™ chair create a sense of rhythm, a sense of freedom. Above all, this is a place where you can freely enjoy natural wine by the glass and relax. We added small items like the KAISER idell™ lamps to complete the atmosphere of the space.
FH. Why use fine furniture in a food and beverage space?
I can feel what my customers like, and I think it is a great experience for them. To them and to me, quality is so important.
It is different to experience furniture for as little as 10 to 20 minutes in a showroom and to sit for hours of talking, eating, and drinking.
FH. Can you describe the rest of the space?
In front of the elevator is the Fred™ lounge chair by Jaime Hayon, a staple of our store. The candle holders and vases placed on each table are also his designs. I put Cecilie Manz's lights, Sidse Werner's Coat Tree, and Paul McCobb's lights in the space as well. Lighting is important, of course.
We have pictures and drawings by Guk Hwa displayed throughout Big Lights and Tetu.
The key to this place is that it is a space where you can enjoy natural wine naturally.
The image features Guk Hwa, the owner of Tetu (left) and Lee Joo Hee, the owner of Big lights (right).