This Chic Jewelry Studio and Café Is Leading a Quiet Style Revolution in Seoul

The neighborhood of Hannam-dong in Seoul contains an unusually quiet residential pocket, steps from a concrete overpass. Deliverymen zip past four-story apartments on electric bikes through streets narrow and winding. It is an unlikely fashion spot, yet those in the know are drawn here by The Room, a jewelry studio cum café from Sarah Cho, the Korean aesthete with a revolutionary point of view.

Cho is responsible for the design of the wildly popular One in a Million café just 12 minutes southwest. Its pretty pink and leafy green interior checked all the visual boxes when it opened two years ago, inspiring a slew of imitators. Yet she quickly tired of it. “It’s too crowded—and I was really getting sick of the color pink,” she says, laughing, as we sit down to iced coffees. “This area is more chill. I really like being here.”

The Room has become an immersive visual experiment and a personal retreat for Cho since it opened last fall. One pushes a swinging glass door and climbs a narrow set of white stairs to enter the café. Its design is of the industrial minimalist school: three rooms lined in concrete and a sun-drenched back patio with a windowpane roof. A simple menu of coffees and house-made rooibos chai lattes, plus tiny cookies and scones can be ordered. The marble tables are flecked with coral and steel blue patches, the chairs are plated gold wire, and a beautiful little green blown glass vase holds fresh white blooms.

The front room is the base for Cho’s line, Scho Studio (hence the name “Scho Room,” a play on show room), which is beloved for its classic yet whimsical designs: enormous clustered pearl hoops, or a cut sapphire crystal suspended by thin silver wire. The peripatetic designer, who grew up between Namibia, the U.S., Korea, and France, maintains an atelier in Paris’s 6th Arrondissement, where she first cut her teeth in the fashion world—working under Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga, then shifting to accessories at Alber Elbaz’s Lanvin. Her own design process relies on pure intuition: Drawers of loose colored stones, crystals, and bits of metal and acrylic are mixed and matched in her atelier, “kind of like a puzzle,” she says.

This laissez-faire approach defines her. Take her signature floating crystal choker, affectionately termed the “The Iron Man necklace” by fans due to its resemblance to a mini Arc Reactor. Cho created it to elevate her everyday uniform (“I pretend to be like Steve Jobs and always wear the black turtleneck.”) with a single addition. “You don’t need to dress up like crazy, just pop it on and go,” she says. Cho prefers custom orders and has a roster of star clients, such as the singer Hyukoh for whom she designed weighted silver hoops. Many of them slip quietly in and out of The Room. “The point is we don’t want them to feel exposed, so we keep it quite underground for them,” she says. “I think they feel very comfortable here.”

The pursuit of comfort, of letting things be, is itself an act of rebellion in the high-strung city; from beauty standards to daily dress, aesthetics here are highly manicured. It is one reason why Cho has decided to start things slow with The Room, but hopes to expand in time: crafting objet-like furniture with The Living Room (in fact, Cho made all the marble tables in the café, which customers frequently try to snap up), or perhaps soap baubles for The Bath Room. Maybe one day there will be a full-flung hotel. “But I don’t know if my aesthetic will fit here,” she adds. “I’m trying to do something a little more down to earth and low-key, and we’ll see how that catches on first.” (No doubt it will; despite its remote location, The Room is quietly booming through word of mouth.)

There may be no better way to spread her unfettered point of view than through this jewelry studio-café, which has become an oddly popular mode of expression: See Esra Dandin in Istanbul, who recently traded her Karaköy patisserie to make biomorphic chains halfway across the world. There is something innately grounding about both jewelry-making and sweets: The hand is there, and you can see it throughout the Room.

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