Water cooler paper “cups”
In a stroke of genius (or er, a mistake-turned-ingenuity?) by one of the editors at Seoulist, we’ve discovered that the oft-overlooked paper sleeves you find at water coolers are exceptional as makeshift business card holders. We don’t advise you to flash these at a business meeting, or worse, at a job interview, but they’re kind of awesome in an I’m-too-cool-to-buy-a-₩25,000-biz-card-holder way. Not to mention, you can unleash your creativity by rendering a one-off masterpiece with whatever medium you find necessary. And the supply? Endless.
Chair leg booties
I don’t know about you, but I can’t count how many times I’ve burned my fingers while opening a scorching teapot lid (no, I haven’t yet caught onto the cool electronic ones). The best way to prevent said accident? Those (cheesy) chair leg covers you find at shops like Daiso or other household stores. I wouldn’t be caught dead dressing my chairs in booties, but they fit brilliantly onto the round metal handles of teapots. Some of the knitted versions can even be stretched to fit the bigger knobs on pots. Finally, no need to fumble with a giant oven mitt just for a cup of coffee.
Hanji (Korean paper)
This beautiful paper, made from the bark of Paper Mulberry trees has many uses, like book covers, drawer liners, and wallpaper. The one that yields the most wow factor, without having to toil hours over it, is to cover plain-Jane lampshades with hanji. I’ve seen it done on pendant lamps and it lends a sweet, warm feel to the room in place of a starkly modern light. All you have to do is crinkle up the paper to your heart’s content (they come in sheets at any local stationery store) and wrap it around the fixture, affixing it with twine or ribbon. The crinkle effect gives it texture and the muted color of the paper imparts a soft, moody glow.
Bonjuk to-go package
This best-selling juk (Korean porridge) chain is not only good for its comfort food, but also for its takeout packaging. Its size makes it the perfect place to store your breakfast bagel when you’re on the go. It’s not too tight so you won’t smush it in your struggle to get the bagel out, and you don’t need to worry about any leaky mess (melted butter in your bag, anyone?). Sure, it might not be as light as wrapping your everything bagel in tin foil, but we’ll give you a little nudge with the green factor.
UNIQLO Heattech bag
Heattech has been all the rage in Korea, and for good reason. If you decide to pick up this optimally thin clothing at UNIQLO to gear up for the remaining winter, think twice about tossing the plastic bag. It’s an ingenious accompaniment to a number of devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, iPhone, and other smart phones to—what else—sing in the shower (don’t deny it). The zip-lock keeps the water out completely, and it still allows for navigating the device so you can easily switch from Rihanna to Adele mid-scrub. Just hook the bag onto a caddy and freely polish your vocal skills for the next noraebang outing.
Mulmeokneun Hama (물먹는하마) lid
Of course, we can’t really round up this list without talking about an iconic household item in Korea: the Mulmeokneun Hama (물먹는하마, or the “Water-drinking hippo”). Found in almost every home in Korea, we all know that it’s awesome at suctioning moisture or any sort of stench that might waft out every time you open your refrigerator door. Once the hippo has dutifully done its work, you can utilize the iconic pink top as a soap tray. The rectangular perforations provide easy water drainage so your bar of soap (or dish sponge) isn’t bathing in its own pool of water. Just make sure you’re using it right side up so there’s space for the liquid to flow out and air to keep the soap dry.
Have you discovered novel uses for everyday, homegrown Korean items? Share your tips below.