“Simplicity is the glory of expression.” —Walt Whitman
In the late 1950s, a 23-year-old American artist named Frank Stella exhibited his work Black Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959. “What you see is what you see,” he said, explaining his simple, monochromatic series of black paintings, inadvertently creating what many still view as the mantra for minimalism. In the sixties and seventies, the minimal art movement flourished, and today the philosophy of minimalism has taken on different forms and moved on from just art culture alone.
Though the idea of minimalism might be taken for granted today, stripping away the abstract and embellishments of previous art movements and design was considered avant-garde. Throughout human history, from cultures all over the world, individuals who embraced minimalism continually revived the art of simple living, individuals like Buddhist monk Beobjeong (법정스님) with his book Non-Possession, American essayist and poet Henry David Thoreau, who stated, “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify,” to Netflix’s current buzz Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The arguments that a cluttered room means a cluttered mind are commonly used, and the stark zen garden is still strangely intriguing and peaceful in the age of materialism.
As the Cafe Hunter, I find great pleasure in simple, beautiful cafes with unobtrusive interior design and quality coffee. The idea that a quiet space with limited distractions can lend some peace of mind seems to be accurate when it comes to finding the right cafe during a busy day. Luft Coffee was born with the mantra “Less is More” and has followed through with this in all the details found in the cafe. Interesting, dreamy artwork is hung low on the walls, pastel colors and clear-cut, metal tables mix in the large, open space to make an oasis of sorts in the middle of a busy district near Myeongdong.
There is more window than wall, letting in light from all sides. Through the glass, the pavement, roads and unevenly stacked businesses are easily seen, but from inside the cafe, one feels untouched by the surrounding commotion. It’s quiet inside, the high ceiling seeming to cushion sound rather than allowing it to reverberate, and the sounds of the espresso machine grinding the coffee beans hum in the background, a complement to the music instead of a mark of dissonance. I arrived right at opening at 7:00 am, but due to its business district location, customers came in just after me. The baristas already stood prepared, their smiles the first friendly faces for some coming in for their cup of liquid energy. Bread and pastries ranging from basic croissants to matcha cream-cheese filled round buns were laid out in pans, the warm scent enticing. Plants dot the room, and a single, blue neon light cheekily shines out the word “Hawaii,” further emphasizing this island of simplicity in a complex part of town.
In a fast-paced, insomniatic city such as Seoul, a cafe dedicated to finding and successfully creating the beauty of space between things is a tribute to minimalism, and a place worth visiting for the freedom to be calm. Established in 2016, Luft Cafe has admirably stuck to its mission of “Less is More” and provides a coffee shop full of nothing but simple decor, modest colors and space. That, I could argue, is more than enough.
Location: 1F, 308, Samil-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
Hours: Weekdays AM 7:30 – PM 9:00 / Weekend AM 9:00 – PM 9:00
Plastic-Free: Ask for a mug when ordering
When you visit Luft, be sure to snap a few photos and tag me @sincerelybeckyw ! It’s always good to see another Cafe Hunter on the prowl.