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Life & Arts

South Korean design studio Z_Lab wows with its renovated rentals

The company's carefully curated getaways have customers flocking

A model of a lodge in Jeju created by South Korean architecture firm Z_Lab.

Nuwa is the definition of a cozy nook. The holiday rental property is only accessible by foot along a small hidden path in the Seochon area of Seoul -- a picturesque inner-city village to the west of Gyeongbok Palace and South Korea’s version of the White House, Cheong Wa Dae. Guests pay $144 per night for 21 sq. meters -- tiny even by the standards of the country’s traditional homes, or hanoks. Yet customers are scrambling to stay here: It is fully booked until February.

Its outsize popularity has put up-and-coming Seochon (literally “West Village”) on the map and brought attention to Stayfolio, a property-rental platform created by architecture firm Z_Lab. The lettings website -- a discerning apartment-rental service for design fans -- was started in 2014 by Z_Lab’s three founders, Lee Sang-muk, Noh Kyung-rok and Park Jung-hyun. It features the studio’s growing portfolio of residential projects available for rent, spanning hanoks in Seoul to a farmhouse and caravan park on the southern island of Jeju (see panel, opposite).

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