NKBA 2002 Design competition: Best Overall Design Going With the Flow

NKBA 2002 Design competition: Best Overall Design
Going With the Flow

In fact, flow became a key element of his design, with its clean lines, open layout and contrasting play of angles and curves garnering Tran top honors in the 2002 National Kitchen & Bath Association Design Competition, winning the James H. Foster, Jr., CKD, Memorial Award for Best Overall Design.

Tran's kitchen design, which also took first-place honors in the Design Competition's Category 2 Medium Kitchens (see related story, Page 100), solves multiple design challenges, from giving the dated room a functional and aesthetic upgrade and creating a more efficient layout to providing an area to showcase the clients' art collection and helping to make the kitchen work as a central hub for a busy family.

A major part of what makes the kitchen so successful is the way it works harmoniously with the rest of the home. Notes Tran, "I was the only designer for the entire house. Therefore, I knew how it should flow. It was really important to have the kitchen relate to the rest of the house."

Originally, Tran explains, "The layout of the kitchen was closed off from the rest of the house, so as you entered from the front entrance of the house, you had to walk all the way around, through the dining room and living room, to enter through the kitchen."

To address this, Tran opened up all the walls to the kitchen and the dining room. He states, "There was an existing wall with an opening and door, so I opened up that, too. From the front entry, I opened up that space so you do not have to walk through the dining room to enter the kitchen. That made a difference."

Additionally, the new, more open design took maximum advantage of the room's natural light, while emphasizing the stunning view of the San Francisco Bay.

Even within the kitchen, the flow of the space was inefficient, Tran reports. While the space was large, the layout simply didn't work. "The clients had to travel a lot to reach appliances in the work triangle," Tran notes, "and the island blocked the traffic flow."

Other problems included outdated appliances and cabinetry, and a '60s-style design that was desperately in need of updating.

New appliances, including a Thermador cooktop, oven and microwave, Miele dishwasher and coffee system and a Sub-Zero refrigerator give the kitchen a much-needed boost in function. Doussie flooring replaced the dated flooring, further updating the look.

Wanting an atypical looking kitchen, the clients specifically requested a design that would not incorporate wall to-wall cabinetry. Instead, they asked for an "art wall" to showcase artwork they had collected.

Tran selected custom vertical eucalyptus cabinetry, then provided extra storage in the form of a walk-in pantry. Additional items can be stored in the mud room, helping to keep the kitchen clean and uncluttered.

The center island, created to be a focal point for the room, presented another challenge. In addition to working as a food preparation area and dining counter, it had a column that was needed for structural support. While some designers might try to hide this, Tran felt that this was a poor strategy. Instead, he notes, "I wrapped it with concrete so that it would be something that was substantial. I made it more visible."

In fact, the column adds weight and interest to the center island, which features a visually compelling mix of materials, from the concrete wrapped column to the elegant black granite countertops to elements of glass and stainless steel. He adds, "The contrasting play of angles and curves creates a more sculptured island."

The island not only breaks up the space and provides a visually arresting centerpiece to the room, it also significantly enhances the kitchen's functionality. Notes Tran, "The island houses the sink, the dishwasher and also a lot of work counter space. There is another eat-in counter that is supported by these wedges and a single piece of glass. There are different levels, too  the eat-in counter is raised, and there's a work surface that is at a 36" counter height."

The contemporary, clean-lined styling is echoed in the custom hood from Vent-A-Hood.

The kitchen is set up for multi-function, according to Tran, not just an area to prepare meals or entertain in. "For the children, there's a hidden television in the cabinetry. There's also a surround sound system throughout the house, not just in the kitchen. There are a lot of hidden elements that give them the multi-function elements that they wanted," he adds.

The end result, according to Tran, is a kitchen that not only looks beautiful and works well, but one that "is now, truly, the hub of the house."