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

by WOHe

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


Accustomed to working on smaller kitchens, designer Gioi Ngoc Tran
of the San Francisco, CA-based Applegate Tran Interiors knew he
needed to “go with the flow” when he was asked to rework a very
large, but inefficiently designed kitchen, upgrading both the
aesthetics and the functional aspects of the room.

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Other problems included outdated appliances and cabinetry, and a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.”

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