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Design Competition Attracts a Record 331 Entries All Created Using American Red Oak

Hoa Mai Furniture Design Competition throws the spotlight on some of the best emerging design talent in Vietnam.

The Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCMC (HAWA) and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) recently announced the finalists and winners of the Hoa Mai Furniture Design Competition. The 17th iteration of the competition continues to provide young Vietnamese designers with the opportunity to explore the creative possibilities provided by American hardwood species and for business and industry to discover and connect with emerging design talent.

Nguyễn Duy Trí – Lagom shelf_02

All entries this year were created from American red oak, the most abundant species in the American hardwood forest. There were over 331 entries, 269 of which were from University students. The judging panel narrowed this down to a shortlist of 23, from which 9 eventual category winners were chosen. Nguyen Hoa, and a two-member team, Vu Thanh Nam and Nguyen Khanh Linh, have won first prizes in the competition, the former for his ‘Cham Shelf’ and the latter for their ‘Beo’ chair set. Le Long Vinh and Huynh Thanh Quyen were also awarded a special prize, presented for the first time in the annual competition, for their ‘Floating Market Bench’ inspired by the floating markets in the Mekong Delta. Vo Ngoc Nguyen and Quach Minh Quan won second prizes for their ‘Asian Feels Dining Table’ and ‘Minnaar’ chair. In addition, honorable prizes were awarded to Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa (SmartDesk), Nguyen Thi Huyen Trang (Re-Cabinet), Duong Thi Minh Ngoc (Propulsion Chair) and Le Phuoc Dang Huy (Dak Wak Chair).

Đinh Thanh Tùng – Cactus sofa

John Chan, AHEC Executive Director, Southeast Asia and Greater China, said of the competition: “We are delighted with the high quality of entries to the competition this year. The creative talent that continues to grow in Vietnam and the interest in the design and commercial possibilities that American hardwood species present is hugely encouraging.” According to HAWA, the furniture industry in Vietnam is targeting sales of USD 20 billion by 2025 and is looking to move away from doing mainly sub-contract work to original design.

Duong Thi Minh Ngoc – Propulsion chair

To achieve this goal, improving value addition on wooden products is imperative. Increasing investment in product design will help the industry shift from manufacturing furniture based on designs provided by buyers to original design manufacturing, resulting in greater revenues. Entries for the competition were judged on their appearance, ideas and the ability to be produced on a large scale. Testament to the quality of design on display at the awards ceremony, some furniture companies bought the copyrights for many of the designs to produce them. This echoes the thoughts of the judges who felt that ‘many of the products that entered this year could appear in the market’.

Le Long Vinh and Huynh Thanh Quyen – Floating Market bench

Cham Shelf by Nguyễn Hòa
Indigo stain with red Vietnamese lacquer detail, the Cham shelf fuses western and eastern cultures through a combination of color and pattern.

Ngô Văn Sơn – Ve Soi

BÈO by Vũ Thành Nam
Contact with materials including rattan, rush and duckweed whilst in the traditional trade villages of Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh combine here with a Scandinavian aesthetic to create a sofa that harmonizes modern and traditional simplicity.

Nguyễn Thế Hùng – Goi Cabinet

SmartDesk by Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa
Solid and thin, bar and block, black and white, push and pull. The SmartDesk is all about contrast. The intriguing design cleverly integrates wireless charger and USB ports with a concealed Hafele drawer. Designer Kim Thoa found the combination of the compressive strength of American red oak and ease with which it can be steam bent, a huge advantage in the manufacturing process.

Floating Market Bench by Lê Long Vĩnh and Huynh Thanh Quyen
This bench was inspired by the floating market of the Mekong Delta. Designer Vinh was particularly struck by the beauty of the grain and texture of the American red oak. The reliable and consistent quality meant that the slender poles were easier to achieve without splitting.

Quach Minh Quan – Minnaar chair

Minnaar Chair by Quach Minh Quan
“Derived from the poetics of a wave” is how interior design student Quach Minh Quan describes his softly curved creation with a continuous line flowing from the front leg of the Minnaar chair through the arm and from the armrest to the back. The chair is fluid and rounded in character with soft points of transition. “American red oak has some of the best qualities to work with. It’s easy to cut and machines well. It’s a fine wood in my opinion and I kind of like the color too!” he says.

Trần Phát Thuận – Ghe Dua

Pet and Me by Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai
Inspired by the posture and body shape of her dog, Mai experimented with staining her design with pigmented Rubio Oil. The porosity of American red oak makes it ideal for accepting stains and the result is a deep cobalt base to her chair. The prominent grain of the red oak particularly appealed to Mai and has been highlighted in the gently curved back of her design.

KN-KX by Nguyen Thanh Nam
‘The hundred knot bamboo”, a Vietnamese fairytale in which the hero commands 100 stems of bamboo to first ‘Stick together, stick together’ and then ‘unstick unstick’ in his quest to win his bride, was the initial catalyst for this intricate design by Nguyen Thanh Nam. The stability of red oak made it the perfect timber for the complexity of this piece. Nam also chose to stain with a dark hued oil for a more dramatic effect.

Roucacha by Phạm Quỳnh Sao Mai and Phạm Gia Luật
Roucacha was created to facilitate family connection. The shareable seat has a repeating spindle design that shows the distinctive grain pattern of the red oak. According to the designers: “the high-quality timber means we can achieve a very natural look”. The combination of stained timber, woven back rest and leather seat pad brings a contemporary twist to a traditional Vietnamese design approach.

GÓI Cabinet by Nguyễn Thế Hùng
Inspired by the Vietnamese tradition of wrapping Chung and Giay cakes in leaves, this cabinet melds shapes and textures and demonstrates the versatility of American red oak.
The dimensional stability of the timber makes it equally suitable for the larger shapes in addition to the detail where the natural meets the stained timber. Being almost completely red oak, this is a heavy piece designed to endure for generations.

The Moon Cabinet by Nguyễn Trí Trường Giang and Nguyễn Văn Diện
Twin moons in stained American red oak with brass and rattan inlay resulted in an arresting design that the designers claim was even a surprise to themselves.

Lagom Shelf by Nguyễn Duy Trí
‘Lagom’ translates in Swedish to ‘just enough’. The shelf mirrors the angular lines of an open book and has been designed to be customized according to needs and space. A minimal piece with maximum usability, the design shows off the unique end grain of the oak and the xylem, which allow the timber to be stained with ease.

Làng (Village) by Ngô Như Huỳnh
A multifunctional bookshelf and table, the desk can be folded when not in use and woven water hyacinth drawers maximize storage. Limed American red oak provides a minimalist but natural feel to the design and contrasts with the darker tones in the water hyacinth weaving.

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