Kitchen and Bath Design Expert: Fu Tung Cheng
Fu-Tung Cheng world renown, award winning designer-craftsman, speaker, author, artist and founder of Cheng Designand Cheng Design Products, Inc. brings an organic, balanced, Earth friendly, and aesthetically pleasing approach to his design work and products. Well known for his extraordinary artistic, sculptural work with concrete (from entire homes to sinks) , Fu –Tung has fused art with function resulting in one-of-a-kind kitchen and bath elements.Fu-Tung has partnered with Kitchen and Bath manufacturer, Tonusa to create eco-friendly, modern-styled cabinetry for the Elements Cabinetry Collection. Fu-Tung’s partnership with Elkay brings his sculptural approach to kitchen sink design in the form of the “Ripple” sink and “Cascade” sink – both sinks mirroring organic elements found in nature.CONTACT INFORMATION:
What do you see as the top Kitchen and Bath design trends for 2009?
Asked this question each year, I have the same initial response: the trend that trumps trends triumphs over the necessity for trends. “Trends” are a product of fashion and media currents that promulgate turn-over, stimulate change for its own sake, and contribute to our insatiable desires for something different. I would prefer to seek some solace and relief from this paradigm that feeds the notion that we need constant change, condemns our products to rapid turn-over and obsolescence, and has created an unsustainable model for the world. With this mind, I am doing my best to promote simple, appropriate energy saving technologies coupled with high quality, long lasting green materials and simple, elegant, low-cost aesthetics. I would love to be asked this question in intervals of every decade instead of every year.
At the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show this year, many sophisticated, innovative new appliances and products were unveiled. How do you see the increase in smart kitchen and bath appliances making life easier for homeowners?
As long as the “smart” technologies for appliances do not mimic the electronics industry I think that there can be benefits. Today’s electronic “marvel” is often tomorrow’s quaint garage sale curio. Ovens that don’t need pre-heating save energy, dishwashers that filter water, save water, refrigerators that seal tightly but release their door without suction-tight resistance save electricity—all make our life-style slightly less onerous on our environment than before. But the production costs and half-life of these technologies must reflect the harsh reality of the limits of our Earth’s resources, and not simply be innovative comfort-food masking our same old bloated consumer diet.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
More and more, I realize that inspiration comes out from the process of creative thinking, rather than from a single source. Of course one must accumulate years of input, data, hands-on experience, even imitation, before the “culture”, like with good bread, can rise. Replenishing the culture is a constant process. Museums, art gallery shows, architecture, and the talents and ideas of other designers feed my inspiration culture.
What advice would you give to homeowners considering a kitchen or bathroom remodel?
Realistically budget the amount of money you can comfortably afford, then expect that sum to double. Enjoy the process, the privilege, you have to enhance your life with ability and the means to remodel. Then, by whatever means, with whatever help, professional or otherwise, make inspired design with your own hands-on participation if possible.
Tell us about your favorite kitchen and/or bathroom design project.
Among many, I enjoyed the challenging kitchens where I was required to come up with design solutions that solved the client’s needs while pushing the envelope on the aesthetics and materials. The Meteor Vineyard project was for a retired executive who would spare no expense for a kitchen that would complement his five year in the making rammed earth cutting edge home. The architect, who had designed Bill Gates’ home in Bainbridge, Washington, had produced numerous schemes for the kitchen of the very house he had designed and worked on for so long. They were all eventually rejected on the subjective judgment of the owner/amateur chef. The architect certainly didn’t lack for talent nor ideas…but perhaps his schemes reflected an aloofness from the nature of cooking and the requirements of food preparation. In any case, I got the job. My concept matched the earthiness and heft of the rammed earth with a space surrounded by walls of concrete and integrated countertops detailed with tile-lined work sinks, zinc shelves, 3/8″ plate steel, and honed granite. (See Meteor Vineyard project at Cheng Design)
In your personal kitchen or bath – what is the product(s) that you can’t imagine living without?
In my kitchen, it would have to be my old, original pro-restaurant Wolf “Husky” 6 burner cooktop. It was made in L.A. way before Sub-Zero bought the rights to use the name for the current domestic line of Wolf stove products. It has a classic, timeless simplicity. Six heavy cast-iron grates, no catch-pans around the burners, electronic ignition, nor other domestic niceties—just a hefty, gritty, simple stove that burns with wok-fired intensity. Then, of course, the original concrete countertop I made that launched an entire cottage industry is the one in my kitchen, and it still has that “can’t-believe-its-concrete” look after 25 years of service. In the bath, it’s my stainless steel soaking tub that I designed around a concrete block surround–it’s lined with foam between the wall and the stainless, so it retains heat in the water like a stainless thermos keeps hot beverages. The heater re-circulates the water for multiple reuses.
Imagine designing your dream kitchen or bath. What style would it be? What products would you use ?
To be honest, I designed my dream kitchen 25 years ago and still use it today with no desire to alter its style. I would like to upgrade my Magic Chef oven. It lacks a handle and has enough thick gunk stuck inside its walls that it could be mistook for a kiln instead of an oven. From what I have seen recently, Jenn-Air has the nifty new digital controls that resembles an I-phone, Miele and Gageneau always look classic with that sense of European sophistication and cutting edge looks. Wolf, Thermador, Viking and many other domestic brands seem to be producing contemporary looks comparable to European with the size capacity tailored to American taste. I would love a couple of new under-counter refrigerators that are frost-free, defrosting 4 inches of ice every few months gets old.
Green design is an important consideration for many homeowners. Do you have advice for homeowners who want to “green” their kitchen or bathroom?
Timeless contemporary design that exudes the craftsmanship and enduring quality that people savor in antique “classics” is the “sweet spot” I seek for my clients’ projects. Preservation is conservation. Making green design choices by homeowners is more than just choosing products that profess to be green. If present homeowners consider that their design choices in their homes will transcend current ownership and extend for generations–that would be the “greenest” thing that they could do. Furthermore, the business model I have adapted for the concrete countertop products we make is based on the idea of local jobs for local artisans making concrete countertops for local homeowners and designers with locally quarried (sand, gravel, cement) materials. I have taught over 2500 contractors, fifteen at a time, in the techniques I developed for my own custom clients over the past 25 years. They are out there, independent craftsman, producing product with far less a carbon footprint than stone quarried continents away, shipped to and machined in Asia, then shipped here, trucked to fabricators. Greener, cheaper and more fun, you can grab control of your own environment by the horns and make your own countertops with simple tools and two weekends. (See Cheng Concrete for more information.)
We’d like to thank Fu-Tung Cheng of Cheng Designs for generously sharing his expertise and design advice.
The Decorating Diva is a luxury home design magazine and lifestyle journal dedicated to the concept of living a stylish and comfortably elegant life at home – joyfully surrounded by the beautiful things you love. Join, Carmen, The Decorating Diva’s founder, as she blogs about sophisticated, smart, stylish and beautiful decor for your home and shares her decorating and style advice with you. Follow her and several of our wonderful contributors on inspirational design trips as they explore enchanted lands both far and near – returning with a delightful treasure trove of design finds for your home.