The Hoa Mai Furniture Design Competition 2021


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 2021.

The 18th iteration of the annual competition continues to inspire young Vietnamese designers to unleash their creative design talent using American hardwood species that provide versatility, durability and aesthetic.

Mr. John Chan, Regional Director Greater China and Southeast Asia of The American Hardwood Export Council, said of the competition “We are heartened that, even in the midst of a pandemic, we were able to push through with the competition this year. We hope that through this competition, we can discover and nurture more budding Vietnamese design talent, and encourage greater understanding of American hardwood amongst Vietnamese designers and manufacturers.”

All entries this year were created from American red oak, the most abundant species in the American hardwood forest and which is particularly suited to fine furniture making given its beauty, strength and workability. There were over 336 entries this year and judging panel narrowed this down to a shortlist of 17 from which 8 eventual winners were chosen.

The highlights are:

S21 Rocking Chair and Hung King Family Sofa Set
First prize winner: Nguyen Duc Huynh

Designer Nguyen Duc Huynh had two entries in the final. The first is a set of rocking tables and chairs inspired by hand trolleys these pieces have a large cushion at the front to suggest someone carrying a package. The foot-rest is also inspired by a recently delivered package. The seat has been stylised to create a unique shape with a string backrest.

The Hung King sofa set took inspiration the relics of King Hung Temple, which has many entrances to the same oriental-style dome architecture. This architecture can be seen throughout Vietnam. The furniture is built based on that image to create a family of tables and chairs with Vietnamese style. The colour of the entire set is coordinated to give a feel of togetherness and also highlights how well American red oak receives colour and stain.

Simple Combination
Second prize winner: Tran Minh Tien & Tran Phat Thuan

These two young designers took what they felt was a simple idea of combining different materials, iron and wood, and made it into a practical structure. The design allows for the doors to be closed, or opened by pushing in to reveal the contents. The juxtaposition of the two materials, natural and man-made, emphasises the grain of the American red oak.

Alpha Chair
Second prize winner: Tran Cam Trinh & Tran Phat Thuan

The Alpha chair took the second prize in the 2021 competition. This piece is inspired by the alpha symbol, and aims to bring convenience and enjoyment to users. The designers intend the chair to be neatly folded when not in use. Two simple elastic lines are both a design feature and provide additional structural support. In this piece the American red oak seat and frame is held with shrink wire and iron bolts.

Third prize winner: Vu Phan Hoai Nhi, Van Lang University


Taking third prize in the competition, designer Vu Phan Hoai Nhi was inspired by the pandemic to create a mobile and versatile workspace. For use at home or in the office it can be easily set up to create a partitioned and private, yet comfortable workspace. The American red oak timber envelops the user and creates a sense of calm and focus. It is foldable and therefore easily stored when more open space is required. The smart addition of wheels allow the workspace to be moved easily.

Dinh Chair
Consolation prize winner (functionality): Tran Hoang Long

<em><strong>Dinh Chair</strong></em>

Đình Chair expresses both simplicity and complication, lightness and heaviness in its aesthetics through an assembly of bold back legs and modest front legs, rafter-inspired armrests, complemented by antique brass details. A house roof, one of the elements that distinguish traditional Vietnamese Architecture from others, is reassembled in the curvy apron and seat form. Inspired from the first impression when entering traditional Vietnamese communal housing, Đình Chair embraces the intuitive elegance of Vietnamese Heritage while capturing the sense of contemporary design. The distinctive grain of the American red oak timber is highlighted by the intense dark stain.

Parapol Chair
Consolation prize winner (technique): Ngo Duy Khanh, Ho Chi Minh University of Architecture

<em><strong>Parapol Chair</strong></em>

The inspiration for this chair was the mathematical parabola function graph. Designer Ngo Duy Khanh felt that parabola curves were both powerful and definitive whilst still being generous and attractive. The designer was able to experiment with the bending capabilities of the American red oak for excellent effect.

Cyclo Chair
Consolation prize winner (marketability): Tran Thanh Huyen, Hanoi Architectural University

<em><strong>Cyclo Chair</strong></em>

Cyclo Chair is inspired by the movie "The Lover" (1992), which depicts the romantic love story between a Chinese man and a young French girl. Designer Tran Thanh Huyen explains that the movie is set in hot, humid Saigon in the 1920s. The background, colour, and interior style used in the movie are characterised by a Saigon-Indochina vibe. The image of a cyclo, or trishaw, appears as a symbol of Saigon. At that time, the cyclo was the means of transport for rich French officials and bureaucrats (representing the upper class). With the desire to revive the atmosphere of the movie as well as Saigon’s vibe, the Cyclo chair was born and boasts elegant features providing comfort to users.

Consolation prize winner (aesthetic & uniqueness): Dao Son Tung & Dao Son Lam, Hanoi University of Construction

Designers Dao Son Tung and Dao Son Lam sought to bring out the values of village craft and traditional art with a fresh perspective. % is symbolic of indie-folk music, a combination of the catchy indie rock melody with the sound of acoustic in traditional folk music. It is vibrant, attractive, modern, but preserves traditional culture. The acoustic part is shown through the ceramics of the ancient village of Bat Trang, combined with rock. The designers cleverly combine elements and by using a premium material, in this case American red oak, elevate the quality of the design.

The Hanging Moon
Consolation prize winner (eco-friendliness): Nguyen The Hung, Van Lang University

The inspiration for The Hanging Moon comes from ancient Hoi An houses which use traditional materials. Designer Nguyen The Hung feels that besides having a beautiful wood grain, American red oak’s acceptance of moisture and excellent heat retention make it easy to bend and join together thus enhancing the overall design.

Orange Cabinet
Nguyen Phuong Uyen, Van Lang University

The Orange Cabinet was inspired by the designer’s grandmother’s hand fan, which was used to coax the designer to sleep when she was a child. Nguyen Phuong Uyen decided to make a round cabinet with the fan as its doors. She choose orange blossom as the pattern on the doors to symbolise purity, innocence, good fortune, health, and eternal love – wishes her grandmother had for her and now her for others.

Multi-purpose Dining Table
Bui Thanh Duong, Hanoi Architectural University

Designer Bui Thanh Duong sought to create a unique, new product that is versatile and space-saving, an increasingly popular theme as living spaces become both smaller and more stylish. The multi-purpose dining table integrates various features that make it suitable to be a comfortable work desk, but also ideal for cosy family meals. The designer looked to show how pieces created from high quality materials such as American red oak can enhance everyday experiences.

Sacred Cabinet
Nguyen Dinh Phong, Hanoi Architectural University

<em><strong>Sacred Cabinet</strong></em>

Since ancient times, the image of the dragon carving has been a symbol of sacredness and traditional beauty for Vietnamese people. Nguyen Dinh Phong’s design was inspired by the dragon boat in traditional Vietnamese culture. The dragon scales detail and the curving lines help create a softness in the repeating pattern. This piece shows the versatility of American red oak to good effect with the intricate design retaining a crisp finish.

Cho Cabinet
Nguyen Le Ngoc Anh & Huynh Ngoc Tan, Van Lang University

<em><strong>Cho Cabinet</strong></em>

This design is inspired from Chồ houses in Tam Giang lagoon, Hue. It is a multi-functional piece – a combination of a cabinet and a hanger.

The designers felt that the colour of American red oak was particularly special and enhanced the design. Effort was successfully made to ensure the lotus leaves were highlighted in the timber finish.

Tu Bao Duong
Duong Thanh Danh & Tran Ngoc Nhat

<em><strong>Tu Bao Duong</strong></em>

Designers Duong Thanh Danh & Tran Ngoc Nhat feel that spiritual altars are key features of Asian homes but are not necessarily compatible with modern design tastes. They therefore sought to address this issue. They designed an altar Than Tai-Tho Dia. This features refined detail from ancient Vietnamese architecture including the head of the temple roof, the fortress structure, the non-buried column and the base, resulting in the design of "Tu Bao Duong". A high quality material such as American red oak was an important element for the altar in order to respect the existing and traditional design but also as a key part of the reimagination for more contemporary living.

Dam Thao Nguyen


Chan is a product of harmony between two materials, American red oak and bamboo, making it reminiscent of a vintage period. Chạn is a clever combination of a small chair, a small table and a small cabinet, making it fit for multiple purposes. Attention to detail such as the lock and key elevate this design.

Tanip Working Desk
Phung Do Ngoc Cam Tu, Ton Duc Thang University

<em><strong>Tanip Working Desk</strong></em>

The table is inspired by treehouses in primeval forests and the feeling evoked when people are alone in the midst of nature. It relaxes people after experiencing the hustle and bustle of urban life and stimulates new ideas that arise when the mind is truly at ease. Designer Phung Do Ngoc Cam Tu sought to recreate these experiences with the TANIP desk. She recognised American red oak contributed to the design through its natural and beautiful grain. The timber is well-suited for staining the colour whilst letting the grain shine through.

Like this story, share to your friends
Indonesia Design
Indonesia Design brings exciting updates on architecture, interior design, art and lifestyle products.