By TAN SHIOW CHIN
Three teams of interior design students wowed the judges with their creative ideas for a hotel restaurant.
JAPANESE tattoos, a garden in springtime and the sakura flower were all inspirations for the three designs that made it to the finals of the Benkay Japanese Restaurant ID Challenge 2007/08.
The contest, organised by Nikko Hotel Kuala Lumpur, was open to interior design students from local institutions of higher learning.
Their task was to come up with a fresh cutting-edge design for the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, which will be renovated in line with Nikko’s current re-imaging exercise. About 100 participants were given a briefing on the restaurant and allowed to inspect the site in two sessions.
After being given three months to work on their designs, three teams were shortlisted to present their ideas to a panel of judges at the hotel recently.
A garden in spring
Their classmates, Ng Foong Wai and George Ho, were also inspired by flowers in spring.
Said George: “We want to create a serene, calm environment, with a hint of joy.”
Foong Wai presented their plan, which featured different levels throughout the restaurant, as well as a water feature in the main dining area.
“The floor plan has been changed dramatically to give it a new lease of life.”
Foong Wai added that their ceiling plan was inspired by plants.
They also suggested putting washi paper on the windows to block out the view of a car park on one side of the restaurant.
“The washi paper can be painted so that it forms patterns when the sun shines through,” said George.
Meanwhile, Saito College Diploma in Interior Design students Rebecca Bong and Mike Teo Cheah Fong decided to go with the concept of Contemporary no Nihon (Contemporary Japan).
According to Rebecca, their concept was inspired by the beauty and colour of Japanese tattoos, which are popular in that country, and the United States.
Mike, who goes by the name Mike T, said being minimalist did not mean that a design had to be boring.
“What we are attempting is based on Japanese tattoos, which are quite artistic.”
Their design incorporated posters of models with interesting tattoos for the windows of the restaurant, as well as a dark interior to ensure that the focus is on the food.
“Dark interiors for sushi bars are not very acceptable, but I will go for it anyway, because I think appreciating your food is one thing that we need to learn from Japanese cuisine,” said Mike.
The winning design
The judges, comprising Nikko’s general manager Michael Borostyan, resident manager Ron Brooks, and interior designer Datin Catherine Lai, were impressed with the three designs.
Lai said it was refreshing to see young students showing such enthusiasm and great ideas.
Brooks was amazed at the quality of entries and how some of the teams created them during their exam period.
For Borostyan, it was vindication of his decision to have a competition to determine the new design for Benkay, rather than just commissioning a professional interior designer to do the job.
“They achieved all of my objectives in having the competition.
“The winning design is unique and we’re proud to be a part of it,” he said.
The judges had a difficult time picking the winner.
In the end, it was Rebecca and Mike’s hip and contemporary design that won the prize of RM5,000, a three-day, two-night stay at Nikko’s royal suite, and a trophy.
Brooks said a restaurant designed they would be a talking point.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this in any restaurant.”
As a testament to the quality of the designs, Brooks added that elements from all three of the final entries would be incorporated into Benkay’s plan, The restaurant is expected to undergo a makeover later in the year.
In addition, the two runner-up teams from KBU walked away with a plaque each and a RM300 Benkay dining voucher for each team member.