How do you convert traditional clients into die-hard minimalists? Architectural designer Fu-Tung Cheng did it in three phases. The owners of this 3,700-square-foot condo in San Francisco started small, hiring Cheng to remodel two bathrooms. Smitten by the transformation—particularly a white-on-white bath featuring a Port Orford cedar ceiling reminiscent of a sauna—they ordered up an overhaul of their cramped kitchen.

Cheng responded by widening doorways and opening the kitchen to create views of downtown San Francisco. He added a buffet ledge that separates the kitchen and dining space, hiding clutter without blocking natural light. He also added magical details: a curved wood and concrete prep island resembling a small boat; a custom range hood; and the master stroke—a Japanese Taisho-era cupboard used as an appliance garage.

“We showed our clients that contemporary design could be warm through the use of details that reflect the mark of the human hand,” Cheng says.

Merit Award

Category Whole-house makeover or significant addition
Entrant/Designer Cheng Design, Berkeley, Calif.
Builder 38 Degrees North Latitude Builders, San Rafael, Calif.
Interior designer Henderson Design Group, San Francisco

In the final phase—a master “wing” containing a bedroom, bath, closets, and a library—the overall effect is clean, but there’s richness in fine-grain touches such as fumed oak shelves with natural edges, mosaic pebble wall accents in the master bath, floating steel bookends in the library, and concrete counters and sinks inlaid with stone and ammonite details.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.