10 Years of Success: KAZE Team Looks Back At A Decade Of Iconic Design Projects | Vietcetera
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10 Years of Success: KAZE Team Looks Back At A Decade Of Iconic Design Projects

KAZE. | Source: Co Nguyen for Vietcetera.

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As KAZE Interior Design Studio turns ten, a new chapter begins for one of Southeast Asia’s leading interior design firms. From becoming the first Marriott-approved interior design studio in Vietnam to adding ‘hotel consultants’ to their service portfolio, there is no stopping the ambitious founder Fong-Chan Zeuthen and her 28-strong team of creatives (and a resident canine).

Proud to be part of an award-winning firm that introduced Scandinavian design to Vietnam, the KAZE family is confidently riding the wave of minimalism – a style that has taken Southeast Asia by storm after a somewhat late arrival. 

Join us in conversation with the in-demand hospitality designers to look at how KAZE evolved over the years to fuse the founder’s minimalist, functional and often quirky Danish aesthetic with Southeast Asian architectural traditions and craftsmanship.

Nguyen My Hanh - Senior Designer

A Project Designer at KAZE since 2014, Hanh leads a team that focuses on schematic design and concept development. Some of her major projects include Marriott Hoi An Resort & Spa, Novaland Madison Show unit, Vingroup Ha Tinh Hotel and PwC Office in Saigon.

If you were to describe KAZE culture in 3 words, what would they be?

Everyone here is very creative, but then in our industry mostly everyone is, so that’s a given. Instead I will focus on what truly makes KAZE stand out from the rest. First, it’s teamwork. We have very diverse personalities but our differences complement each other in a way that makes us a stronger team.

We are also a very balanced team. You see this in how well different departments work together but also in how we are able to deliver the most ambitious projects by combining our various competencies to deliver the result we and the client can be proud of.

Lastly, I would pick effectiveness. KAZE is extremely skilled at marrying beauty and budget. No matter what your budget is, we’ll find the most aesthetically pleasing and functional solution.

What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned during your time with KAZE? 

I learn something new every day, so hopefully the most valuable lesson lies ahead! Since joining the company 6 years ago, I’ve never stopped growing and it’s been a real journey of self-discovery. Ten years ago, we started with small projects and under Fong-Chan’s leadership have grown to become one of the region's leading hospitality design studios. Being part of this journey meant pushing yourself to take on bigger and more challenging tasks with every new project.

Which project that you were part of best represents KAZE style and approach? 

The Liberty Central hotel on Pasteur street, hands down. When I joined KAZE, the project was nearing completion so I wasn’t really involved in it. But for me, it epitomises our ambition and aesthetic. Liberty Central really put KAZE on the map and gave us the kind of visibility that attracts admirers from the international hospitality industry. When I step into that lobby, everything just feels right. 

Where do you go in Saigon to feed your visual inspiration? 

Since time does not always allow me to be out and about, it's on the TV screen that I usually find my inspiration: holing up somewhere comfortable and putting on a beautiful movie.

Do your local customers generally follow global trends in interior design or their tastes are unique to Vietnam?

It really depends on the generation and on the client’s work-life balance. Young people here have really bought into Scandinavian minimalism. They want simple and easy to clean so that leisure time can be spent on intellectual pursuits rather than endlessly rearranging decor pieces. Older generations are more into nesting and tend to have more complex design briefs. 

What career tips do you have for those getting started in the field of interior design?

Keep searching for a good mentor; someone with a knack for passing on the knowledge. I was lucky that Fong-Chan took me under her wing from day one at KAZE, and showed everything she knows.

Another tip is if something about a workplace doesn’t feel right, move on. Don’t wait for things to change. Life is too short to waste your time on an employer who doesn't inspire you to be your best every day.


Nguyen Van Thanh Ha (William), Project Designer

Having joined KAZE in 2019, William holds a Bachelor degree in Interior Design from Raffles College of Design and Commerce in Singapore. As a Project Designer, he manages major hospitality projects from inception to completion.

What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned during your time with KAZE? 

How to be more efficient. In one of our weekly meetings, Fong-Chan introduced the concept of time management and explained how to apply the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a productivity grid that ranks tasks based on their urgency and importance helping you to manage your time better.

Which project that you were part of best represents KAZE style and approach? 

Two projects stand out for me: Liberty Central hotel in Saigon and our most recent project, Radisson Blu resort in Hoi An. The first one is a 4-star hotel, the second is a luxury international development. Built six years apart, they perfectly illustrate the evolution of KAZE. 

With Liberty, our first major hotel project, we worked with a local developer to create an international-quality property with features that the owners chose as design guidelines for the Liberty properties that followed. It was a major breakthrough for the company.

Where do you go in Saigon to feed your visual inspiration? 

The old streets in District 3 or heritage buildings in District 5, depending on my mood and what I’m working on at the time. Sometimes I’d stop to take a look at a new hotel under construction, but most of the time you’ll find me strolling through the streets of old Saigon.

Do your local customers generally follow global trends in interior design or their tastes are unique to Vietnam?

There are global trends everyone is exposed to on social media, like Pantone Color of the Year, but other than that I haven’t really noticed locally-inspired trends. It depends on the client’s personal preferences most of the time.  

What career tips do you have for those getting started in the field of interior design?

Keep trying different things until you’ve discovered what it is that will define your career moving forward. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, be open to opportunities and see where the road takes you.


Le Thi Thu Thao - Financial Controller

As KAZE’s Financial Controller, Thao ensures that ledgers accurately reflect money coming in and out of the company. She holds an Advanced Diploma in Business Management from Queensfield Business School in Singapore and Bachelor of Accounting from Gia Dinh Information Technology University in Vietnam.

When did you join KAZE and how has the journey been so far for you?

In April 2014 as a project coordinator. After I completed my training with KAZE and worked on a couple of projects, Fong-Chan noticed that my strengths were attention to detail and the ability to see the bigger picture, so I was given the position of a financial controller after a few years. I guess you could say that I discovered my true calling here at KAZE!

If you were to describe KAZE culture in 3 words, what would they be?

Trust, teamwork and fairness. 

Which project that you were part of best represents KAZE style and approach? 

For me the most important project for KAZE was City Garden for which we designed four penthouses. A major residential development in Saigon, it was after City Garden that KAZE changed strategy to focus on hospitality. When it was unveiled, City Garden became a really big showcase for us highlighting our strengths and scope.

Where do you go in Saigon to feed your visual inspiration? 

Nguyen Hue for people watching. The team also goes out for drinks for impromptu brainstorming sessions and to bounce ideas off each other. Some nights, you can find the entire KAZE crew at the Winking Seal taproom that we designed in 2017.

What career tips do you have for those getting started in the field of interior design?

If you can, join KAZE. Because Fong-Chan is very perceptive and will uncover your hidden skills, setting you on an entirely new path. Every six years or so she conducts an in-depth evaluation with you and it’s an eye-opening experience, an aha moment that can lead to a totally unexpected fork in the road professionally.


Nguyen Phuong Nhi - Project Designer

Since joining KAZE in 2017, Nhi, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Van Lang University HCMC, has worked on some of the company’s signature projects including Sailing Club Villas in Phu Quoc and show units for Sedona Apartments, Fraser G-homes and Sunwah Pearl in Saigon.

If you were to describe KAZE culture in 3 words, what would they be?

Professional. KAZE is known in the market as the biggest ‘ideas consultant’ and we work with some big guys out there, like Marriott International. We are known for getting things done. My second word is educational. Team leaders here really take the time to explain, share and educate.

Every newcomer starts with leafing through the ‘how-to’ manual, a hefty tome that explains how KAZE does things, and it’s so useful that eventually you end up memorizing it by heart. And lastly, KAZE really cares about its people. I feel like I’ve found a second family here.

What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned during your time with KAZE? 

I feel that since joining KAZE I’ve grown not only professionally but on a personal level too: how to be kinder, how to be a professional communicator, be nice to people no matter how stressful things get. 

Which KAZE project would you take a client to showcase KAZE style and approach? 

I would take them to the Sailing Club Villas and Clubhouse in Phu Quoc. It’s a large-scale development that KAZE collaborated on with multiple consultants and a fantastic architect - GFAB that really made our vision of a tropical paradise fused with Nordic design become reality. I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish.

Where do you go in Saigon to feed your visual inspiration? 

If I’m stuck for ideas and can’t find a way out, my first impulse is to step back, find a different perspective and have a drink. Works really well for me! Reboots your mind and gets you ready for the next step. 

What career tips do you have for those getting started in the field of interior design?

Study hard and come to KAZE. Fong-Chan, the Founder, and Khoa, the Managing Director, will show you the ropes and help you get on the career ladder. 


Huynh Quoc Vinh - Technical Specialist

Part of the team, on and off, since 2010, Vinh is now helping KAZE’s FF&E team to source furniture, fixtures and equipment for luxury properties in addition to his main responsibilities as Technical Specialist.

If you were to describe KAZE culture in 3 words, what would they be?

When I think of KAZE, an image of an anthill comes to mind: on the outside, you can’t detect any movement, just an occasional worker ant going about his business, but inside it’s a hive of activity where everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. 

What’s your favorite completed project with KAZE?

Group M Vietnam Office at BitexCo Tower. It’s a Saigon landmark and an iconic building, so being part of that project was a true honor. And Fong-Chan’s signature is all over it.

Where do you go in Saigon to feed your visual inspiration? 

I’m kind of an antique junkie, so for inspiration I’ll scout old apartments and crumbling villas from the colonial period. Saigon has so much history and these visual souvenirs always give me new ideas.

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