Talk of the Town - Maintaining Vietnamese roots August 28 2003

Half-breed Suwanee lakefront home

Walking into Kevin Huynh's Suwanee lakefront home is like traveling back to 18th century. The odd style of the house, Kevin says, is "half-Victorian, half-Vietnamese." First of all, there's a framed, silk needlepoint titled The Fatherland depicting everyday farm life in Vietnam. It's a horizontal portrait spanning 6 feet long, 3 feet wide and is the central ornament of the living room. Right below it stands a statue of an angel in the Birth of Venus pose.

Stretching from floor to ceiling on the adjacent wall is a stone fireplace. On the fireplace's platform stand two marble carvings of dragons facing one another and a few young bamboo stalks. (These, however, were not purchased from the Buford Highway Farmers Market.) The view from the kitchen's wall-to-wall windows reveals the home's private dock resting on the lakeshore. The metal table set, painted white with two chairs and an umbrella, looks like it belongs at a sidewalk cafe in Paris.

Creative Loafing: Why have you dubbed this home Victorian/Vietnamese?

Kevin Huynh: Well, it's Victorian because of all the gold and warm colors. It's got a darker feel than contemporary, which are mainly bright colors and silver. And it's Vietnamese because, even with all the Victorian elements in the house, there are also all these Asian elements. Upstairs, though you can't see them right now, there are four huge mirrors, which play into the Asian belief that evil can be warded off by reflecting it away. My mother loves mirrors, but she bought better-looking mirrors than those little ones that most Asian people use.

Who decorated the house? And where did you get all of your furniture?

My mother basically did all the decorating. When we bought it in February of 2001, the house already had all the colors she wanted. On top of that, she loved the fireplace because it's very original — most mantles are wooden, and the stones on this fireplace reach all the way to the ceiling. So, she just bought a few things to go with the color scheme, like real — and some fake — plants and the mirrors upstairs.

Tell me more about the needlepoint. It must have taken a very long time to make.

Roughly translated from Vietnamese, it's called The Fatherland, but it's the same as what Americans know as the motherland. They're both silk stitchings we bought from Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam. They were about a couple hundred each and both took a lot of work, and the prices depend on the amount of work put into them. These types of stitchings could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. They took about a month to ship them over here because they had to come by boat. The tiger one has got what I like to call "Asian coolness" because it's like the dragons and other mythic animals that are part of the Asian culture. It's my favorite; it's so detailed that you can see every single hair on its body.