Debi Fox Photography

That the judges asked if the building was really in a suburban strip mall is a testament to the design principles that created the hip, urban, contemporary feel of this remodeled Chinese restaurant.

The client's desire was to create a space that offered different dining experiences within the same restaurant. The architects succeeded: “They've created nice, intimate spaces in a large space,” said the judges. And it has an “Asian feel, but it's not a false or artificial Disney Asian. They've extrapolated the essence of Asian design.”

The now 3,400-square-foot restaurant was a large, open room with poor lighting and a drop ceiling. The remodel slices the rectangular space into three zones, each with a unique dining hall. Design elements such as a warm wood half-wall or a simple change in elevation or ceiling height separate the zones. The Mongolian grill area is casual, while the booths in another area offer formal dining. Each space is crisp and elegant and separated by just a few bamboo branches.

Debi Fox Photography

Wood, warm colors, leather, custom pre-cast concrete, and creative lighting make each space functional, sophisticated, and inviting. “It's an innovative use of materials,” commented the judges.

Category: Commercial remodeling, $250,000 to $500,000
Location: Centreville, Va.
Contractor: Ahmad Amarlooi, ACT Inc., Alexandria, Va.
Designer: Ali R. Honarkar, DivisionOne Architects, Rockville, Md.
Engineer: Pulak Bera, Bera Engineers, Gaithersburg, Md.