CONCORD -- Growing up in a family of artists and craftsmen , Wilson Tai embraced art naturally. Influenced by his grandfather, who was an architect and painter and his mother, a furniture designer, Tai delved into the world of design, specializing in Asian furniture.

Together with his brother, Shaun, and his mother, Jane Tai, custom design furniture for Rosewood House, which has stores in Concord and Oakland. Designing solid, custom, hand-crafted armoires and tables made of rosewood, that typifies Asian design, is a way the Tais promote Asian culture.

Their designs will be among the aspects of Chinese culture on display at the annual Contra Costa Chinese Cultural Festival, presented by the Diablo Valley Chinese Cultural Association, in Lafayette.

The event commemorates May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. "Without an understanding of the culture, how can we appreciate it?" asks Ellen Osmundson, festival chairwoman. "Chinese culture is more than just chow mein," Osmundson said .

Tai said he believes one way to introduce people to Chinese culture is through design. While stereotypically, he said, Chinese design has been labeled as gaudy and ornate, the fact is that classic Chinese furniture design can be simple, understated and refined.

"This furniture has continued to last through history," said Tai, a 1996 Acalanes High School graduate who grew up in Lafayette. "Besides being an exotic hardwood, you can shape rosewood and it's durable," said Tai, who now lives in Concord. "When we design furniture, we want it to last for a lifetime."