It would be hard to imagine two people more different than Raymond Seow and Jeffrey Lin. The two founders of interior design firm Free Space Intent (FSI) are as different as night and day. Design director Raymond has a playful and spirited personality that is highly infectious. “I’m still a kid at heart. I love my toys and I love my games,” he laughs. “This playful side of me comes through in my designs, which tend to be a bit more colourful and fun.” Conversely, Jeffrey, who is the managing director of FSI, is the problem solver of the company. “I thrive on challenges, and I make sure things are done on time and on budget,” he tell us. As the person in charge of operations, Jeffrey also deals with numbers. “When it comes to business, everything has to add up.”
Despite the differences, the pair has a solid partnership that began over 15 years ago, back in 1999. At the time, Raymond was running his own design consultancy business and found it difficult to handle the design aspects of his projects while also managing the business side of things, which was why he roped in Jeffrey to help deal with it. “When we met through a common friend of ours, we just clicked and we thought we should give this partnership a go,” says Jeffrey. “Everything fell into place after that, and our differences really complement each other. But it’s a never-ending process of learning and growing together.”
When they first started out, FSI was known for its retro and effervescent designs. But the company underwent a rebranding exercise 10 years ago to market themselves as an interior design firm that could undertake a diverse range of styles. “We didn’t want to stereotype ourselves to one look, so we sought to build up a brand that was versatile. We try to work with the trends, but we also listen to what the homeowners want,” says Raymond. Describing the design consultation process as a “two-way traffic”, he tells us that it is important to hear what the homeowners have to say. “Interior design is a very personal thing,” he explains. “While I may be very firm about things such as the type of material used or the carpentry finish, we always leave room for our clients to tell us what they like.”
Homeowners who engage FSI can expect a range of services from design consultancy, which typically involves site surveys and 3D renderings, to project management. “Many of our clients come to us with an idea of how they want their space to look like. Our job is to push them to unleash their design potential,” says Jeffrey. Besides testing the design limits of their clients, another aspect of their service involves educating their customers. Jeffrey sheds light on the idea behind this: “We don’t believe we should simply sell a design without telling our clients what they are getting into. For instance, we will explain to the homeowners why we are using a certain material and not another. Each material has its own characteristics and pros and cons, and our clients should know about them.”
To ensure the quality of their design and service is consistent throughout the 15-member team, each designer that joins the company undergoes a stringent training regimen. While the designers are given a relatively free play when it comes to the design, there is a standardisation in terms of costing. Quality is also kept in check execution wise as many of FSI’s sub-contractors have stayed with the company for over 10 years.
Moving forward, the interior design firm is working towards expanding their business, which also comprises commercial projects in the local market as well as design-and-build projects overseas. On the leadership front, Raymond and Jeffrey are also looking to train a new generation of designers who will take over the running of the business. “We are still very passionate about what we do, but we’re not young anymore,” says Raymond wistfully. “While we will continue doing what we do as long as we can, we are also hoping to find someone who can inject new and fresh ideas for FSI; someone who is able to keep up to the times and take our philosophy to greater heights.”
This was adapted from Brand Story vol.1 2016