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Behind the Design: Ivy Designer Christine Lin of Form + Field

Ivy Design Firm Form + Field

Ivy Designer Spotlight: Christine Lin of Form + Field – San Francisco, CA

Christine – how did you get where you are today?
I’ve had a very circuitous path to where I am today as an interior designer! I spent most of my childhood growing up in the quiet suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware, where my parents moved when I was 2. In high school, I decided I wanted to be an architect due to my interest in art, so for college, I went to Boston and studied architecture. I loved architecture, but after doing a summer internship in Palo Alto, CA, and hearing about real-life experiences in the field, I wasn’t sure if it was the right fit for me. In my junior year, I decided to pursue mechanical engineering as well to potentially go into product design.
After school, I moved to Colorado where I worked for the company formerly known as Hewlett Packard. I immediately knew a mechanical engineering career was not for me (work is rarely as fun as school) but it took me several years to figure out what I wanted to do next. I ended up becoming a project manager for a year at the same company, and after being exposed to the business side, I decided to attend to get my MBA and move to Berkeley.
I discovered product management as a career in Berkeley and ended up doing stints at Apple, Paypal, and a tech start-up. While I love product management as a role (it combines business, design, and engineering), I felt there was still something missing. During my time at the start-up, my then-boyfriend and I bought a vacation house in Santa Cruz, and I did the entire design and project management top to bottom. It was a dream come true, and at this time, I started to seriously consider returning to architecture or pursue interior design because I was happily spending around 20 hours per week on the project on top of my full-time job. So, the first thing I did was build my website to feel it out and also get additional projects while working my full-time job to make sure I could do interior design as a career, and not just for my own pet projects. I found that I loved working with clients so I plotted to quit my tech job about 18 months ago and haven’t looked back since!
For about 9 months after quitting, I was working on a couple client projects, a big renovation for me and my husband, and also spent about half a year working close to full-time for another interior designer in the Bay Area. Then, in May 2017, I really started to focus on growing Form + Field. Now, I have two employees and an office in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco.
Ivy Design Firm Form + Field

Photo by Christine Lin

Form + Field is a design firm creating modern, individualistic interiors that embody a client’s personal story or brand. How does your holistic, process-oriented approach ignite a client’s five senses?
Interior design and architecture are naturally focused on visuals. So while style is one of the first things we discuss with our clients, we really dig into other senses during the process and what are clients want to feel, hear, smell (which affects taste) in their spaces. For feeling, it’s often a discussion about the materials we use for flooring, countertops, furnishings, as well as proportion, scale, and lighting. We ask clients about their sensitivity to sound and whether they want a very quiet or a more lively space, and that can affect material selection or require specific acoustical design needs. Sensitivity of smell is also a big factor for how one feels in a room and are affected by the windows, space planning, ventilation, and also the materials and finishes you use on surfaces and furnishings. So, these are all questions we ask along the way in the process to make sure that our designs are really tailored to our client and every angle is accounted for.
You have expert project management skills honed from a decade of training at top tech companies. How do you apply these skills to your end-to-end design process? 
Before I was even full-time with my own business, one of the first things I did was formulate and document my process. From my past experience, I had a good understanding of what makes for good communication and efficient processes, and how to keep a team all on the same page, but I didn’t have a good understanding of interior design specific process. I read books on the business of interior design, I listened to podcasts, I asked questions on the Ivy Facebook Group. I took all of this information and created my own process based on what made sense for me, how I want to work, and how my target clients would want to work.
I make A LOT of use of software, and often software I used in my previous career. My office is completely paperless except for large format drawings, and I think this contributes significantly to our efficiency with project management.
It was far from perfect at the beginning, but one of the things I’ve learned in my past career is to always iterate and don’t be afraid to try new things. During every project and at the end of every project, I’ll make note of things that worked well and things that didn’t work well, and make updates to my process. It’s still being tweaked, and I don’t see that ever ending – I plan on continually adapting as our industry changes and evolves.
Ivy Design Firm Form + Field

Photo by Christine Lin

Who are your favorite vendors and tradespeople to work with in the San Francisco / Bay Area?
There are so many but I’ll start with a few! Fireclay Tile is a dream to work with for all the colors and finishes they have and the showroom that’s down the street from the office. We love the Future Perfect for avant-garde design and unique pieces. Integrated Resources Group just south of the city has a huge selection of slabs – you can find just about anything there. I’m also a big fan of Four / Quarter, woodworkers who have been doing custom furniture for my projects.
What do you think is the number one essential element to a space?
Good space planning! With good space planning, even a small room without natural light can be beautiful, functional, and comfortable.
Ivy Design Firm Form + Field

Photo by Christine Lin

How does designing make you feel? What’s your business mantra?
Designing makes me feel like I’m using my talent to the best purpose. It’s easy for me to get into a flow state when designing, and I don’t think I could say that for any other task/job I’ve had to do. My business mantra is “always be learning”.
Do you attend design conferences and trade shows? If so, which markets and what’s your market strategy?
I’ve attended Las Vegas Market (it’s easy from SF) and ICFF in NYC, and this year I’ll be attending High Point Market and ICFF (again). I hope to attend an LA market and the Salone del Mobile in Milan next year. My market strategy is pretty simple. I try to look at the list of vendors and make note of the must-see ones. In the end, I always end up exhaustively walking the floors to make sure I don’t miss anything! I love unexpectedly discovering new brands and makers. I always wear comfortable shoes, and I never take any catalogs (I’m on online browser!).
Ivy Design Firm Form + Field

Photo by Thomas Kuoh

Why did you join Ivy?
I joined Ivy because it was simply the best-designed software available. My previous career was in designing software, so I had a high bar for what I was willing to use on a daily basis. I looked into at least 3 other programs, and Ivy was hands-down the best for ease of use.
How does Ivy help streamline your day-to-day workflow as an interior designer? What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
With employees, you need a straight-forward workflow, and Ivy was easy for both of my employees to learn. I have a project coordinator who puts together proposals, and once they’re created, it’s easy for me to review them before sending them to the client. Entering my time is a breeze and so much faster than some other interior design software out there, and I love using my database of Vendors for sourcing as I can search for specific style or categories of items using tags. I don’t think we could live without the Ivy Product Clipper and the flow of proposals > invoices > POs! It makes everything so efficient!
Ivy Design Firm Form + Field

Photo by Christine Lin

What have you learned from the Ivy Designer Network?
I don’t even know where to begin. Everything from COM, receiving, invoicing, consultations, billing, local vendors, trade-only vendors, trade shows – the list goes on. The Ivy Designer Network helped me get my business up and running quickly – from what I learned, I was able to minimize the learning curve.
How has Ivy transformed your business?
I started my business with Ivy, so I can’t say it’s transformed it. All I know is that I’m able to run a highly efficient business because of Ivy.
Ivy Design Firm Form + Field

Photo by Christine Lin



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