podcast | Mar 13, 2024 |
Christine Lin on putting client experience first

Nearly 10 years into her career in the tech industry, Christine Lin was ready for an escape plan. A graduate of MIT with an MBA from Berkeley, it wasn’t that she hadn’t found plenty of success in her chosen field—but rather that, after completing a redesign of her now-husband’s first home, it became clear that she was truly meant to be in interiors.

Still, Lin put her previous business skills to work in her new endeavor: She gave herself a year to build up cash reserves and prepare to quit her tech job—and ended up reaching her goal four months ahead of schedule. While completing side projects for friends and family, working as a freelance designer at another firm and joining Homepolish, she built out a website and blog, then trained herself on SEO to generate a steady project pipeline. Within six months, she landed her first big project—the one that would set the stage for her solo venture and allow her to ditch the side gigs for good—and in 2017, her design firm, Form + Field, officially came to be.

It’s been a transformative few years for the firm, but Lin isn’t done growing yet. Lately, she has set her sights on a new caliber of clientele—not necessarily with bigger budgets (though she welcomes that territory), but a willingness to exit their comfort zone in pursuit of a more elevated design aesthetic.

“This is a long game, where I have to show the value that we can bring, what differentiates us, and why they would want to work with us, and also just the quality of the work,” the designer tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “It’s not going to happen overnight—they need to be able to trust your output.”

Elsewhere in the episode, Lin breaks down the process of finding projects that are closely aligned with her firm’s aesthetic, why she would never equate her business with a retail store to defend a product markup, and how she established professional development paths at her firm to help her team grow.

Crucial insight: In the beginning, Lin was game for any project, no matter the budget. Over the past two years, that philosophy has changed: It takes a higher investment to secure the best quality furnishings and the team she trusts to put it all together. The right clients will understand that, she says—and those who don’t aren’t a good fit. “I want people who like design and art, and get excited about it. I understand the [other] point of view: Why spend $20,000 on a sofa when a $5,000 one is perfectly fine?” says the designer. “And it’s like, ‘I respect what you believe. You’re just not my client.’”

Key quote: “Some of our favorite projects have been some of our smallest,” says Lin. “For me, an ideal project is interesting work. Is there creativity there? Is it not just a cookie-cutter design? Is the client open to out-of-the-box thinking? … Is it great design work that we’ll be able to do, no matter the budget or the size?”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by The Shade Store.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.