Frans Spanjaart is Founder and CEO of AVIP Interiors, a commercial interior design company in operation since 1986, which he moved to Indonesia in 1998. Frans talks to us about how he built his business in Indonesia, and how he believes the future for the global interior design industry is to ‘go green’. AVIP Interior is the first interior design company in Indonesia to have created a Platinum Greenship-Certified interior.
How did you originally get into the world of interior design?
I started by playing in my father’s workshop in the Netherlands—he was a cabinet-maker—and eventually, in 1986, I started my own company, AVIP Interiors. AVIP stands for Advies en Verkoop van Interieur Producten; Dutch for ‘Advice and Sales for Interior Products’. Creating my own business was a big step for me, as I branched away from a family business. AVIP originally made cabinets and furniture, on a contract-by-contract basis; items that were not sold in showrooms.
What was your company’s first big break?
I was connected to the world’s largest network bank, Citibank North America, and was asked to join the design team in New York as a technical adviser and engineer. Citibank asked me to build prototypes of their offices for their branches. In 1990 I built the prototypes back in the Netherlands and Citibank representatives from all over the world came to see them, after which I immediately received orders for branches all over the world: Germany, Greece, Belgium, New York, Washington, and Jakarta. I have designed, engineered, built prototypes for and served Citibank for over ten years worldwide in 60 countries, building over 600 branches.
Is Citibank what brought you and AVIP Interiors to Indonesia?
Yes, and in 1995 I came to Indonesia and literally fell in love. After travelling in Asia intensively for five years, I arrived in Jakarta and I thought ‘this is nice’. Jakarta has its charm which you don’t find anywhere else. I’m an Indonesian citizen. I love the Indonesian people; they are warm, so interested and willing to learn.
Together with my vision and what I noticed to be a low density of knowledge here at the time, I saw an enormous opportunity to build AVIP in Indonesia, taking with me the efficiency and quality standards from the Netherlands. Indonesians are very skilled, but there was no industrial furniture history in this country, which is why they were behind.
I decided to move AVIP to Indonesia and the office opened directly after the riots in 1998. We got a sizeable project with Standard Chartered in the city, doing a number of branches for them, and that’s how the Indonesian chapter began.
Tell us some of the clients you’ve had so far.
Clients we’ve had include Danamon Bank, for whom we designed 400 branches, Siemens, Danone, Medco, BMW, ING, KLM, Turkish Airlines L’Oreal and Frisian Flag.
How many staff do you have today?
In the office we have 65 staff members (designers, project managers, commercial and administrative) and 65 in the production plant.
What are the project budget ranges at AVIP?
In our industry, we value a project in square metres. The professional range for us is from Rp.3 million per square metre up to Rp.10 million per square metre, and this is very much dependent on specifications.
You created the L’Oreal Indonesia headquarters in Jakarta with a Platinum Greenship Certification from the Green Building Council – tell us about this feat.
The Greenship Certification means that you have an environmental and human-friendly environment. Being low-energy is definitely an important factor, but what is also important is the quality of life in the space. For interiors, we designed and built an interior for L’Oreal Indonesia, who originally asked us to design something that was at least gold-certified. Our original designs actually exceeded the Platinum Certification—the highest level awarded—making AVIP the first interior design company in Indonesia to have designed and built a Platinum Greenship Certified interior.
Do you believe a well-designed office can increase staff productivity?
I always tell clients that if you make a place where an employee feels good and comfortable, they will be proud to work for you.
It doesn’t matter if they have to travel half an hour longer, they will be proud, comfortable and won’t consider leaving for a few rupiah. If you invest in the people, the people will invest in you in return.
What has been your favourite project?
L’Oreal was definitely one of my favourite projects. We were able to work with a reasonable budget, with furniture designs being original or real. When I say real I mean that it is not copied.
Where do you source your furniture?
We have a 7,000m2 production plant in Tangerang – the custom-made furniture like cabinetry, desking systems and special furniture is all produced there. We import raw materials and we produce up to Western standards, using materials from Germany, hardware from England, etc.
Is it difficult for you to import materials?
My personal experience is if you have the correct import license and follow the rules, it is not difficult. We don’t have any complications when importing and we do import a lot.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from exhibitions three times a year, all over the world, my favourite being the Bienalle Interieur in Kortrijk, Belgium. It’s a very creative and interesting exhibition where I source fabrics, furniture, etc. After each trip, I sit down with my team and I share this knowledge with them.
What is the procedure of a typical project at AVIP?
First a client comes to us with their requirements, telling us how much space and how many staff members they have in different divisions, giving us an organization chart. We have a crucial interview with the client to find out what their office culture is, so that we understand them and translate their thoughts into reality.
With every single project, we have the design team and project managers immediately involved and we break a project down into smaller parts to spread the risk, which is in fact easier to control.
What are AVIP’s strengths?
AVIP is very strong in design and very strong in management. We are one of the most successful and prestigious design-and-build companies in Indonesia. Our approach is always that an interior needs to work. Everything we design is engineered so we design what is made, not the contractors, which makes us stand out from other companies.
What is one of the challenges you face in your industry?
There is never enough time. Our interiors are all unique and need to be designed and built in most cases to an impossible timeframe.
What trends are you noticing in the interior design world?
As I frequently travel internationally, I see that the trend is ‘going green’, in which regard I believe AVIP is ahead of the industry. This is definitely going to grow further. In this part of the world we are a little bit behind in trend-setting; instead we follow the trends.
How could someone make their office a little bit green?
The first step is low energy consumption; instead of air-conditioning we can think of a fan. Switch screens off when you’re not using them. Instead of too many ceiling lights, use a desk lamp. Here at our office we have incorporated a water filtration process, so that we all drink the tap water – no need to purchase bottled water anymore. You could also stimulate your staff to come to work on public transport.
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