Samantha-Jane Agbontaen is a natural born creative. Her design career began in fashion in 2010 where she set up her own brand and enjoyed several years of success but, while she loved fashion design, she soon found that something was not quite right. Samantha was missing the one thing that she finds vital to a successful business; she was lacking joy. As a creative, there will always be that itch to scratch and soon, Samantha was on the lookout for something new.
While searching for a new creative outlet, Samantha was a single-mother-Londoner-living-in-Zurich, so she was going to need financial stability. She began working for an architecture firm and soon found she was leaning more and more towards the interior’s aspect of the company. She may be a creative, but she is also a technophile with a strong instinct for marketing. Her job opened her eyes to the possibility of interior design, but she also knew she needed to up-skill so in 2017, she enrolled in the British Academy of Interior Design (BAID). The online option was ideal. She could work, be a mom and learn a whole new set of skills.
At first Samantha’s approach was to dip her toes and see how she liked it, but she soon found the course was a lot more than “colours and cushions”. The detailed assignments and in-depth learning were at first, a little daunting, but she realized that this was a serious course that was going to make a professional designer out of her. And that’s when she decided to look at Interior Design as a real career move.
So, Samantha upped sticks and moved home to London.
Image: Samantha-Jane Agbontaen.
With her analytical mind and burgeoning curiosity, she didn’t want to leave anything to chance so she began with some smaller projects for friends and family. Samantha needed to build a portfolio and gain some experience with a “client”, so she spoke to her friends and carried out her own market research by quizzing them about their attitudes towards interior design. Samantha discovered that there is a level of intimidation attached to the idea of interior design and many people view it as a high-brow luxury. But one interesting discovering she made was that all her friends agreed that they would in fact, pay a fixed fee for some professional design advice.
This was the spark that would ignite Samantha’s business idea. She was going to set up an open and transparent design house with specific price tags for specific services.
Image: House Designer, Samantha-Jane Agbontaen.
HOUSE DESIGNER ®
In January 2020, Samantha took her tech knowledge to the table and built House Designer an interior design website that displayed pricing options for all levels of design. This would be her first trial and would be the making or breaking of her business.
Then Covid hit.
The lockdowns made it very difficult for people to launch a new business, but it meant that Samantha had lots of time to refine her website and enhance her SEO. An unexpected silver lining of the lockdowns was that people were spending most of their time at home and were suddenly very interested in refurbishments.
Image: Open Plan Design Board, House Designer, Samantha-Jane Agbontaen.
Samantha worked day and night building her brand and securing contracts. Her SEO ranking led to many new clients and by August 2020, only 8 months since inception, Samantha hired her first employee.
Never one to say no to a client, she was soon asked about garden design. Her first thought was British Academy of Garden Design (BAGD). Knowing the high standards of the academies, she was confident that she would not only gain quality garden designers, but she could also learn from them.
Image: Room Design, House Designer, Samantha-Jane Agbontaen.
The one thing that makes ‘House Designer’ stand out from other interior design companies is the clarity of the service. On the website are fixed price options for projects as small as one room and as large as can be imagined. Her philosophy is to be direct and transparent and to communicate all steps of the design process throughout. In Samantha’s eyes, all clients are created equal which has made interior design accessible to all budgets.
This also applies to her company ethos. She views her staff as collaborators and co-creators. They are a team of creatives who come together with a shared goal; to make the client happy. Samantha believes the client is at the core of everything they do and with all these principles combined, House Designer is void of ego and without hierarchy. Presentation of ideas and professionalism is the only demand she puts on her staff and having learned the value of this from BAID, it has proved to be a valid priority. She has combined a wealth of talents and produced a community of creatives which has in turn generated great loyalty within the company.
Never one to rest, Samantha is currently taking on a course in UX Design so she can enhance her already impressive tech knowledge. She does however warn of burnout, The first few years are always a hard graft, but a balance must be reached. It is vital to introduce some self-care and down time.
Today Samantha is launching ‘Office Designer’ which is a shift into corporate design. She wants to bring the options of beautiful spaces to small start up businesses who feel they cannot afford such a luxury. She has created a one-stop-shop, a virtual shopping mall of skilled designers who can transform any space, small or big, into their vision.
Samantha’s passion for travel will bring her company global and it’s only a matter of time before House/Office/Anything-else Designer pops up in another continent. Watch this space.