Malaysian-born Peter Lam is a renowned interior designer who started his career in China, founding his own design studio Hot Dog Decor in 2005. Last year Peter moved to Germany. MALAYSIA INSIGHTS visited him in his house in Leverkusen.
Peter, you were born in Malaysia, have been living a couple of years in Shanghai. Why did you leave Malaysia and went to China?
Actually, before I went to China I was living in Thailand and before that in Singapore. I lived in China for 9 years and I went there because China is an interesting market, a very huge and a growing market for design ideas. Secondly, I felt I had my roots there somehow, being a Malaysian of Chinese ancestry.
Had you been working as an interior designer in Singapore and Thailand, too?
No, actually I was in the advertising and marketing consultancy business. I have an MBA, so that was my training and my original career. But designing has always been my passion.
Why didn’t you study design right from the beginning?
Well, more than 20 years ago, it would have been uncommon to say, “I am going to study interior design”, it would have been either architecture or engineering. In Malaysia, at least in that time, it was almost unheard of.
Nevertheless, you managed to pursue your dream and indeed in China you have been quite successful as an interior and also furniture designer. How did you manage that?
I came to China already having in mind to do something like that. I started in advertising first, but then I realized there are opportunities, first by designing my own house there. Then I did some work for friends. Soon magazines started to feature my work. I even appeared on Chinese TV. I was lucky to have received some good promotion and could build up my reputation from that.
And why did you move to Germany then?
The reason is simple, I came here to live with my love. It was indeed quite a big decision to leave China, since I had my own small company, a studio called Hot Dog Decor with 5 people. But on the other hand, I always wanted to live in Europe. Not specifically in Germany, but it just so happened that I ended up here.
Have you cut all business connections to China or do you still have an office over there?
No, I don’t run my office in Shanghai any longer. It wouldn’t make sense as my customers expect me to be there, to personally give them advice and oversee their projects.
When did you arrive in Germany?
That was in April 2014, so it is one year now. Since arriving, I took the time to learn German. I can now communicate well with clients. Two months ago I started my business.
What projects are you working on?
I have two right now, one is a residential and the other one is an office in Köln.
So you do both private and commercial work?
Exactly, in China it was also the same. I designed private villas and also restaurants, for example. I hope in the long run I can build a similar reputation here.
What are the challenges in your work?
Often the clients don’t have an idea of what they want, and sometimes they have too many different ideas. The challenge is to develop something that fits the customers’ needs and at the same time enhance with the given space – you cannot achieve everything, there are certain restrictions based on the current structure of the space, for example. It is a close working relationship between the client and the designer.
You are not only an interior designer but also a furniture designer. Does that mean you always design it yourself or do you also source from other producers?
Currently, since I am new here, I tend to source furniture from available manufacturers but I already started making some contacts with furniture producers. In the long run, I hope I can be able to custom design furniture for my clients in order to supply the perfect design in the perfect size, the perfect color and the perfect material.
Peter, thank you for the interview.
For more information and examples of Peter’s work please visit www.hotdogdecor.com