Right next to the actual office of Studio Flex you will find a cozy workshop, located in a tastefully renovated shop on the pleasant ‘Mezenlaan’. Many of the former shops have disappeared and residents of the Vogelwijk can now go to larger chains on the Fahrenheitstraat. Looking into the shop window, the eye falls directly on a large steel rack, filled with various handmade objects, ranging from sleek futuristic looking lamps, abstract wooden artworks and old street signs. From the inside of the store the buzzing sound of a saw machine sounds and through the front door you can see a slender young man busy at a work table. The sounds are silent on our beating and he comes to the door with great speed. A little later we are inside.
Good morning, thank you for having us. Do you have a moment?
”Ha, welcome! Of course, come in and have a look around. If you give me a second, I will quickly finish this coat of paint before the roller starts to dry.”
While Ramone, interior stylist at Studio Flex, quickly applies a layer of black paint to a round wooden plate, we take the opportunity to explore the workplace. There is a long black table along one wall, with a raised workbench at one end. On the other side of the room there are four gray steel cabinets, the doors of which are partly open and behind which all sorts of objects can be seen, such as paint pots, tools and drawing materials. On the cabinets are paintings in various styles and sizes, two creepy masks and some old street signs. Also in other places there are various different objects and prototypes of furniture and other utensils. We are far from tired of waiting to be offered a seat and we can take a rest.
What a nice space you have here. How did you end up at Studio Flex?
“Thanks, I am also very happy with it. Very nice, such a light workplace in a quiet environment. How I ended up here is a funny story. Camille, one of the founders, I have known for over 15 years since our joint gymnasium in The Hague. We were already good friends and were together in the same school year. After the final exams, we lost sight of each other, but always kept in touch. He studied architecture in Delft, I German in Amsterdam. What has always bound us is a shared interest in beautiful and special things. Whether it concerns a painting, a lamp or a building that does not matter. You know, I used to like to be an architect, but I’ve seen it for practical reasons. I have drawn, painted, painted and built my whole life. As I got older and got more and more experience, this resulted in increasingly ambitious projects and better end products. Of course I had fantasized about making my work out of it, but I’ve always seen it as a ‘way of life’. I used almost every free second to do something creative, to make something. Even if there was actually no time available, I just made sure that I could still make time. Camille obviously knew this from me and we had already thought about a way to join forces. At the end of 2017 the time was ripe and together with Rodrigo we went around the table. You can see the result here.”
What exactly do you do?
”As an interior stylist at Flex, I actually have a fairly broad task. After all, we are also a young and ambitious company, so it is as good as everyone is willing to tackle where necessary. What I am most concerned with is designing and making products that influence an interior in a certain way and that create a certain atmosphere. This can be anything, for example a lamp, a painting, a coffee table or a make-up stool. Partly I think of things that I like, but often it is also a specific wish of a customer. In principle, I am open to everything and work with all kinds of materials. We try to do Flex as much as possible ourselves and are very much in favor of unique and unconventional ideas, because you really can make a difference and a customer can really offer something special. We do not want to do and make things that you see everywhere, our strength lies precisely in being able to offer unicates and tailor-made solutions, which saturate niche market. We love challenging and fantastic ideas here. Would you like to hang the front of a car on the wall of your living room? Fine! Prefer a garden house in the shape of a circus tent? Even better! Of course we also find a more ordinary project to do, because even there you can make something unique with creativity. Furthermore, I occasionally help out with our management branch ‘Building Stones’, for example if a big job needs to be done in a short time or if there is a need for customization.”
Can you tell us more about yourself?
”In addition to my work at Studio Flex, I also give a few hours of German at a secondary school in The Hague. My mother is German and I was brought up bilingual, which partly explains the choice for the German study. In particular, I find German history very interesting. I always find old things very interesting anyway, so I often draw inspiration for my projects. For example, I find the traditional Japanese culture fascinating, with the way things were made there with the utmost precision and dedication, such as, for example, the silk kimonos, hand-forged swords and utensils about the well-known tea culture. But also the ancient Egyptians and the emergence of modern archeology speaks very much to my imagination. If after years of work in the blazing sun you suddenly come across such a tomb, must it be powerful? Especially with the relatively limited resources of that time, what an adventure!”
That must indeed have been a very special experience. Would you like to share something else?
”No, not really. What else would you like to know? Of course, I could make up some more, but I don’t know what you are looking for of course. We have to generate a bit of interesting content for you, don’t we?”
Something about your clothing style for example. I often see you wearing a bow and I also see a hat lying there. Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned?
(laughs) ” I often get that question, for example from the pupils I teach. A year or 5 ago I was suddenly a bit done with the clothes that I had always worn. Everyone is more or less the same and especially men I often very boring dressed. At that time I slowly started to delve more and more into classic men’s clothing, such as neat leather shoes and gilets, but also accessories such as self-made bow ties and suspenders. Obviously, you build up such a style over the years and occasionally something new comes up, or you just drop something out. In the beginning I got more dandy-like, with some more striking colors and more eccentric details. At the moment I have a slightly less extravagant style, but I always try to be neat and classic for the day. It is a pity that men generally no longer dare to wear a conspicuous ring, a paisley tie or fedora, that makes the streets just a lot less monotonous and shows creativity. Fortunately, there seems to be a little more interest in it. In any case, I enjoy every day a lot of fun and regularly get nice reactions, although of course it’s not about that.”
That is a clear answer. Coming back to your work at Studio Flex, what do you like the most about your work?
”I like the versatility of my work. There is always something new to do and I get a lot of freedom to fill in projects myself or to come up with ideas. In addition, I experience the working atmosphere as very pleasant. We are a small, ambitious and hard-working team and everyone is just very good at what he does. Being able to be part of that and always being able to appeal to each other’s expertise is very nice. Partly because of this, I have the feeling that together we can tackle almost any job. (grins) That may sound a bit cliché, but I really mean it.”
What are you currently working on?
”I often have several projects running at the same time, but the focus is currently on a small round side table with a steel frame. When you came in, I was just finishing the table top, which is now drying. In this case it is a request from a customer who had a specific design in mind. A small round table with minimalist steel frame. At first sight it may not seem very special, but it is a rather complex design and we make everything ourselves. The frame is therefore also welded and sprayed in the workshop. For the same customer, we have also previously made a larger coffee table with marble top. This small table is exactly tailored to match it in terms of design and dimensions.”
What do you hope to achieve at Studio Flex?
“Ah, what a question! I only boarded this year, so I’m not so busy with the future right now. The most important thing to me is to continue to get satisfaction from the work, so that I can also get the best out of myself to achieve the best possible and original result. In addition, we are constantly on the move and we continue to walk new paths with Flex to find out where our strength lies most. That also requires a certain flexibility (laughs) and especially an active attitude of the employees. If you do not try anything, nothing happens, we have to rely on our capabilities. In addition, I want to try to tackle as many assignments as possible in the near future and it would of course be nice if we could eventually move to a larger workshop and some extra hands. But I also want to continue developing my own skills. In the end, I just want to create beautiful and unique things that make people happy.”
Thank you for your time, very nice to have spoken with you.
”No problem, thanks for the interest. Come back in a while, otherwise we can see what has changed in the meantime.”
When we get up, Ramone walks towards the door with great strides and opens it with a wide gesture. We thank and shake hands again. When we cross the Mezenplein, we look around once more and see his long, thin figure standing in the doorway, he raises his hand as the last greeting. What a special, but likeable and promising young man.
Next time we’ll meet one of the other Flex’ers.