Lifestyle

Indigo Living's John McLennan talks beautiful living

Indigo Living

It has adorned the kings and queens of the Egyptians and fascinated the likes of Marco Polo. Indigo has gone down in history as one of the most coveted colours in the world and has also caught the attention of Indigo Living founder John McLennan. “It was a colour that was very hard to make which therefore made it quite expensive, rare and unique and I like those connotations,” he says.

Indigo Living was born from a 2004 merger between the Hong Kong-based furniture retail store, Banyan Tree and Options Home Furnishings who specialised in professional home furniture rental. Today Indigo Living is a combination of its forbearers servicing consumers on three levels; through retail stores, corporate sales, including rental offerings to regular consumers and corporate customers, and a project-based business for hotels, serviced apartments and developers. All these services are available across Indigo Living businesses in China, Hong Kong and Dubai. “Saudi Arabia is our newest opening,” McLennan tells me, “We’re starting there with our furniture retail business and then we’ll bolt on furniture leasing and then projects.” McLennan underlines that they are always looking to grow, and are always on the lookout to meet interesting people who may present franchise, joint venture or partnering opportunities.


Indigo Living


Indigo Living

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We are sitting in his Ap Lei Chau store in a comfortable corner of what could be McLennan’s living room. “I hope when a customer walks in they instantly feel like they’re at home. The key is to make the customer feel comfortable, when they come in, let them it on the sofa, bounce around and consider, ‘can we live with this furniture?’” McLennan’s personal style, he tells me, is ‘well-travelled, relaxed, contemporary and comfortable’. This is evident in the furniture that surrounds us, but there is an additional luxe touch on the shop floor which the Canadian husband and father admits doesn’t work in his home because his wife, two kids and dog prefer a laid-back, contemporary environment. His home scenario encapsulates the crux of the design philosophy at Indigo Living: making furniture to live beautifully with. McLennan underlines, “Our tagline, ‘live beautifully’, is more than just about the beautiful furniture we put in your house. The concept for me is more about how you can live beautifully within your environment, family and community. So, it’s a much bigger picture.” Despite the bigger picture, the reality is apartment sizes are getting smaller, and McLennan is aware of this and views it as an opportunity rather than a challenge, to push his design boundaries. “People aren’t getting smaller! And there are certain things you can’t resize, so it’s more about functionality and creating multipurpose pieces.”


Indigo Living


Indigo Living 

When it comes to design, McLennan likes to begin the process on his own. “When I come up with the seasonal looks, I really need to have time on my own to drill down what I’ve seen over the past year. I can then see what’s coming up and I’ll create three or four different looks and from there I love working with the rest of the gang.” This approach stems perhaps from his natural entrepreneurial spirit, “Even working for other people, I was generally on my own. I’ve always liked a ‘one-man-office’ type of thing.” For inspiration, McLennan looks outward to a multitude of things and people, from travel, fine art, architecture, history, culture, magazines, car design and photography to his design team and other designers around town. His family also help to push him in this regard, he tells me, “When my wife travels, she brings home design magazines for me, and my daughter, always asks me what’s in season, what colours are coming up.”

It was an Asia Studies Program that kickstarted his chapter in Asia. First in Taiwan to work in a children’s furniture factory and then to Hong Kong, where he worked in custom manufacturing and got a taste for design. Following a move to San Francisco to work for a software company in 1994, he was posted back to Hong Kong a few years later and started dabbling in design on the side, where he has been ever since. “I love what I do. I love design, I love furniture.” McLennan also loves Asia, “I’ve been here long enough now that my style has more of an Asian than a Canadian twist,” he laughs. McLennan also admits that, “[while] Asia has stolen my heart, Canada will always be home.”

Previous issues:
>> Interview with Laura Cheng, founder of Lala Curio
>> Interview with designer, Eve Mercier
>> Interview with E F Design's founder, Eric Fung
>> Interview with Regina Kwok - the steps to successful designs