Exclude Homes

Design tips, trends & what to avoid!

By: Rebecca Simpson

Can you guess, what is the most common design mistake in Hong Kong homes? We knew exactly who to turn to when mulling over this questions. He’s also the perfect person to seek some advice on how to avoid that trap, and share what’s hot for this new season!

JOHN MCLENNAN is the founder and executive chairman at Indigo Living, one of the city’s much-loved home design centres. The company celebrates its 40th birthday this year – quite the milestone. After four decades of growth you can now find Indigo stores in Dubai, Riyadh and Shanghai. Not bad for a furniture store with humble beginnings in Hong Kong!

In this time, John has had a front-row seat to the city’s design evolution. That’s why we were keen to capture his reflections and hear about Indigo’s home design services.

Indigo living - John

Over the years, what’s been the most significant evolution in our city’s interior trends?

The biggest thing for me has been travel. When I first came to Hong Kong 30 years ago, people didn’t travel much. Design was quite local. Over the last 10 to 20 years, more people are travelling and seeing things – and they’re also exposed to so much more via the internet. The result is that their design aesthetic has grown in all sorts of directions.

This factor has brought a lot more design to the city, and it means a lot more people are interested in design. As a result, there’s been a big growth in the numbers of Hong Kong designers, which is nice to see.

What’s the most common interior design mistake your team helps to rectify?

Homes are so small here, so it’s very easy to get over-cluttered. Many people don’t like to recycle or donate or even throw away furniture – instead, they tend to keep it. For anyone looking to update their style, the biggest thing we help with is to declutter and take away things they’ve had for 25 years.

Indigo living - Living room with dog

How does your team go about helping people to create a beautiful space?

We’ve offered a design service for a number of years now, but it was refocused at the beginning of this year. The service ranges from simple advice all the way through to a full design and build. We provide a free hour of in-store consulting, which gives you the chance to talk to a designer about floor plans; you can also show photos to identify what you need. Then, you can take it further and have the designer come to your home. Or, you can go even further and do a completed design and build. We might tear down a wall or repaint, or manage a complete remodel for your home.

This has been a popular service. People often aren’t sure who to talk to or who to trust. For me, it’s like breathing – I look at something and I think “That doesn’t really work; you need to change that.” But for anyone not in our business, it’s a big decision.

In your opinion, what will we be coveting next season?

Colour will still be big on the list, right through the beginning of the year. Maybe towards the end of the year it might wane back to neutrals, but I think there’ll be a lot of bright colours. And curves: curved furniture, curved accessories, curved rugs. A lot of curves! That will be interesting. Also, beautiful things with purpose. People will be looking for things that are multifunctional; things that are beautiful but that can be used.

What are we likely to be removing to make way for this new trend?

My advice is to consider the things you have and ask, “What do I use?” and “What do I love?” If an item doesn’t drop into either of those categories, move it out. Do you need it? Can somebody else use it more than you? Can you donate it or pass it on to somebody?

What pieces do you recommend expats consider investing in as a design nod to their time in Hong Kong?

It’s a tough question, and it depends: are you a one-time expat or a “serial” expat? If you’re a one-timer, you’ll want a piece of furniture that represents your time here. If you’re an expat who moves around, you might want something smaller.

It’s really about what you’re going to want to look at for the next 50 years; and what you’re going to want to use. Will it be in style or go out of style? It could be as simple as a photo of you and your kids in the wet market. Remember, it doesn’t need to be a thing. It should be something that jogs your memories of here.

To make an appointment for Indigo Living’s design service, call 2580 3266 or email designconsultant@indigo-living.com.

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This article first appeared in the October/November 2019 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.