Known for its contemporary garden furniture and luxurious outdoor kitchens, the story of Indian Ocean began with parasols. At the age of 27, co-founder Jamie Hobbs, a sixth-generation insurance broker, left his job and set off to Madagascar in search of a more adventurous business path. There, on one of his last days in the country, he came across a company selling teak parasols. Suitably inspired, Hobbs impulsively bought a whole shipping container’s-worth of stock and headed back to the UK. In 1990, Indian Ocean exhibited at its first homes show, with its parasols displayed alongside a set of teak garden furniture for context – the latter outsold the parasols and the brand’s path was set.
Originally, the company was based in a former undertaker’s garage in Balham, south London, complete with a coffin lift that was the perfect size for moving its fast-growing collection of teak furniture. In the firm’s fifth year there, however, a wealthy customer stopped by to place an enormous order for her house in the Hamptons. ‘Isn’t it time you got a proper shop?’ she enquired. Her order was a turning point for the then tiny business, enabling it to move to its current headquarters and a ‘proper shop’ in Balham, and eventually to Hampstead. Slowly but surely, Indian Ocean expanded its reach: at one point it had 20 franchises in the UK, with designs being made in 16 factories around the world.
In the past ten years, the company has undergone some finessing, focusing on its London stores and whittling down its production to five factories in Asia. Hobbs is now at the helm of the design department, producing some of the company’s most successful collections, including ‘Pimlico’, ‘Marina’ and, most recently, ‘Olympia’. Crucially, since launching in Harrods in 2013, the brand has been propelled from its humble beginnings into the world of mega-mansions and super-yachts. As a result, Indian Ocean has not only debuted its line of ‘electric shades’ – luxurious automatic gazebos – but also its handcrafted customisable outdoor kitchens, including the sleek ‘Uber’. indian-ocean.co.uk
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration June 2018