Learning by Doing
As the creative director and founder of premium furniture brand Arbor & Troy, Meilinda Sutanto believes that great design should not only reflect luxury, but also the identity of the user
home to Indonesia. There were many opportunities in design in New York, but I wanted to live in Indonesia—for me, Indonesia is the land of opportunity, and in terms of design, I’m learning by doing everything.
ITH: Tell us about the beginning of Arbor & Troy.
While working on my first townhouse project, it was challenging to realise the American modern concept I was after. I couldn’t find what I wanted in Jakarta until my friend introduced me to some local furniture craftsmen. So most of the furniture in the townhouse was customised. Then many clients who visited the townhouse asked about the furniture and whether or not it was for sale. They also asked where the showroom was located. Arbor & Troy was born from that curiosity in the local market.
ITH: How would you describe Arbor & Troy’s philosophy?
Timeless classic. Arbor & Troy actually started as a furniture rental business for foreigners who were staying in Indonesia on a temporary basis for business. But in the end, we were answering a demand from the local market to build the retail part of the operation.
From the outset, I wanted to speak honestly to our customers and explain that Arbor & Troy is a local brand. Surprisingly, the response has been good—most of our clients are also proud of that such good-quality products are locally made. So I realised that we did the right thing by being honest.
ITH: What is the actual meaning of ‘Arbor & Troy’?
Me and the three other co-founders of Arbor & Troy were friends at the University of Michigan. The university was located in the city of Ann Arbor and Troy is the city we always visited at weekends. So Arbor & Troy means work and play.
ITH: As a local interiors brand that has mostly adopted an American modern style, has Indonesian heritage contributed to the designs?
Design is all about knowledge with a hint of trendsetting. We always remember our roots, where we came from, and we only work with local craftsmen. They have a lot of potential and we only give them direction.
ITH: From where do you usually got your inspiration?
Inspiration never hits me when I try to push it—it always comes accidentally. When traveling, for example, maybe I see a unique pattern on a shirt. It’s everywhere. Good design reflects the person who has used it or lived in it.
ITH: What has been your most challenging project so far?
I would like to say the “most rewarding” project instead of challenging. That would mean the three townhouse units that have adapted the richness of the American style without losing the timeless feel of Arbor & Troy. For those huge projects, I was inspired by classy Ralph Lauren, masculine New York City and the feminine yet clean lines of Martha Stewart.