Leo Lei knows a lot about minimal. As the go-to resource for minimalist design, his blog, Leibal, showcases the latest and greatest in modern, simplistic, and quality product and architectural design. The expanding e-commerce Leibal store also offers a curated selection of furniture and products to fit any modern lifestyle and budget. I got a chance to catch up with Leo about obsession, innovation, and the inaccessibility of design.
Q/1) Growing up, what drew you to minimal design? At what point were you in life where you decided this was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
A/1) I grew up in a town where decadence and ornate design was seen in practically every household. I was very turned off by this loud display of status and prestige, and became immediately attracted to the humble, subtle, and minimalist aesthetics of Japanese design after coming across a book of Tadao Ando’s past works. I remember feeling genuinely excited that I had come across this niche, and it quickly became an obsession. Honestly, I never thought that I would be able to make this my living. The fact that I am able to meet and work with the same designers I looked up to is an incredible blessing.
Q/2) How did Leibal evolve to what it is today?
A/2) Leibal’s growth has been completely organic, and it first started out as a blog to catalog all of my favorite minimalist designs. I had no idea I even had visitors reading my blog, but eventually, I would get a number of emails asking me where they could buy the products that I had written about. This happened so many times, that I decided to just reach out to the manufacturers and sell the products myself. The online retail store grew from those few pieces to the few hundred products I have on there now. I am also now the exclusive distributor to a few of those brands seen on my website.
Q/3) How do you find out about these brands and where do you go to find products to feature? What do you read?
A/3) In the past, I would go to my local bookstore and pick up every design magazine I could get my hands on, look up the products and designers that I liked, go to their personal website to find their information, and contact them for more information. Recently, it’s been a lot easier because new designers send me their works directly, and I get to pick and choose which designs to write about.
Q/4) Who are your favorite designers?
Q/5) And your favorite brand right now making noteworthy multi-purposeful products?
A/5) My favorite product/brand is Minimalux at the moment. They truly understand and take advantage of the beauty of minimalism, and balance function with form.
Q/6) What frustrates you about design today? What innovations are changing the face of architecture and product design of the future?
A/6) The one thing that was frustrating about design for me was its inaccessibility. It was almost impossible for me to buy a beautifully designed Japanese or Swedish product, which wasn’t distributed in the U.S., without having to pay an arm and a leg. The reason why I am focusing so much time and energy on the import/distribution side of my business is so that I can make some of these products more accessible. As for innovation, inexpensive 3D printers, and 3D printing technology in general, are not only going to create a lot more industrial designers and creative products, but streamline the entire concept-to-reality process as well.
Q/7) Lastly, can you give some minimalist lifestyle tips for making the use of your space?
A/7) It’s all about organization and storage. Since I live in New York, I have a bed and coffee table that lift up to reveal storage. I’m also constantly asking myself if the object or clothing in question is absolutely necessary. If not I either give it to a friend or to charity.
Get immersed in more modern minimal by visiting Leibal at www.Leibal.com.