Interviews

Sitting With…Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason of AphroChic

Some people may be skeptical about working with their significant other.  But the husband and wife team behind AphroChic wouldn’t have it any other way.  Started in 2007 by Jeanine, a former policy attorney, and Bryan, a PhD student, AphroChic was a way for them to escape the stresses of work while sharing their passion for culture and design.  After quickly becoming a leading content creator writing about modern design and culture, the brand grew to include interior design services as well as a line of culturally-inspired home decor products.  We recently reached out to Jeanine and Bryan to get their perspective on the design and culture world.

Photo Credit: Jess Isaac

 

What was the transition from attorney to home decor expert like?

J: Before going to law school I was making a choice between becoming a lawyer or becoming an interior designer. I went with lawyer because I thought it was practical, but design has always been my first love. I was the child who used to look through the IKEA catalog just to pick out new pieces for my room. So the move from one career path to another was quite natural. More and more I wanted to invest my time in my first love. It’s all quite a dream really to be able to do what you love every day and to be able to do it in partnership with the person you love, which for me, is my husband.

Were you always interested in interior design, or did something specific spark your interest in it?

B: While Jeanine always had an interest in interior design, for me it was all very new. I had never had an interest in the field, and never imagined that this is what I’d be doing now. But for me, what grabbed my attention is looking at design through an anthropological lens. A great designer considers history, culture, and the story the client is trying to tell at home. My academic background was in philosophy and anthropology, and once I understood how I could apply those disciplines to interiors, I became interested in the world of interior design. For me, it’s a cultural study.

 

Photo Credit: Jess Isaac

How would you describe your aesthetic?

B: Our aesthetic revolves around the intersection of modern design and cultural style. We embrace elements like mid-century modern pieces. But we want those elements to be surrounded by soulful pieces. Pieces that help our clients tell their story at home. Those pieces include elements of color, pattern, art, and global objects. It’s something we go into in our book, REMIX: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul. In reality, no two AphroChic spaces are the same. They embrace these elements, and in doing so, tell a unique story that’s also based in comfortable, soulful style.

What are your biggest design influences?

J: Art. We are both big art lovers. Visiting museums on the weekend, going to an art show opening, studio visits with our favorite artists – we love exploring the work of old masters as well as new and emerging artists. It keeps us inspired. In a painting, a photo, a sculpture, you can explore so many things that apply to design – light, shadow, color, shape. It’s all there. Art is a constant source of inspiration for our interior design work and we always let clients know that no space is complete without art.

 

Photo Credit: Jess Isaac

Do you prefer doing product design or interior design?

J: We have a love of both. They both offer a unique avenue for expression. With product design we create modern pieces that express our African American culture and heritage. When we began developing products we saw a gap in the market, specifically, home decor products that spoke to Black identity. For the past nine years we’ve developed pillows, wallpaper, fabric, and even a line of paint that speaks to our culture. With interior design, it’s about helping clients be able to express their culture at home. Or for commercial spaces, about helping a brand be able to express its culture and philosophy. It’s an exciting process to be able to help a client tell their story in the form of interior design and decor.

What’s your approach to interior design?

B: For many of our clients, the process can feel a little strange at first. We don’t just focus on the space. We really begin with the client. Who are they? What are their desires for the space? We ask about how they want the space to feel, smell, what they want it to sound like. Answers to these questions inform our work. It’s less about what furniture they like and more about who they are as a person that starts the design process for us.

Photo Credit: Jess Isaac

 

What’s the process for the creation of your products like?

J: In all honesty, so much of our product development comes from a selfish place. We’re usually in search of something we can’t find. A pillow with a specific design, a very particular paint color, a rug with a certain pattern. When we can’t find it, that’s when our creative process begins and we start to sketch out ideas for a collection. Right now we’re working on a rug collection that will launch this spring. It’s a really collaborative process, where we both put our energy into the creation of the piece.

Can you explain your signature phrase, “Modern.Soulful.Style.” a little?

B: Modern, soulful style is our brand philosophy. It’s that mix of modern design and culture. It’s taking a space from something completely modern and sterile, and making it feel at home with a mix of culturally-inspired elements.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Brooklyn?

J: It’s hard to name just one thing. Recently I said to someone that it’s the only place I’ve felt immediately like I fit in. Every place, every person you meet, it feels as if you belong right away. It’s amazing to be part of such a creative community. You can walk down the street and within a few blocks connect with an artist, a fashion designer, a videographer, a musician, and immediately connect and come up with a way to collaborate on something together. There is no other place on earth quite like it. The creative community and the creative freedom is so liberating as a designer.

What’s the most satisfying part of doing what you do?

B: Being able to work as a husband-and-wife team. It’s wonderful to be able to work together every day, to be able to create together. It’s one of the reasons we like working from home. The ability to be with each other every day, to share ideas, to encourage something new in each other. It’s the best part of what we do.

Photo Credit: Jess Isaac

Thanks again Jeanine and Bryan, for taking the time to answer our questions!  Make sure to check out the AphroChic blog, and keep up with their latest work and inspo on Instagram.  You can also check out their book, REMIX: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul for even more inspiration and information.

1 thought on “Sitting With…Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason of AphroChic

  1. To walk away from a lucrative career to follow your heart takes guts! I applaud Jeanine and Bryan for leaving those cushy jobs behind and rolling up their sleeves to create beautiful interiors instead. Clearly it’s what they were meant to do.

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