4 Can't-Miss Design Tips You Need to Try in Your Space
Husband-and-wife interior designers Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason discuss their latest book, AphroChic: Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Family Home, and share their favorite design tips.
Bryan Mason and Jeanine Hays are on a mission to show people how to bring modern, soulful style into their homes. The husband-and-wife team founded the design company AphroChic, which started as a blog, and the brand has grown to include interior and project design, content creation, a magazine, a podcast and two books. The duo’s second book, AphroChic: Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Family Home, hits shelves on November 15 and gives readers a unique look into the homes of prominent Black entertainers, activists and entrepreneurs.
Mason says that the book was inspired by a few things. When the couple was renovating a home that had been in his family for six generations, he started researching the Black homeownership experience in America. The designer read an article that described how after Emancipation many plantation owners threw formerly enslaved Black Americans onto the streets. Many were forced into refugee camps or prisons or died from starvation and disease on the streets. The path to Black homeownership in America, Mason concluded, was a revolutionary story that needed to be told.
“The book is a celebration of Black homes, our design and also our incredible journey to home in this country. Each of the ‘home portraits’ as we like to call them, features homes that are deeply authentic, that tell personal stories and that honor legacy,” Mason says. “And we’re truly honored with how much each of the homeowners shared with us, not only about their home but about the journey to home that their family experienced. Their family narratives are the perfect complement to the historical chapters in the book.”
The couple’s own home is also a testament to their personal story. The designers have carefully curated their home with things old and new, including items like art from their favorite Brooklyn-based artists and an Ife bust they discovered in Morocco.
“Our home is a true reflection of us, the places we love and our family histories,” Hays explains. “The library is my favorite room, though. The dark blue walls make the space feel cozy and encourage you to sit down and read a good book. The [book] collection, which includes some first-edition prints, features our favorite authors from the African Diaspora. And we included custom pieces, like the barrel chairs.”
The AphroChic design philosophy is based on incorporating meaningful objects and textiles to add soul to a room. Below the couple shares their best design tips with HGTV readers:
1. Start with a room or project that speaks to you
Some designers may advocate for starting a project by painting walls or changing out flooring, but Hays says since design is so personal, it should be left up to each person.
“One of the things we discuss in AphroChic: Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Family Home is that the Black interior design aesthetic is defined by feel rather than specific types of furniture and color palettes,” Hays says. “With that in mind, you don’t have to start with a particular room or space, but instead by examining your life and looking at what you need to feel good at home. If that means introducing your favorite color on the walls, do it. If it means including an art collection that’s been passed down from a grandparent or parent into your decor, do that too. It really begins with you and how you want to tell your story at home.”
2. When mixing patterns, focus on a color theme
For those anxious about decorating with bold colors and patterns, the designers say to focus on choosing patterns in the same color family for a harmonious look.
“You can mix as many patterns as you want as long as they are in conversation with each other and there is a thread that brings it all together,” Mason says. “Most times that thread will be color. So, in our library you’ll see our chairs covered in our batik fabric, sitting atop a colorful Moroccan rug. The two pieces work together because they’re having a conversation. That blue in the batik textile is picked up again in the rug. So, it’s not really about the pattern, but the colors that bring the space together.”
3. Experiment with wallpaper in small rooms
Wallpaper is also considered another design risk, and if you’re still not sure about wallpapering an entire room, Hays says to start with a smaller space in the home.
“We’ve been designing wallpaper since 2009, and it’s always great to see more people embracing it in their spaces,” Hays says. “A little bit of wallpaper can go a long way. We’ve used it in small bathrooms for a jewel-box feel, and you can wallpaper a closet, adding a surprise moment when the doors open. It’s also great for those in-between spaces in a home or apartment, like a long hallway.”
4. Most importantly, fill your home with pieces that speak to you
A thoughtfully designed home takes time, and Mason says that unique pieces can be found virtually anywhere.
“In our book, many of our homeowners have filled their homes with decor from some pretty unique places. For many, their homes are filled with inherited pieces: a table passed down from a grandmother, a cabinet that has been in the family for generations, or a photograph taken by a father. And they’ve married those inherited pieces with newer ones discovered at art shows, flea markets, vintage boutiques and during travels,” Mason tells HGTV. “It’s more about where one finds meaningful pieces to bring into their home to help tell their story. That might be at a local art show, or a treasure that’s found at a boutique you discover in a new city.”