Photographer: Patrick Cline
Husband and wife duo, Bryan Mason and Jeanine Hays, are the creators of the wildly successful brand and website, AphroChic. By masterfully infusing their love of history and culture into their design projects, the two bring a fresh and innovative perspective to the design community. AphroChic has been featured in Elle Decor, The New York Times, House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens. They have partnered and produced content for HGTV, Refinery 29 and Apartment Therapy. The couple has also tapped into the retail space, with a line of home and decor products that feature intricate patterns and eclectic color palettes that represent their life experiences and international travels. Read on to find out more about this couple who forged a path to create a design aesthetic all their own.
When did you realize that you had a gift for interior design?
Jeanine: My first interior design project was at age six. It’s the first time that I was given the option to decorate my bedroom. My mother let me pick out the paint and the textiles for my space. My choice was a pink paint color and some Strawberry Shortcake fabric that she made into curtains. It was the first time that I understood that you could make a space represent what you loved. The whole experience was very empowering.
Where did you grow up? Did the environment influence your love of design?
Bryan: We are both from Pennsylvania. I am from the Olney area of Philadelphia. Jeanine is from a small town an hour north of the city called Harleysville. I think that being from Pennsylvania, it helped to influence our love of history and story-telling that is key to our design aesthetic. When you’re walking around a city that was America’s first metropolitan area, where you can literally just walk into where the Declaration of Independence was signed, or visit the church where the great abolitionist leader, Richard Allen spoke, history is part of your daily life. It’s part of our DNA, and influences our love of historical furnishings and textiles, cultural pieces, and our desire to translate them into modern interiors.
In your travels, which destination has inspired you the most?
Bryan: We’ve traveled to a few different countries, and with each comes a new experience. I don’t know if we’d choose just one destination. If anything, it’s just going to a new country or seeing a new city that is most inspiring. As designers, it’s important to visit different places and explore. It’s how you expand your concepts and add to your aesthetic. In Bologna, it was learning about tile, something they have been making there for centuries. To see a process that’s still alive and driven by what people did hundreds of years ago is inspirational. In Frankfurt, we were inspired by the coffee. It’s rich and hearty and like nothing we’ve experience here in the US. Paris, it was the experience of just walking through a city where the architecture is so beautiful. The museums are so so beautiful. The people are so diverse. It’s hard not to fall in love with it every time you visit. We were married in Negril in Jamaica, and we still talk about the colors of the sunset there. Every destination becomes an inspiration and there are parts of that travel experience that become apart of our design aesthetic.
If you had to decorate a living room with only 5 items, what would they be?
Jeanine: 1) A vintage rug. They can be the base for so much color and character in a space. Whether from Iran, Turkey, Morocco or India, you can never go wrong with a piece that has been woven by hand. 2) A painting. It could be something discovered in a gallery, or a piece discovered on the street. If you’re in Brooklyn or up in Harlem at a flea market, you can find the most amazing pieces of art. 3) Paint. Color on the wall is life. White boxes feel so sterile, but once you bring color into a space it feels alive. A blushing pink, a pale purple, a dark, moody blue. Playing with color can be so much fun in an interior. 4) A chandelier. You can honestly never go wrong with a stunning piece of lighting. 5) A sofa. If you only have 5 pieces, a place to sit is a necessity. I would look into something modular that can be reoriented from a large sofa to a chaise, and maybe even lounge chairs, depending on how you’re entertaining.
How did you come up with the colors for your paint collection, Brooklyn In Color?
Brian: The color palette was inspired by Brooklyn architecture and icons. We worked with Colorhouse to develop twenty full-spectrum hues. From dark, moody blues like our Basquiat Blue, to pale shades, like our Coney Island Pink, each paint color has a smokey gray undertone to it, creating depth and allowing it to change with the light throughout the day. We wanted to create colors that are very tactile, that are deep and that people literally want to dive into. It’s shades like these that truly highlight the architecture of a home, and we’re happy to have been able to create such a dynamic palette. Not only is our paint available in several finishes, but our darker hues are also available as chalkboard paint.
What advice would you give to aspiring interior designers trying to find their own design aesthetic?
Jeanine: You have to be vigilant in being your authentic self and in trusting your aesthetic. What will make you a good designer is what will make you good at anything in life – knowing yourself, trusting yourself, and having something new to offer. The best designers know the rules of interior design, and then they put their own spin on it. We all look at the world through our own lens, and as interior designers, we’re sharing that lens with our clients and we’re using it to help them create spaces that tell their story. For us, it’s the maxim of “modern, soulful, style” that guides everything that we do. It’s who we are. That blend of modern design and culture is what excites us and gets our creativity flowing. When you find that maxim that defines your aesthetic, that guides what you bring to every project, you’ll always be excited to bring it life in a new way with each and every space that you design.
You can check out their fabulous blog and purchase AphroChic’s amazing home and decor collection here + follow them on Instagram!