Talking with Jeanine Hayes and Bryan Mason about Crown Heights, Design Philosophy and Stoop Culture

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Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason, the design duo behind AphroChic, applied their core philosophy to their own colorful Crown Heights home, blending modern design and cultural style. After welcoming us in and entertaining us to the tunes of Janet Jackson, they completed our Proust-inspired questionnaire.
How long have you lived at your current residence?
18 months.
What do you love most about your home?
Jeanine: How comfortable it is. Friends come over and they truly enjoying being here. We love that everyone immediately feels at home when they come over.
Bryan: I love how the design of our place tells the story of this point in our lives. We’ve lived in a lot of different places and the design of each apartment has represented our style while also capturing the feel of that city. Our Brooklyn place is about who we are now and it includes a lot of pieces from other times and places but in a way that is very uniquely Brooklyn.
If you could change one thing about your home, what would it be?
Jeanine: I would double the size! I love living in 1,200 square feet, but an extra bedroom for guests would be a nice addition.
Bryan: The bathroom. It’s a bit small and it’s dominated by a tub in a weird kind of powder blue. Finding a way to make that work is definitely our next design challenge.
What’s the first thing other people notice when they visit?
Jeanine: The amount of space we have. Many people comment on how nice it is to have an entire floor all to ourselves.
Bryan: How relaxing it is. A lot of people have mentioned how calm they feel when they first come into the living room. I love it because I feel the same way.
How would you define your design philosophy?
Jeanine: At AphroChic, we define our philosophy as “modern soulful style.” We love clean lines and modern elements, and layering in cultural items to create warmth within a space.
Bryan: AphroChic is all about exploring the connections between modern design and culture in order to create rooms that tell a unique story. For us that means representing our culture and the experiences that we’ve had, but the way we’ve explained the approach in our book, Remix, it really works to bring any culture into any modern space. No two AphroChic rooms look alike, and that’s what we really enjoy.
What is your most treasured possession?
Jeanine: It’s hard to choose just one! I treasure everything in our home. So many of the pieces carry special meaning, but if there is one thing I treasure most it would be the very first copy that we received of our book. We display it on the bookshelf. It’s one of the things that I’m proudest of.
Bryan: My books. It’s geeky, I know, but I love to read.
What is your favorite thing to do in your home?
Jeanine: Entertain. Every few months we host brunch with friends. It’s become a nice tradition. I love having our home filled with positive energy, lots of laughter, and good food.
Bryan: I can’t really say. It’s where we do just about everything. We work there, we live there. It’s very much a part of everything we do and I enjoy everything that we do there.
What’s your favorite spot in the house?
Jeanine: The living room. We spend most of our time in that room, working on projects, watching our favorite shows, eating meals. It’s such a bright space. Throughout the day the light just streams in making it a warm space.
Bryan: Yup. What she said.
What makes a house a home?
Jeanine: Home is a place that tells your story. When people walk into our home they understand so much about us—the places we’ve been, how much we love our cultural heritage, our sense of advocacy, our love of art. Our story is here and conveyed through each piece.
Bryan: The connection that you make with the place—the things that are in it, the colors that define it—all of it has to speak to you in some way that creates an emotional state. Whether you want to be relaxed in your living room or energized in your kitchen, when a place makes you feel the way that you want to feel, that’s when it’s home.
What do you love most about your neighborhood?
Jeanine: We’re lucky enough to live in a great neighborhood with lots of historical details. I love walking down the tree-lined streets in this neighborhood and looking at all the beautiful architecture. As a designer, it’s so inspiring.
Bryan: I love the culture here. The people on the stoops. The shops that look like they’ve been around forever. It actually reminds me a lot of Philadelphia. It’s also home to so much creativity, talent, and ambition that it’s easy to stay motivated and inspired. Brooklyn is definitely a special place.
If you could change one thing about your neighborhood, what would it be?
Jeanine: We’d love a few more restaurants. A coffee shop and bakery would be nice, but I’m sure it’s coming. Things are developing quickly in Crown Heights.
Bryan: I’m not sure I’d change anything. There really is not much about it that I don’t enjoy.
What’s your happiest memory in your home?
Jeanine: I always wanted to live in a place that had a stoop. Stoop culture is so Brooklyn. Our first summer here I enjoyed our first night on the stoop, just sitting and connecting with our neighbors. It’s so nice to be part of a real community.
Bryan: I don’t know. We just got here!

For more on Bryan and Jeanine’s home, and to visit nine other beautiful Brooklyn homes, visit here

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