Houston-based Mai Nguyen (@yellomai) and Josh Aranda (@jwvisionary) are partners in life and design. Together they have conceptualized a home which plays with color, wood, mid-century classics and space-age futurism, achieving the perfect blend of high-end aesthetics and family warmth.
Apart from inspiring a global audience with regular interior content, Mai and Josh have also founded the curated platform IAMAI which seeks to develop a more community-focused approach to design. After all – a home is all about the people in it, and theirs is the perfect example.
In the newest installment of At Home With…, THE SKATEROOM catches up with the couple to hear about their favorite furniture pieces, the personal significance of their skateboard art editions, and the serendipitous meet-cute which started it all.
Who are you and what do you do?
Mai: I’m a set decorator. I also do a lot of home interior decorating, as well as decorating for businesses. I also founded IAMAI. It started off as a clothing brand and now we are working on it being more of a home brand including art books and home objects. What I’m trying to do is make it more community-based. We want to learn more about the people in their homes, both in and outside of Houston. I also create for social media of course.
How do you curate the objects showcased on IAMAI?
Mai: They are always objects that I am actually interested in, rather than being something that someone chose for me. It’s what I would personally like to have in my house and so I want to share it with the world.
You also feature your original designs.
Mai: My chair! That’s the first chair that I’ve ever designed. I’m currently working on another interior piece design as well, for a special collaboration.
How would you describe your interior style?
Mai: It used to be easier for me to describe it. Two years back I would say mid-century with a pop of color. But now that I have my own home, things are changing a bit. I have contemporary pieces as well as some mid-century touches. Wood is a big part, I love wood and I love color. So I mix both of them. I would say my style is contemporary with a little mid-century. Maybe a little bit of space age as well.
Josh: Yeah, I’m a fan of space age. If I had it my way, you would see more of it. laughs
How long does it take you to find the perfect objects? Do you have a process?
Mai: We moved into this house a year ago and honestly, it’s finally coming together because we didn’t want to just bombard our space with a whole lot of things just to fill it up. Everything that we have, it’s either something that has been created by a small business that we really love, or it’s a piece that Josh and I have been looking for second-hand from a store. Another thing is, we look for design pieces. Like the Noguchi table, that’s the main piece in our house. Or our Noguchi lamp. We like colorful little knickknacks from the MoMA Design Store. When it comes to certain pieces, we do try to make sure that it’s timeless and that it’s something that we will want in the future. There’s a difference between liking something for the meantime versus liking it forever. So we don’t buy a lot of stuff that we’re just going to like for the meantime, or else the space would be filled with stuff.
What are your favorite pieces at the moment?
Mai: I will say the teddy sofa. Every time someone comes to our house, they gravitate towards it. I also love our Nelson Bubble Lamp. I think it ties the whole space together and I wanted it for so long.
Josh: For me, it’s the Noguchi table and the divider.
Mai: That’s funny that you say that. The divider is such a huge statement in our house. I’ve had probably over a hundred people asking me – where’s the divider from?
You work together but you are also married. Was your shared love of design something that connected you from the beginning?
Josh: It’s funny because our meeting had nothing to do with anything creative. It was kind of more on the natural side. The old school way, I guess. We had actually seen each other at a party of a photographer in Houston. We both attended, not knowing each other. I saw her and I thought she was gorgeous, of course, but I didn’t have any time to talk to her. The next day goes by and I get on Twitter and I come to realize that we were already following each other.
Mai: He’s a photographer but he doesn’t show his face, so I didn’t know who I was following.
Josh: When I came to realize that it was her that I saw, I was like – of course I’m going to message her. So I did. We started talking and now here we are.
Was it fate?
Josh: That’s how I look at it.
Would you say that your home is a reflection of your personality?
Mai: I think it’s funny that, because of the colors we have in our house, a lot of people ask – oh, is it like this because of the babies? We have our Heller bowls and plates, the kitchen itself is yellow and green, we have a colorful modular couch… and people assume it must be for the kids. It is, in part, but it’s also for us. I don’t know, maybe for our inner children. We just love color.
Josh: It’s crazy because growing up, I probably wouldn’t have imagined my future home looking this way, nor did I have any colorful furniture at the time. It was mostly solid colors. Everything matched. But I love what has come to be.
Mai: I thought I was going to grow up and love a neutral home. That was the Pinterest look, right? At 14 I was like – oh my gosh, that’s my mood board. But as I got older, my taste became more playful.
Let’s talk art. THE SKATEROOM editions which you have are the Colored Campbell Soups from the Andy WARHOL collection. What drew you to these pieces?
Mai: They go perfectly with the both of us. I’ve loved art growing up. I love drawing and painting, and art classes were my favorite back in the day. Andy WARHOL was a big one back in art class, so it’s just something that I’m very familiar with. It’s iconic.
Josh: I was really into skateboarding growing up. Sadly, it didn’t stick, but it introduced me to a lot of things in music and culture. I have three brothers and, at one point in time, we all decided we were going to be skaters. Now, whenever I see [the editions] on the wall, it just takes me back to those days of us skating and having fun.
What was the thought process behind how they are showcased in your house?
Mai: As far as placement, the spot that we chose is actually in the living room. Usually the only things that you would see on a wall is either a TV or frames, and I like that it’s actually not a traditional framed artwork. It brings a different feel into our house. We have enough traditional frames, whereas the editions add a little something special to the space.
Josh: I just love this color scheme for our house.