Though Jeannie Mai is exceptionally close to her mother, the pair’s tastes are at odds when it comes to home decor.
The co-host of “The Real” currently shares her Sherman Oaks home with her mom, popularly known to fans of the daytime talk show as Mama Mai, but wouldn’t enlist her to help decorate her living room.
“If it were up to Mama Mai, she would have TJ Maxx tags still on the furniture in case she decides to return them three years later, and a million shoes by the front foyer — you would break your legs before even walking in the room,” said Mai, 39. “I would never take style advice from my mom, ever.”
Instead, the living room in the 2,400-square-foot home is filled with collectibles curated with thought and precision. Accents of gold and bronze are dispersed throughout the cabin-like space, with whimsical birdcages hanging from the ceiling. Light enters the sizable yet cozy room through French doors found next to a rustic, brick fireplace.
Why is this your favorite room?
This is where all my family comes together to watch movies and drink and talk together.
How would you describe your aesthetic style?
Rustic luxe. I love the redwood forest type of feel and the ocean. I grew up in San Jose, Calif., where I had everything: the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Bay Area and the Golden Gate Bridge. I like my house to feel all points of nature, though, ironically, I have nothing alive in this house. Even though I like the look of it being alive, I'd rather it just be dead in the house and alive outside.
How has being a fashion connoisseur influenced your interior design?
It's very important to evoke the personality of the person whose home it is. I’m not a very girly person; I don't want fluffy textures all the time. I like things I can make myself and add a fashionable flair — I reupholstered this chair and dyed this rug.
What’s your most cherished piece?
An oilcan that belonged to my grandfather. He worked at a boating deck where he cleaned the fishermen’s boats and filled them up with gas. He had planned to escape Vietnam for about two years, so every weekend he would hide some of the oil and gasoline in these oil canisters and bury them until the day he had enough to escape with a family of six. The oil can reminds to be thankful because I'm living in a country that opened their arms and accepted my family.
What inspired the amazing hanging birdcages?
When I was growing up, my dad would teach me responsibility by taking care of birds. We owned four parakeets, and I [removed] their little droppings and fed them bird seed.
Where do you like to shop?
I love collecting things, so I go to the Torrance Antique Faire every week and also the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
Did you decorate yourself?
I did, and had an amazing designer named Jinnie Choi help me put together the pieces I found. Everything you see I shopped for and refurbished, and then she helped me place it together so it didn't look like a cluttered hoarder’s house like my mom’s.