One scroll through Lillian Ahenkan’s Instagram, Flex Mami, and you’ll instantly see that she has her own very unique approach to color, prints, and unconventional furniture. The multitalented creative who resides in Sydney has created card games, is an MTV host, and has her own podcast too. Somehow, she also finds the time to film design-centric tutorials, e.g., how to make your own spray-foam mirror or how to install cool wall stickers.
Lillian started doing DIY projects about two years ago, and she considers home projects her biggest hobby. “I always lived in quiet, functional spaces, and I guess it’s kind of the [result] of not being raised in a household where there’s enough money for you to have the dream bedroom,” she explains of her newfound love of design, interiors, and quirky furniture. “Finally having the agency and freedom and money to [create my dream space], and also having the credibility to express myself and the time, it was a perfect storm.” We chatted with Lillian about her design obsessions, DIY tips, and more.
Clever: What’s one of your favorite DIY projects?
Lillian: The one that I’m quite proud of is the coffee table that I currently have. It’s a modern wave design. The tabletop is glass, and the glass is nice. [The table] was raggedy. I got it from Facebook Marketplace, and it was just falling apart. And I thought if I could just change that tabletop, that would really be the best. I remember googling how to remove glass from its legs. I went to our hardware store, got some wood cut to size, sanded it, primed it, spray painted it, and lacquered it. And it looks like a finished product. You know, sometimes with DIY it looks really handmade.
How do you find such great things on Facebook Marketplace?
In the early stages I was always waiting around for a sale at a department store to just buy something inexpensive and switch it around. But I kind of forgot about Facebook Marketplace, and then maybe a year ago I got on it and realized there’s so much stuff—almost too much now—that I find things and I don’t have space for them. The fact of the matter is, people aren’t using keywords, so I honestly go on every day and I set my radius for 10 to 12 kilometers. I just search the furniture section and save things that pop out, and it’s super time-consuming. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s not actually interested in upcycling, but it means that I’m able to find things that other people aren’t finding.
How would you describe your aesthetic in your home?
Chaotic, chaotic, colorful, kitschy, but not childish. I have this six-drawer dresser in natural pinewood that I ended up buying off Gumtree. I knew I needed to dress it up for my wardrobe. But I just didn’t realize how big it was. So I painted the top part of the dresser in this amazing black-and-white checkerboard, and each of the actual drawers I painted a different gradient. It goes from neon pink to orange, some go from yellow to green, and the sides also have a checkerboard, and it actually looks so sick. I’m so proud of it.
What’s one piece you saved up for?
There’s this beautiful mirror that I bought from Seletti x Toiletpaper Magazine. I had been pining for it for so long. I remember being on the Australian website and seeing that at one point there were only five mirrors…. So I was like, fuck it, I’ll just buy it. You know, I love it already. I’m going to love it in the future, and it’s honestly one of those things where I couldn’t get it anywhere else. I think every day I look at it and it pays for itself in joy.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I’ve always loved Memphis design, but people aren’t making Memphis furniture at the moment. So we pushed that to the side. There’s this kitschy, Copenhagen-cute pastel vibe that’s happening. I love that, but it is so trendy that I don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in trendy furniture. I think my inspiration comes from art first instead of furniture first. So by following photographers and artists and production designers and just looking at what they’re posting, bits and pieces come to mind.
Where are your favorite places to shop for decor?
There’s this amazing acrylic artist named Domus Vim. He’s just built me this really spectacular iridescent acrylic lamp. There’s an Australian shop called Jolie Laide, and they import a lot of amazing designs. I also love this Melbourne-based online store called Third Drawer Down. They’re incredible. And Coming Soon New York, Home Union, Bi-Rite.
Your favorite people to follow on Instagram:
@domusvim, @fischinc, @toiletpapermagazineofficial, @rhett.baruch.design, @mrbuckleyinteriors, @anotherhumandesign, @octopus_chandeliers, @2lgstudio, @riviersneda, @mishakahn, @ummmsmile
Flex Mami’s DIY tips:
Think about function. At first I was trying to fill in space, because I think what I was finding with my kind of design sensibility is that there’s a lot of stuff but no storage or function. So I needed to kind of work backward and put some function in my house with storage.
Live by trial and error. A lot of the time it’s trial and error, because I’m trying to do things that maybe haven’t been done before. If I watch a tutorial that’s not well explained, I get frustrated. So I’ve done a lot of trial and error. And then there are a ton of DIY projects that I don’t show because they’re terrible.
Google and the hardware store are your best friends. I knew I wanted to learn how to lacquer something. So I just use Google and ask Google how to lacquer it up. And then when I go into hardware stores, I just trust the sales assistants. And I say, “This is the kind of vibe I’m going for. What would you recommend?”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest