The Many Charms of Christian May

Los Angeles designer Christian May is a busy man. Through his firm, Maison 21, he’s hard at work on multiple client projects, product lines that include rugs and pillows, and being an all-around good force for the design community in the City of Angels. He’s an ardent supporter of and contributor to events like LCDQ, West Week, West Edge and, most recently, Dwell on Design, where just this weekend he participated in a panel discussion on social media with kitchen and bath designer Laurie Haefele and Snyder Diamond’s very own social media expert, Roxie Sarhangi of Communication Arts + Design, Inc. Adding to May’s general awesomeness is his passion for animal adoption. Follow him on social media and (like us) you’ll fall head over heels for his sweet rescued pals, cat Richard and pooch Ted. Did we mention that he’s a fantastic designer? He is. Read on, take a look and then give him a jingle.

How would you describe your aesthetic? Modern Eclectic, it's all about a mix. I like to layer and juxtapose—an expensive modern piece next to a vintage thrift store or flea market find, or a bold geometric rug under a softly curved organic sofa. I am not a fan of cookie cutter design and I want every space I design to be unique and special.

How did you get started in the business? When I was younger, I bought and sold vintage furniture for many years and gained a following, not only for my finds but also for how I was constantly changing up my own place to accommodate new pieces. When friends then started asking for my help in decorating their spaces, I figured I better learn what the heck I was doing, so I went back to school for interior design, first at Santa Monica College, then at CSU, Long Beach. I followed that up with five years at Vance Burke Design before going out on my own.

From where do you derive creative inspiration? Where else, The Internets! Seeing a new modern product on Design Milk or a spectacular vintage piece on Instagram can really fire up my imagination for an upcoming project. I also take inspiration from my favorite design trends of the 20th century, like the Memphis movement or Brutalism, and then try reinterpret them in a modern, 21st-century way. Offline, nothing gets my juices going like a day of shopping—sensory overload touring the showrooms of LA or NYC. A good flea market session provides the same thing.

If you could reside on a Hollywood film set from any era, what would it be, and why? That's a toughie. I love the Deco/Streamline Moderne sets of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers movies, and the lavish ’50s sets for Rock Hudson and Doris Day flicks, but if I had to pick one place to live in cinematic history, it would be Auntie Mame's ever-changing Beekman Place pad. It's iconic and way over the top! 

What takes a kitchen or bath from ordinary to extraordinary? Not to be shamelessly self-serving but I firmly believe that a kitchen or bath goes from ordinary to extraordinary the minute you hire a talented designer to help bring your dreams to life. A homeowner can have the best taste in the world but without the experience, vision and knowledge base of a professional, a kitchen or bath will never have the attention to detail that it needs to elevate it from the merely pretty to the truly spectacular. I may be biased but I think we are worth every penny.