Designer Andrew Mau Makes a Rental His Own
The Warren apartment combines history and Mau's Hawaiian roots.
Apartment living can be a delicate balance between permanency and transience, forcing the dweller to straddle the line between personalizing the space and not committing too much before it’s time to move on to the next adventure. It’s also, in many ways, the beauty of such a temporary situation. At least that’s how furniture designer Andrew Mau saw it when he moved into the second floor of the 1808 Samuel Randall House in Warren. Unsure of the length of his stay after deciding to postpone a move to the West Coast, he still wanted to celebrate the beauty of the well-preserved building and add his own touch. The Hawaiian native, who came to the Ocean State by way of RISD’s furniture design program, pulled together pieces — many borrowed, some budget finds — to create a well-curated space that’s a nod to his work and life.
A designer at O and G Studio, as well as his own label, Mau-House, Mau is a maker at heart, so it was important to surround himself with textures that inspire. “I like real materials,” he says. “I don’t like anything plated. If it’s brass, it’s going to be brass.” A wooden drafting table — a long-saved-for purchase — is where he does much of his Mau-House designing, with a Windsor-style chair he designed for O and G providing the seating. He’s also an adamant supporter of his maker friends, displaying pieces like the locally made Lotuff satchel and a painting by fellow RISD grad Emily Woratzeck that add richness to their respective spots. Several pieces are borrowed, including the stately dresser and even the impactful paint colors, which are remnants from the previous tenant. The antlers were prizes from his father’s hunting trips in Hawaii and add a dose of sentimentality.
Many of Mau’s textile and paper designs incorporate the riotous colors and patterns of his Hawaiian upbringing, but in his current living space a pared-down look was more pleasing. Still, in the closet-sized bathroom, where little could fit beyond the claw-foot tub and commode, that was more a decision of function over fashion. One surprising discovery: The black walls add depth to the space, expanding the perimeters of the room rather than limiting them. The bedroom, purposely the brightest in the house to keep the always-working Mau on schedule, is simple and serene, outfitted with a few select items, including a wicker table and chair from Anawan Trading Post in Rehoboth.
A Historic Present
A home can often hide its age behind the playful, modern touches of its youthful occupants, and this one does that well. But a peek into the kitchen and it’s instantly betrayed by the well-worn hearth. One of three in the apartment, it quickly became a centerpiece for gatherings, as well as a favorite place for Mau to display his weekly produce haul. An island from Ikea anchors the space and makes up for the room’s lack of counterspace and storage. Hanging on a nearby wall is another nod to Mau’s Pacific roots: a hammock picked up from Ocean State Job Lot that gets pulled out year round and hung in the green room for work or napping. “It has the same feel and function as a couch, but it’s more fun and island-y. I thought, if anyone can pull this off, it’s me,” Mau explains. But we think the real appeal might lie in its portability, since it can be packed up in a moment’s notice, ready to make a new home wherever its owner chooses.