Flex Mami's Technicolour Dream Home Is Bursting With Style and Creativity
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans and crafters by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to western Sydney where Lillian Ahenkan aka Flex Mami has just moved into her new home.
The last time we spoke to Flex Mami, multi-hyphenate content creator, DJ, podcaster and soon to be author (more on that later), she was in a different place. Like, literally a different place: Flex was living in Sydney’s inner west in an apartment filled with knick knacks and her many DIY projects. But that was in late 2019, and now, in early 2021, we find her not only in a new home, but moving into the next phase of her business, too.
What does that mean for Flex, one of our favourite online presences with more than 134,000 followers on Instagram? “Definitely more behind-the-scenes,” she says. Being online is a difficult undertaking that she admits "requires solid mental health, resilience and understanding of trends, and a commitment to sharing every single part of yourself. It suits my lifestyle now, but I think I’m slowly approaching the time where the cons begin to outweigh the pros.”
But don’t worry, Flex isn’t going anywhere. She's committed to building Flex Factory, the online store where she sells her ever-popular conversation card games and homewares. “I’m really interested in using the skills I have to continue to build product-based businesses, as opposed to selling myself,” she explains. “I still want to be online, I still want to be building a relationship with my audience, but as it stands I think I’m far more driven to build something more tangible that exists outside of me.”
On the home front, Flex is in a new place, too. Some seven months ago she moved out of her apartment and into a house with a driveway, garage and high ceilings that felt a bit like a blank canvas. Her previous home was small, with “knick knacks on every possible surface”, but in this home Flex is trying to be more purposeful with her design.
It’s still a work in progress. A custom bedhead is being made as we speak – “which is why I don’t have one, don’t judge me,” she jokes. And she’s on the hunt for a “really cool, retro, futuristic yellow, lime green or orange sofa,” she says. But whenever she can’t find that thing she’s searching for, she launches into a new DIY project, documenting her process for her audience to follow on Instagram. “Honestly, I just make what I can’t buy, because it doesn’t exist or it’s too expensive,” she says.
Hi Flex! Welcome back to The Makers. What have you been making since last time we caught up with you?
Honestly more things than my terrible memory will allow me to remember. But I have made a coffee table, a curtain, upcycled some more dressers, developed some more conversation card games and collaborated with an Australian furniture company called Circle Home to release a small limited collection.
Flex Factory has gone from strength to strength – from card games to t-shirts to homewares! What’s your favourite part of running your own shop?
The fact that I get to conceptualise these really exciting, unique and creative ideas and see them through to fruition. All of my bizarre iPhone note brainstorms are becoming a reality and I honestly am so stoked.
You run this business with your best friend. How do you balance friendship with a business/creative partnership?
Clear expectations, clear roles and communicating boundaries. Expect friction but be dedicated to creating framework for effective conflict resolution.
2020 was a challenging year for businesses. How has your work evolved in the past year and what challenges have you overcome?
2020 was the year that we decided to take Flex Factory completely in-house. In the early stages we relied on an external warehouse and company to ship and fill our orders, we were under the impression it would be a far better use of our time to do it that way. In reality they weren’t the best at that job and they were committed to sprinkling the customer experience with the TLC it deserved. Which meant that we were paying a premium for our customers to get less than spectacular service.
So at the end of the year we made a pretty huge decision to take on that role ourselves. Which meant we had to find a way to transport all of our stock from Melbourne to Sydney, open a warehouse, employ people, it all was just such a huge undertaking.
To this day I don’t think I really anticipated how much extra work it was going to be, but honestly it is the most rewarding and validating experience. Being able to see touch and feel every single part of our business, because we are in that warehouse every day. Creating content, packing orders and just revelling in this amazing creation we’ve built from scratch.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
Something about these beautiful pressed 10 walls, the high ceilings, the fact it’s a house, the fact I have a driveway, the fact I have a garage and also the fact it is and feels like a blank canvas for me to do anything, within reason, in it. But also to be fair, I was under a bit of a time crunch and I thought to myself “this will do”.
Did you make any big changes after moving in?
No, I rent so I am quite limited in what I’m able to do in the space.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
Definitely chose to go the clean maximalism route. As you know I’ve already lived in a smaller space that had knick knacks on every possible surface, but in this new space I wanted it to feel far more serene and relaxed and not as busy. So I’ve purposely tried to fill the space with pieces that pack a punch.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
My Curated Spaces Bread and Butter Window Table.
My gingham armchair.
My banana rocking chair.
My Tiger side table.
You’re a big fan of DIY. What inspires your projects?
Honestly I just make what I can’t buy, because it doesn’t exist or it’s too expensive.
Shop Flex's look with Turmeric and Lavender in our Build Your Own Bundle.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I would love a really cool retro futuristic yellow, lime green or orange sofa. I’m keeping an eye out on FB Marketplace for that one.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
My living room for sure. It’s the closest to being “finished”.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Beautiful bedding that actually sparks joy.
Bright and colourful LED lighting.
A few key pieces of artwork.
A structured bed head (I’m getting one custom made now which is why I don’t have one, don’t judge me).
Do you have any exciting projects coming up you want to talk about?
My first book The Success Experiment comes out in a couple of months!!!
For more from Flex, follow her at @flex.mami