The art of transforming spaces: Meet JayJay Nguyen

JayJay Nguyen

Investment banker by trade, interior stylist by nature. A Gypsy at heart and a wanderlust dreamer. Also a knitter, Airbnb host, Francophile, stepmom, cat mum and linen lover.

 @fairlightmaison \ PHOTOS by Paul Faint


Unafraid of the new

I was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Arrived in Australia as a boat refugee at the end of the Vietnam war with my parents and 4 of my siblings. The year was 1979, I was 10 years old and didn’t speak any English. My family traded in an affluent privileged life before the war to a life of a refugee in a new and unfamiliar country. The transition wasn’t easy, but we felt blessed to be alive and grateful to have the opportunity to rebuild our lives. The road was tough, and life wasn’t easy but the one constant which kept us going was family love. Lots of love. Growing up with my sisters around me I felt like I could conquer anything. My early childhood experiences have definitely shaped who I am and my sense of adventure. “Not afraid to try anything new” was my motto. It also gave me a thirst for traveling and a desire to experience different cultures and meeting new people. I forged a career in Investment Banking so I could have the opportunity to live and work overseas. My day job doesn’t allow much room to be creative so I’m an interior stylist addict by night.


The Fairlight Maison

I first stepped inside Fairlight Maison about 20 years ago. Back then she was an ugly, dilapidated one-bedroom sandstone Victorian Terrace with a 70s timber laminated kitchen and a 1950s bathroom/laundry. She really didn’t have much going for her but the one thing she did have – which the eye couldn’t see but the heart could feel – was charm. She had a lot of charm. Apart from the sandstone everything else was painted mission brown. Yep, she wasn’t so pretty but there was something about her that just connected with me and I instantly fell in love with her. Maybe it was the sandstone walls or maybe it was the rustic open fireplace but whatever it was it made me determined to outbid everyone at that auction. I didn’t have any money to renovate after I bought her, so I just gave her a quick cosmetic makeover by painting everything white (except the sandstone walls of course). Since then, she has had two major renovations. The first renovation took place when Paul, my now husband, moved in a couple years after I bought her. We needed to create an extra bedroom for his two sons, so we converted the attic into a bedroom. The “domino effect” of renovations took us by surprise and ended up forcing us to renovate the bathroom and the kitchen at the same time. The second major renovation was completed about three years ago when we came back from living in Bali and missed having a swimming pool so much, we decided to put one in. I also wanted a “real bathroom” with a freestanding bathtub, so we added one and it’s now my favourite room in the house.


Living Amongst Nature

There are so many things that I love about living at Boomerang Beach, but I guess the most obvious is the closeness to the ocean and the geographical beauty of the area. We are in the middle of a native palm tree forest, surrounded by 3 lakes and 10 beaches which are all within a 10-minute radius. Our little beach shack is the oldest house in the area and the first house built on the headland. Being perched up high meant we get to see sea eagles soaring close above our house, often carrying fish back to their nests. From our bed we get to see the sunrise every morning and watch the surf roll in on the white sandy beach. Watching the vivid changing weather daily is also amazing. Being so close to the elements makes us realise how powerful Mother Nature really is. Stormy clouds and thundering skies are just as beautiful as sunny blue-sky days. And when you add all that beauty to the slow living and lack of traffic, it can be pretty idyllic up here.


Open boarders

Six overseas trips cancelled in the last 18 months means there is no shortage of places we want to see and experience but the one that is closest to my heart would have to be Paris. I have a brother, a sister, nephews, nieces, and lots of friends in France that we haven’t seen for over 2 years, so I think Paris will definitely be our first port of call when the border gate opens.


Interior design

I think my love for interior design started at infancy, but I only became aware of it when I got to have my own bedroom at the age of 15. I saved every cent of my pocket money to redecorate that bedroom and I bought my very first set of matching bed linen. That was the beginning of my addiction to linen! My “space” and the aesthetic of my surroundings have always played an important part in my well-being and happiness. Interior styling became more and more of an obsession as I got older. I get a lot of my inspiration from interior designers that I love such as Hans Blomquist and Axel Vervoordt but also from places that we travel to and the artists that we meet along the way.


Slow fashion

Slow fashion is my way of life. I’m not a fan of big brands and mass market. I don’t follow the latest fashion trends and I’m always seeking out independent designers that make beautiful unique quality clothes that are timeless.


Eclectic style

For interiors, I love all things Wabi-Sabi. I love anything that is vintage, rustic, and aged with lots of patina but I also have a soft spot for modern art so I guess you can say my style is eclectic. As much as I find dark rooms cosy and beautifully moody, I’m happiest in white, bright, sunny spaces with lots of linen. Lots of white and neutral colours except for the splashes of colourful art. I love unvarnished timbers, especially those that are sun bleached and scarred with use.


Simple is best

I only wear garments that are made from natural fibres such as linen, cotton and wool. I love comfortable clothing that allows you to move and flow. I believe simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.


La Bottega di Brunella

I first came across La Bottega di Brunella in a shop in Byron Bay. Everything about the label instantly resonated with me. The soft floaty linens, the understated elegance, the casual yet luxurious style that instantly makes you feel like you’re on holidays as soon as you put it on. It’s so beautiful and yet so comfortable that I can wear it every day. The other thing about the label that emotionally connected with me and is closest to my heart is that La Bottega di Brunella is from Positano which was where Paul and I went for our honeymoon.


The Style, Shoot and Feast Workshop

The Style, Shoot, Feast Workshop is a one-day workshop by the beach for those who love interior styling, shooting beautiful photos and feasting on delicious healthy food. It’s in collaboration with two legendary interior stylists, Lynda Gardener the famous hotelier and interior style genius, and Cheryl Carr from Albert & Grace. The workshop will take place on the Saturday November 13th at the beautiful beachfront AirBnB property Umi Boomerang Beach. There will be lots of hands-on styling fun and iPhone photography to discover. In addition to gathering interior styling tips from two of the best interior stylists in the country, we will also learn how to create stunning grazing platters and Sophie from Floral Collective will show us how to put together a small flower arrangement to photoshoot and take home at the end of the workshop. Last but not least, is the inclusion of a personally signed copy of Lynda’s new book Curate, a must have for anyone who is passionate about interior design. I think workshops are a great way to meet new friends and connect with likeminded people, so if it turns out to be a success, then I will definitely look to organising more.

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