Style Spotlight with Jay Michael

Home-3What do you get when you pair incredible design and style sensibility with a hot new Bravo show? You get Jay Michael, star of 100 Days of Summerand “life architect” (this might be our new favorite phrase), who took the time to chat with Cheeky about all things career and personal style (with a good dose of Chicago’s hit reality show sprinkled in).


Cheeky: How did you get started in the design business?

Jay Michael: Calling myself a designer always felt unnatural. I think my life’s work is more about understanding the way ordinary people (like myself) live, and empowering them with the tools to live extraordinary lives. Although it’s part of the overall mission, my work is much broader than just design. My mother always told me I had Champagne taste on a beer budget… well, she was right, and I made it work. Now I want to share the love, if you will.


Cheeky: Where does your passion for design come from?
JM: At 18, I found myself living in a tiny dorm room in London on a very small budget (basically nothing), with the will and determination to live very well no matter what. I remember spending endless days running around to secondhand shops and junk stores throughout London “truffle-sniffing,” as a dear designer friend calls my method of searching. Eventually, after a lot of sniffing, a part-time job at the first Starbucks in London, some fresh paint, a ton of church candles and some repurposed old furniture, I transformed my little gem of a dorm room into a warm, soothing home. I knew then my obsession with the way I was to live was stronger than my desire to study economics.


Cheeky: How would you describe your day-to-day style?
JM: I’d call my everyday style an edited list of massive contradictions. The high with the low and the new with the ancient. My day-to-day style is all about the juxtaposition, which embodies the way I was raised. I’m a product of a humble-ish Skokie upbringing, an English education, endless wanderlust and a passion for all things lovely.


Cheeky: What are the three essential products you must have with you at all times while traveling?

JM: 1) 32 oz. Nalgene bottle – which I refill and drink five times daily, especially when traveling.

2) I always travel with apples (usually Honeycrisp when available) and raw nuts and seeds. I like snacking.

3) Business cards – I feel like some of my most meaningful contacts were made on a flight.


Cheeky: If you had to live the rest of your life in one outfit, and one outfit only, what would it be and why?

JM A Hanes white V-Neck (American Apparel is way too deep for me), a gray cashmere hoodie, a pair of blue moleskin Hacket jeans and an old pair of cream suede Tod’s high top sneakers I’ve had since 2002. That would keep me happy and comfortable for life.


Cheeky: Who is your style icon and why?

JM: Hermes, hands down. The Hermes family maintains a small but very mighty museum in the original office of the founder where they curate some of the world’s most significant antiquities. The museum hosts everything from a cane Stalin once used to pieces from ancient Chinese dynasties, and everything in between. Although this museum is not open to the public, I was granted a day visit last year. The full-time Hermes curator gave me a tour and explained that these items had been collected through generations in order to continually inspire and invigorate their designers to create timeless work, which is exactly what it did for me. Almost every Hermes design has a story that ties back to an item or two from the museum.


Cheeky: What can you tell us about your new project, FLATS?

JM:FLATS gives tenants big style in a small space by offering high quality, amenity rich, authentic environments at approachable rents, always. As one of our first tenants at FLATS No. 5411 Winthrop, I can attest to us reaching our goals. I am living big in less than 700 square feet, and it’s not heavy on the pocketbook.


Cheeky: Any recommendations for someone looking to redecorate their living room?

JM: I say the key is juxtaposing everything from color to vintage… for instance in my FLATS living room, you’ll find green camouflage wallpaper, hot pink paint, an American flag ($20 online) and a blue and white Chinese urn that’s nearly 100 years old (found it at the Brown Elephant thrift shop for $12). These are four items you’d never expect in the same 10×12 living space, but it looks great and it feels like it was all meant to be together.


Cheeky: It’s no secret that your new TV show is a smashing hit, but how has been being on the show affected your life recently?

JM:The show! I feel like it’s the first question everyone asks me these days. It’s been a very fun and interesting ride. I will say it’s very weird to see myself being Cheeky on a 50-inch plasma at the gym while I take my run after work.

Cheeky: What can you tell us about the rest of the season?

JM:This show has created a new brand of reality for Bravo, in my opinion. We do a little screaming, we get a little sassy, you’ll see a few tears, but we also have real believable work and personal lives that I feel are well represented in the show. I think you’ll find yourself really relating to at least one or two of the characters, which is exactly what we want.


Cheeky: What is the Cheekiest thing you did this week?

JM: I had a ‘polar-vortex’ creative staff meeting at my FLAT this week. I cooked some warm food, made some fresh guacamole, served Stumptown coffee and Local Option beer and we got a ton of work done. I know it’s not the ordinary way of hosting a work meeting, but it’s my way.

By: Cheeky Speaks

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