Not so long ago the stationery studio of MaeMae & Co. resembled the one of designer Jeff Lewis on Bravo’s Flipping Out. Owner Megan Gonzalez and her three employees worked side-by-side at IKEA desks in the middle of her living room. The view was fantastic—the 18th floor Elliot Park apartment faces the Minneapolis skyline—and so was the camaraderie.
But intermixing work and home life has obvious drawbacks. “I felt like I never left work—the projects were right in front of me, and Jason was like Gage (Lewis’ partner) from the show,” says Gonzalez about her husband, a sports reporter for the Star Tribune, a job that brought the couple to Minnesota two years ago from Los Angeles. “He basically lost his whole apartment while we took over the rest of the space.”
That changed in early April when MaeMae moved out, and into an open airy loft two blocks north. “It was incredible to start going to work,” Gonzalez says. “Even though I’ve been in business for six years, this makes it feel more official.”
The peppy 28-year-old entrepreneur has been running her own company since graduating from college at Biola University in southern California with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Engaged to Jason at the time, she was designing their wedding invitation when her father looked over her shoulder and suggested she earn a living doing it.
Gonzalez rounded up her first clients through her Facebook network and christened her business MaeMae, the teasing nickname her younger brothers gave her; it means “little sister” in Chinese. The brand’s blue pony logo represents Gonzalez’s treasured and worn plush toy: “I think it’s important to keep some of that childlike imagination in your work life.” This stated mission is evident in the freshly illustrated and playful designs that have drawn clients far and wide, including Jenna Bush Hager, Saturday Night Live’s Taran Killam, and actress Cobie Smulders.
With the new office, Gonzalez placed her desk in a lofted open area above the main floor—giving her an overhead perspective on the wedding and branding designs in progress below. When the MaeMae team sits down to tackle a new design, they come up with a consistent theme or motif first, then mix and match patterns and scale within a paper set. It’s a similar process to decorating. “Like a room, our paper pieces coordinate but they will never be the same,” says Gonzalez. “I like a large scale mixed with a small scale, and unexpected moments.”
Ever the artist, Gonzalez has that enviable ability to make furniture pieces we’ve seen at the big box stores look new with clever styling. Most of it is sourced from IKEA, Room & Board outlet, and West Elm—but she layers the pieces with great pillows, blankets, stacks of books, and rows of plants, then posts the latest to the delight of her fans on Instagram and Facebook.
Her apartment has a sunny California vibe with pops of bright yellow and gold in flowers, trays, and picture frames, and several mirrors positioned on the floor and hung on the walls to open the space and reflect the lights of the city. “We’ve rearranged about four times,” says Gonzalez, who is always futzing with the space. And she’s still hauling pieces back and forth between her office and the apartment, like a stack of pictures she just brought from home to hang as a gallery wall in the office. “Everything has been so intermixed for so long, I think it will be a while before I figure out how to separate the two.” Until then, she’ll go with the flow.