Jonathan Lo has an impeccable eye for design. Whether he’s working on his tightly produced blog, Happy Mundane, which he’s kept running for more than a decade, or heading J3 Productions, his So-Cal design agency, you can always trust him to create and curate the best photography, home goods, and interiors. We’re particularly big fans of his contribution to the ongoing UO Print Shop program, a vibrant and sunny snapshot from a trip to Hawaii. We stopped by Jonathan’s home studio to get a look behind the scenes at his process and to chat about his creative headspace.
Photos by Sam Massey
Hi, Jonathan! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’m a SoCal native and the founder and creative director of a small design agency here in Orange County called J3 Productions. I’m also the guy behind Happy Mundane.
We’re big fans of your blog, Happy Mundane. How did it get started?
It’s crazy to believe that this will be my 10th year of blogging! the interwebs have changed so much! I basically started it as just a creative outlet to showcase and document the things I liked, specifically regarding good design of any kind. My mission with it is still the same, except now it’s translated onto social media platforms as well.
It’s safe to say you know a thing or two about interiors— do you have any guiding principles you stick to when arranging a space?
Whenever approaching a space, I think it’s important to keep in mind how you want the space to function. Once you make sure you have those issues addressed, then just have fun and fill it with things that make you smile or happy. As long as you love it then it’s perfect.
Are there any artists or designers that have inspired you the most over there years?
There are too many to count. For graphic design: Paul Rand, Mark Farrow, and Tamotsu Yagi - For interior design: David Hicks, Kelly Wearstler, and Alexander Girard. For photography: Uta Barth, William Eggleston, and Herb Ritts.
Your online presence is awesome— you kill it on Instagram, Pinterest, and in the blog realm. How do you maintain such a high quality output while living such a busy life?
Thank you! I do have to admit it’s not easy always keeping up with all the platforms. Over time I’ve sort of gotten into manageable groove and routine. It’s pretty much become second nature but having everything accessible via an app on your phone helps too!
What do you look for when choosing art for an interior?
Artwork is so subjective, but as long as it makes you feel something, then that’s the most important. A strong piece of art can completely transform a room often times more so than any piece of furniture. I think it just depends on what kind of statement you want to say. Its a great way to add an “edge” to a more traditional looking room, or it can be a quick way to add a pop of color or visual texture if all your furniture is neutral. If you’ve gotten bored with a room, and are looking for a simple way to freshen it up, just swap out the art!
Can you tell us a bit about the photo you contributed to the UO print shop?
Hawaii is probably my most favorite place in the world. I try to make it back there as often as possible! Aside from the obvious water, sun and sand, there’s also so much lushness and gorgeous greenery. I just wanted to be able to bring a piece of that “island magic” back home with me! The photo just instantly transports me there.
Growing up, did you always had an eye and appreciation for color, or is it something you developed over time?
I guess I was lucky to grow up with parents that supported and encouraged my creativity. I remember always having a box of markers or crayons on hand and drawing weird cartoons and pictures. I was never afraid to play with color. However, as you get older and are exposed to more references and experiences, I can say that my tastes and color sensitivities have definitely matured over time.
What’s next for you?
We just launched a new independently published zine called The Octopian. It’s a visual journal that explores design, lifestyle, architecture and artists, all with a subtle sci-fi filter. Our second issue just came out and is out now!