spent her early adulthood cutting her teeth in the publishing industry where she worked as editor for top magazines such as Flare, House & Home, and LOULOU. On the outside, life seemed glamorous: she often appeared on TV as a style expert, she attended numerous events, and was constantly saturated with the latest design and style trends. However, during this time, she was still living with her parents. So for all the design skills she gleaned, the only area she had to experiment with and impose her style knowledge on was her humble childhood bedroom.
It wasn’t until years later (which also welcomed the addition of her two children as well as a new on-TV role as resident Style Expert on The Morning Show) that she and her family purchased a house to call home — and one that finally offered Afiya the freedom to unleash her skills. Afiya and her husband Aaron renovated their Toronto home top to bottom, transforming it from a space that they once thought of as temporary, to one where they’re happy to raise their two rambunctious boys. Needless to say, for Afiya, good things in life are worth waiting for, and today she’s joining us to chat more about her career path, the process of fostering her own home, and her fears for the future in light of recent global tragedies.
Photography by Anna Lisa Sang
Tell us about yourself.
After receiving my English B.A., I took a post graduate program at Centennial in Book & Magazine Publishing. I thought I might be a book publicist, but an internship at Flare magazine hooked me as it combined my love of style, reading and writing. My first job in the industry was as an Assistant Market Editor at Canadian House & Home magazine which I did for around five years or so. It was an awesome job that allowed me to scout some of the most beautiful houses in Toronto, but it was funny because I was still living with my parents, so my interior decorating skills at home were relegated to my little bedroom. I stockpiled coveted items, like Conran dishes and linen sheets for my first apartment. After H&H, I went to LOULOU magazine as the Shopping Editor — which was pretty amazing, being paid to further hone my well-developed shopping skills. It was here that I started to do broadcast segments on shows like ET Canada and CityLine and launched my site, . When I became pregnant with my first son, Felix, I went freelance. Two and half years later, along came Desmond (and my current gig as the resident Style Expert on The Morning Show, Global) and today our family of four, with hubby Aaron, live in the Danforth neighborhood.
What does home and this space mean to you? Describe it.
In our crazy, busy world, our home is a chill refuge. Home is our little haven. When we bought this house, we thought we would have moved by now; it was our first house and we didn’t even really check out schools or have a long-term plan. Then Des was born here and we realized that the street is filled with kids, young families, the school is great (whew) and we’re close to everything. We’ve done gradual renos and now it feels like the house has grown up alongside us. I’m not sure we’re going anywhere anytime soon.
What makes it so comfortable (physically and personally)?
I think that our home has a certain summer home/vacation vibe to it. It’s laid-back and not fussy. I tend to favor summer/cottage editions of magazines and Elle Decor Country and I kind of feel like, why save that style for when you’re away? I’m a fan of smudging and always have a diffuser going to freshen up the energy. I also think that nothing is too precious – it can’t be, we have two rambunctious boys – so it’s easy to get comfortable. I like to think that there’s a calming energy that’s welcoming and comforting. I’ve also worked hard to reduce clutter and edit our stuff down to the things that are loved and bring joy. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Terence Conrad’s Plain Simple Useful really resonated and helped shape my current style and lifestyle philosophies.
What makes you uncomfortable? What is your biggest fear?
There are crazy things happening in this [world] right now. It feels like people are leading and reacting with fear and fragmenting into groups, forgetting that we’re all one. We get one shot here — we only have one earth — and my biggest fear is that we’re messing it all up for the generations to come.
Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and departed from your comfort zone? What happened as a result?
When I first started at LOULOU magazine, I was immediately booked to do a segment on ET Canada. I had never spoken on camera before, and here I was expected to appear on one of the biggest national shows in the country. It was terrifying, but I did it and it eventually led to the career path that I’m now on – a good percentage of what I do today all stems from that one day, and the confidence I gained realizing that anything can be figured out.
In addition, going freelance was a big move, but at the time I didn’t even really consider the risk. It’s a lot of work because my schedule is “flexible.” I’m sometimes stretched in several directions at once — mother, employer, business owner, content creator… But it is the best thing, I adore working for myself and it’s a privilege to be able to spend a couple of weekdays with the boys.
What would you do if you had a day, a week and a month all to yourself?
A day to myself would be spent at Body Blitz spa before doing a little shopping.
With a week, I’d hit a yoga retreat, do a cleanse and hit reset. Or go on a bunch of dinner dates, hikes, and on the couch reading.
A month? Oh man, I would probably spin in circles not knowing what to do with myself. When I finally settled down, I would love to find myself at a yoga retreat, indulge in meditation, reading and listening to thought leaders like Eckhart Tolle. And a few party nights and debauchery – for good measure.
What have you learned as an adult that you wish you knew when you were younger?
That to dance to a different beat is a great thing. That most “problems” are created and perpetuated in one’s own mind. To have the courage to have an opinion and to appreciate my differences. To know that most anything can be figured out. Finally, what you focus on is what you attract – spend less time and energy on what you don’t want. Just relax, breathe and trust that all will be well.
How do you unplug, recharge and unwind?
I’m an aspiring yogi – I don’t get to practice the way I did before kids, but I often will do a few sun salutations throughout the day at home. I’m trying to establish a daily meditation practice… I’m trying. I love being outdoors and hiking – I could probably walk all day long, if given the chance.
Have you ever experienced burnout? How do you get back on your feet and stay inspired?
Irritability and impatience are usually my signs that I’ve been pushing it. A few early nights, reading Eckhart Tolle and looking at style blogs and Pinterest usually do the trick. It’s also a good time to pay attention to whether I’m drinking enough water and what I’ve been eating — typically it all goes to crap when I’m nearing burnout and it’s an opportunity to get it back together. To right the course, sleep is also important.
What do you think the world could use less of, and more of?
More love. Less fear.
What’s one question you wish you had the answer to?
Wouldn’t mind hearing some of the juicy secrets from Area 51.