Style setter and guest blogger Alia Ahmed-Yahia shares her “ten percent further” strategy for unlocking your own personal style, your home’s best look, your brand.
By Alia Ahmed-Yahia
If I walked into your living room and you weren’t home, would I know it was yours? Does it look like you? Is it furnished with things you love? Does it reflect your style? You’d be surprised at the number of people who answer no to those questions—and how many tell me it’s because they think they don’t have a style. I believe everyone has a style. We’re all instinctively drawn to certain looks and I say go with it! The challenge isn’t inventing your style, it’s discovering what it is—and then tapping into it.
I wasn’t born a style expert—trust me, I didn’t land my first job as a fashion assistant at Vanity Fair because of my fashion sense. Back then if you had asked me to articulate my style I probably would have given you a blank stare. In those early years, I focused on learning about myself. For the first time in my life, I was living my personality out in my look—and it was different—but instead of feeling like I didn’t fit in, I felt empowered. When I look back, I can confidently say that the way I showed up to the world every day was one hundred percent me.
We live in a socially driven world with an overwhelming amount of inspiration at our fingertips. How do you want to be seen so you stand out? How do you want to communicate your “brand” to everyone around you? Unless you work in the style industry, you’ve probably never pressed pause long enough to ask yourself these questions. What’s the “secret” to unlocking your own authentic style? Look around, be aware, take note of the things you’re attracted to—and then borrow the ideas that appeal to you. Be bold. And remember, it isn’t about putting things together perfectly, it’s about understanding the small surprises and elements that make you—and by extension, your home—unique.
Visualize how you want to live. Allow yourself to experiment and dream. Get out there. Browse home furnishings stores. Look at shelter magazines. Check out interior designers’ websites. Try things out. Evolve, shift, stay put, move on. Remember there’s no absolute “right” or “wrong.” We think we don’t do it “right” on the first try, we must not have what it takes. In reality, that tension between something familiar and something completely new is what makes style interesting. The trick is finding that tipping point—the place you imagine you’d go if you couldn’t get it “wrong.”
My advice is to take your look “ten percent further”—to that exhilarating place you want to be. Make one little change that takes you outside your comfort zone. Try that thing you’ve never tried because you aren’t completely sure how to pull it off. Allow yourself to inexplicably react to things you love (even if you aren’t sure how to make them a reality) and commit to them as your “ten percent.”
Thinking in terms of ten percent gives you a tangible roadmap as you begin to design (or redesign) a space. It’s a little like taking baby steps; they make all the difference in the world. For example, if my ten percent is gilded objects and black high-gloss trim, and yours is layered Moroccan rugs, our rooms would be uniquely ours—even if we started with the same core pieces. As you begin to develop your look, bring it to the forefront of your home, make it a focal point, repeat it multiple times, and downplay the elements around it so it can be a proper “hero.”
Keep doing this and before long, you’ll be getting credit for not only having style, but for having a signature style of your own.
Alia is a style and branding consultant and the creative force behind the #harpersbazaar #DesignGirlfriend series. See what’s she up to on Instagram @thestylescout and discover new ways to make your home your own every day: Subscribe to The Art of Making Home.