Meet Alia Ahmed-Yahia, a longtime fashion pro and blogger who is now bringing her style expertise to the world of interior design—and to Ethan Allen! Alia has fresh ideas and an imaginative perspective on the art of making home.
At first, we were a little skeptical of the idea of lining a wall with seven of our Villa bookcases in a room that would be transformed into a putting green. It seemed just a little too far outside the box. But the proposal came to us from Alia Ahmed-Yahia, a savvy style expert with street cred: She’s worked as a fashion editor and stylist at ELLE and Vanity Fair, and for six years was style director at Ann Taylor/LOFT. Turns out Alia wanted to parlay her years of fashion expertise into the world of interior design, so we leaned in.
Turns out these days, Alia’s producing The Design Girlfriend, a home décor web series for Harper’s Bazaar. “We want to create home content that feels more engaging and less ‘how to’ than what’s currently out there,” she says. “To that end, we created a hybrid of tutorials and reality. The series has a narrative, stakes that add drama and tension, and clever design takeaways that make projects feel aspirational, attainable, and personal.”
Now live on Harper’s Bazaar YouTube Channel, The Design Girlfriend will also be available on some of Hearst’s other websites.
But why a putting green in the living room? The series’ first three episodes were shot at the Connecticut home she shares with her boyfriend and business partner, Jamie Bosworth, who happens to be a serious golfer and golf entrepreneur. Why our bookcases? Alia told us her vision was inspired by the classic décor of The Polo Bar, a New York restaurant designed by Ralph Lauren—and when she fell in love with Villa’s architectural details, she decided they’d be perfect for the room’s long statement wall. She imagined the rest of the furnishings would be more modern and transitional, save for an elaborate gilded mirror over the mantel.
As the home of “classic design, modern perspective,” Ethan Allen is all about versatility, and we could see that Alia’s unique perspective on style is really in sync with ours: Anything goes if you have the confidence to step up and try something new! We invited her to join us as a guest blogger, and we look forward to sharing her insights in the coming weeks—but first, meet Alia!
EA: Tell us a little about yourself.
ALIA: I grew up as the oldest of seven kids in a small town in Wisconsin and moved to New York City the day after college graduation. I didn’t know a soul, but I had a resume, and two feet, and I was determined to do something creative. I pounded the pavement until I got a very lucky break and was hired as a fashion assistant at Vanity Fair magazine. I didn’t land the job because of my fashion sense (back in those days if you had asked me to articulate my style I probably would have given you a blank stare); I succeeded because I was willing to learn and work hard. I spent my early days in a windowless room with a troupe of interns cataloging all the designer clothes, shoes, and jewelry the magazine’s editors were borrowing from high-end designers for celebrity photo shoots.
EA: Where did your fashion career go from there?
ALIA: After Vanity Fair, I went to a small startup, then Glamour, where I was accessories editor. I launched my own luxury e-commerce company, helped shape a fashion blog and video series for ELLE, and then went to work at Ann Taylor, where I was style director for six years; I like to say I got my MBA in retail there! Throughout my career, my ethos has always been to empower and help people identify their sense of style, and then translate it into the way they live, as in “what does that look like in your house?” and “what does that look like in your look?”
EA: What is your fashion POV?
ALIA: Style is an evolution, not a revolution. And experimentation is essential to evolution. You won’t always get it right, but some of the best creations in the world were happy accidents. Allow yourself the freedom to try new things but don’t have the expectation that everything will work.
EA: Why segue into the world of interior design?
ALIA: Great personal style steps out of your closet and into your life. The way you decorate, just like the way you dress, is a reflection of your personality. I’ve always loved home décor and design. It’s visual like fashion, and like fashion, there are design principles that inform your decisions and your look. Your home is a living canvas for your personal brand
EA: What would you say is your home design POV?
ALIA: It’s conversation starting. I like to have something in every room that flips traditional design on its head, uses a piece differently from the way it was intended, or creates a moment to talk about. I design each space with a feature focus (the place in the room your eye lands first), then layer in quieter vignettes that may be discovered as you move throughout the space. I am a “more is more” girl, so I love an abundance of bold color, graphic silhouettes, pattern, and layering. Defining my feature focus as a starting point helps me dial everything else back to make sure the focus is the hero. There can only be one star!
EA: What drew you to Ethan Allen?
ALIA: You offer some incredibly modern pieces that have a lot of versatility and speak to different design styles. They can be styled in a conventional way to appear traditional, but there’s a huge opportunity to inspire new looks (and new customers)! People tend to be literal, so if you don’t show them a vision, very few will come up with one on their own. It’s why Pinterest and Instagram are so popular; they’re places to discover new ideas and opportunities. When I oversaw style direction at Ann Taylor/LOFT, my styling philosophy was “show something familiar and mix it with one new idea.” Taking a risk is hard, but it’s easier if you push yourself to step 10 percent out of your comfort zone.
EA: Tell us more about the Harper’s Bazaar project.
ALIA: It’s a concept that marries entertainment and valuable style/design ideas. We shot three episodes/three projects from beginning to end, in just three days! There were some hiccups along the way, but that’s what made it fun. We’re thrilled with the putting green room!
EA: Can we give readers a preview of the EA episode?
Don’t miss Alia’s guest blogs! Subscribe to The Art of Making Home and check us out on Instagram, too @ethanallen.