Afiya Francisco is the creator of The Style House, a blog she launched in 2009 soon after her first baby was born. That was before the boon of social influencers exploded. Her timing, combined with her editorial experience at magazines such as LouLou and Canadian House & Home along with her self-assured sense of style, has propelled her as the go-to lifestyle personality for CTV’s Your Morning and The Shopping Channel. A mom to two boys (Felix, 7, and Dez, 4), she admits there were plenty of hiccups and tears while she forged her own path as a working mom but now she feels like she’s in a state of flow.
I used to glorify being busy. It made me feel validated and important. Like so many people, I would say the same things: “Oh I’m so swamped and I’m so crazy.” Then I made a conscious decision to stop saying that and it has made a significant difference. I still remember teary mornings when the boys were young and I was building my career, times when I always seemed to be exhausted. I look back at those years now and I realize it was essential for me to make a change in my day-to-day habits.
“I still remember teary mornings when the boys were young and I was building my career…I look back at those years now and I realize it was essential for me to make a change in my day-to-day habits.”
In 2015, I did a 40-day detoxification. I’ve done detoxes before but this one really effected me. I wanted to change not only my diet; I wanted to slow everything down. I didn’t eat meat, dairy, sugar, or consume any alcohol. I consider myself a spiritual person and I realized I needed to change my inner dialogue and place more emphasis on my physical and mental well-being. I started reading Eckhart Tolle “The Power of Now” and “Stillness Speaks” and Michael A. Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”. These books emphasize the importance of paying attention to your thoughts and being in the present moment. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by thinking about what is coming up tomorrow and the next day and the next week, I try to stay on the task at hand.
After years of burning the candle at both ends and being out there and building my business, it was my sleep that took the biggest hit. I continued to move forward in my career but that meant working at wee hours of the night. Now I have a sleep routine and I prioritize rest. Even though I’m the busiest I’ve ever been, I do not feel the frenzy like I did three or four years ago. I write a to-do list for the next day before bed (even if it’s to remember to put the dishwasher on) so I don’t stay up thinking about things. Then I’ll do a guided sleep meditation accompanied by putting on a diffuser with the scent of relaxing essential oils.
Today, I also manage my time much better because I realize I need to feel organized instead of trying to do everything on the fly, which makes me feel frazzled. It took a few years to figure it out, but I’ve carved out a set routine. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are my work days when I lean heavily on my family—especially my mother-in-law—to take care of the boys. Since they were born, I’ve never been afraid to ask for help which I know is a big hurdle to overcome as a new mom. Then Tuesday and Friday are dedicated to the boys. Since I started this routine, I have more time to get things done and I feel like I’m in a groove.
Don’t let me fool you, it’s not all zen over here. Of course, “I’m so swamped and I’m so crazy” became my mantra because it’s often true. We all are. We each have endless to-do lists and social obligations and only so many hours to accomplish it all. But there are also beautiful moments that will be missed if you’re not paying attention. These moments turn into years and suddenly the kids are grown and you’re looking back at wondering where the time went. It’s a story we hear all the time and I’m just trying my best to appreciate it while it’s happening, heeding Sidonie Gabrielle Colette’s words, ‘What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”
HOME TOUR A boho chic home that’s kid-friendly
Soothing tones and natural textures abound in Afiya’s home. Just sit down and say ‘ahhh’. Couch and coffee table/bench, Stacaro. Home tour photos/Anna Lisa Sang
Memories adorn the walls including art work that was given as a wedding gift and an Etsy print from Nova Scotia where the family recently went on holiday.
Her kitchen counter is poured concrete that was expertly glazed. “I originally wanted a butcher block but then I learned it needs a lot of upkeep which goes against my laid-back thing.”
The dining room is a master mix of old, new, boho and chic. Elte dining table and chairs from Kijiji that Afiya painted and refurbished herself.
In a house full of boys, she isn’t afraid to show off her feminine side. The ladder is a neigbourhood find and the throw is a family heirloom hand knit by her grandmother.
A soothing palette, scented candles and a feel-good crystal helps this mom sleep, which she used to run low on until she started a sleep ritual.
Her boys’ room is one of the few rooms where moms aesthetic gets traded for the whims of her school-agers.
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
“Like so many moms, I started buying non-toxic products for Felix, then I made the switch for myself.” Groovy Goat Farm & Soap Company hand-crafted bath bars; Province Apothecary Invigorating + Balancing Toner; Wildcraft Cell Regenerating Face Serum; Sahajan Eye Cream; Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Oil (“I had acne after both my pregnancies and got in the habit of massaging this onto my face at bedtime. I still do it and feel so bad for my husband because it smells so strong.”); Beyond Silver Gel; and The Parkdale Butter Co. Espresso Firming Face Balm.
She’s a serious fan of Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good cookbook (check out how beat up her copy is for proof). Her favourite recipe is an arugula salad on page 69 and the star’s perfect instructions for fluffy brown rice and quinoa on page 178. “I always have both in the fridge handy. Admittedly, I cook for myself and my husband, and then I’ll make something different for the boys like chicken with veggies and noodles. I strive to eat as healthy as I can, but I don’t put too much pressure on myself. If I’m eating well more often than not, then I’m in a good place.”
Like her beauty must-haves, her pantry is filled with wholesome and natural ingredients including raw almonds that she soaks and strains to make almond milk and a daily green smoothie that’s made with whatever’s in the fridge like kale, chia seeds, apples and ginger.
On her coffee table are tomes from interior stylists Sibella Court (Nomad: A Global Approach to Interior Style) and Hans Blomquist (The Natural Home) who inspire Afiya’s love of natural and moody rooms that embrace imperfections.
“I grew up with a family that always burned incense. I think it immediately sets the tone of your home.” Indeed, we were greeted with the spa-like and soothing scent of Province Apothecary incense in Sandalwood (and didn’t smell granola at all). Afiya’s also a fan of her Saje essential oils which she uses in a diffuser.
“These are all close to my heart: A spinning meditation ring from Mindful Necessities that Aaron and the boys surprised me with it for Mother’s Day. I was eyeing this pearl cluster ring at an antique show and was so shocked and happy to open it on Christmas. Aaron drove back out to get it when I decided against the splurge for myself. These earrings are one of my absolute favourite things. They are fromantique dealer Harvey Kessler and were a gift for my 30th bday. The diamond earrings were a wedding gift and I wore them on the big day. The Cartier trinity ring marked Felix’s birth. Our names are engraved inside andI keep meaning to add Dez. Ah that to-do list!! The shell that they all sit in is from Crete, Greece where we went to on our honeymoon.”
“My personal style is best expressed as feminine tomboy and brogues fit the bill. They also make sense for real life since they’re so stylish and walkable. I wore them before and after I had kids and wear them as often as some women wear ballet flats.” Her faves: Gold brogues from 3.1 Philip LIm and basic lace-ups from Le Chateau.
“The Roche is my favourite design from Nike. I appreciate it’s simple and streamlined shape. The proportion of these shoes allow them to work with a variety of different looks without looking like you’re wearing a ‘commuter’ trainer. To work out I’ll go bright but for my daily wear I choose black, grey & white almost exclusively.”
“When I buy heels I gravitate towards whimsical and cheeky designs. My overall aesthetic is pretty simple, so I feel like I have room for statement shoes.” Clockwise from top left: Alexandre Birman, Charlotte Olympia, Nicholas Kirkwood and Dolce & Gabbanna.