The Paris-based home decor expert, entrepreneur and author says thrift shops and flea markets always have hidden treasure.
For Ajiri Aki, creating celebratory moments around the table is simply ingrained in her DNA. Raised by Nigerian parents, her family often came together for some of the most lively parties and gatherings that she can remember. After graduating from Texas Christian University, Aki made her way to New York, where she worked as an editor, before finally landing in Paris, where she currently resides. It's also home to her lifestyle brand, Madame de la Maison, which aims to put the spotlight back on the table and help others to do the same.
"I have always been obsessed with pomp and circumstance since I was a child. I was raised by Nigerian parents who love a gathering. Nigerians always find a way to turn everything into a minor event. But as a child and young adult, that feeling when people came together to laugh and hang, fueled me," shares Aki. "I absolutely waited for these moments. For me, Madame de la Maison is deeply rooted in the importance of fellowship for bringing people together, sharing moments and making memories, but elevating those moments and putting a little thought into making them beautiful."
Through her Paris-based brand, shoppers are able to buy stylish antiques and linens to elevate their table space for various occasions.
With the holidays in full swing, we're all reaching into our hosting bag to create lifelong core memories for our family and friends—and what better way to do so than with curating a gasp-worthy table setting. According to Aki, it's easier than we think.
"Start with an occasion, a theme, or a color, which will pull everything together," she says. "For example, if you want to style a holiday table around the theme of abundance, any table will look stunning with a runner of votive candles and clementines that still have their leaves attached. Or maybe you want to do a blue theme. Play with shades of blue like a dark blue tablecloth, a light blue napkin and blue and white plates. Or if you don’t have many blue-hued decorations, maybe use a blue tablecloth with whatever color napkins you have on hand and add a blue velvet ribbon to tie them and buy blue candles. Our eyes are drawn to patterns and symmetry, but also scientifically this can spark feelings of joy because it makes sense to us."
If you aren't someone who frequently hosts, investing a ton of money in table decor may seem unreasonable. But, there are ways to still pull off a gorgeous look even with a budget. Aki suggests starting with the essentials: a variety of linens in a mix of solids and patterns, candles for the ambiance—and little vases for small bud, florals, name cardholders and napkin rings, if you want to add a little razzle dazzle. The Madame de la Maison owner and JOIE: A Parisian’s Guide to Celebrating the Good Life author also suggests perusing your local thrift shops or flea markets for inexpensive, yet unique pieces as well.
"If you go to a flea market or a second hand store, you'll be able to get unique plates that will cost a fraction of buying new. Look for colors, patterns, and themes that work together with what you already have," shares Aki. "You can shop on Madame de la Maison or Chairish for example for pre-loved pieces. I frequent my own shop, of course, and I also go to other flea markets. These items feel and are more special because they likely have a backstory."