Hello, friends. If you’ve landed on this post, I’m excited to say that these kinds of conversations will be at the heart of Hyppiä. My goal is to celebrate the journey of designing real homes, the people behind them, and the ways in which our physical homes inform our wellbeing.
To kickstart this series, meet Ali Mroz: an exuberant hair-stylist-turned-landscaper with a penchant for plants, books, and vintage goodies. When it came to designing her studio in Vancouver’s East Village, she had one goal in mind: to feel a sense of relief as soon as she walked through the door. From a velvet green sofa to her plant family living happily on a vintage brass shelf, it’s safe to say Ali’s one-of-a-kind studio ticks all the boxes for a bohemian sanctuary.
True to the spirit of these Hyppiä talks, we also chat about how she has designed her mental home. As her body heals after a significant surgery, Ali shares with us how she has prioritized her self-care by saying yes to help; the mindsets that she relies on for resilience and strength; and the three healing words she repeats to herself out loud everyday: everything. is. temporary.
And now, let’s dig in. If you want, read along with some of Ali’s favourite musical picks below. (I’ve honestly had them on repeat since she gave them to me.)
Describe your home like it’s a person.
Ali: My home would probably be a colourful, warm, organized, but also totally chaotic person. In a way, it’s pretty similar to myself when I think about what draws me towards clothing. I’ve never had a particularly “set” wardrobe. It’s always whatever draws me to each piece and that’s how I decorate in here, too.
There was a point where I didn’t care if everything went together. I’d just think, “It’ll all come together, right?” And that’s how I curate my wardrobe as well. “Things will match, I’m sure?” I guess my place would be someone’s awesome eclectic aunt.
The amount of plants on this shelf makes me so happy. And such beautiful coffee table books!
Ali: Plants & books make a home so much more personal. I’ve had friends come over here and they’re all like, “It’s just so homey! I think it’s the plants.” And I’m like, I totally agree, but it’s also the books. Some are from a trash bin from behind Templeton Market, and some are from an actual book store. It doesn’t matter where they’re from. I just can’t let go of my books.
I couldn’t imagine a home without plants, though. I couldn’t see it. I only have one window, which is why they’re all shoved into one corner. But I actually love that corner because of it.
You have a super eclectic taste in art, ranging from colourful prints to even hats. Tell me about some of your favourite pieces.
Ali: My hats are totally art prints now. I used to wear them when I was a hair stylist, but I just don’t relate to them at all anymore. So I’ve made them into decor on the wall instead.
The art prints that are really colourful in the corner that say “Rask” on them are actually from my friend. That’s his tag. He’s a graffiti artist. They were the first things on my wall in my apartment.
The print that’s behind my bed with the woman is by a Toronto artist named Jeanine Brito. It was a bit of an investment. I’ve never had a real art print by such an amazing artist. I’ve only ever had Society 6 posters. To have paintings by my friend and this talented woman all around me is amazing.
This Japanese print is from Value Village. I saw it through the window and just thought, “Yeah, I’m gonna need that.”
How did your home come together?
Ali: As soon as stepped inside when it was mine, I started planning the bones. I knew I wanted a velvet green couch for some reason. It seemed like exactly the type of thing that would be hard to agree on with someone else.
Very long story, but I got this couch for free from Wayfair. We thought parts to it were missing, but they ended up being underneath the couch, so they sent me another couch to replace it and when we found all the parts, they didn’t want the couch back! So I sold it on Facebook Marketplace and I ended up paying maybe $30. I’m not super emotionally attached to it because it’s not exactly a quality piece. One of the arms always falls off slightly even. But the story makes it so much better.
I’m the kind of person who wants places furnished quickly. After the sofa, I started looking for the pieces that are now my favourites, like my coffee table, my brass bookshelf, and my TV console.
Do you feel like your home reflects who you are?
Ali: Definitely. I only moved in here around mid-June and it’s my first time living alone. I was living with my sister for three and a half years. The only place I ever got to decorate and really put myself into was my bedroom. And even then, I was living in a shoebox-sized room, so there was only so much I could do. This was the first time I got to put myself into every nook and cranny. Every inch of this apartment is me and who I see myself as. It definitely feels like home because of that.
What does a home mean to you?
Ali: A home means everything to me. It’s safety and warmth. It’s something that is completely mine. I work really hard to be able to afford this apartment, so it means so much more to me when it feels like an environment that is 100% me. I don’t want to walk in here at the end of the day and not feel a sense of relief. When I come home from a long day or spending a few days at my boyfriend’s place, I want to feel like, “Ah, I’m home.”
This is my first apartment alone. I want it to feel warm, and have funny, happy memories. I want it to be where a lot of first things happen, whether they’re inside or outside of the home. I want to place this apartment with certain times in my life, whether they’re happy or sad.
How do you feel at home with yourself, within your own body and mind? Do you resonate with this question?
Ali: I definitely do. Your mind and body—this is your permanent home. You have to take care of it. The things you do affect it. You’re living in here forever for your entire life.
This is still a difficult question to answer, mostly because of COVID. In a way, I feel more at home in my mind and body than I ever have in the past. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past few years, and definitely feel more comfortable in my mind and body than years prior. I was big into practicing yoga every single day last year, but COVID has taken that away from me.
I also recently had a breast reduction six weeks ago. My amazing boyfriend took care of me for almost two weeks, but even now it can feel lonely with the recovery. I can’t really move my body. Even practicing yoga, or going for walks, isn’t easy. So, right now, I’m in a weird place with my body and mind. It’s a strange feeling to try to feel at home in your body after surgery. I don’t really recognize my body. I don’t feel like it’s mine at the moment. But I know that’s something that will just take time.
I’ll also say that it’s rewarding to notice growth in yourself with every year that passes. Even if it’s not in a 100%-okay-all-the-time sense. With COVID, it’s been a bit of a struggle for sure.
Miranda: I try to remember that the goal of staying positive doesn’t mean you’re necessarily happy every day, but that you have faith that better days are coming when you’re in the thick of it. I can hear this sense of faith in you. You’re recognizing that these days are lonely, and hard, but that it won’t always be this hard.
Ali: Exactly. It’s remembering that I have felt better than this. I know what it feels like to feel more at home in my body and mind. So it exists. It’s out there somewhere. But at the moment, it’s not the easiest time and I know it’s not for a ton of people. So that reminder helps too.
What do you think about the role of your support system in your self care?
Ali: It’s so important. Something I’ve learned, especially with the surgery, is that it’s okay to ask for help. Self care doesn’t mean having to do everything by yourself to make yourself feel better. My brain loves to go the thought where I’m like, “I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to rely on other people. Other people disappoint you.” This kind of thinking has come from past experiences. There was a point where I thought, “I can’t rely on anybody but myself.” This is a fine way to think, in a sense, but it’s also totally fine to rely on other people if they want to help you.
As much as I struggled with taking the help from my boyfriend, my wonderful neighbour-friend, and a couple of my other closest friends, it really meant everything to my self care to let them pour a glass of water for me or for them to bring me some tea. It gave me the opportunity to let me focus on what was really important at that time, which was to think positively about my recovery and remind myself that this isn’t a permanent feeling. I won’t be in pain forever. There is healing. It gave me a lot of time to rest. By opening myself up to their support, I had time to think about my future and what I was doing for work.
It also gave me time for my favourite self care routine which is reflecting on what I’m grateful for. Having a good support system will help you want to, and give you time to, take care of yourself and help you focus on the things that are most important to you.
Self care isn’t as simple as just putting a face mask on and having some tea. It can be. It totally can be. But what if someone else were to make you that cup of tea. Is that not still self care? Allowing someone who wants to help you to help you? That’s a really big lesson that I’ve learned during this pandemic.
What are a few of your favourite places in Vancouver to find things for the home?
My boyfriend totally got me into looking at this every day because he found so much good stuff. Craigslist is totally dying in Vancouver. Facebook Marketplace is it. You could probably furnish an entire apartment from FB marketplace for under $500. You can buy couches for about $30 because people just want to get rid of things.
Victoria Drive Value Village
This Value Village is the absolute best. It’s the biggest Value Village in Vancouver, and they have so much home stuff. I got this shelf for my friend’s apartment because I couldn’t possibly fit any more stuff. It was a wicker shelf that a vintage Instagram account definitely would have sold for $130 and it was like $20.
Victoria Drive SPCA thrift store
Also amazing for home decor, furniture and clothing.
Alma Home is a woman in Vancouver that buys and sells vintage furniture. That’s where I got my brass shelf from. I had my post notifications on for her when I moved in.
Vancouver Flea Market and Old Faithful
They’re both places for finding knick knacks and Old Faithful has really high-quality stuff.
A lot of my pottery is from Piton Pottery, all made by friend, Coral.
Every plant I’ve bought from JAM Florist has stayed alive because the lovely woman and her husband who own the store actually tell you how to take care of them. Which is the best. Same with Figaro’s Garden on Victoria Drive.
Templeton Market, Home Depot on Terminal Avenue
Templeton Market also has great plants (and the owners are the nicest humans). Home Depot on Terminal Avenue also has the best plants. A thousand percent. I found that out from landscaping because we’re literally always there. I got a fiddle leaf fig for $20!
Lastly, what is one mantra or phrase that you like to repeat to yourself lately?
Ali: I say this one out loud, especially to my boyfriend who has been so patient and helpful with my mental health process right now: it’s temporary. This is all temporary. It will get better. If I put the work in, and do what I can to help myself—go to therapy, journal, whatever it is that I know can help me with my mental health—everything is temporary. It doesn’t feel like it right now that this pandemic will ever end. But i’m assuming it eventually will. My recovery will eventually end. Every day I feel more normal. All these feelings are temporary and I can change them. I just need to put the work in.
A huge thank you to Ali Mroz for sharing her stories, wisdom, and time with us. Feel free to say hello at @alimrozzz.
Before you go, check out Ali’s new online consignment studio, Franklin Street Studio, and give her a follow! They’re officially launching this Sunday at franklinstreetstudio.ca. If her home and personal style is any indication, we’re all going to need to turn post notifications on ASAP.
This interview has been edited and condensed. All photos are courtesy of Ali Mroz.