You cannot wait for a seat at the table—you have to create one for yourself. From starting a blog as a creative outlet to deal with the stress of studying for the MCAT to building that blog into a lifestyle, beauty, and fashion brand to launching her own headwrap company, Kiitan Akinniranye has constantly chosen the less-traveled path. Born in Lagos, raised in Atlanta, and now based in Los Angeles, she has done so by being her most authentic self. Her blog began as a way to talk of her hair journey, insecurities about her skin, love for fashion, and medical school fears and grew into her Kiitana brand. Similarly, her Atarah Avenue headwrap brand came out of a desire to reconnect with and honor her heritage by sourcing fabrics from Nigeria. We were really excited to get the chance to work with Kiitan on her dining room refresh. We also were able to chat, discussing her creative path, how her work and at-home style contrast each other, and the personal touches that make her dining space and home, well, feel like home. Read on for more.
You started your blog back in college as a creative outlet. Tell us a bit about what inspired your start and how you turned your blog into a full-time job, including launching your own retail business.
I actually started blogging as a way to deal with the stress of studying for the MCATs. At the time, my goal was to get into medical school and become a doctor, but as you can imagine, studying was arduous, and I was looking for a creative outlet to relieve some of my stress. I started blogging about my hair journey, insecurities about my skin, fashion, and fears about medical school. To my surprise, my content resonated with many people, especially young women, so I kept going.
For a few years, the blog was still relatively small, but I stayed with it. I bought a camera and got my little sister to take photos of me in different outfits and hairstyles. Once I moved to YouTube and started making hair tutorials and thrifting hauls, I saw exponential growth and started getting approached by brands that wanted me to produce content. Eventually, I was able to quit my job and become a full-time content creator.
The more I got into fashion, the more I wanted to start my own brand to honor my heritage. The idea for Atarah Avenue came to me one day when I was at this huge market in Lagos, Nigeria. I was so inspired by all the beautiful and colorful textiles and fabrics, and so I spent time sourcing for fabrics that I loved from Nigerian designers and eventually launched my headwrap company.
How would you describe your at-home decor style?
It's funny because I worked with an interior designer—shout out to Ashley Danielle of Style Meets Strategy, and she described my home decor style as "California Modern." I love a space that feels warm and inviting with a chic, subtly boho feel, modern accents and decor, natural woods, and more of a neutral color palette with whites, tans, and browns. I'm all about comfort, functionality, and beauty when it comes to my space.
Get Kiitan's Dining Room Look
How do you approach the decor of your home? Do you feel as though your work and your personal aesthetic overlap?
I'm always so busy with work, so the process of decorating my home was just that—a process that took a long time. Thankfully I did have the help of an interior designer who could work with me virtually to help me figure out my style and find pieces that I loved. I work in fashion, and I love expressing myself through the clothing I wear and the outfits I style. Still, I would say that while my fashion aesthetic is definitely very colorful, full of different prints, fabrics, and silhouettes, the decor aesthetic for my home is very different. I want to feel comfortable and calm when I'm at home, which is why I gravitate towards more neutral colors and more simple, modern designs. I will say, though, that I've always dreamed of having a big, bold wallpaper print in my office. I see my office as the place where I tap into my creative side and think outside the box, so it makes sense that I'd want that particular space to have a little more edge!
A few Lulu and Georgia pieces are layered into your dining room, is there one statement maker you still find yourself fawning over?
I'm obsessed with my Cylia Dining Chairs; they are literally functional art pieces. I love the chic curved back design and the texture and pattern of the woven rush seats. They feel both modern and classic at the same time, and they perfectly complement my Lulu and Georgia Sun at Six Arc Dining Table.
How do you want people to feel when they walk into your home?
When people walk into my home, I want them to feel at home. I love a beautiful space, but I don't want my home to feel like a museum where people are afraid to touch anything or relax. I want people to appreciate the thought that went into the design and curation, but at the end of the day, I want my space to be a place for my friends and family to chill, have fun, and create memories.
Any advice for those looking to update dining space—including maybe a couple of tips for people wanting to recreate your look?
Updating a space can be challenging, and one of the hardest parts is figuring out your aesthetic and finding pieces that physically fit into your home and budget. I think Pinterest is a great place to look for design inspo. Just start pinning photos of decor that you love and then take a step back and see what visual story your pins tell you about your design aesthetic. There are also lots of quizzes you can take that will help you narrow things down. Visiting the websites of furniture stores that you love is another great place for inspo. I spent so much time on Lulu and Georgia's site, literally studying the beautiful rooms featured, trying to figure out how they were styled, and finding all the different pieces and decor.
Also, measuring tape is your best friend. I can't tell you how many times I ordered a piece that was either too big or too small. Measuring out your space, figuring out what furniture can fit, and then creating a little sketch to map things out will save you a lot of time. It also helps to figure out your big statement pieces first and then complete the room with all the cute decor once you've figured out everything else.
What is your favorite tip for entertaining?
Have a killer playlist and great snacks. People automatically relax when they hear a great song, so whenever I have parties or get-togethers, I spend time putting together a playlist that I know my guests will enjoy. And no one can turn down great snacks, so delicious food is always a must.
Speaking of your dining space, what are some personal touches that are important to you?
I especially love the artwork in my dining room. I wanted pieces that were large and minimal with a few pops of color. The pieces I selected celebrate the beauty of Black women, and I love how they tie my open concept dining and living room in with the rest of the space.
Do you have any other favorite personal elements or touches in your home?
I think my favorite pieces in my home, if you can even call them that, are my photo albums from my childhood growing up in Nigeria. It's so important for me to remain connected to my roots and heritage, and I love reminiscing about my first home in Lagos and having that piece of me in every space I create.
What is the most important thing you have learned throughout your career?
It's so hard to pick just one because I've learned SO many important lessons over the years, but one thing that sticks out to me is that you can't please everyone, so don't kill yourself trying to. Life is so short. We have to make the most of the time that we have, which means pursuing our passions, trying new things even when it seems scary or crazy, and going for the things we want no matter what others say. It's your life to live, so live it how you want!
What other artists or mentors inspire you?
I'm constantly inspired by Rihanna and her creativity. She lives her life so unapologetically, and it's so powerful to see Black women dominating in business. I also love Michelle Obama; I mean, who doesn't?! Her drive and determination are so inspiring. She is a walking embodiment of following your dreams regardless of what anyone thinks, and I admire her for that.
What's next for you and your businesses?
I think the sky is truly the limit. I have so many dreams and passions for my life that I am actively pursuing, but one thing I know for sure is that I am called to keep uplifting and empowering Black women and showing them what it's like to live their best lives fearlessly.