Who: Ali Azhar Occupation: Interior Designer and Star of HGTV's Design on a Dime Neighborhood: Lives in River North and owns property in Lincoln Park
How did you get interested in design originally?
I started in real estate, working as a broker out of college. But then I wanted to get a piece of the action, so I scrounged up every penny I had and bought a building. I did rehab on the whole place and really began to realize that the difference between Property A and Property B was the design. That was what made the sell. So it grew from there. I’m still managing property, but every time I get new tenants, I update the property accordingly.
So how did you get involved with Design on a Dime?
Well, a friend of mine sent me an email letting me know they were
holding auditions. Rebuilding property on a minimal budget had kind of become my thing, so I submitted a head shot and resume, got called back, had six auditions and they finally offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. That was almost three years ago, and here I am. Today, we are now about halfway through season three, and I have over 65 episodes under my belt and lookin’ forward to rock and roll all the way into season four.
Can you briefly describe the process you go through when you step into a new space?
The absolute key is interviewing the client. You can come up with a fantastic design, but if you don’t know the people, then you’re not accomplishing your goal. You have to know what they like. Or sometimes you have to at least tell them what they like.
What’s your favorite part of your own home in Chicago?
I love my balcony. I walk onto the balcony and feel like I’m standing downtown.And I accent it by bringing pictures of the city inside my living room. Another project I’m working on is a huge coffee table I picked up that’s this maze of sticks, with a really ethnic feel. I’m working on running electricity through it and then turning it into a chandelier. It’s not going to be a main lighting source, but just something to set the mood. In general, I’m proud of taking items that were made for one purpose and using them for something completely different. I like to make something out of nothing!
I’m designing on a dime and have $125 left in my bank account, what should I spend it on to give my apartment a quick facelift?
Two bottles of Grey Goose and a case of beer. No, not really. But I would spend $40/$50 on some paint. Come up with a scheme, I do love the accent walls. Then spend the rest on accessories-just pillows, a nice vase and something for the mantel. Make the colors of your accessories tie into the accent color on your wall. Bring a little coordination into play and accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. The same thing kind of holds true for fashion. You can have a great pair of jeans and shirt, and then just really bring in the wow factor with the right belt, bag, cufflinks-whatever.
Can you describe your own creative, personal style?
I like things that are funky, very cool, very modern, very wow factor. Fashion-wise, I’m edgy. I’m an ethnic mix so that makes my look edgy from the start. I take a little of this and that and mix it together. My new thing is I found these elevator doors from the 20s and I’m going to try to make something cool and hot out of that, but I’m not sure what. Character is huge. I like to think that I’m the furthest thing from traditional. Right now I’m wearing Taverniti jeans, a pair of boots from God knows where, a heavy necklace from Morocco, a shirt I picked up at Marshall’s and my big hair. I’m a big hair guy. It doesn’t have to be expensive to look hot. I’m a different kind of guy with a different kind of style. It’s a little out of the norm, but it’s what I’m most proud of. It works for me. It’s my thing.
- Emily Browne
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