“We bought the ugliest house on a great block and continued over six years to transform it,” Ashley Clarke says of her family’s former townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn. All the hard work paid off when they eventually put the property up for sale – prospective buyers complimented its classic look and her clever use of space – but more importantly, “it showed me that design was what I needed to do as my next career move.” After working in events and marketing in Manhattan, the mom of two planned to take some time off when her family relocated to North Carolina three years ago. But a casual conversation at Kitchen & Bath Galleries led to a part-time job there, allowing Ashley to ease into interiors while getting to know the Triangle.
When one client needed a complete overhaul, she formed Ashley Clarke Designs and set to work on the Hillsborough home. She’s slowly built her business through word of mouth, social media and even met a client while walking her dog in her neighborhood (Meadowmont). For each project, Ashley marries function (think lunchbox stations or boxes for remotes) with her personal aesthetic, which she describes as “classic cool.” “It’s not particularly bohemian, and it’s not super modern,” she says. “I love the mix of everything. I want it to be fresh and youthful.” She’s been known to mix something like a Lucite console with a very traditional bench and hang a piece of modern art nearby.
Opening a brick and mortar in The Courtyard last December was a natural extension of her design services. “It’s lovely to have a shop because I’m always picking up inventory, and I can showcase it here,” Ashley says. From a giant French armoire from the 1940s to her favorite trays and throws, her store is filled with items she mostly sources in North Carolina with prices closer to wholesale than retail. It also serves as the main space for another of her artistic outlets, her paintings. And should you ever want to stop in when she’s closed, know that she always wants to help in the design process. “I’m just down the road,” she says. “Send me a text, and we’ll shop together.”
DESIGN TIPS FROM THE PRO
•Find one piece that you love.
“I’ll say I need a jumping-off point. I need you to be in love with something. It can be a light fixture that then dictates a little bit of style.”
•Put together the perfect coffee table.
“Get yourself the tray, the design books, the vase, the box where the remotes go, a few objects that are pleasing to look at and something from your travels. It’s all about collecting those things and using them in a way that’s nice.”
•Do it yourself – sometimes.
“[My clients] needed a piece of art, and I didn’t have something exactly right. We went out and got the biggest size canvas and just started collaborating together.”
“The feeling I get when a client says, ‘Green? On the wallpaper for a dining room? I never would have thought it, but I love it.’ That’s the biggest joy for me.”