Ashley Gilbreath, the founder of a full service interior design firm, exemplifies the Coastal New Southern — paying homage to her Baton Rouge roots, incorporating outdoors-in stylistic details into her work, and promoting the idea that most rules are meant to be broken. Spaces styled by Ashley are done in such a way that allow her personality to shine through with a warmth that greets you from the moment you walk in. With a retail storefront, published work in national shelter magazines, as well as a pilot show, “Sweet Home Renovation,” which aired on HGTV this year — she has a true skill for mixing elegance with ease.
Holding onto the virtue that “nothing is more important than family”, Ashley’s rooms are functional and liveable — defined by a warm “take-your-shoes off and stay for a while” sensation. Her design style radiates that beachy, salt-infused, windows rolled down along the coastline feeling. She illuminates every space with a fresh light and natural textures among breezy color palettes that are soft on the mind and eye. Edges are softened, jute rugs are exposed, crisp white bedding and precisely tailored upholstery are front and center — emanating rest and relaxation. She knows how to cherish family (and antiques) ensuring that they both live well in a home that is just as comfortable as it is inviting.
Ashley’s approach to The New Southern is one that we have been on the edge of our seats to share. We chatted with the Montgomery, Alabama-based designer and mom of three to hear her thoughts on being intentional in both design and in life.
Alyssa Rosenheck: Tell me about yourself.
Ashley Gilbreath: I am married to the world’s greatest encourager and my best friend, Barrett, and we have three children - ages 7, 4, and 18 months. We started Ashley Gilbreath Interior Design a little over ten years ago, and shortly thereafter we opened a retail storefront called Parish Shoppe. I was born in California, but grew up in Louisiana, where we have parishes rather than counties. Parish symbolizes home to me. It’s filled with items reflecting my passion for mixing timeless antiques with modern trends, reflected also in my design philosophy that grounds the clients’ homes we design. With three children, I understand the need for a home to live well, feel intentionally comfortable, and look amazing at the same time. Our interior design business and Parish Shoppe allows me the joy of creatively expressing the gracious and thoughtful feeling of Southern hospitality for our clients. My desire is to allow our clients to live in the moment by creating for them beautifully comfortable spaces. Life is too short to not enjoy every second.
AR: How are you modernizing or updating southern style when you design?
AG: Southern style is about hospitality and a “lived in,” welcoming feeling. It’s about your grandmother’s antiques, throwing in a great modern painting, and making it your own. It’s a sense of history and pride as well as style and individualism, keeping a space up-to-date with unexpected touches, while appreciating Southern roots.
AR: What innovative trends are you seeing with Southern style across the country?
AG: An appreciation of real antiques that are livable and useable. I adore the pieces I have inherited that can take a beating and continue to grow in value, adding a sense of history and sentiment to a space.
AR: What are your favorite hometown design boutiques?
AR: Favorite shade of white and black paint color?
AG: My all-time favorite white is “Veranda” by Ralph Lauren, IB-45. It’s a chameleon, since it can take on a different personality depending on the lighting. I’m not a huge black paint fan, but a great gray (almost black) we love to use for base molding is “Off-Black No. 57” by Farrow and Ball.
AR: What’s your life motto?
AG: Love BIG and take advantage of every single second.
AR: The one shade that changes everything? Tell us what mood it evokes and when/how you’ve used it.
AG: Pinks! Corals, soft rose shades, blush tones…nothing very bold, but these hues are impactful enough to pack a punch of warmth to a design. It makes me smile and adds a sense of happy to a space. Whether it’s on the spine of a cocktail table book, a throw over a sofa, interwoven in a fabulous rug, or upholstered on walls, I use these colors often.
AR: The place you go to get inspired?
AG: European buying trips. Not only do we come home with containers full of glorious finds, but the mental growth, creativity, and inspiration is priceless. We could return home with no purchases, and the trip would still be well worth it.
AR: Life advice that you’ve received that made all the difference?
AG: We lost twin baby girls at 30 weeks in 2008. I loved the little happy bubble I lived in up until that point. We are not untouchable…I learned quickly that things happen. Their deaths provided such a blessing in the realization of the moment we live in. We are not promised tomorrow or even the next five minutes. The little lives I have been entrusted with, family, friends, clients, employees, and vendors…these relationships are a gift and I understand the importance of them more than ever before. As much as the loss of those babies will always hurt, the insight I gained was life-changing. Our time here on earth passes in an instant. Love BIG.
AR: What’s the best piece of design advice you could provide for creative entrepreneurs starting out?
AG: Get ready to work hard. More importantly, nothing is more important than family. As a mom of three little ones, I have learned how precious time is. Be intentional with it and don’t apologize for being a parent. Priorities matter, and a client will understand and support that.
AR: Design advice you’ve gotten that made all the difference?
AG: Break the rules, push the lines, add the unexpected. That sets the foundation for making a space unique and thoughtful. Playing it safe is boring.
AR: What’s your advice for mixing old with new?
AG: Do it, always! Find a balance between the two and understand the value of each individually within a space. A great vintage light fixture and antique painted piece mix so easily with new upholstery and a fabulous rug.