Designer Ashley Whittaker Creates an Elegant Space with Fall Entertaining in Mind
It was a win-win when interior designer Ashley Whittaker of Ashley Whittaker Designs accepted the invitation to participate in our quarterly “New Mix Masters” series. The challenge was to create a vignette using only what she could find within the 23,000 square feet of period furnishings and decorative accessories at Avery & Dash Collections in Stamford. “I looked at this as an opportunity for a design exercise with no client!” says Whittaker. Her signature style shines through in this sophisticated dining room with walls in Benjamin Moore’s Raw Umber complemented by Carlisle wood flooring. Here’s the backstory behind this successful space.
What was it like creating a vignette here? This was an opportunity to shop one of the greatest antiques collections. Kind of like Top Chef, I had to use only what’s on hand. I call it “use-what-you-have decorating.” With so much at our fingertips, we felt really spoiled.
How did you come up with the idea for this space? I was inspired by a room that Alex Papachristidis did at a Kips Bay showhouse—it was the perfect example of a dining room and sitting room in one. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
How do you describe this room’s overall aesthetic? It’s really a mixing of periods and styles, no particular genre, just a comfortable, collected room that looks like it has been here for years.
What was the first piece you chose? I came in thinking about fall entertaining and was first drawn to this smaller-sized dining table. Then, within two minutes, I saw the velvet Chesterfield sofa, and immediately decided to design a comfortable, relaxed living/entertaining area.
Please tell me a little about your art and color choices. The two French, 20th-century Zuber panels are just spectacular. The colors—murky greens, browns, oranges—speak to a fall palette. The rich wall color, Benjamin Moore Century Collection’s Raw Umber, plays well with the whites, which take on a sculptural quality against the dark-hued walls.
What’s your favorite piece in the vignette? Without a doubt, the showstoppers here are the Zuber panels. The layers of pigment give them an almost textural quality. Even though they are behind glass, there’s a lot of visual impact from a two-dimensional object.
What’s your top tip for combining eras/styles? Across the board, it’s the mix, that is, round with square, old with new, shiny with matte. Contrast is the key here: Christopher Spitzmiller lamps in matte white create sculptural layers against the deep rich greens of the panels—it helps you appreciate the form of the lamps. And the aubergine flowers that we selected are across the color wheel from green.
Who (living or dead) would you invite to a dinner party here? Currently, I am watching Turn: Washington’s Spies, a series on AMC. And there’s a portrait of George Washington that I considered for this space. So, I’d like to invite George. I think he’d appreciate not only the history of it but also the more modern nuances. And I could really get to the bottom of some of the things that are going on in the show. I’d add in a few characters from Turn and delve into the minds of these historical figures.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2018 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Dinner-Party Panache.