Known for her chic and refreshing interpretations of classic design, Ashley Whittaker has been described as something of a “neo-traditionalist.” She has a gift for crafting spaces that are sophisticated but never staid, and color-rich but never overwhelming to the eye. Having trained with legendary decorator Markham Roberts, Ashley launched her own firm in 2006 and has made her mark in the design world, with her work featured everywhere from House Beautiful to The New York Times. And last fall, she achieved another milestone with the publication of her first book, The Well-Loved House, which she recently discussed on The Chairish Podcast.

We spoke with Ashley about her signature style, her expertise working with vibrant patterns, and just what makes a house truly “well loved.” Read what she had to say below, and be sure to shop her curation of charming Chairish favorites.

Ashley Whittaker
Ashley Whittaker. Photo: Melanie Acevedo.

You describe your work as “neo-traditionalist.” What does that mean to you, and how does it  demonstrate itself in your designs? 

I’m always trying to find the balance between traditional and more youthful and contemporary design. Often we accomplish this by using traditional furniture shapes with a more contemporary fabric or a modern style with a traditional fabric. In design, it’s always about finding the contrast and I think this is a very important aspect of what we do.  

How do you incorporate vintage and antique pieces into rooms with new furnishings as well? How do  you strike the right balance? 

Balance is the right word! We like to mix old with new, something crisp with something with patina,  something round with something angular, the refined with the rustic. Contrast comes in many forms and doesn’t always have to be obvious or extreme.  

You have an incredible knack for wallcoverings and working with vibrant patterns. How do you keep  them from overwhelming a space? 

We focus on finding the decorative thread so the house feels very connected. Sometimes it’s through a small color that threads its way through the house. When you use a lot of pattern and color you need to find that continuity so the rooms feel connected but don’t match. It’s very soothing to the eye to see the repetition of a color or pattern in a space, however small those details may be. 

Ashley Whittaker
Photo: Thomas Loof

You credit much of your training as a designer to the time you spent working for Markham Roberts. What are some of the most important things you learned from him? 

When I worked with Markham, I learned how to not only make a room comfortable but an entire house work for the people who live there. It’s about a good furniture plan and drawing people into a room, whether that be with a games table in the living room or perhaps a bar in the library. Think about what makes you want to explore a room or a house. It’s about what is around the corner that makes a house interesting.  

How has your aesthetic sensibility evolved over your time as a designer? Are there things you do now—or pieces you use now — that you never thought you’d do at the beginning of your career? 

Over time, we’ve used more and more contemporary pieces mixed with our traditional aesthetic. It brings a great energy and life to projects that might otherwise feel stayed. 

Belated congratulations on your first book, which came out last fall. You called it The Well-Loved House. What does that mean to you? 

My work stems from the love of home. If the arms on a sofa are not worn through and the rugs are still pristine after ten years, then I haven’t done my job of making a house comfortable enough to be lived in and well loved.  

Ashley Whittaker
Photo: Thomas Loof

Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you? 

A Giacometti bronze coffee table. It’s safe to say I missed my window on purchasing this. It’s always fun to see in the preview of a special auction.  

How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage? 

We decorate for the long haul. We expect everything we do to be around for many years. A pair of curtains may go to a thrift shop and decorative items may go to auction if a client moves or redecorates. We like to create and use things that can live on in perpetuity.  

What do you find most compelling about Chairish? 

It’s a fabulous way to round out our designs with both vintage and contemporary pieces. There is always something unique that we can find at the exact price point that we are searching. We love the ability to find things that are both extravagant and economical on the same site. It really speaks to how we try to strike a balance in our work.  

Ashley Whittaker
Photo: Thomas Loof

Some Design Favorites…

Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room: 

A lot of times this comes to us in a very unexpected way. It might be something we find at an auction or online. It’s that piece you weren’t looking for but had to have and always somehow makes the room. Often the “ah-ha” moment comes at the very end.  

Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:” 


Favorite iconic piece of vintage design: 

Lalanne bar

Favorite paint color: 

Fine Paints of Europe, Pantone Eggplant

Photo: Thomas Loof

Favorite piece of decor in your home: 

A Christopher Spitzmiller Hadley pendant. It hangs above my kitchen table.  

Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:

David Hicks

Favorite style icon: 

As a teenager in the ‘80s, we all looked at Princess Diana for her stylish looks. 

Design destination every creative should visit at least once: 


Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received: 

Have a good bookkeeper.  

Ashley Whittaker
Photo: Thomas Loof

Some Lifestyle Favorites…

Favorite vacation destination: 

I haven’t been yet, but we are off to Lake Como this summer.  

Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling: 

The Surf Club in Miami

Favorite restaurant: 

In-N-Out burger when I’m visiting clients in California

Favorite small museum: 

Ernest Hemingway House in Havana, or any historical house or museum for that matter

Favorite podcast: 

I swear I wasn’t paid to say this, but it’s The Chairish Podcast with Michael Boodro! We’re good friends and it’s so fun to listen to all the creatives on my drives to and from Millbrook. 

Photo: Thomas Loof

Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift: 

Leontine monogrammed linen cocktail napkins

Favorite flower: 

Potted orchids

Favorite adult beverage: 

La Marca Prosecco

Favorite way to unwind at home: 

Binge-watching Ozark

Favorite entertaining essential: 

Being relaxed. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being a relaxed hostess.

Lead photo: Thomas Loof


File Under

April 11, 2022

Dennis Sarlo is the executive editor of Chairish and a lover of all things design-related. Prior to joining the team, he served as the executive editor of Dering Hall and was the first site director of Architectural Digest. He was also part of the founding team of travel startup Jetsetter. He lives in New York.