Podcast, Ep. 93: designer Ashley Whittaker

New York interior designer Ashley Whittaker sitting on a settee

Sitting down with Ashley Whittaker was such a joy, and we’re confident you’ll learn a TON from this episode. It’s one of my favorite episodes to date because we talk about creating color palettes, why every room needs something grimy, the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the room and why they’re more important than the ‘whats,’ and why a jewel tone works in almost any space. We also talk about the difference between color tone and value and why that’s important to consider when decorating your home.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Ashley wasn’t formally educated as a designer, but she cites working for a good designer as some of the best education out there.
  • More about how Ashley and her team find a thread throughout each room of the home to have a place for our eye to land and bring restfulness to the design
  • Why is contrast important in decorating, and should it match?
  • Seeing a design or layout on paper is sometimes easier than walking through the house, and a few of Ashley’s favorite storyboard ideas
  • What traditional elements Ashley finds herself gravitating towards, and ways she keeps it fun and fresh
  • Why it’s good for a room to feel pretty, but not too pretty
  • The golden rule of staying sane while decorating: Let go of control and be perfectly imperfect.
  • Ashley’s goal on making sure clients really love their rooms, and the more livable the better
  • Her stunning use of wallpapers, and why we shouldn’t be afraid of it
  • Why she loves velvet and jewel tones
  • Why the finishes are important to creating contrast, and her tendency to take a dark room and make it even darker.

Decorating Dilemmas:

Hi Ladies,

I love your podcast and have learned so much from you and your guests. I’m in Austin TX with a house built in 1996. Slowly trying to de-beige and de-boob light it. My biggest dilemma is decorating the two story entryway. I have attached pictures. My questions are: 1) how could I decorate the platform directly above my front door; 2) what window treatment would work for the window above it, and 3) what height should I hang a new pendant lamp.

This platform niche thing is about 10 feet up, about 2-2.5 feet deep, and 5 feet wide. So you have to get on a ladder to access it, put things up there and take them down. I’d love to put a bunch of plants up there but I couldn’t keep them watered. I put some lanterns that I liked just to have something there, but I imagine it needs tall pieces to fill that space. But then getting something very big up there is a little tough too. The lanterns have some led candles inside but they aren’t very bright, and switching out the batteries is kind of a job. But they look nice when they’re working, and I think some light up there would be nice. There is a wall sconce on the landing wall ( the left side as you face the window) to provide functional upstairs light. 

The window above it is east facing, and I like the morning light coming in, but it does get hot, and I anticipate putting the solar screen up outside because of that, so the window view will be kind of meh. Plus, we need privacy because all the bedrooms are coming off the landing directly across from that window. Maybe a sheer curtain would work? I am stumped.

Lastly, for the boob pendant light which I’m so tired of looking at, I feel like the replacement pendant should be hung lower than the current one is, so that it’s not so prominent when looking out from the second story landing. What do yall think? How low do you hang an entryway light? I’ve read different things. The distance between the bottom of the pendant and the entryway floor is about 11 feet. The total height from floor to second floor ceiling is 18.5 feet. The first floor is 10 feet high. The second floor floor to ceiling is 8 feet high. The current pendant chain is 68 inches long from ceiling to the fixture itself and the pendant Is about 20” h. I like your Moravian star pendant, and your website says the chain is 8 feet long and the cord is 6 feet long. 

I was thinking of covering the wall behind the coat rack from floor to ceiling with a somewhat bold patterned wallpaper to emphasize that vertical space. Would that work? Could I wrap that around and put it also on the wall with the window too? I can’t go to the right of the window and down that wall, I don’t think, because below there is an arched entryway to another room, and the arch has rounded edges, so there’s not a clear line to end the wallpaper on.  

Sorry for the ugly pictures! I think there’s potential though. Thank you for reading all that, and for your consideration. 🙂


We love what you have going already! Some of Ashley’s suggestions are to leave the ledge undecorated, and think about putting a plantation shutter on the window, so it becomes more architectural and less of a window. Ashley always likes to be on the second floor reaching out to touch the light from the balcony, so that may be something to aim for in the future as well. Her rule for adding a light fixture: take the length and width of feet in a room and add them together for the inches. A large chandelier would add some depth and fill out the room. If you are also looking for a great shoe organizer, check out this one from Ballard Design!

Show Notes:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.