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    Ashley Gilbreath MBJ

    Casual Elegance

    Giving Best Friends Their Space 

    Summer 2015
    By David Zaslawsky
    Photography by Robert Fouts

    It’s understandable that Ashley Gilbreath was feeling sorry for herself after losing twins.

    The owner of Ashley Gilbreath Interior Design said one twin was stillborn at 31 weeks and the other lived for 30 minutes. It happened about six years ago and was the first pregnancy for her and her husband.

    “I had a little mental crisis,” Gilbreath said. “I had to get myself pulled together and get over my pity party and do something to get my mind off of this.” She said she needed a chore to occupy her mind and that chore became what is now called Parish Shoppe, which is in front of her interior design company in Old Cloverdale.

    Parish Shoppe is almost a mini-retail outlet for furniture and accessories, and instead of running around all over the city to find those cute, little accessories that help make the room, she now had them in stock. She called it a “little boutique shop.”

    “There was a need in the market, and a major need in my head and in my heart, to get my act together on something other than a pity party,” said Gilbreath, who founded her interior design company in 2007.

    That’s why the company has two names. The backside of the business is the interior design area. “The client that comes to us on this side (interior design) wants to have their own look for their own space,” Gilbreath said. “They don’t want to have what their neighbor has. They want it to suit them specifically.”

    For Gilbreath, the core of the business is getting to know the client so well that they “become our best friends.” She said, “You learn where a client drops their purse; where they plug in their phone; and where they take their shoes off.” It’s that personal to develop a connection and understanding between designer and client.

    The relationship relies on a huge dose of trust. Even though she insists on seeing images that a client likes, a client has to trust the designer. “We’re designing a space for you to enjoy,” said Gilbreath, who has had several locations in Old Cloverdale, but now owns the building on Graham Street. “I don’t know if we ever put something into a house that we don’t like.”

    On the company’s website, it describes her design philosophy as “casual elegance,” and for Gilbreath that means a client “can get the look and live in it at the same time. We’re going to make it look good. It’s going to look very elegant.”

    She said she has an all-white sofa in her house and put a slip-cover on it. “I can’t justifiably convince a client to buy a piece of furniture if you can’t sit on it,” she said.

    There are three requirements for potential interior design clients:

    > List priorities of which room is most important and which is the least important.

    > Images to look at – or “I am not ever going to get it exactly like you like it.”

    > A budget.

    “We’re here to make sure that we don’t spend a penny more than we’re supposed to spend,” Gilbreath said. “We’re very honest – this is a totally doable budget or it’s really not. I treat everyone’s money like it’s mine and we don’t have a ton of money … We’re out for your best interests.”

    Projects range from one room to an entire house, and in one instance for a client in Rosemary Beach, Fla., it was an entire house, guest house and outside spaces.

    There is a comprehensive interview process at a client’s house where the designers take a detailed inventory and discuss what furniture a client wants to keep. It usually takes two meetings to work out the details.

    A designer may put new fabric on existing furniture and add other pieces. “That’s what gives it the personality,” Gilbreath said. “It has to be their house. It’s not my house. It has to be what makes you (client) happy.”

    Gilbreath has designed the interiors of some restaurants, including two that preceded True – Village Kitchen and Roux Restaurant. She also did the interior design for No. 16 at the Town of Hampstead. She then did renovations for Ham & High and City Grill at the same site.

    What she does insist on is finishing a room. “I don’t want someone to walk in a client’s house, where they could afford to do only half of it. Unless we can take a specific room from beginning to end, we say we’re going to hold off.”