She grew up in Louisiana, graduated from Auburn University, then headed to New York City … but everything changed when Ashley Gilbreath fell in love with an Alabama boy. “I found out that Montgomery boys don’t seem to ever leave! I left New York and Atlanta to come here and kicked and screamed the whole way,” she says. “But I wouldn’t change our life here now for anything.”

Ashley’s interior design prowess has her working on projects all over the Southeast: Atlanta, Nashville, Baton Rouge and beach houses all along the Gulf. “A good thing about Montgomery is that it’s centrally located in the heart of the South, so it’s easy to get anywhere you want to go,” she says.

We sat down with Ashley to chat about all things interior design – and she lent us a few helpful tips, too!

Interior designer Ashley Gilbreath loves to bring her clients’ aesthetic aspirations to life. She’s equally a fan of antiques and modern design. Image: Sarah Griffin Photography

What is your earliest design memory?

I loved drawing floor plans as a child and space planning in doll houses. It was much more about where they lived than the actual dolls.

When did you figure out you were destined to be an interior designer?

I always thought I would be an architect. Once in architecture school, I kept wondering when we were going to stop discussing the exterior of the structure and start talking about what happens on the inside … I realized there was a whole different major calling my name. The third-year architecture students sleeping under drafting tables using pizza boxes as pillows scared me away, as well. I graduated with a degree in interior design from Auburn University. Then, I spent several summers in New York and took classes at New York School of Interior Design.

What do you call your design style?

I like the terms “timeless” or “casually elegant.” I enjoy classic investment pieces that have stood the test of time, and I’m a big believer in livable spaces that look beautiful. I don’t think I’m super trendy, unless it’s trendy to be timeless.

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This picture-perfect farmhouse in Alabama features a crisp white palette and copper accents. Ashley designed the family room to connect to the outdoors with retractable doors that easily open to the courtyard. Fun fact: The family room is added onto an original barn. Image: Alison Gootee

Inside, the farmhouse family room is all about casual elegance, with symmetrical animal-print chairs from CR Laine and a vaulted ceiling made of unpainted wood. Image: Holland Williams Photography

Ashley believes first impressions count, so she decked out this two-story foyer with a blue hide rug, art by Augusta Wilson and cut branches. Image: Laurey Glenn

This family room is both cozy and chic, mixing textures and colors. An antelope-patterned rug grounds the space, exciting with blue-upholstered doors, striped swivel chairs and artwork that appears to float in front of the checked window treatments. Image: Laurey Glenn

Who are your design idols?

I love the architecture of Ruard Veltman for his dramatic use of geometry and proportion, the interiors of Keith Langham for his bold use of color with a traditional feel, and Bunny Williams for her classic style and her multi-faceted business career. And then I’m a big fangirl of Celerie Kemble and Mark Sikes.

What are some of your go-to sources — both brick-and-mortar and online, and local and regional — for furnishings?

I am obviously very partial to our own PARISH Shoppe. It’s both brick-and-mortar and local with an eclectic mix of old and new pieces mixed in with great accessories and vintage finds. We also love Scott Antique Market in Atlanta. In the few times a year I get to NYC, I always love stopping in John Rosselli’s shop on 61st Street. Otherwise, we have great relationships with several vendors in Europe we lean on for container shipments.

Since we all get inspired by travel, can you think of some places and experiences that have influenced your design style?

I have loved shopping all over Europe for our clients. Some of my favorite spots are Antwerp in Belgium and Cotignac in France. I always come back home inspired by all the old-world beauty.

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Elegant but practical, this master bedroom features a velvet sofa that houses the family dogs every night, as well as washable bedding. Image: Laurey Glenn

Ashley made sure upholstery was covered in Sunbrella fabrics to keep furniture clean (yes, even the white sofas stay clean!) at the farmhouse project. Image: Alison Gootee

Tile floors and a rustic farmhouse table give this kitchen a Mediterranean look, but Ashley mixed things up with the robin’s egg blue pendants and banquette seating trimmed with nail heads. Image: Laurey Glenn

What are some design tips or tricks of the trade you would share with readers?

Measure twice and cut once, and make sure you have an amazing workroom! It sounds simple, but I sure wish I had followed my own advice on more than a couple drapery jobs. Speaking of drapery, add a little bit of Vaseline to the tops of iron drapery rods to make the iron rings slide a little better.

Any mistakes you’ve made along the way that made you a better designer?

See above for the whole “measure twice, cut once” thing. Checking dimensions is huge in an industry where every little detail matters. Only once, in the very beginning of my career, have I ever used plans for dimensions. Always verify the “as built” product for legit dimensions.

Ashley created two curtained-off nooks using Kravet fabric in a recent Southern Living Idea House bedroom — as just one smart idea for the small space. Image: Laurey Glenn

A palette of off-white and weathered wood defines this master bedroom. Image: Holland Williams Photography

The original pine built-in cabinets play a charming role in this kitchen redo. Image: Laurey Glenn

Are there any TV or movie sets you’ve seen lately that caught your eye as a designer?

I work too much, go home and play Mom and then pass out. But I did get a little break about three weeks ago when my mom took our babies to her house. My husband and I actually watched TV, and the highlight of every night might have been a plate of chocolate chip cookies that I didn’t have to share. We watched the whole season of “Big Little Lies,” and it was so good! I would love to design for Reese Witherspoon because I think we would have a lot in common.

See more of Ashley’s work on her website, ashleygilbreath.com.

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