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Ten Holiday Essentials, The Designer: Ashley Whittaker

Ten Holiday Essentials, The Designer: Ashley Whittaker

Interior designer Ashley Whittaker’s elegant rooms seem designed for the holiday season. Infusing traditional style with a modern sensibility, Ashley creates warm and vibrant spaces perfect for welcoming guests, hosting dinners, and unwrapping presents by the fire.

Ashley spends the workweek in New York City, but she’ll be celebrating Christmas with her husband, 16-month-old son, and teenage step-daughters at their weekend home in Millbrook, NY. “The Hudson Valley at Christmas-time is like a Norman Rockwell painting; it doesn’t get more charming and picturesque,” she says. We try to spend as much time there as possible with family and friends during the holidays. The fireplace is lit before Thanksgiving and pretty much never stops until the last snow in April. It’s the best place to spend the winter curled up on a cold day.”

Here, Ashley’s ten essentials for the holiday season:

Favorite hostess gift?
A set of monogrammed cocktail napkins is such a thoughtful and personal gift. I consider the colors in a friend’s home, but push the envelope towards a contrasting color they may not have considered. Aubergine, acid green, or a deep peacock blue are my favorites.

Essential holiday decorations?
I am obsessed with decorating my mantels in Millbrook. I spend hours arranging and rearranging them. The decoration usually consists of some type of greenery along with candles and pinecones. Sometimes I incorporate antlers or antique brass stags that I have been collecting for my husband for years. It is always fun to see what gets incorporated each year.

Essential piece for the holiday table?
I love my Matouk monogrammed placemats and napkins. I prefer a placemat to a tablecloth for even the most formal occasions. It is less stuffy, but still feels elegant. The embroidery and applique make them an important part of the room’s design. It is something I consider early in the design process of a dining room.

For flowers, we are lucky to live near an amazing farm in Rhinebeck that raises anemones. We buy them by the bundle for the Christmas table.  They are one of my all-time favorite flowers.


The ultimate guest room essential for weary holiday houseguests?
I love big European squares in a guest room.  They are so nice to lean against and read, or just to put your feet up. They bring instant comfort to any bedroom.

Your Christmas morning uniform? 
I used to go with whatever was handy and comfortable to put on. However, I’ve learned my lesson from one too many bad Christmas morning photos. Get up, get dressed, fix your hair and put on some lipstick. Remember: you can’t burn other people’s photos!

It wouldn't be Christmas in your house without this particular dish or cocktail. . .
Popovers. Any excuse.

You've been waiting all year to give your ____ this for the holidays:
Santa is bringing a play kitchen to my son. I can’t stop buying baby pots and pans and fake food, grocery carts, you name it. I seriously have a problem.

Any holiday playlist should include this song:
Anything from Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas.

The house is cleaned up and the guests are gone. You can't wait to relax and. . .
Sit by the fire and drink wine with my husband. It never gets old.

Of all the rooms you've ever decorated, your favorite one to spend Christmas morning in looks like. . .
A dark aubergine lacquer, double parlor living room in Millbrook. The chairs are a green and aubergine chintz with lots of comfortable places to sit and talk and open gifts. It is beautiful all year, but it particularly shines at Christmas.