Blog :: 12-2016

Five Questions on Friday with Designer Ashton Ford

This week we had the pleasure of asking local designer Ashton Ford of AshtonForDesign some of our burning design questions over a delicious coffee.  Ashton, a hands-on local designer, works in residential and commercial spaces to create impactful, comfortable, and functional environments.

        1. You provide design inspiration to Portlanders by creating content for your website AshtonForDesign.com, contributions to ‘Where's Your Living Room?’ Living Room Realty’s online magazine. When you are looking to get inspired where do you go?

Inspiration is everywhere.

Physically getting out there and seeing spaces is the best way for me to get inspiration. Taking note when something is done well and/or when something can be done better. Talking to friends or strangers about these characteristics of a space. What’s their opinion?

You shouldn’t ever limit yourself to one form of inspiration. I subscribe to a few magazines, including  Interior Design and PNW publication called Gray. I’ll flip through these to discover new products, styles, and great projects that other designers are accomplishing. When you see or read something you like, scan it into your computer, or find it online to bookmark. That way you will always have it to reference. There are also great apps for your phones that allow you can scan directly to your email, laptop, or desktop.

And... Instagram! Social media is such a great platform to get inspired. If you see an image you like, or you start following someone, it will pull up other content that’s in line with your style.  People can be critical of Pinterest, and to each their own, but I keep boards of inspiration, color contrasts, industrial beauty, or whatever specific design element I am interested in. It’s a great way to organize ideas so that I can refer back to them. Especially when I have an opportunity to put them to use. I make digital and physical files for projects, which help identify a cohesive direction. Imagery (and sketching) is a very useful tool to communicate design ideas to clients and contractors. When I begin a project, I’ll create a layout of inspiration to get clients’ imaginations going and they start to identify what suits their taste. The layout inspires conversation.

2. In some of your writing, you offer a lot of design ideas for renters, what kinds of design upgrades are options for people once they buy a space that are usually not options when renting? What are some design advantages homeowners can take advantage of?

Paint, I know it’s cliché, but it makes a big difference and can change the overall appearance of a space. It is so easy to pick paint and have it done before you move in. This way you don’t have to deal with moving furniture around and risk damaging things.

Lighting is so important as well. You can have an amazing looking home but if you don’t have good lighting you won’t be able to appreciate it. When you’re renting, it isn’t usually worth the cost to install new fixtures, nor is it permitted...so you are more limited in the lighting changes you can make. When you own a home, however, it makes more sense to invest in new fixtures and, if need be, have them wired to exactly where you want them and not where they were for the previous owners.

Those customizations are the first changes I recommend in a new house. After that, you can start to think about materials like tile, counters, flooring, etc.  It makes a big difference when they are upgraded or modified. These things can get expensive, but remember that things can always be done in phases to maximize your budget. Be on the lookout for remnants or discounted materials around town. For example, you might see that you need 50 square feet of tile for your kitchen backsplash. Remember this quantity when you are perusing the tile showrooms, who sometimes heavily discount tile leftover from past projects.

Personalizing your home with accessories, like rugs, can have a big impact and you can start with discount rugs and upgrade to wool and silk as it becomes affordable. The obvious or not-so-obvious upgrades are decorative objects such as artwork, plants, and the like. Have fun exploring your city’s many shopping venues and personalize your home as your budget allows.

3. You write in your bio that you are interested in the psychology of space. With that interest in mind, how do you think the psychological effects of a space play into a home purchase? How can buyers adjust a space to influence their emotions in a positive way?

It’s easy to dismiss the huge effect that lighting has, but it influences everyone, whether they are conscious of it or not.  People often don’t recognize bad lighting until it has been replaced with better lighting. Then they realize how much more relaxed or motivated they feel in the space. I think that one of the innovations we will soon see in homes are intuitive lights that change throughout the day to positively affect the end-user.

Cooler light may increase productivity and warmer light will help people reduce their energy as the day settles into the night. Bulbs that can change color temperature and wattage output seem like a natural step into the future of custom interior design. Until then, homeowners should try to identify what kinds of light make them feel best and set up their home to fit their needs in each room. You’d be surprised at how many colors an LED now comes in.

Along with lighting, spatial layouts will affect individuals differently based on their needs and personality.  For example, some people find that an open floor plan lends itself to better productivity, while others find open floor plans a bit overwhelming, making it difficult to focus. These personality types might prefer smaller or designated areas for work. Floor plans that are more segmented may also be good for people who live with others and may need to make some specific spaces their own private area. Also, remember that many things in a house can be changed to fit your wants and needs. Whether you have a large open space or a series of rooms, you can create a dynamic plan that suits and inspires yourself.

Again, color has a huge significance in design. Many of the things we are taught about color are sometimes not as accurate as we assume. For example, people say that blue is a very calm or relaxing color, but when applying a blue to a wall, it doesn’t always create that effect. When you think about fire, blue and white are the hottest colors, while reds and oranges are not. The reds and oranges can actually create a relaxed space if done correctly. It totally depends on the hue or saturation you choose as well as the final touch of finish. Blue can be a calming color...or…. it can be bold and reactive! Color is a major attribute of design.

Texture can also play a major role in the psychology of a space. Fabrics versus leathers. Woods versus metals. Plants versus no plants. People have memories and experiences associated with these materials and they should be taken into consideration when designing.

4. It seems that home shopping is aided by some creative thinking to see the possibilities of a space and how it would fit into your life. Do you have any advice for people who are not particularly creative and in the process of home shopping?

Recruit some extra help! Enlist the service of a professional; bring along your designer or seek out a creative friend who understands your style and needs.  They can help you envision how things could be transformed which makes finding a home that much easier and less overwhelming. This step may also help you budget better because a designer can assist in pricing out some of the recommended modifications, which you can then factor into the overall cost. A designer can also give you some helpful perspectives on the overall impact of changes that can be made, such as opening a kitchen to a dining room, creating a bigger master bathroom or providing more storage space. This is extremely important information to consider so you don't unnecessarily rule out a house that has great potential.

5. What do you think are the most cost-effective design changes to make?

Plants are one of the most affordable ways to modify a space. You can buy plants at several places around town for a relatively low cost but there are also a lot of ways to get plants for free! Ask friends if you can propagate their plants, which pretty much means ‘clipping a plant you know can grow roots in water.’ This easy task can add some natural greenery to your space. There is even a woman here in Portland, Julia Barbee, who coordinates a propagated plant exchange. It’s called Portland Propagation and it is awesome!

Add inexpensive life to a space with paint, pillows, a shelf of books/records, artwork that has been collecting dust, and more! Just remember that these things can be subtle touches or extremely dramatic statements. It’s totally up to the end-user how they want to feel in the space and how they want their guests to feel. Your space, whether it is your home, your office, or your commercial business; it is your personal creation. There really are no rules when it comes to decor. Confidence is the key to a successful space.

Bonus question 1. In some of your writing, you talk about shifting things around seasonally, which is an idea I really like. What are some practical ways homeowners can do this?

Sometimes seasonal décor ends up being holiday-specific and you miss out on changes that you could enjoy all season. Instead of just putting up holiday decorations, consider changing textiles like curtains, warm blankets, and table runners with the seasons to make a space airier in the summer and cozier in the winter months. Consider adding accessories to your mantle that set the mood for the whole season. Floral arrangements are a great way to reflect the seasons. A vibrant array of buds and luscious green stems or a textural beauty of branches with dried leaves. Possibilities are endless.

Changing out artwork is another great way to shift it up. Your home can feel fresh and seasonal with what you decide to display. Showcase pieces you’ve collected throughout your travels, but maybe never got around to framing or finding that blank space on your walls. You don’t always have to hang artwork. You can install what they call a ‘piano shelf’ anywhere your heart desires and lean them against the wall! This variety and rotation of art creates an engaging interaction with your home. It can keep things interesting and help you fall in love with your place all over again.

That being said, some behavior experts say that routine, such as keeping everything in its place or having a capsule wardrobe, frees more space in the mind for other things. So maybe the idea of changing things out varies in appeal from person to person. It’s worth trying out these seasonal changes in your home to see if you like it!

Bonus question 2. One dilemma homeowners often face is how to fit all the design elements they have into their home? Any advice for people looking to integrate items with sentimental value into their space?

Tchotchkes and those items that get passed down can be difficult to find the right place for. Grouping items together on a tabletop or displaying even three-dimensional objects on walls can be a great way to integrate these items into your home.

For example, my dad gave my husband and me a rock he had picked up during our wedding ceremony. He painted ‘09.06.15 - Josh and Ash' plus a little heart on it. It has some serious sentimental value so we needed to find the right place for it. We found a prominent place on our bar shelf, and it even works on a functional level as it can be used to hold down cocktail napkins.

Basically, your house is where you live, often where you work, and a place you share with loved ones, so it should be a home not just in a physical sense but in the cognitive sense too. Decorate and design your home with components that activated your senses and your thoughts. These details may, in turn, inspire your guests as well!

If you would like to know more about Ashton’s work you can follow her on Instagram, browse her Pinterest boards, and definitely bookmark her website! 

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