Friday, March 20, 2015

FARMER'S DOZEN: Ashley Gilbreath

Akin to a baker's dozen, my Farmer's Dozen is a quantity of a dozen or so questions - a series of questions with fellow designers, authors, tastemakers, friends and Southerners alike. 

Farmer’s Dozen: Ashley Gilbreath

1. What influences from Louisiana have you brought to Alabama? 
Louisiana is chock full of details, color, and character! Once you get a taste of it, you can’t forget it! I will never get tired of the feeling that “home” gives me- I love the energy and character and I love to think that I can channel that feeling into interiors!   Louisiana is full of old plantations, massive shady oak trees, brick courtyards…history, antiques, culture.  Preserving that feeling, that since of history, gives a humbling feeling.  

2. Who inspires you? 
There is no person on earth more fabulous than Bunny Williams! She has such a knack for updated traditional design. Her use of intentional color and texture forces people to pay attention to details- love it! She has killer taste! 

3. Your babies are you and B made over… they’re precious!!! What would be a dream room to design for Cates and Rett? 
My favorite spaces in a home are those where I know a family will be spending time and making memories. For my sweet kiddos, that space is a playroom! I love to see sophisticated and practical play spaces that feel young and fun! I have an addiction to coral right now, so that would be involved for sure! Who says a boy can’t play around pink?! Pink is good for the soul. 

4. What did you call your grandmothers, and do you have any treasured heirlooms from them? 
I called them Grandma and Grandmommy, and yes! I have an antique brass bed in our guest room that belonged to my great grandparents and I can’t imagine ever parting with it!  My Grandfather and my Dad grew up sleeping in that bed, and so did I.  

5. I think a coffee table says a lot about your life and style. What’s on your coffee table right now, and what is your coffee table? 
Currently, my coffee table is an antique Spanish wood table that I picked up in Belgium. I say “currently” because I’m infamous for changing out tables at my house! At the moment, mine has a few cocktail table books, a concrete bowl for the remote control, and a vase filled with blush colored roses! One should always have fresh flowers in their home! 

6. I had a great aunt that said you could tell a lot about a lady by her silver pattern. What’s your pattern? Does it say anything about you? 
Life is funny! When I chose my silver pattern, Joan of Arc, I knew I wanted something timeless and traditional. It’s beautiful… however… over the past couple of years, I have grown fond of mismatched silver! It sounds crazy, but I love the idea that something feels “collected” rather than purchased. This applies not only to silver, but to furniture and artwork as well! 

7. Do you collect anything in particular? If so, how did you start? 
Oh dear, what do I NOT collect?! I have a little love affair with small vases and bottles! They are so charming! I also love to collect artwork. I truly believe that the best way to purchase art is to buy what you like. Some can get so hung up on color and size and exactly where it will go, but my rule is that if I love it, it’s mine! We can find a home for him later! I also have an addiction to buying antique cane chairs… I just can’t say no to them!

8. Favorite thing you ate in Europe on your buying trip? 
The very first day we arrived, Jessica and I walked the streets of Brussels, Belgium and essentially just soaked up the culture. Completely amazing people and a totally different way of life. We found a street-side café and were served the most amazing salad with baked mozzarella along with really good wine. Jessica and I sat at the table for probably three and a half hours! We quickly realized that while the food was amazing, the slow pace and relaxing atmosphere was the best thing we had that night! 

9. What are your favorite scents from the home and garden? 
My husband, Barrett, is an amazing cook and a total foodie, so I love to smell something tasty in the kitchen! When it comes to the garden, I love to smell gardenias and rosemary… plus they look pretty in the house!  I grew up with gardenias outside our back door…they remind me of home.  

10. You’re having a dinner party could invite anyone… Including any character from history, who would be at your dinner party? (Pssst, I am included on the guest list)
Of course you’re included on the guest list! My dad’s mom lived to see Cates born and we had a great relationship- absolutely my angel on earth that I knew prayed for me constantly. My other grandparents lived until I was a very young child, but I never had the opportunity to actually have a relationship with them. My maternal grandmother loved to entertain and both of my grandfathers were farmers, so I have no doubt that they would have some amazing stories to tell! They would absolutely be on my dinner party guest list! 

11. I loved “our house” aka your old house on Felder… you took that house and turned it into something great. What was it that you saw that no one else did and thus made it your own? 
Ah! This house still makes my heart skip a beat! My initial reaction was “this house needs lots of love and a family.” It had so much potential and so much character, but was lacking a family! We lived in this house when Barrett and I lost our infant twins and it was also the house we brought home our precious daughter, Cates. The house has seen heartbreak, overflowing love, and lots of memories and I will forever be grateful! 

12. The smell of lady peas simmering on the stove makes me weak in the knees. Describe your perfect Southern meal… and if you’re frying pully bone, you must invite me over. 
I am a dessert lover to the core! Nothing makes me happier than a really good cheesecake… it just doesn’t get better than that!  And, if I can be picky, it would be my Mom’s cheese cake.  

Follow Ashley on Instagram @parishshoppe and @ashleyfgilbreath

Thursday, March 12, 2015


A few months ago, I saw the writing on the wall… a major writing deadline looming, a travel schedule taking me from ATL to ST Lou to Palm Beach and ere’where in between within a few weeks and, well, February 24… Mama AND Mimi’s birthday. In fact, Mema, my great-grandmother’s birthday was that day too… three generations on the same day. This day is now tough on my sisters and me and we have decided that we need to scoot out of town – together – on that day and go somewhere fun. Somewhere fun, somewhere beautiful and somewhere we could eat at George’s several times… that meant we were off to 30a.

30a and Cashiers are places where I am as happy as I am in Perrydise. There is something soulfully peaceful and homey and comforting about this particular stretch of the Gulf. Mama loved it, Mimi loved the Gulf and so do we three. And how could anyone not? Sugary white sand, water that runs the spectrum from aqua to lapis to turquoise to silver and every shade in between and gorgeous homes too! And the sunsets… need I say more? Plus, we have friends who are so dear there, so we thus have a reason to get out of our pajamas – that we’ve been in ALL DAY –  and get dressed for dinner.

This latest trip was to refuel and rest and even write. I love writing where I am inspired by nature – the beach and the mountains are where I retreat to write and reflect and recharge. I love the pace I set when writing at these places and having something majestic like a red sky sunset over metallic, shimmery waters. Or maybe knowing that I can stretch after writing for hours with sand between my toes and the lulling sound of waves crashing in my ears – I think that sound infiltrates our souls too.

A change of pace and a change of scenery – that is healing for so much that ails me and many of y’all too. Maggie and Meredith and I needed and will always need time together as siblings – time to laugh and cry and eat at George’s every chance we can. Zach and Napp joined us later in the week as did the Gardins – our sibling set of best friends we’ve had literally our whole lives. But something was very special about those few days just the Farmer children together. Mama always told us that we were her heart personified – I think that heartbeat beats truer, more lovingly and stronger when we’re together.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Farmdale's First Party!

Have y’all ever hosted a shower for one of your closest, dearest friends at your house? I’m sure most of y’all have. But, have you ever had to install indoor plumbing and a driveway before the party? Well, it is doable, it will age you, it will question your sanity over and over and it will be the most fun you’ve had in a long time!!!

Farmdale is not finished. Farmdale will not be finished for a while longer. Farmdale though is where I would be hosting a shower for these friends – a proclamation I told my friends Katie and Douglas upon their engagement this summer. I thought I’d be in a Christmas at the latest… ha!!! I wanted to stick to my word and thankfully my fellow hosts pitched in! We had a party – a Perry Party for our sweet friend who’s moving from Houston County to Houston County… that’s pronounced like “House-ton” for us in Georgia and “Hugh-ston” for the Alabama reciprocal.

About a month ago, Katie and our friend Maggie texted me if we would have bathrooms at Farmdale. As a man, I can honestly say the though didn’t cross my mind. As the host to a group of my closest friends – a mixture of my buddies who thought like I did I’m sure, but our group now their pregnant wives, new fiancés, young moms and just lovely ladyfolks in general – I decided that the phrase “y’all just go outside” wouldn’t be very polite. Ha! Somehow though, in the course of that month, my septic system was installed, toilets installed too, a couple sconces hung in the bathrooms and I even hung a mirror over the sink – which had running water mind you!

Lucky for me, our social circle in Perry is a casual, relaxed group. We wore our jeans and boots, built a bonfire, roasted s’mores and dined on Amy’s famous chili – the white chicken and the awesome red one too! I made a big arrangement on top of a table I fashioned from sawhorses and shutters. This centerpiece boasted a couple racks from this year’s deer season, branches from my surrounding woods, pine cones and couple really cool pieces of wood Meredith and Maggie found on their walk. For the entertainment, we resorted to our old high school and college days. Growing up in a small, Southern town, we hung out around bonfires in high school and college. And we are still good at it too! Of course, the fear of being caught with beer has passed since we can buy our own – now we get flattered if we’re carded! S’mores were our dessert and I must admit I had my fair share! Who can resist a charcoal-caramelized marshmallow?

Farmdale Lane was dug out and lain with gravel so folks didn’t have to park in mud – mud that was frozen slush at one point since the well had busted in the cold one night. Miraculously, my front sidewalks got poured even amidst the cold weather which left on the day before and made for the most delightful, comfortable late winter evening in Perrydise. Regardless of moving heaven and earth to get extra lights, more amps for space heaters, sinks installed and the official plumbing to go with them, we were all together. A group of friends who have known one another since childhood, college and now into adulthood. We are tightly knit group who love one another and love to throw parties for one another too! I cherish our times together – times that are even more precious and treasured as our careers blossom, marriages begin, babies are born and even, sadly, move from Houston County to Houston County.

All in all, the party was a hit! I’m just thankful the toilets flushed! Congrats Katie and Douglas!!!

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