Photographs by Bob Rozycki.
As vibrant as the motif on one of her new venture’s pillows, Hudson Valley interior designer Nicole Ashey’s career is coming into full bloom this spring.
Ashey, who heads up the Beacon-based Burlock Interiors, has just launched an offshoot with a decidedly eco-minded — and socially conscious — approach.
Burlock Thread Works has begun producing handcrafted home accessories that incorporate repurposed textiles. And work sessions are now under way through an initiative that will eventually offer employment to survivors of domestic violence.
The fledgling effort, with its first limited-edition pieces just reaching the marketplace, has the energetic woman bursting with details. Sitting down with Ashey in Cold Spring on a recent afternoon, she recaps the path that took her from a childhood on Long Island to a career in the Hudson Valley.
She clearly remembers, she says, being 7 years old and telling her father, “I want to be an interior designer with an architect’s background.”
And that is exactly what happened, thanks to undergraduate (Lehigh University in Pennsylvania) and graduate (University of Washington in Seattle) studies in architecture.
Afterward, Ashey ended up working first in architecture, then retail — she ran an art-supply and then a home furnishings shop in Beacon — before she transitioned into home staging and finally, interior design, launching her company in 2010.
“I started in staging because that was a way for me to leverage myself and springboard into a business,” she says.
As she hoped, the work helped her develop a solid network.
“Interior design is such a word-of-mouth business,” she adds. “I marketed myself as a stager, and I got all this decorating work.”
While she continues to use her architectural background to this day — “I problem-solve better because of my training. I’m more resourceful” —Ashey knew interior design was a better fit.
“An architectural project will sometimes take years to come to fruition. With interior design, I could really roll my shirt sleeves up, play with texture and color.”
The site of the chat is appropriate. It’s Gallery 66 NY, where Ashey participated in the recent “Designer Challenge” that found interior designers tasked with using artwork as inspiration to create a room or vignette.
Ashey’s room, a collaboration with visual artists Rebecca Darlington and Donald Alter, was called “Humans for Breakfast,” and it was a playful-yet-thoughtful take on the importance of human connections and working together.
In her Burlock Interiors work, Ashey is known for recognizing the quality of life is affected by your home’s design and strives not only to find practical, stylish solutions but to use materials from local resources whenever possible.
Her design work, which received a real boost following her participation in the ArtFull Living Designer Show House in Cold Spring in 2012, has been recognized within her field. Ashey is now involved in the forthcoming Dutch’s Spirits, the craft distillery restoration on the Pine Plains grounds of a onetime bootlegging operation funded by Dutch Schultz, and has also been tapped for an 80-unit apartment building in White Plains.
STITCH BY STITCH
On this day, however, she’s sharing the news about the debut of her handcrafted home goods.
“I did want to have something that I could be putting out as ‘mine,’ or Burlock’s,” she says.
Burlock Thread Works has partnered with the Grace Smith House in Dutchess County, a nonprofit that serves the survivors of domestic violence and one Ashey came to know through work on a mural project.
Ashey says that her new venture’s goal is to empower the House’s clients by offering them a living wage and supportive work environment. Right now, she is involved in work sessions to this end, while a traditional production team creates the initial pillow collections.
Ashey explains the line incorporates fabric remnants and off-cuts that most companies — including luxury brands such as Brunschwig & Fils —would find unusable and send off to the landfill.
“I feel bad for all the fabrics nobody wants,” Ashey says, adding she prefers to take these existing materials and give them a new life.
With business partner Justine Porter, who’s in graduate school at Bard College and devoted to social enterprise, Ashey feels Burlock Thread Works has a winning team set to create a distinctive — and stylish — product.
“There’s so many new things we can buy that are adding to our carbon footprint. …If I’m going to own a company that’s producing merchandise, I want it to be as good as possible,” Ashey adds.
Ashey says she sees the customers for the limited-edition pillows as those with an eye for design — and an appreciation for what’s behind the product.
As the effort progresses, Ashey says she hopes to expand into blankets, table linens and rugs, all continuing to made by hand in the Hudson Valley.
Barbara Galazzo, owner of Gallery 66 NY and the creator of the ArtFull Living Show House, has followed Ashey’s work and sees this new venture really finding an audience.
“She’s always willing to step out and be fun and creative,” Galazzo says. “I love the fact that her new project is helping women who are trying to start over, first of all, (to) get their lives back, but also because it’s made in America.”
For more, visit burlockinteriors.com.