I have been following Ashley Stark online for several months and always admired her aesthetic: casual with extreme attention to detail. Then, when the piece on her newly renovated home came out in the October 2020 issue of Architectural Digest, she was described as being eight months pregnant and going through floorboards, and I thought: now THAT is someone I would get along with. Balancing motherhood, business, and creating a family home are all familiar to me and I could see myself in that exact position, examining each and every detail so that it would realise my vision while juggling all three aspects.
Ashley Stark is Creative Director of STARK, the legendary family-run carpet and fabric company founded over 75 years ago. Guest contributor Tova Ossad discusses steering the family business into an exciting new chapter, striking a balance between motherhood and a busy work life, and renovating her beautiful Manhattan townhouse.
Finding A Work-Life Balance
The obvious question to begin with is: as the Creative Director of an international company with three children, how do you balance it all?
I don’t! Well, more seriously I try my hardest to find a work-life balance and have learned through time to be present wherever I am at that moment. I try to turn off work when I am home with the kids in the evenings and try to focus on the task at hand while working. I have learned that no one can do it all and that’s ok because no one expects you to.
Empowering Young Female Designers
As a successful woman holding a senior position in a renowned company, how do you try to empower other women and inspire them with your example?
I try to show that women can have a powerful voice even in a company led by men. I fought for what I believed in even if it was something my father and uncle couldn’t understand. I believe women can do anything and I want to show my own daughter that you can have it both ways; be a present mom and a hard-working woman.
Along with Chad, your first cousin, who is the CEO of Stark, you are the third generation of the family to run the company. What are you hoping to pass along to the fourth generation?
I hope to continue bringing the company to the future while maintaining our long-standing history. I hope the company continues to grow and be a leader in the design world.
Designed by Woulfe is a London-based design studio who always appreciates the diversity and culture that this incredible city has to offer. Why did Stark decide to open its first European location at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre in the heart of London?
London has so much to offer and is a great jumping point to all the European countries. It just made sense to be in the heart of the amazing city.
Nadia Stark of Stark Carpets
After Stark’s founding in 1938, your grandmother, Nadia Stark, also played a major role in the development of the company until her death in 1992. What did it mean to have had her as a role model and how does she continue to influence you in your role as Creative Director?
My grandmother was a huge inspiration for me growing up. She always took me to the office to show me how the company worked and told me that one day, if I worked hard, I could be taking her place. She was classic with a touch of edge and that’s similar to my style. She showed me a strong powerful woman who could be anything she chooses if she sets her mind to it.
Eco-Friendly Carpet Design
Stark is very clear about the company’s commitment to worldwide, World Class Service through new technology and development. Do you see eco-friendly design as also playing a role in this new chapter?
Yes sustainability and eco-friendly design is something that is personally important to me so I look to bring that to Stark. We are already very green using many natural materials. We even have a whole line of “green” carpet.
How do you see your role as the Creative Director changing as the world takes on new challenges relating to sustainability? Do those concerns ever affect your creative process?
It hasn’t come to play yet but I look to my own home life and am constantly coming up with ways to be more sustainable use less plastic and I hope to bring this to the company.
As an interior designer, Brian Woulfe is keenly aware that, after having to blend living spaces with working spaces, people’s relationships with and how they feel about their homes have changed. What trends are you seeing as the world adjusts to this new normal? Is this long-lasting or do you think that in 12 months people will revert back to their old habits?
I think people have seen the importance of the home and making one’s space comfortable, liveable, and beautiful all at the same time. People are needing ‘work from home’ spaces and more practical spaces. I think people have seen that they can work from home and while I think it will take longer than a year for them to give up their home offices, they will go back to the office.
Ashley Stark's Newly Renovated Manhattan Townhouse
I have so enjoyed following you and your journey as you remodelled your beautiful home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan over the better part of three years. Do you feel that your role as the Creative Director at Stark influenced how you approached the renovation?
I think I was influenced more in the décor of my home. I am constantly surrounded by color and pattern so when I come home I want a soothing escape. I made my home very neutral with lots of layers and textures.
Is there anything in particular that you have learned from interior designers who you have worked with that you have incorporated into your own home?
I love looking to everyone in the design community and mixing and incorporating it into my personal style.
Remodelling A Luxury Home
Having worked together on projects, Brian and I have had many conversations about how we are our own worst enemies as clients when trying to do our home renovations. So what did you learn from your remodelling experience that you now feel you can bring to your position at Stark?
I learned that it’s better to just go for it than to do half and half later. I realized you end up paying more that way and have to do the work twice. Better to just do it once the right way.
Ashley Stark On Instagram
You are passionate about sharing other designer’s spaces and creativity on social media and have over one million followers. In your opinion, how have these platforms helped to raise the profile people and projects that you find inspiring? What is the future of promoting brands across these channels?
My Instagram began as a way to show what I loved and what inspired me. Now I love finding new talent from all over the word and making their work available to my followers. I love promoting the design community and helping people match with the right designers.
Designed By Woulfe has invited Tova Ossad of Ossad Art Management to interview a range of art world personalities. Her fifteen years' experience working in this sphere has exposed her to many artists, auction specialists, art advisors, conservators, and gallerists, thereby giving the Design Journal fresh insight into the fundamentals of art. This series will explore buying, selling, appreciating, and everything in between.