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Inside the Upper East Side Closet of Ashley Stark

Though a minimalist at first glance, the interior design afficionado's collections argue otherwise.

Sean Davidson
Inside the Upper East Side Closet of Ashley Stark

“Right now, it's the wide leg pant, a little crop top, and one of my mom's vintage Chanel jackets over it. It's my go-to look,” designer Ashley Stark says of her current uniform, before adding a long coat, and a beanie to the list—it is the middle of winter in New York, after all. Sitting in her Upper East Side townhouse, that’s exactly what the creative director of Stark Carpet and founder of Ashley Stark Home is wearing. Today’s version entails a Naked Cashmere crop top, Nili Lotan pants, a Khaite belt, and Tabitha Simmons platforms—oh, and a hand-me-down CHANEL jacket, of course. As is customary for Stark, the color spectrum from the whole ensemble ranges from beige to a creamy white to stark white.

“I'm constantly surrounded by so much color and pattern all day long, I like to just detox from it, which is why my home and closet are not so colorful,” she says. At first glance this sentiment applies. Her home has that bright and hotel-clean feeling only a muted color palette can supply, but it stops short of monastic minimalism. Each creamy item warrants individual intrigue. “If you break it down, there's texture, there's different [shades], the wallpaper is corded with metallic,” she explains. “There's always something.”

Her closet has more flair than she gives herself credit for, as well, or at least its contents do. The space (which is about the size of a bedroom) is serene, blanched—you guessed it—white. Since the pandemic, this "closet" has become an office in addition to its function as a storage facility. ”I try to keep it extra organized,” she says. “Otherwise, you'd see a bra hanging in the background [of a zoom].” Behind her desk and lucite chair (had she known of the WFH lifestyle, she may have selected differently), three mismatched Noguchi lanterns hang from the ceiling and double-doored mini closets envelop the space. Open one set, you’ll find stacks of neutral-hued chunky knits (a sartorial siren song on this chilly NYC day). But open another, and it’s rows of tweed Chanel jackets. She pulls out one that’s rosy-hued and trimmed in patterned silk, one rendered in orange and gold, then another boasting a pastel yellow hue—with a mini skirt to match. While we swoon over Chanel, Stark opens a low drawer, from which she heaps stacks of turquoise jewelry upon her closet island.

The Chanel jackets came by way of her mother and grandmother's couture taste, the turquoise a product of her godmother Iris Apfel’s eccentricity (Stark Carpet acquired Apfel's company, Old World Weavers, in 1992). Style permeates her family's legacy as well as business acumen; Stark counts herself lucky to have grown up in the familial circle of such individual women. Her grandmother, she muses, was always “dressed to the nines in her Chanel suits.” Very proper. Very put together. Apfel served as grandma's sartorial character foil. “Since I was six years old, [she] was always telling me, ‘Don't listen to everybody. Be who you are going to be. Always accessorize. The bigger, the better. More color.’ She would take me into these design meetings, and she'd be like, ‘Nobody answer. Ashley, what do you like?’" Her mother was a mix of these two sentiments. “Fearless, proper, trendy, into all the styles, but such a strong woman who never really listened to anybody but her own.”

They taught Stark to trust her own sense of style early-on. (Early on, she convinced her father to add more feminine colors to their roster like grey and lavender; grey is now their best-selling hue). That said, she began her Stark journey at the bottom, in distinctly uncreative roles. "It was really important to my father that I learned all aspects of the company," she explains. Despite that more corporate introduction to business, Stark veered the opposite direction when it came to dressing for the office. “My feet were so torn up from the Manolo era,” she laughs, then recounts more seriously, “Where a lot of people were wearing Theory suits, I was in these dresses with lots of jewelry and high boots.” She began to garner attention for her individuality, noting coworkers would often comment on her ensembles. “I realized that fashion could be powerful.”

She’s since transported that personal flair not only to a lead creative role at the company (in addition to founding Ashley Stark home), but to her personal instagram account. Next to shots of her own home, there's images from a cozy Paris project of Véronique Cotrel's or an amazing light fixture in the stairwell of an Amber Lewis home. “When I first started it, it was [essentially] a Pinterest board," she explains. "I do all the designing for Stark. I am constantly looking for inspiration, and it was a way for me to organize my thoughts,” she explains. Suddenly, she had 10,000 followers. Soon, she began to make things a little more personal, inserting herself (and her ensembles) into the conversation. "It's funny, the most DMs I get are about my fashion, what I'm wearing," she muses. "I swear, if I forget to tag something, I get 500 DMs being like, 'Where are those shoes from? Can you link your pants?'" Her coveted OOTD shots translate her interior design ethos to fashion. It's luxe yet approachable; most of the working mother's looks are simply composed of knitwear, tailoring, and denim. So, you can understand why she has over a million followers. "People write me all the time, ‘Came for the interior, stayed for the fashion.’” Shop her closet essentials here.

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