Five Under Forty: Ashley Campbell

Ashley Campbell Interior Design | Denver
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Portrait by Jennifer Olson

Design is in Ashley Campbell’s DNA. While she was growing up, her parents owned a design firm with successful furniture showrooms throughout Wisconsin that employed a team of 25 interior designers. “Then, one year,” recalls Campbell, “we took a Christmas vacation to the Vail Valley, and my mother started doing design projects in Vail.” Her parents decided to move to Colorado when Campbell was in high school, and she’s lived here ever since.

Headed into college, Campbell wasn’t sure she wanted to follow her folks into the family business. “I had a giant respect for their work— it was a really beautiful and creative outlet— but I saw how demanding the job was.” So she majored in English, earning her bachelor’s at the University of Denver, with the aim of becoming a writer. After working various jobs while in college and through her early twenties, Campbell realized that nothing but design made her “soul sing.” So she sat down with her parents one night and said, “I might have to eat a little crow—I have a serious interest in the design world.”

2103 12 Black White And Gold New Build March 31, 2021 © 2021 / Meagan Larsen

Photo by Meagan Larsen

In 2005, after studying interior design at the Art Institute of Colorado, Campbell opened a small retail store in Cherry Creek North where she sold “cash and carry” items—unique artwork, accessories, and rugs. The store was a success—so much so that customers began asking Campbell to help them with their interior design. “So I went where my passion lay, which was high-end residential design projects, and closed the store in 2012.” Ever since, says Campbell, “We’ve been so blessed to have so many wonderful clients that have always instilled the utmost faith in us.”

Campbell, who has three boys of her own, says her mother’s guidance has acted as inspiration. “I have a huge respect for the inherent pragmatism in my mother’s designs, which I think I inherited. I appreciate high-end design—but it’s kind of like fashion: Anybody can look great in head-to-toe Prada or St. John or Escada, right? But it takes a real eye and real precision to take something from a flea market and pair it with a high-end piece.”

Campbell, whose work has been spotlighted on TV design shows like Building Belushi and HGTV’s House Hunters Renovation, enjoys a broad range of projects. “We try to accommodate any style, any budget, any size project. Our favorites are the large-scale remodels or the new-construction projects. New construction is exciting because if we get involved early, we form a great collaborative rapport with the architect, the builder, and the homeowner. It’s really fun to dream those big dreams.”

2103 09 Taos New Mexico Home Remodel March 30, 2021 © 2021 / Meagan Larsen

Photo by Meagan Larsen

“Interior design is such a personal process, with so many decisions at play. There are something like 15,000 decisions to make in a bathroom alone! Everybody goes into this process excited—who wouldn’t be about building a new home or renovating one? But there are going to be times when a client doesn’t want to make one more decision. That’s when trust is key—if you trust your architect, your builder, and your designer, it will all work beautifully.”

“There’s an empathetic or intuitive side to design, and it’s invaluable to be able to pick up subtleties with clients. We end up knowing how your life functions, right down to how you organize your sock and underwear drawers! Many people will never have the opportunity to do a remodel or build a home, so it should be a celebratory process—you should be laughing and enjoying yourself. I think that’s why I end up becoming lifelong friends with most of my clients.”

“I got a call on a Thursday night in 2014 from a producer for HGTV. She said, ‘We need a designer quick for a house that Jim Belushi is building in Southern Oregon. Can you get to his place tomorrow?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ It was fantastic for so many reasons. I got to develop a friendship with Jim Belushi, who is every bit as charming and adorable in person as he is on TV and in movies. And the project was very real: We actually designed each room you see in the series, and we used a lot of locally sourced, sustainable materials that Jim has a fondness for. It was a blast.”

“I have a preferred style for myself—I love organic, contemporary style with lots of textures and high contrast— but my designs are really client-specific. I’ve grown to appreciate that we can achieve just about any look—except French Provincial, which is off the table for me!”

“A designer friend of mine said to me several years back, ‘Ashley, you pair things together that borderline don’t work, but somehow you make them work.’ At first I thought, ‘Should I be offended by that?’ But I realized she was right: I would never advise my clients to buy a matching bedroom set or a matching dining set. I find it much more exciting to mix finishes and materials. Sometimes, the more mismatched, the better. We like to bring things right to the edge.”

“I get my inspiration everywhere. I pore through all of the great design magazines. I have a manila file folder, probably six inches thick, of all the designs I find spectacular and want to do an iteration of. And Pinterest is awesome. With the pandemic, it’s been a great tool for exchanging ideas back and forth. I do a lot of my best thinking at 3 in the morning. That’s when I go to the think tank—it’s like a lucid dream: ‘There’s the solution to that difficult space!’ ”

See the rest of the 2021 Five Under Forty design award winners.

Categories: Stylemakers