One step into Ashley Gilbreath’s historic Montgomery, A.L. home and the fresh scent of greenery and soft sounds of Christmas carols greets you. The grand architecture of the Old Cloverdale home shines with a gorgeous dressing of holly, magnolia and pine.
Gilbreath has a knack for breathing fresh life into old homes. From the six historic homes that she and her husband have renovated to her successful interior design firm and retail store, PARISH, she is in high demand in Montgomery. For the Holiday Issue, Gilbreath has invited Julep into her home for a taste of her stunning style.
Gilbreath, who carries herself with all the graciousness of a southern belle, has created a warm and welcoming atmosphere in what could be an intimidating old house. Her white brick home has been proudly restored with as many original details as possible. Not an easy task when the entire foundation and fireplace had to be rebuilt and every room in the house had to be completely updated.
It took Gilbreath and her husband more than a year to complete the project, although she will tell you that home and design is always evolving.
Now, when you walk in the front door, the rich, dark wood of the front stairwell greets you with fresh greenery cascading down and an enormous live tree nearly reaches the ceiling in the double-height foyer.
“I’m big into fresh greenery,” she acknowledges with a wave of her hand toward the stairwell, “it smells good and looks good. I think every room needs a punch of green – a little somethin’.”
A tour of her home reveals even more fresh greenery – there is a gorgeous wreath and garland bedecking the antique mirror over the fireplace in the foyer, another fresh wreath and garland on the range hood in the stunning kitchen in the back of the home and finally a magnificent magnolia wreath on yet another over-sized antique mirror in her living room.
“The best thing about the magnolia wreath is that it will continue to look good over time,” Gilbreath explains, “it’s beautiful now – so green and fresh – and will be beautiful as it dries out. You get so much bang for your buck with these.”
And with that, Gilbreath’s design motto is apparent: Keep it fresh, keep it timeless, and keep it neutral.
“I’m really frugal-minded,” Gilbreath explains. “I tend to keep everything neutral and then use accessories to make it pop.”
It’s easy to see this clean and neutral aesthetic in her home design and holiday décor. Take her front living room for instance. Soft beige walls make the original dark wood moldings stand out. Antique chairs and one-of-a-kind furnishings are covered in modern tan fabrics and the large sofa in Gilbreath’s living room is home to a variety of throw pillows, including three coral ones– which Gilbreath says is her favorite color of the moment.
“I can be budget-happy and keep my mind at ease because when I get tired of coral, I only have to replace 3 pillows,” Gilbreath says.
The coral pillows are a bit unexpected and pop in a room that is otherwise designed to make the historic details of the house the star.
“I keep everything neutral and timeless so you can appreciate the architecture of the house,” she says. “It all compliments each other.”
And compliment it does. Gilbreath has found a way to blend historic and modern without making anything seem out of place. A built-in cabinet with doors in the living room hides a flat-screen TV from view and a wooden armoire in the nook of the downstairs bedroom actually opens up into a modern shower. It’s an ingenious design that turned a half-bath into another full-bathroom downstairs.
“In this house you’ll see that you don’t have to have historic stuff in a historic house, you can make it modern,” Gilbreath says.
For Christmas, Gilbreath has chosen decorations that fit perfectly into her timeless home design. The towering tree in the foyer is the focal point and it shines with more than 3,000 lights and simple glass and metallic ornaments. To add texture, Gilbreath made an inexpensive burlap runner to weave through the tree and a tree skirt. The overall look is fresh and timeless.
Berries and branches of holly and magnolia have been casually displayed in antique glasses and vases around the home. Fresh garland drapes over banisters, mantles, mirrors and even on the kitchen cabinets. On the fireplace mantle, white candles of all shapes and sizes make an elegant display. With Gilbreath’s a classic designs and fresh approach to the holidays and it is easy to see why she is so coveted in Montgomery.
“I saw that there was a void here (in Montgomery) for a young look,” says Gilbreath, “so I set out to change that.”
And Montgomery hasn’t looked better.
Ashley Gilbreath’s Holiday Design Tips
- Use Fresh Greenery. It looks good and will make your home smell wonderful.
- Go Outside. Don’t be afraid to pick branches or berries from your yard, your neighbors or a nearby park. A pine cone spray-painted glossy white and hung as a Christmas ornament would look divine!
- Lights! A Christmas tree filled with lights really doesn’t need anything else. The more lights the merrier!
- Add Some Texture. Use fabrics like burlap to give your décor more depth.
- Keep It Neutral. Glass ornaments will never go out of style.
- Don’t Forget The Mirrors. They look terrific with wreaths hanging from them.
- Light Candles. From my favorite Aquisse scented candles to tea lights, candles make anything feel more festive.