Ashley Porter’s Artisanal Living
West Coast Meets the Big Easy
Ashley Porter has a love for both design and for New Orleans. It’s only natural that the two come together in her work and her home. The former, her eponymous jewelry line, Porter Lyons, (the family name Lyons is Porter’s middle name), with each collection draws on some element of the city. The latter, her newly renovated 1906 raised shotgun-style house, is a place where rustic, West Coast and historic New Orleans meet with effortless ease.
Porter, a California native, attended Tulane and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles and has degrees in finance and design. After working for Ralph Lauren and Balanciaga, she returned to New Orleans, launched her business (which has two brick and mortar locations as well as a website), married fellow designer Martin Holly and now has a baby on the way. In between, she somehow found time to renovate a house.
The condition of the house required that it be taken down to the studs, yet Porter was determined to preserve its indigenous character and materials. At her father’s suggestion, she opened the ceiling above the main living area and kitchen and exposed the existing beams. She also kept the original heart pine floors, matching them where necessary and stripped the doors down to their natural state.
“I’m trained as a designer and artist,” she said. “The process of designing a piece of jewelry is the same in structure as the process of designing a house. I’m inspired by the materials first. Let them speak to you and tell you what they want to do and do best and then bring in the design concept and application.”
At the same time, Porter brought a more modern feel to the house by opening the floorplan, making the kitchen integral to the living space and contrasting the organic quality of the woods with fresh, minimalist white. Countertops of white marble veined with sage and brown were the spring board for the selection of paint colors and are kept clutter-free so that the beauty of the stone speaks for itself.
“I’m trying not to be a knickknack person,” Porter said. “I like clean surfaces.”
As an artist and a merchant, Porter used materials and artisans found locally wherever possible. The custom cabinetry is by Jeremy Gresham and the crescent moon stained glass window inside the pediment above the columned front porch was a
collaboration between Porter and artist Kyle Hubbs.
As the project evolved, Porter’s California roots and love of Native American culture also came through. Navajo reds, feathers and dream catchers (which Porter both collects and makes), a vintage orchard ladder found in Texas and fabrics from Ethiopia are sewn into the relaxed design scape with a finesse that’s part cool California boho (bohemian and hippie style) girl, part Ralph Lauren Americana and part seasoned designer.
A veteran flea market shopper, Porter has mixed in finds acquired along the way: an artist’s cabinet for storing prints, a church mirror found at the Round Top antiques fair in Texas, and an antique door from Indonesia, used as the focal point for the garden wall, for example. The art, a colorful presence in the house, is mostly collected from her travels. Crystal specimens, sourced and carried by Porter Lyons, are found throughout.
The newest space, the nursery, is decorated with birch and pine woods, a calming combination of beige and sage, and a spiritually grounding stable of Buddhist statues. Like the rest of the house, which is already home to a backyard of chickens and a lovable French bulldog named Gaston, it is welcoming and down to earth.
“Home is for gathering community and friends and is a place of love,” Porter said. “I designed my home around the idea of bringing good people together to create a warm atmosphere of natural beauty.”