Crafting Timeless Designs: An Interview with Ashley Yeates on Sustainability, Style, and the Art of Interior Design

Crafting Timeless Designs: An Interview with Ashley Yeates on Sustainability, Style, and the Art of Interior Design

In this exclusive interview, I get to sit down with Ashley Yeates, a renowned interior designer known for her sustainable practices and unique approach to creating timeless spaces. Ashley shares her insights on the design process, the importance of balancing aesthetics with functionality, and her passion for incorporating natural elements into her projects. Discover how Ashley’s background in law informs her meticulous approach to design and learn valuable tips for creating meaningful, environmentally conscious homes. Join us as we explore the art of interior design through the eyes of a true expert.

Can you walk us through your design process, from initial concept to final execution and how it is different from each client? 

Initial design work starts with a site meeting and discussion about project goals. As the design process is personal, it is as important to determine if personalities align as it is to ensure the goals and process are clear. Interior design is like a temporary marriage with a common goal, it starts off exciting, but the process is unpredictable. 

With money, emotions, timelines and so many humans involved to pull off the end goal…the process can be a roller coaster. I vet out who can handle the ride with grace and see the process as an adventure versus threat. 

I can’t say any two projects have ever been the same. I try to meet clients’ needs on a level that works best for them. I have found concept images, understanding lot/building potential and being realistic about budgets and timeline is critical for ensuring the ride is enjoyable versus overwhelming.  

Communication and mutual respect are key, everything in design is fixable unlike the practice of law. The creative process can be incredibly rewarding. Clients who embrace the ups and downs are often the happiest at the end.  

I like to refer to the process as the alphabet, I want to meet clients at A and show them Z before a single nail. If the end goal is clear, the steps along the way are less dramatic. I do this via concept images and mindfulness to the natural terrain. As a sustainable designer, I want to ensure what we create not only has style longevity but respect for health, environment and human connection. Like law, my role is to advocate the process. 

Clients and tradesmen/women are equally important to successful results, and we all must play in the same sandbox. I often set the rules and boundaries to ensure the end goal is not overshadowed by emotions along the way. I must admit, interior design is not for the faint of heart.

How do you approach understanding a client’s needs and preferences? 

Listen, listen and listen while owning my talent. Understanding someone’s needs is not always giving a client what they think they want. 

It is my job to assess wants and project potential. I like to present best case scenarios, if you can have your dream design what does that look like, and then advise on potential.  

Design is an investment; I want to see projects add personal and financial gain.  

Clients may know the style or overall vibe for their project but with limitless options in the marketplace, they get overwhelmed with the puzzle. I like to put enough pieces on the table for creativity while ensuring a completed puzzle arises.

 I like to get clients thinking outside the box. The best projects are a balanced mix of client, designer ideas and accepted surprises from trying something new.

What are your favorite sources of inspiration when starting a new project? 

The natural setting, I moved from Dallas, Texas to Carmel, California and was humbled by God’s project surrounding every project I touch. I feel people are more relaxed, happy when connected to nature. 

I start every project based on the view, natural setting in mind and work backward. This outside/in perspective changed my initial design process of layering objects to less is more. I don’t want my interiors to distract from natural beauty and if I find a project lacking the connection, I create it via a courtyard or landscaping feature. 

A well-designed home creates unexpected interest with cozy spaces to completely unwind.

Could you share an example of a challenging project you worked on and how you overcame obstacles during the design process? 

Television and the internet have made custom design more challenging, as has mass consumption, what I like to call fast furniture. 

Mindful design is not a weekend makeover, click of a button purchase or completely new room. It’s a curation of things over time, steps that incorporate a part of the client’s past.  

The most challenging project I encountered involved a client who got excited for progress and jumped to create spaces quickly versus mindfully. Mass produced internet purchases mixed into custom construction decisions that frequently changed and failed to see the project as a whole. 

Quick decisions often result in design disconnect. 

Respect for the process gives a project time and space to evolve with intention. I want homes to be a story of one’s life and adventure. I also want to educate on buying right means buying less. 

We can’t take what we own with us when we go, so let’s create meaningful spaces that connect us to other’s from the time enjoyed in them and with architecture and items that are special enough to be passed on.

How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in interior design? 

I am old school and love to flip through trade magazines. Law school certainly gave me an appreciation for research, and Google has made information easily accessible. I have fixed a water heater and garbage disposal from a quick search on my phone…not in my job role but doable. 

As a sustainable furniture designer, I devoted the past twelve years to developing a product that has been trial and error to fill the gap in mass produced and to the trade only brands. 

I learn the most from seeking out experts in various fields and asking them to teach me and/or try something new…you have to be a part of the process to innovate.

Can you discuss a project where you had to work within a tight budget? How did you manage to deliver quality design within those constraints? 

I have dorm room experience, the budget doesn’t get any tighter than that, and repurposed pieces are ideal for watching the budget while preventing waste. 

Quality to me is based on natural content which is often pricier. If I can find slightly used items or hand pick items already owned and re-upholster, paint or reconstruct to meet the need, I remove otherwise new purchases from the list which allows the budget to cover special purchases like organic sheets.

Buying less is more, even when budgets are tight, I ask clients to think long term and phase purchasing as to build a collection over time.  I am currently building my personal home. As I review items in storage, I am grateful to have purchased quality and eclectic pieces along my journey.

I will be reupholstering and restoring things I could have given away when space was limited.  These collection pieces are a part of my story and save me thousands on buying new ones.

Buy right, buy once! Create a home that tells your story in a meaningful way as to have your kids want to have the story told again in their homes and kid’s homes. Great design creates a legacy and connection between what we own and memories made.

Collaboration is often key in interior design projects. Can you talk about a time when you successfully collaborated with other professionals, such as architects or contractors? 

Collaboration is key in design; I will never know more about paint than a painter. 

I love sitting side by side with an architect or testing designs in the field with a builder.  People see things differently and working through ideas with diverse approaches serves to improve the project results. 

Human connection through the design process sets the unseen tone for the result. I want warmth to exude from my projects, in order for warmth to linger long after the work is done, people have to respect and empathize with others along the way. No one is more or less important than another on a jobsite or in life.

Sustainability is a big part of what you are passionate about, can you tell our readers why and how we can all work towards being better in this area around our homes. 

If you never had another trash truck come to your home, how would you consume differently? The things we buy have a lifespan and what is thrown out is not disappearing. 

If we all start to think about packaging, purchasing in regard to everything eventually being wasted, I think we will agree, we need less and can appreciate what we have more.  

As I deal with purchasing all day long, I feel guilty about my part in creating waste.

The Ashley Yeates Collection is an example of how we can reduce waste in the furniture industry while seeking to eliminate toxins, employing Americans and glamourizing a dying art. 

I want to go back in time, educate on the importance of everyone’s role in mass consumption so personal preferences are incorporated in design, non-toxic steps protect the health of those making the pieces; patience is part of the excitement in receiving the piece and our landfills are decreasing versus filling up. 

My line is as much about educating on waste as a means for demonstrating an alternative approach to purchasing.

How do you ensure that your designs are both aesthetically pleasing and functional for the end-users? 

Aesthetics are easy with limitless options for creating, it’s comfort and form that determine enjoyment and use of the design. 

This is where listening to the client is critical.  I have to run a project to the end before starting to ensure the design process meets the clients’ needs. If I know a person likes to read in the living room, I create a design plan that offers adjustable lighting, a warming fireplace and a chair/sofa that is comfy yet firm. 

The only way to have both is to define the use before creating the space.

Can you provide examples of how you incorporate sustainable design practices into your projects? 

I start with the impact of the project on the natural setting, consider a client’s health and age, specify materials that are non-toxic, factor in energy efficiency, provide for ventilation, design with durability and longevity and appreciate the impact of the project on property values. 

Sustainable practices can be as simple as reducing waste and as complicated as respecting one’s part in our country’s job force…it’s appreciation for the big picture and everyone’s daily impact on this planet.

How do you handle feedback or revisions from clients during the design process? 

I love feedback, collaboration is key to one’s connection with their home. One of my favorite projects was for an LA producer who wanted a golf retreat for he and seven friends to gather for scotch, cigars and golf. 

I had never put a urinal in a private residence powder bath. I would hope to not do it again as they should come with pee pads for the floor to protect my tile designs, but his ideas and needs added character I would have not achieved without insight to his dream golf house, locker room included. 

His goal was achieved through understanding his intent in use and making unexpected elements part of the architectural interest when balanced with fine finishes.

Can you discuss a project where you had to balance the preservation of historical elements with modern design requirements? 

I purchased a 1927 Spanish Colonial home in Pebble Beach, California and managed to renovate it three times.  Barron’s Magazine referred to it as “the charm of Pebble Beach.”  The home sparked my love for historical architecture and sustainability. 

It was a labor of love to replace the 1985 renovations for period appropriate finish out while opening rooms up to provide for modern day functionality. The guest room off the kitchen transformed beautifully into a family room allowing the kitchen to feel twice as large.

The single car garage was replaced with a two car and golf cart garage supporting the new master bedroom, closet and bath above. The mix of modern-day functionality and space while complimenting period architecture and finishes keeps this home relevant for years to come.  If you balance classic style with current comfort, a project transcends time.

What do you consider to be the most important aspect of a successful interior design project? 

The most important aspect of successful interior design is the connection between nature, home and human.  A project is only as successful as the energy it gives off once complete, even a non-sensitive person can feel balance. 

Balance is the culmination of all levels of design playing off each other for comfortable living and aesthetic stimulation without over stimulating. A successful interior reflects its surroundings and homeowner’s personality.  Custom furniture often adds a key element to comfort and functionality once complete.  Furniture should fit and not overwhelm the space, and I like to leave space for collecting “special pieces” over time. A balanced home is a museum of one’s life.

How do you approach creating a cohesive design scheme that reflects a client’s personal style? 

A cohesive design gets to know the client, architectural style and renovation life span and approaches the project with a growth plan. At times we grow quickly, all at once and stall, more often we take active steps to improve and expand with room to branch out. 

If a general design style is established, current home edits can help take past finds into the next phase.  It is the process of running the process forward while taking inventory backward. One’s style comes to life. 

Unlike reality shows where clients leave and come back to a new home, cohesive design takes time and understanding for where one is going as much as where they have been.

What do you believe sets you apart from other interior designers, and what unique strengths do you bring to a project? 

My law background helps me stay out of emotional ups and downs while understanding I work for the client, and the client needs subcontractors to work for them. I am the mediator of what is desired and the people who can make it come to life. 

In other service areas, you pay for your item and limited service like meal, haircut, car wash, clothing and walk out with what you pay for unlike the design process which is often vague and paid for along the way.  It is a special relationship that requires trust, patience and understanding.  

I find clients who respect the uncertainty of the project while believing in the goal get the best results, those who need to micromanage, doubt and control inadvertently create a mess. I bring a certain sense of respect for what can be if you let go and enjoy surprises along the way.  Design is more stressful than law at times, there are too many people involved in the process to expect perfection. 

Often what results in the most successful projects is the foundation for the most joyful lives, acceptance of the process. I don’t sugar coat my role, I bring logic, humor to anything is possible with patience. 

Most importantly, I bring human connection to the journey while respecting each project’s overall impact to the bigger picture.  

It has been nothing but a pleasure doing this interview with Ashley, who has not only helped me understand the ins and outs of design and client work, but has inspired me to do better with the environment around my own home and daily life! 

You can contact Ashley over at:

IG: @ashleyyeatesdesign 



Photographer: Rowan Daly

Style: L’Agence Fashion 

Makeup: @lifeofmelbe

Writer: Lucy Wilson

Thank you for reading this special article, enjoy!

Saqib Malik

Saqib Malik is a Digital Marketing Expert. He made a huge name for himself with his skills in digital marketing in the music and film industry; and in 2019 he founded Prestige Perfections, working with many elite artists, celebrities, movies and labels. He is also the owner of the news portal Clout News.
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