Ashley Whittaker seems to navigate effortlessly between what she deems “the best of both worlds,” as her SUV almost instinctively steers itself from her piedàterre and design office in Manhattan toward Millbrook, New York, the scenic village that she and her husband, Andrew Spence, call home. “I appreciate and get so much energy from the bustle of the city, but I absolutely love living in the country,” says Whittaker. She finds the town, nestled in the Hudson Valley, a sophisticated and vibrant place to raise her family (the couple has a two-year-old son), and one where the spectacular beauty frequently lures them outdoors.
Such is the case on a crisp fall day like this one, the kind that inspires Whittaker to take full advantage of the picture-perfect weather to orchestrate a dinner party for friends. She knows just the ideal location, a nearby dressage farm called Roseview, owned by Judy and David Sloan (who happen to be great pals of the sort who would lend the same spot for Ashley and Andrew’s wedding rehearsal dinner five years ago). Guests will soon arrive to sip cocktails served from the farm’s charming party wagon and relax around the bonfire, before sitting down to a meal and table setting worthy of any dining room. “Fall is a magical time of year in Millbrook,” she says. “It’s definitely something to celebrate.”
Although rustic is not a word frequently used in Whittaker’s decorating vocabulary—she’s known for commandeering spirited palettes and patterns with a deft hand, and dubs her aesthetic “traditional with a youthful approach”—she relishes the opportunity to translate her perspective to the bucolic backdrop. That she employs the same principles she practices indoors seems, well, a natural.
“For me it’s about contrasts,” Whittaker says. “I want a table to be collected with special things, using the formal with the informal, and a mix of texture, periods, and color. A room should feel the same way.” And no matter whether she’s decorating in city or country, dining under a canopy of autumn foliage or with a view of urban lights, it’s a design philosophy she transports with stylish ease.
By Karen Carroll | Photography by Monica Buck | Styling by Nan Whitney
Ashley shares some great tips for fall entertaining