We were high-school freshmen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when Ariel Ashe first allowed people a glimpse into one of her singular visual worlds. The designer and co-founder, alongside architect Reinaldo Leandro, of design firm , was a relatively shy, self-contained kid, so it was a surprise to learn she’d written a play, which she planned to direct herself.
Alexi, left, in an Erdem dress and Dior coat, with her sister, Ariel, in a dress and coat by Dior, in front of the Maple Leaves quilt at the nearby Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust.
“Of course I remember The Fashionate Kiss!” exclaims Ashe’s sister, Alexi Ashe Meyers. “It was a completely original idea based off of a book she had read, and also her love of fashion and set design.” Though Alexi can vividly recall the anthropomorphized characters (there were a bee and a cheetah, among others) and the distinct way that each one moved (Ariel collaborated with her classmate Jillian Peña, now an esteemed choreographer), as well as the irreverent sound track (Blue Swede’s cover of “Hooked on a Feeling” featured prominently), she can’t remember a single plot point.
The family room in the circa-1790 Georgian country home that interior designer Ariel Ashe renovated with her sister, Alexi Ashe Meyers, and Alexi’s husband, Seth Meyers, in Litchfield County, Connecticut. The custom armchair and ottoman are in a velvet, and the cabinetry is painted in Green Smoke by .
In what now seems like a foreshadowing of Ashe + Leandro’s signature aesthetic, the aim of The Fashionate Kiss was mainly experiential: Ariel wanted to curate an entire sensory reality and generate a little jewel box of time that transported us to a prettier, calmer, and more inspiring place.
In the entry hall, the lamp was a gift from Diane von Furstenberg and the Persian rug is from .
To be honest, Ariel hasn’t changed that much since we were 14. (We’ve known each other since middle school.) On a recent picturesque Saturday, she is touring me through her latest curated mini universe, the Litchfield County, Connecticut, home where she, along with Alexi and Alexi’s husband, Seth Meyers, and their two-year-old son, Ashe, spend many of their weekends. (At press time, the Meyerses were expecting a springtime baby. Their second son, Axel, was born on April 8.)
The guest room’s bed is topped with a blanket from and tapestry pillows from ; the mural is by .
The idea of buying a home in the area was sparked during a visit to their friend Diane von Furstenberg’s nearby farm, Cloudwalk. A search led them to this red-brick Colonial in the middle of a land trust. “We wanted a quirky place with an English country home feel,” says Ariel, who painted the house in a historic Victorian palette and embellished it with floral wallpaper and murals.
As we enter the cozier of the two living rooms, we encounter Seth, who is writing jokes on his laptop, and the couple’s de facto first child, Frisbee Ashe Meyers, an Italian greyhound who is sleeping by the fire in a custom dog bed designed by Ariel.
In the formal living room, an RH, sofa is in a linen, the custom bench is in a fabric, and the walls are in Oval Room Blue by .
“These things are mostly from eBay, flea markets, and antiques stores around here,” she says. She points out a painting in the hallway. “I literally just searched online for ‘antique oil portrait,’ ” she says. Alexi completely trusts her sister’s design eye. “Her gut is so good,” she says, “that I don’t buy anything without first texting her a picture.”
Seth concurs. He’s known his sister-in-law since 2001, when he was still on Saturday Night Live, where she was an intern. Later, she helped him with the design of his apartments. “Babe, how much did I even show you of what we had planned for this house?” Alexi asks her husband. “Nothing,” he replies, laughing. “I fully bought in.”
A Tom Borgese artwork sits on a vintage chest in Ariel’s bedroom.
The hanging copper pots in the kitchen were a special request from Alexi; by the sink, the lavender lotion and soap from Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm are among several nods to the family’s New Mexico roots; and a chest in the entryway was purchased from the original owner.
Alexi (left), in a Chanel dress and Barrie sweater, and Ariel, holding her nephew, Ashe, in a Barrie sweater and Chanel pants, tour a local farm.
The tour winds up the staircase, through the bedrooms and into the attic, where we find — very deliberately, Alexi notes — the one TV in the house. Ariel points out an array of sometimes elegant (alabaster lamps), sometimes quirky (a Mexican saint portrait), and always exquisite objects. The house is impeccably appointed, but not fancy: Real people live here, the rooms seem to say. “It’s never just about, ‘Oh, this is beautiful, you’ll never use it, but get it,’” Ariel explains. “I want things to be useful and to feel meaningful.”
An antique dining table is set with heirloom china from the sisters’ mother; the antique chandelier is Flemish, the curtains are of a , and the walls are in Rectory Red by .
When we were kids, Ariel wouldn’t sleep over at anyone else’s house. Other people’s rooms were “scary,” she always said. And so we would all trek up to her family’s adobe hideaway in Placitas, New Mexico, and spend the night in her world. “Do you remember the hat-box phase, when she had all the wicker furniture?” Alexi asks. “And then she got rid of the hat boxes and just lined the top rim of her room with black-and-white photos? And then one day, you’d come home and those would be gone, and she’d have stencil-painted all around her room.”
The tub in Ariel’s bathroom is original, and the curtain is of a linen with a velvet trim.
When Ariel arrived in New York City at 18 to study set design at New York University, she brought her room with her, remaking her studio apartment in its image, down to the “camel floral Ralph Lauren bedding.” Staying close to her roots helps Ariel to visualize what will inspire others. She still maintains a West Village apartment that is an iteration of her childhood bedroom: “It’s a lot of things from New Mexico, like Navajo rugs, Indian pots, and red chile jars, and from other places, too, like a big African tribal rug. It’s all stuff I have an attachment to.”
In Ariel’s bedroom, the headboard and wallpaper are in a pattern, the pillow is in a fabric, and the side table is from the .
She pauses, takes a sip of her hot toddy, then brings up a friend’s apartment where the bookshelves are cluttered with campy knickknacks. I assumed she hated it, but I could not have been more wrong. “He had all those little vignettes set up, all these odd little scenes that make him happy,” she says. “I’m like that, too. My room is like my museum. It’s weird, but I love it.”
Ariel has built a career applying that intuitive, deeply personal sense of how a space should feel to rooms that are not her own. The Connecticut house “didn’t need fi up, really,” she says. But she knew it could become “this magical cottage.”
This story originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of ELLE DECOR.