Ten years have gone by since Ashley first took a job with Jim Phelps of Carolina Design Group. Graduating with a BS in Interior Design from UWV, Ashley Jimenez and her husband moved to Charlotte where the job market for Interior Design offered more than just positions in sales. Interviewed by owner Jim Phelps and accepting a job offer provided her with the opportunity to move up in the company. The starting salary was minimal but would increase after the first 3 to 6 months of training. “So, liking a challenge, I was determined to make [Carolina Design Group] money from day one. I’m a hardworker with a good work ethic. I was determined to go above and beyond what they expected.” Nothing but good things happened after that. Carolina Design Group provided Ashley with the opportunity to move up the ladder and to learn firsthand the different areas, such as draftsman, construction documents, and design assistant. “Jim asked me, ‘What would you like to do?’ My response was simply; ‘I want to be a designer.’”
Ashley looks back on her childhood as the inspiration for her career. As a little girl growing up in West Virginia Ashley’s mom instilled in her creativity. “I was allowed to take part in the renovations we’d do. We’d pull up carpet and put down hardwood; she’d let me pick out stuff like sofas and paint schemes.” The ability to have some “liberties” to say what she wanted when renovating the family home allowed the individualism needed to excel in her profession. “Mom let me be who I wanted to be,” says Ashley. Of course, “Mom had to approve.” But, it instilled in Ashley a uniqueness that would be beneficial years to come. At first she didn’t realize what these childhood experiences would lead to; however, with her Mom’s encouragement she changed her major after freshman year from Education to Interior Design. At the end of her sophomore year, Ashley was one of 20 students chosen to continue in the “rather exclusive” and difficult major that would take three more years to complete.
The creation of Ashley J. Designs grew out of necessity. “I was on maternity leave when Jim had to close the doors to Carolina Design Group.” It was 2008 and Ashley’s husband, Joaquin (who is CEO of the company) pushed her into opening the business. At this point in time, Ashley had worked under Jim and two other assistants eventually becoming a designer. She had been mentored by the best, been taken under their wing and taught the ropes including how to “talk to clients and how to sell.” Because Joaquin is the entrepreneur in the family, he is willing to take chances. He wasn’t scared the business would fail since he knew Ashley enjoyed a challenge. “It worked out. Here it is eight years later, and I’ve been Building Designer from the get go.”
With no particular style of influence, Ashley focuses her building design on the wants and desires of her clients.
“What I want to do best if I don’t do anything else best is to listen to my clients. People want to be heard. You don’t want to feel dejected, so I make sure I listen to my clients and follow up with their specific requests.”
One of the most challenging aspects of building design is if a client has a need or want that’s not realistic. In order to change the client’s mind, you have to make him/her see it. “A lot of times if they see the idea on paper, they realize the idea is not very good. That’s why I always bring a roll of trace paper. It’s amazing how a roll of trace paper brings collaboration into a room.” The process is simple. A client suggests an idea, the idea is sketched, and then the client sees it. Whether or not the idea works is then discussed with other options provided. But, there is never a moment when the client’s ideas are ignored. This assures the client that when the dirt settles, the home is designed to their specifications not the designers.
Access to design trends has changed over the years. You used to have to wait for the next periodical or Architectural Digest to come out; however, with internet access new trends are instantaneously available. When a client comes to Ashley J Designs, “I literally envision them using the house. If she is a stay at home mom with three kids or if the couple have no children and are both working professionals, I view the functionality of the house differently.” This is where the trending ideas of locations are examined, such as location of bathrooms, scullery, mud room, foyer and other user friendly aspects of a home. When designing, Ashley puts a great deal of thought into her work. Her inspiration is organic based which is probably why she goes to T2 Design + Architecture on a regular basis in order to teach her clients how to visualize organic design, for example a home with one roof line, or a wall that appears curved but really isn’t, or a flat surface that you think has extra layers. “It’s all an aspect of ratios,” explains Ashley. You get “inspiration from ratios in natural beauty like the natural beauty on a tree branch. It’s challenging but beautiful with natural results.”
Ashley treats each client individually, each design like a puzzle, and views each project as having different pieces and parts. “At the end of the day all homes are dry wall and brick but inside each is different and unique. I get to know and understand each client, their passion and how they live in order to make their desires work by coming together to create function and beauty.” Ashley J Designs has a four step process when working with clients: Explore, Design, Detail Construction, and Celebrate. This process is a means to balance, to not only celebrating life but work as well, for balance in life is what makes work and home a success.