Growing up in a house filled with monochromatic rooms (picture Pepto Bismol pink carpeting and seating), Ashley Ross may not have inherited her design aesthetic from her mom, but she did carry on a love of intentionally decorated spaces.
As she got a bit older, however, and started considering her career path, she looked to her mom again—specifically, her ability to rally her community members in a greater effort to help others. After attending college and graduate school, Ross became a licensed fundraiser, returning to her hometown of Atlantic City to work at the same Boys & Girls Club that her mom had run.
“When I came back to Atlantic City—a place that people rarely get out of—they were very proud. It was very small-town hero-ish,” Ross tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “I had to remind myself that it was never my intention to stay home. I didn’t want to be a big fish in a small pond.”
After relocating to Charlotte, where she worked as executive director for the local chapter of a national nonprofit, Ross was gratified to find success in a new place—but still found herself yearning for more creative freedom in her career.
When Ross and her new husband bought their first home, she channeled that creativity into designing the space. They had both been raised by single moms who’d been renters all their lives, so having ownership over a house was a momentous occasion, one that prompted Ross to get intentional about each space, room by room. As she did so, the couple realized that each room she re-imagined became the place in the house they would gravitate toward—until she moved on to the next room, of course.
Experiencing how gratifying that process was motivated Ross to begin transitioning away from her day job and into a full-time design career. After leaving her director role, she opted for a job that would offer more flexibility as her business got off the ground. On social media, however, she told a slightly different story—one she’s just begun unraveling for her audience. In this conversation, Ashley shares why she kept her day job out of the public eye as her firm found its bearings, how hiring a business coach has served as a key source of accountability and why she’s carving out space for underrepresented groups in interior design.
Homepage image: Ashley Ross | Courtesy of Ashley Ross