magazine | Oct 1, 2021 |
Ashley Whittaker: ‘Choose the Title Everyone Else Adores’

If you’re feeling the pull to see your name on the shelves of your local bookstore, you’re not alone. In BOH magazine’s Fall 2021 installment of The Handbook, designers talk about what it takes to push a monograph into the world.

Case Study: Ashley Whittaker

Since launching her firm in 2006, the New York designer has made lively takes on tailored, classic style her signature. Her first book, The Well-Loved House: Creating Homes with Color, Comfort and Drama, is out this fall.

Photograph all of your projects. It’s very labor-intensive, time-consuming and expensive, but that dedication to your work is the absolute first step. You should always have that in the back of your brain: I need these projects recorded. It makes all the difference, because when you do have a big enough body of work, you’re ready to go. It’s a lot less pain when you have 60 percent of the projects already photographed.

Ashley Whittaker: ‘Choose the Title Everyone Else Adores’
The Well-Loved House: Creating Homes with Color, Comfort and Drama by Ashley Whittaker
Courtesy of Rizzoli

Put yourself out there. It’s very intimidating to go to a book agent and say, “I’d like to sit down with you and talk about the process.” I think that’s a big hurdle—just the idea that people are interested enough in your work, or that your work is strong enough. I watched my friend Christopher Spitzmiller [whose monograph was published in March 2021] take the plunge first, and he had a wonderful agent that helped him. Within a year of him starting to shoot, I said, “OK, I’m ready to do it, too.”

Let the masters do their thing. That’s the beauty of having a book agent: You don’t necessarily do that part! You provide the materials and the background information; they create your bio and come up with a mock title for the book. Let them do what they do best, and you just keep designing. Micromanaging doesn’t really add anything to the process.

Choose the title everyone else adores. I wasn’t sure about the title we chose in the beginning—I didn’t know if it felt right. Having people respond to it as positively as they did early on made me feel like it was the right choice. It’s nice now to have your friends look at the cover and say, “Oh, my God, this is amazing, and I love the title.”

Meet your co-writer in person. Because of COVID, my writer and I weren’t ever able to meet face to face. We did it all over the telephone, which made it a bit more challenging than it might have been otherwise. Between me, her and the editors, we nailed the story, but it was hard at first to connect with someone who’s writing about something as personal as this is to me, and doing it all over the phone.

Trust that you can pull it off. I was just really happy with the process. It was less painful than I thought it was going to be! My staff is really excited about the book, too, and that means so much to me—to have the people who work with me be truly invested in what we do. They’re genuinely excited about this next stage.

Homepage image: A sitting area by Ashley Whittaker, crafted with flora-inspired patterns | Thomas Loof

This article originally appeared in Fall 2021 issue of Business of Home. Subscribe or become a BOH Insider for more.

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