Inside the (Country) Nest of Ashley Putman

Jonathan Lerner. Produced by Jenny Antill. Photography Jack Thompson.
January 07, 2013

The old farm comprises 100 acres of gentle prairie outside Fayetteville. “I thought, ‘This is too much land!‘ How do you take care of all that?’ I’m a city girl! But when we saw the house, we were convinced.” The girl? Freelance graphic designer Ashley Putman. A Baton Rouge native, she lived in Dallas, New Orleans and New York — where she worked at Barneys under creative director Simon Doonan and art director Susie Jones — before settling down in Houston. She’s married to lawyer Steve Putman, with whom she has two sons, John and Scotty, eight and four. The farmhouse? A simple dwelling most likely built before 1900. “It was completely dilapidated, not updated in probably 40 years,” she says. “There was gross wallpaper, linoleum floors. But I liked that we would save it, bring it back to life. We had to pull up everything — and we got lucky. There were shiplap walls and longleaf pine floors throughout.”

And what about that abundance of land? “It just kind of takes care of itself,” she says. With a little help from Steve, that is, who clears the deadwood and keeps bees. “We just enjoy it; we get on the Polaris and ride around, take nature walks. It’s all about letting the boys run free and explore. The minute we get out of the car my oldest is catching crickets.” It’s also about Ashley’s de rigueur Saturday uniform of jeans and T-shirts, a bracing house cocktail invented by Steve, long rustic dinners with friends, and the effortlessly relaxed, appealingly quirky interior spaces she designed. In all, she has created a perfect exemplar of the country house in its restorative essence.

Why graphic design? I thought maybe I would go into painting and took art classes. But I was interested in businesses. I didn’t want to just throw my emotions on a canvas. I wanted to do something creative, but also to think. What hooked me was being able to think through a problem for a business.

Who gets branding right? This is such a girl thing, but J.Crew. I am obsessed with them, because of [creative director] Jenna Lyons. She’s done amazing things for that business. Graphically, they’re great. Their ads are beautifully put together and styled. I always love Target’s ad campaigns. IKEA does a great job too. For fashion, Céline — and, of course, Barneys.

For interiors, what does graphics teach? You’re concerned with all the things you would think about when you’re designing a page: color, balance, focal point, perspective. And when to stop.

Do we sense a career switch? I think about becoming an interior designer all the time. But I’d have to go back to school, wouldn’t I? Maybe I could just start a styling business? It might happen.

She ♥ NY Living in New York changed me forever. Seeing the world convene in one city, all the different cultures and viewpoints, all of the arts at your fingertips. I devoured it.

Professional paragon. French art director Vahram Muratyan. (He’s behind the Prada Parallel Universes Initiative and the sensational flipbook Paris versus New York). He embodies what great graphic design is about: communicating in the simplest, most beautiful way possible. And adding a little humor or surprise never hurts.

Why Fayetteville? I didn’t even know it existed until we started looking for a place to go and relax. It’s untouched as compared to places that are more popular, like Round Top, and it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. It’s just charming and quiet. There’s lots of land, wide open spaces.

Houston, we have a problem. There’s not a lot of history in Houston when it comes to beautiful buildings. But you can’t just tear down everything. That’s the reason we saved that house. And it’s given us so much joy, seeing what it is today.

Steve Putman’s mixological offering, Snow on the Prairie.
2 ounces gin
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce Cynar
1/2 ounce lime juice

Shake, pour over ice and top with soda. Balanced and refreshing!

Pop Quiz
Color? Red.
Scent? Rose.
Flower? Peony.
Vegetable? Tomato. Oh wait, is tomato a vegetable?
Wine? Bordeaux.
Car? My husband’s old Mercedes.
Music? Etta James.
Foreign city? Positano.
NY neighborhood? The West Village.
Book? Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.