Ashley & Her Home
“Surround yourself with meaningful things.” That’s just one of the many tips Ashley Daly of Retro Den shares with us today as we show off her beautiful home and learn more about her business. She believes that a home is a chance to reflect on who you are, where you’ve been and who you want to be. Ashley’s home, which she shares with her husband and 2-year-old daughter, tells the story of their life and what matters most to them, and it serves as a peaceful place to start the their days. Given that Ashley’s business is selling vintage, there’s no shortage of amazing and meaningful treasures in her home, but it’s also chock-full of love. It’s an inviting and comfortable space, so sit back, relax and enjoy the full home tour below.
Your home is beautiful! Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the décor and where you found your love for vintage?
In my early 20s, I went to an older woman’s home for a work gathering, and her house was magical and full of color and interesting objects. I told her I loved her style, and she said, “Thanks! It’s called ‘whatever I like.’” I love that reply. I got my love for vintage from my mom. She always took me to the coolest places to look for décor for our home. I loved marveling at the collections of things at our local flea market, wondering where on earth these vendors found their stuff, curious what life those pieces would go on to live. I used to drag my high school friends to the flea market like I was taking them to a grand ball. I wish I could tell young me what our future held—co-owning a vintage shop and helping others learn to love objects with meaning. She would have been so excited.
The things in my home are things that are well-made and meaningful to me. I feel happy seeing my vintage brass animal collection I started in my teens; I remember all the funny places I stumbled upon them—flea markets, garage sales (this one yard sale had an extensive zoo of brass animals, and I still wish I’d owned my store Retro Den then, so I could have rescued them all!), friends, a field in the middle of Texas. I love the books from my great-grandpa—those books remind me that someone has been here before me, in the middle of the rush of life, and to stop and enjoy my moments. A lot of the plants are cuttings from friends and the pots are made by people I know. I think objects with a story make a home feel warm and welcoming. They carry energy—the energy of history and passion. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by that? I think it helps me leave my home in a better mood, more likely to help others throughout my day.
The things in my home are things that are well-made and meaningful to me. I feel happy seeing my vintage brass animal collection I started in my teens…I think objects with a story make a home feel warm and welcoming. They carry energy—the energy of history and passion.
You quit your day job to go into the vintage shop/home styling business with your college friend. How has moving into a more creative role changed who you are as a business owner?
I find so much joy in running Retro Den. My business partner is also named Ashley, which is funny. She runs the numbers side of things in addition to being a full part of the creative side. Our shop is a place filled with one-of-a-kind decoration for homes. We have vintage, handmade items and plants. It’s a happy place. Any time I wake up and feel tired or don’t want to “work,” I just remind myself that I am going to a place packed with vintage treasures I got to find in the trunk of someone’s car, and that I get to help my customers make their homes places that inspire them and support them living kinder lives. I feel a deep sense of gratitude that I get to spend my days doing this work. I’ll never forget the day Ashley and I decided to make the huge life choice of quitting our day jobs and running a local shop, styling business and blog—I felt proud and brave and happy, like I was using my life the best way I possibly could.
I also want to add that owning my own business makes me very aware of how important it is to shop locally. The people in your towns working hard on their passion projects are what makes a city vibrant and special. These are people going out on a limb to bring fresh, thoughtful experiences to their customers.
I’ll never forget the day Ashley and I decided to make the huge life choice of quitting our day jobs and running a local shop, styling business, and blog—I felt proud and brave and happy, like I was using my life the best way I possibly could.
You’re also a busy working mama! Does your daughter share your love of vintage treasures?
My baby girl, Harriet, is just barely 2 years old, so I can’t say for sure that she loves vintage. She is certainly surrounded by it. She and my business partner’s daughter, Caroline, spend a lot of time at the shop playing with random old things (why buy a lot of toys when vintage plastic cups are just as intriguing to a toddler?). She has vintage quilts I’ve mended and handmade quilts from friends. I got her blocks from the Tulsa Flea Market. She is quite into rocks, so that’s about the most vintage you can get, right? I’m priming her to take over the family business, but who knows what is ahead for her vibrant self.
Your bedroom feels so peaceful. What are your tips for promoting relaxation in this or ANY space?
Toddlers, work, social media—life is busy! I need the mental calm that comes from a simple space. My husband and I have worked hard to cut down on the things we own, so we can better keep our home clean. Sadly, we both tend toward slovenliness. My mom always told me everything needs a home in your home. My rule is to only have as much as I have space to store things easily and beautifully. We can’t fit a dresser in our bedroom without it taking up a ton of space, so we put plastic drawer sets on our closet floor and got rid of enough things to make that work for us. It seemed radical, but it really made our bedroom calmer, and stuff is just stuff. It just as easily hinders good living as it can support it. Currently, my bedroom is a mess again, and I need to get rid of more stuff. If I can’t keep my clothes hung up, then I shouldn’t own that many clothes.
Beyond organizing and minimizing, surround yourself with meaningful things. Your home is a chance to reflect on who you are, where you’ve been and who you want to be. We sing Lyle Lovett’s “If I had a Boat” to our daughter each night, and we have framed vintage photos we’ve found of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (mentioned in the song) on our walls. I see this art and my heart is filled with the joy of that bedtime ritual. We have a mid-century wooden toy monkey we bought in Chicago on our seventh anniversary hanging on a lamp in our living room, and it brings levity and appreciation for my marriage to my everyday moments. Our home tells the story of our lives and reminds us of who we are and what matters to us; that is a grounding and peaceful place from which to start my days.
Having thoughtful surroundings, “a beautiful background,” supports the hard work of living and growing and caring that people need to do each day. This is the theory behind all that my business partner and I do in our shop, on our blog and with our home styling clients. We play a part in making homes more generous spaces for the people who live in them.
What’s your favorite part about working in the home styling business?
I absolutely love our mini-session option where we come to a client’s house and make it better that day with whatever they already own. We “shop their house” and rearrange furniture. We give ideas and homework for completing the space, but the room is always more functional and beautiful by the end of an hour. That is incredibly satisfying.
Ashley and I deeply believe that surroundings matter, and we aim to teach our clients how to interpret their home goals and how to make a space their own. It’s exciting to pass our enthusiasm for making a beautiful space on to others. We work hard on our blog and Instagram to provide inspiration and ideas to our readers. Our homes are an ever-evolving part of who we are, and they are the background and a supporting structure for our lives. We just love getting all jazzed about making meaningful homes because it makes for more meaningful lives.
My best friend is a maternal fetal medicine doctor. She saves babies’ and moms’ lives every day. When she and I talk, she’ll tell me about her day and I’ll tell her about mine. We know we both lead meaningful lives. I was not made to do surgery in utero, but I was made to help that doctor have a peaceful, happy home to wake up in and prepare her for her work.
Any tips for childproofing while still cultivating a chic home?
Honestly, we did the basic stuff, like outlet covers and shutting the bathroom door, but otherwise the house stayed the same after Harriet entered our world. Child-proofing a home is all about how much you want to stand up and stop your child from doing something dangerous. We moved heavy décor from low tables to shelves or got rid of it. Harriet kept trying to eat the tiny rocks in my fiddle leaf fig tree’s pot, so I took it up to my shop until she has the capacity to follow instructions. We didn’t get rid of tables with squared edges or put down carpet on all the floors; I think kids are more resilient than that. They are going to fall. I also have her bedroom and our playroom where I consider them complete “yes zones,” where she can do anything she wants and won’t get hurt or told “no” very often.
Toys are the real threat to a calm, beautiful space. We got stylish storage baskets and what fits in them is what she gets to keep. My husband and I aim to go through her toys and donate a bag of them every few months. You can get ahead of the game and be the one to identify attractive versions of large basic items people often gift your child, like the very popular IKEA kid kitchen or basic wooden blocks. Kids deserve calming, pretty things, too; there is no reason their stuff can’t match your décor. I am subscribing to that hippie mom theory that boring your child is doing them a real favor in the imagination department, so I am all for fewer, more earthy objects. Finally, I give myself and all moms permission to get rid of any gifts that don’t support a peaceful, happy life—no gift-giver wants to be begrudged the way some toys make me feel.
Tell us about your city! Where are some of your favorite local spots?
Tulsa! I’ve lived here 33 years (I did go two hours away for college, but my heart still lived here)! Tulsa has changed a lot since I was a kid. There is a lot of creative energy here. All of our small businesses cheer one another on, definitely community-focused over competition. You used to never see people downtown after dark, but now it’s bustling with music, great restaurants and art galleries.
Obviously, Retro Den is a fabulous place to visit, but we also have a ton of other great vintage shopping. We have a whole guide over on our blog for Tulsa vintage shopping. I love getting coffee and breakfast at Foolish Things. Taking my daughter to the Tulsa Central Library downtown. Pie Night and brunch at Antoinette’s is delicious. Drinks at Hodges Bend or Chimera. The cheeseburger at The Tavern. The appetizers at Laffa. We have this amazing community green space downtown called Guthrie Green that hosts music, food trucks and other events. We have world-class museums—the Philbrook is in an old oil mansion (It recently hosted a large camp-out in the gorgeous formal gardens! Magical!), Gilcrease Museum is nestled in greenery and filled with Oklahoma-centric art, the Woody Guthrie Center is downtown and a burgeoning celebration of music and education. Cain’s Ballroom is the legendary birthplace of country-swing and a venue on many musician’s checklists. Don’t hesitate, get yourselves to Tulsa! And please ask us about other places to go; we love Tulsa.
Are there any vintage treasures you’re currently on the hunt for but have yet to find?
I am constantly on the hunt and always hoping something will pop up that I didn’t know I always wanted. I’m really wanting a long wooden bench to put under my living room window to sit plants on. That is my best window for light. I want to add some art to my kitchen’s top shelves, but I refuse to compromise on art. I am waiting for the perfect idea or piece—maybe plant paintings? Speaking of plants; bring me all the vintage planters, please. I am busy learning about propagation, which means I am potting weekly. I’d bake a pie for anyone who finds me a small brass animal I never knew I wanted. Vintage quilts are a weakness…especially unfinished ones. I like to finish the hard work someone started.
On this vintage note, I want to cheer anyone on who is searching for something specific. Be a hopeful hunter. You’d be surprised what will show up. I broke a cup in a vintage set I had once, and then several months later found one exact replacement at a garage sale! What are the chances? The vintage gods can be very good to hopeful hunters.
Tell us a little bit about “Life on a Beautiful Background”?
Science says our surroundings matter. They can support your life’s work or they can hinder it. Sometimes it’s obvious like being able to find your keys easily, so you can be on time and not rushed. Sometimes it’s more subtle and your spirit is bolstered by seeing meaningful décor in your home whether you realize it or not. Your home is the space you spend the majority of your time. You love your spouse there, you make decisions on how to raise your child there, you nourish your body there, you create memories there, you comfort friends there and host celebrations. Having thoughtful surroundings, “a beautiful background,” supports the hard work of living and growing and caring that people need to do each day. This is the theory behind all that my business partner and I do in our shop, on our blog and with our home styling clients. We play a part in making homes more generous spaces for the people who live in them.