If our homes tell the story of who we are, Ashley Izsak’s 1986 split-level in Osgoode is an open book. Izsak is a social-media- savvy lifestyle blogger and designer who rolls out the story of her home and family on Instagram — @ashleyizsak — cultivating an avid following (25K at last count) and sparking potential design contracts in the process.
Photos of her oasis-like bedroom, a dining table set for holiday entertaining, a serene blue entryway with narrow wainscoting and leafy wallpaper: it’s all there for the world to savour, with details of how she pulled everything together. Sometimes there are a few words about her personal ups and downs and the ways in which, as the busy mother of three who also operates a branding and website design service, she works to keep everything in perspective.
“People are attracted to authenticity,” she says. “If you show a bit of yourself online and in your spaces, people are more likely to come back, because they care about you.”
That willingness to put herself out there captures her approach to interior design as well. “A lot of homes in magazines are staged. They almost look like a real-estate photograph,” she says. “People’s homes should feel like them. It can still look really nice, but it’s important that the house honours who the people are and how they’re going to use the space.”
In Izsak’s case, honouring spaces includes peeking into their creation. One of her Instagram series tracks her husband, a project manager with a mechanical engineering degree, through the meticulous renovation of their bathroom. The detailed posts could serve as a how-to guide for the aspiring DIYers among us. But much as she loves Instagram, where she also posts some client projects, Izsak is conscious of the platform’s downside. “There’s pressure on Instagram to be constantly changing your home. For a home to feel like you, it has to have things that are meaningful. Things like art and accessories are really important to me, but those things can take a while to accumulate.”
Izsak didn’t set out to be a social-media ace or a designer. The Ottawa native studied business in university but, once in the workforce as a recruiter, realized it wasn’t for her. Instead, she wound up pursuing her high school dream of being a designer while also blogging about her life on her website Calmly Chaotic, raising a family, and building a reputation as a branding and web design pro under the website ashleyizsak.com. “It all makes sense to me,” she says of her multiple irons in the fire. “It’s all making things really beautiful.”
Plants, open shelving, and woody accents figure high on her design hit parade, especially in her own home, where wood, for instance, adds warmth to white walls. As well, “I like to balance shapes. Often in magazines, the room is so rectangular — rectangular sofa, rectangular armchair, rectangular coffee table — and it makes it feel too harsh. I like a more organic feel in a room. That’s why I like plants and round elements like wall sconces that soften it.”
Her interior-design work has snowballed thanks to Instagram and word of mouth. Projects have included designing Manotick’s 692 Coffee and Bar, located in a 140-year-old building on the town’s popular Main Street, and a growing portfolio of residential renovation gigs.