For designer Ally Whalen, home is where her heart is. After years of designing children’s clothing for Healthtex, followed by a stint as director of corporate sales for Simplicity Interiors, she decided to follow her dream of becoming an interior designer.
“I was inspired by my background in fashion,” says Whalen, 47, who got her start in interior design by beautifying the homes of friends and family. “But I love interior design more than fashion because there are so many aspects that fashion doesn’t have. It is my passion to create spaces. I love helping transform my clients’ lives with design.”
Born and raised in Burlington, Vermont, Whalen recalls designing baby clothes for her dolls when she was a child. After earning a bachelor’s degree in apparel and textile design from UNC Greensboro in 1996, she spent 15 years honing her across-the-board talents.
In 2011, she launched her namesake interior design business out of Charlotte, North Carolina (allywhalen.com), which now includes new construction, renovation, curation, and design with a focus on primary residences and vacation homes. Known for coastal modern style, Whalen favors light, bright, and neutral with pops of color. “Nothing stuffy or overdone,” says the designer. Her industry talent has not gone unnoticed: Earlier this year, she was recognized as one of Fixr’s Top 200 Influencers in the interior design industry, was a top 10 finalist in Rowe Furniture’s Design Challenge, and was featured in the Rowe/Robin Bruce showroom at the 2021 High Point Market.
This past January, Whalen and her husband, Scott (the owner of a security firm, who also works with Whalen on her business), moved from North Carolina to Stuart, lured by the glorious weather. She still has many clients in Charlotte and visits about once a month, but she says she prefers to work from Stuart. “I love the small-town feel,” she says. “It’s safe, and people are friendly. I like the weather, sunshine and breeze, and especially that I can leave the windows open six months a year.”
The Stuart home she and her husband bought earlier this year is the epitome of cottage chic. “I wanted a smaller house with a cozy feeling,” she says of the one-level, 1,650-square-foot house with three bedrooms and two baths located downtown. “It is very open and bright.”
The overall color palette of the living area is beachy shades of tan, white, and soft blues. The living room has a vaulted ceiling and a fireplace, with a sofa and chairs tailored in washable white linen slipcovers. Whalen updated an accent wall with fresh white wallpaper printed with taupe palm leaves. In the kitchen and dining area, the neutral tones are accentuated by wicker chairs and light fixtures and a white farmhouse-style table.
“These rooms are conducive to family,” says Whalen, the mom of three children (two still live at home). “Although I don’t cook, my husband does. We’re so lucky—with a gas range, he’s chef quality!”
The coastal tones continue in the calming master bedroom, while the kids’ rooms have been decorated to suit them: Her 11-year-old daughter’s room has an “organic” feel in peach and green hues, plants, woven materials, and hanging pendants and baskets. “I like to bring texture to the room,” says the designer. In her 3-year-old son’s room, fun throw pillows, artwork, and wall decals add personality.
Whalen has ordered new all-weather wicker furniture from Kingsley Bate, but while awaiting the delivery amidst the pandemic-driven disruptions in the international supply chain, the family is using some of their old pieces and just enjoying the home’s tropical feel and privacy.
“I love everything about this house—especially the open yet cozy feel,” says Whalen. “I get happy as soon as I walk in. I feel my soul living here. I am blessed.”