With what she describes as an old-school aesthetic, Ashley Puckett of Opal Stackhouse is behind the unique interiors of some well-known Columbus watering holes including The Crest, Ethyl & Tank and Bodega. The design-build firm assembles creative spaces that play off not only the history of a building, but take into account the impact an interior can have on visitors.
Opal Stackhouse takes a hands-on approach to each of their work-of-art spaces. Being custom and creative is at the forefront of every design. Below Puckett outlines her journey as she carved her niche for Opal Stackhouse and details the kinds of spaces the company is looking to create.
[M] Tell us about your background as it relates to Opal Stackhouse and how the company was started.
I’ve always been interested in interior environments and the impact that a space can have on it’s inhabitants/visitors. In 2005 I co-founded and ran a gallery called Chop Chop in Olde Towne East for five years. I transformed the space into a gallery by constantly collaborating with different artists to produce shows and events. I loved the challenge of rearranging and recreating a gallery space for every show, but I didn’t love the art scene. I wanted to work with more public spaces that were more for everyday life.
In 2011 I began working with Scott Williams who has a degree in graphic design from CCAD, and a background in hot rods, building and working with his hands. He is the other designer and lead fabricator at Opal Stackhouse. Anyway, back in spring of 2011 we were sifting through massive collections of treasures, and mostly junk, working for an auction company. We quickly gained a reputation as the people to send to the grimiest, dirtiest, oldest buildings because they knew we were into the gritty stuff. Sorting through piles with no context of what is “cool” really sharpens your eye and allows you to discover quality which broadens your aesthetic.
Shortly after that job at the auction company was when I started the shop and showroom in 2011 called Opal Stackhouse, with furniture, art and unique items that we had put together because we had so much of it, and I found the history of it all so incredibly inspiring. So, Opal Stackhouse started life as a place to showcase the aesthetic and goods that I valued, in hopes that I could land some jobs doing interiors. The pace of retail drove me crazy and I didn’t like buying and selling item by item. Luckily I didn’t have to do it for too long before I started landing a jobs working on commercial spaces. A private residence, merchandising for Elm & Iron and a pop-up shop for Ologie were the first jobs.
I knew from doing gallery shows that I enjoyed putting spaces together on a larger scale, but working with homes and restaurants enabled me to use all the salvaged architectural and historical pieces we had been collecting and make them relevant and useful in a new space. Working with demolition companies and going to auctions is a huge part of our design process to this day.
[M] What services does Opal Stackhouse offer?
We design and build. We start by conceptualizing. We draw our spaces by hand. We have about a dozen go-to craftsmen around the city that we are loyal to, and we orchestrate the project from conception to execution. We work on-site doing most of the finishing work ourselves. When we began Ethyl and Tank it didn’t have a solid name. We named it, made a logo, and were inspired by a large purchase of items from rural Georgia.
We offer as many ideas as possible to make the project seem whole and consistent. This is a build-from-scratch, custom approach, and not only do we value the process of hands-on building, but being part of the process allows us to be spontaneous at times, and improvisational. The spaces that we design and build are truly different. We’re dedicated to creating interiors with layers of character.
[M] Who is your ideal client?
We’re up for anything – as long as we can be creative and the client isn’t wanting something that is already being done over and over. I don’t think we need more of the same – there are already plenty of restaurants and bars in Columbus that look alike. Our target client is someone who feels passionately about their product or service. Our aesthetic is pretty old-school, and we are usually inspired by the history of the things we find.
Ideally we like to work with old buildings. We like fine craftsmanship, originality and the absurd thrown in every once in a while. Everything doesn’t need to make perfect sense. People can be too literal. I want to create spaces that are memorable. And I also love creating spaces that are really the backdrop to whatever needs the space is serving. We set the scene. I love that. I’m not always trying to make a statement with my work, but I can.
[M] What has the process of starting your own business been like? What challenges and opportunities have you found being an entrepreneur in Columbus?
It’s been tough. When I started the gallery, it was because I wasn’t happy with the gallery scene. Columbus needed an interesting space to show art and have events in, so I made it. When I started Opal Stackhouse it was with the same approach. Here is something I have to offer – a unique perspective, vision and the ability to execute – all in one company.
Opal Stackhouse has evolved from a small retail shop, to a design & build custom shop because evidently there is a need for what we are doing. And it’s challenging being a woman on a work-site. I get treated like I’m dumb pretty often.
[M] How has the community responded to Opal Stackhouse?
Our spaces get talked about. It’s exciting to know that people are looking at what we are doing everyday. Every client we’ve had we have ongoing relationships with and plan to work together on future projects. That’s a good sign.
For more information, visit opalstackhouse.com.