Embracing Beautiful Things & Peaceful Places With Peishan Zhu Stinnett
Born in northern China in a snowy city called Harbin, Peishan has dreamed of beautiful things and peaceful places all of her life.
As a child, she was always hiding under covers reading stories about magical places in secret by flashlight. It wasn’t until she had grown up and moved to America that she found a passion for interior design and architecture.
In college Peishan studied theoretical physics and later went on to get her masters in engineering, but after many years in school working in the fields of science found that her love for those things wasn’t as strong as the feelings she gets when she brings a dream into the real world by creating a space that speaks to people’s hearts and fills others with joy.
After graduating from Northeastern University in 2015 Peishan decided to venture into the world of vacation rentals with her newlywed husband. A year later they purchased their first home about 15 minutes from downtown Boston to start this wild ride. They decorated and renovated that space and settled on the name Ashpine Homes for our fledgling business. In the midst of designing and building the space of their dreams, they decided that it was time to do more than just build a rental business.
Sharing their dream home with guests was still important, but also felt the need to go further. They wanted to reach out to creators of music and art as well as photographers and filmmakers to invite them into their home and give them a space to do their work in a special environment. Since finishing the renovation we have worked with many amazing people from many different creative backgrounds and have hosted painting events, music recording sessions, video, and photo shoots, and weddings to name a few.
Even with this great variety of unique creators we’ve helped, the Ashpine Home is still primarily an oasis for adventurers and travelers. Their deepest roots are in the spirit of a voyager and the mind of a dreamer, and always have a special place in their hearts for a young couple on an unplanned trip, a group of friends seeking an escape for a weekend, or a family coming together to make memories for years to come.
After experiencing such a wonderful opportunity to share their dream space with so many people, they eagerly moving on to the next adventure with a little A-Frame cottage in the forest of upstate NY. Designing and renovating again, it’s already turning out to be just as special if not more so than they had hoped. This time the couple have more experience and want to make something truly great that will be loved for a lifetime. This year they plan to finish the A-Frame in NY and look towards the future to see what adventure lies on the horizon.
Entropy dictates that the universe is slowly growing more chaotic and drifting toward a future of lawless wreckage, but believe the ability to create is the only true weapon against the ravages of time. Whether it’s to truly prolong the life of beauty by creating or only deepen the impact of love and joy by the act creation, nobody knows. But in the end all we can do is our best, and they think either of these goals is worth the best that they can give. So to answer the question simply… make things better.
We interviewed with Peishan about her upbringing, building Ashpine Homes and inspirations along the way.
Where is home for you?
My husband Grant and I are currently living in Brooklyn, NY but because we travel a lot for business in between our houses in Boston, NH and upstate NY, I feel like we are living in multiple places at the same time. All of those places are homes to me, but the real home is wherever Grant and I are together 🙂
What made you transform from an engineer to a creator/business owner?
I’ve always wanted to build and work on my own business. That’s why we built Ashpine Homes.
Our renovation at our rental property is what started my career as an interior designer. I was obsessed with the show “Fixer Uppers” at the time because they’ve made it look so easy to just “knock down a couple of walls” and “put up some new shiplap.” I decided to do a 2 week DIY project to make the kitchen in our place near Boston look nicer. In the end, the 2-week project turned into a 6-month long full house renovation! As I was working on more and more rooms in the house, I started to read and learn so much more about interior designing and planning.
I fell in love with the beauty and the art of interior and architectural design. That was the turning point for me when I realized how much I was obsessed with designing. I could spend an entire day just looking at different designs and finding new inspiration. I think it’s such a rare and valuable thing for someone to have a passion deep enough to get completely lost in. That is why I decided to run with this dream and see where it leads me.
Recently the pictures of our space that I designed and renovated have started getting amazing amounts of attention on Instagram. Some of the photos got thousands of people liking them. That was a great encouragement for me as a designer, so I decided to share more content. Not only the final products but also the designing and renovating process. People seem to love seeing the inside stories on how space is made beautiful as well as the end result. That’s why I started being a content creator and posting regularly to Instagram and our website. I wanted to share what we are doing with the world, and it lets me know that the world is loving what I do.
What was the inspiration for the development of your business?
We had originally planned on making a normal vacation rental and follow the standard business model to build some extra income. But we found out that when we love something ourselves, we can present it in a much more genuine way and as a result, we experience a much better relationship with our guests, as well as a deeper feeling of fulfillment when we do something outstanding. To really reach that level of love for what we do, we just have to do it incredibly well. This realization led us to the decision to renovate our space and make it something really special.
During the renovation of our house, I was also trying to re-tune our business model. Since I was trying to make the space spectacular, I didn’t want to just do a normal rental business anymore. I wanted the entire experience the guests would have to be different and unique. The location of our place is very special. It is right outside the city of Boston but also right next to the Middlesex Fells Reservation. When it’s summer, you can barely see any neighbor’s houses. All you can see from the windows are trees and leaves.
So using the inspiration from this exceptional space and the dream of making something extraordinary as our guide, we decided to transform it into an “urban oasis” for people in the city to escape, relax and recharge. I had so much positive feedback after the house was reopened to guests and such a feeling of deep satisfaction at having built something beautiful that I decided to start working on this business full time. Now we have 2 other locations (a cabin in the trees in NH and an A-frame in upstate NY which is only 90 minutes drive from NYC.) Both are inspirational works in progress and I can’t wait to share them with our future guests once they are done.
Social media is the widest used method of information sharing and communication, do you think that this will change or only evolve?
Evolve. I believe social media is here to stay. But nothing is stagnant. Everything changes and grows and becomes more, or it dies. I don’t see social media dying any time soon.
What is a current challenge for you and how would you approach it?
There are so many things I want to do and too little time. I feel compelled to work inhumanly hard, and that’s just not possible. Sometimes I have to be reminded of that.
One thing I need to get better at is time management and planning for a balanced life. Planning dedicated time for relaxing and recharging is definitely something I need to make a priority.
How do you prefer receiving feedback?
I prefer to receive feedback quickly and directly. I believe that is the only way to make things work and move forward efficiently.
What does success mean to you? What are your rules for success?
Success in work means moving toward a goal, even if that goal is far away and the steps I take are small. I believe fulfillment comes from dreaming, moving toward those dreams, and at the same time maintaining a focus on the important things in life. Love, health, dreams, and joys of the moment are all important for my feeling of balance. I think success is a balance, and balance is a success. Without balance, success in one area is worthless. Without success in many areas, there is no balance.
What was one thing you did that exceeded your expectations when you began developing your business?
How fast we’ve gotten positive feedback from both guests at the rentals and our audience online, for both the experience and the design. It must be a sign that we’re doing something right 🙂
How do you handle comparisons between you and others? What is one way you continue to distinguish your brand and stand apart?
I honestly don’t worry much about comparisons between us and others. I do what I love and I do it in the best way that I know how. If I see another company that is doing something similar and they are doing something slightly unique or different that I think is really great and maybe it can apply to my business, then that’s great. But I’m not trying to be someone else. I also think the way we distinguish ourselves is by doing exactly that. Being the best at being us. Not copying someone else exactly, but rather going all out to be the greatest version of ourselves that we can be. Always remaining true to what we feel is right, and good, and never compromising on giving all we can give to this. I think that will set us apart in the end.
What trends are you most excited about for 2019?
The green kitchens!
Green has always been my favorite color and earlier this year when I was designing our A-frame rental, I decided on a very dark shade of green, like a dark forest, for the color of kitchen cabinets. I love how that color brings a bit of the outdoors into the inside. And as time goes by, I’ve seen so many other people online and in real life painting their kitchen cabinets in all kinds of greens! From the minty ice-cream-ish green to darker moody green, and they all look great!
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
My husband Grant has definitely inspired me the most in life by encouraging me to do what I love and being super supportive, and showing me the power of dreaming. By being the best husband, showing me love, patience, selflessness and respect. He inspires me to be a better person every single day 🙂
Also, Joanna and Chip Gaines.
Their show “Fixer Upper” is basically what lead me to start our first renovation project. That project opened me up to a whole new world of interior and architectural design which I fell in love with immediately. Chip and Joanna are deeply inspiring for me because they started as a small local business and now have developed their business into a multi-industry empire, yet at the same time they remain very kind and sincere people. Their businesses are also supporting other local businesses, and by building themselves they have made the whole district (Waco)’s financial success (from tourists, their annual fair at the Silos, The Silo District Marathon, etc.). Their charity work is also touching and shows that they are committed to giving back.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Haha. Everyone is always surprised at how tall I am in person (6’).
What is your favorite innovation-related motto, quote or words to live by?
“Imagination is the foundation of all invention and innovation.”
Connect With Peishan!