Leah Ashley Designs Sustainable Farmhouse on Design Network’s “Home to Homestead”
The TV host partnered with her dad to construct a Dripping Springs home for her family, as chronicled in the new weekly show
By Avery Matschek
Photos by Madeline Harper
In 2020, stylist and lifestyle expert Leah Ashley found herself wondering how to entertain her two young children when parks, playgrounds and schools were closed due to the pandemic.
On top of that, Ashley’s mother had moved in with the family of four, making their current house too small of a space. Ashley and her husband, Michael Finn, saw this as an opportunity to build a new home for three generations of their family on seven acres of land in Dripping Springs. Soon, the Finn Family Farm was born.
“We needed a change,” remembers Ashley. “So I looked at my husband and asked, ‘Why don’t we just build here? We can build my mom a little guest house and build us a house and hey, we know a builder.’”
That builder is Ashley’s father, Builder Gary, who has worked in the Austin area for nearly 50 years.
When the Finn Family Farm project began, Ashley partnered with The Design Network to produce Home to Homestead, a brand new show premiering on Oct. 15. The lifestyle expert had previously worked with the network on multiple projects, including Design Buzz, a magazine show that covered home design and inspiration, and Vintage Style/Modern Life, in which the host styled modern furniture with vintage decor objects.
The seven-episode series, which was executive produced and directed by Ashley herself, will feature many of the hijinks that come with working with family, specifically a modern family — Ashley’s parents are divorced, but worked together to complete this project.
One notable difference in opinion for Ashley and her dad? All things vintage.
“My dad does not like vintage,” explains Ashley. “He just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand it, and I’m the opposite. It’s my jam.”
There’s a specific moment the designer is looking forward to seeing on the show, when she wanted to place a vintage pergola on the house and her dad refused to do so.
“He won that battle, but I won the war,” says Ashley with a laugh.
Other vintage elements include reclaimed interior doors and a reclaimed farm sink that Ashley found in Round Top.
Sustainability is another huge focus of the team behind the Finn Farm House. Homesteading sustainable efforts include a 65,000 gallon rainwater collection system, which was installed in lieu of a pool to focus on water conservation efforts. This system provides all of the water the family uses, from drinking water to water for landscaping needs and more.
The house and guest house run on propane, a clean fuel, and they installed a generator to protect their house against the extreme Texas weather. Ashley and her husband also chose to plant native pollinators and fruit trees in lieu of a more traditional lawn.
“It’s just so thrilling to watch and to give these little birds and bees and butterflies a habitat,” says Ashley. “Everything we planted really does have a dual purpose. It either feeds us or it feeds the wildlife.”
With the show, Ashley hopes to inspire others to consider the ways homes can be more eco-friendly.
“Any little bit we can do helps,” says Ashley. “We have got to figure out a way to reduce our water use in landscaping and there’s so many beautiful options in Texas.”
The Design Network’s Home to Homestead will air weekly throughout the fall. The show has been in production for nearly two years and was filmed by University of Texas students Marcos Becerra and Mason Culp.
Although the show has a limited run, there may be more projects in the future for Ashley and The Design Network.
“I’m a mom of two boys, so in the middle of every project, I think I need to take a break and say that I’m never doing this again,” says Ashley. “But then as soon as one project’s over, I have another idea.”