Press: Sophie Featured in The Times’ Luxx Magazine

Why they all want Sophie on speed-dial


Words by Lisa Granger:


“How Could you not want to live here?” says Sophie Ashby with a grin, looking out from the interior of the penthouse beside Battersea Power Station that she has just designed. “There aren’t many places from which you can see Canary Wharf, the Wembley arch and tell the time from Big Ben. And then look; there are cute little yachts on the river. It’s like your private nest above London.”


Although the capital’s new design darling – who at 29 has already been nominated for the Andrew Martin international interior designer of the year award – has already created some spectacular spaces, from châteaux in France to a hotel in Cape Town, this 6,500ft duplex penthouse, she says, is “probably the most beautiful in London I’ve ever seen. There aren’t many places in the capital where you can see so much sky.”


Having lived in South Africa until she was 12, surrounded by mountains, vineyards and big skies, she is instinctively drawn to the colours of nature. “You never get tired of earthy tones,” she says. “whereas strong, bright colour are much more difficult to live with.”


Which is why this penthouse – as well as projects such as a Somerset home for the actress Gabriella Wilde, a penthouse in Southbank Tower, a mews house in St James’s and a diner for the burger chain Patty & Bun – has rooms filled with pieces that have a link with nature. Coffee tables, made to her design, are topped with slabs of characterful stone. A desk hewn from a tree trunk. The Christopher Farr rug is dappled in river colours.


Her interiors are far from happyish, though. Victoria Fairfax, the queen of English country-house style who took on Ashby at 21, taught her not only about how to mix Louis XIV-style chairs with Fornasetti lamps and the like but also to understand how a client might want to live. “For instance, this penthouse I imagined would be for a European couple who appreciated fine art, perhaps drove an Aston Martin, who were proud of living in London,” Ashby explains. “people who’d get the Linley marquetry and the perfect white marble bathrooms, but also appreciate the bespoke British craftsmanship.”


Having studied art at Leeds University, and been encouraged to be creative by her mother, a sculptor, making things is in Ashby’s blood. Since establishing her company four years ago, she has also made a name for herself for her links with fine British craftsman. More than half of the pieces in the apartment, she says, were made to measure: pieces on the gym walls by the local ceramicist Ranti Bamgbala; the kitchen cabinets by Linley; the coffee tables “by my ace joiners in Wiltshire”.


She is not a fan of homes that look like hotels. “The mood in interiors is like the mood in food and restaurants: people want things that make them feel comfortable and at home,” she explains. “they want warm places to curl up in, tactile fabrics to touch and, of course, local art that roots them in their location.”


So key is art to Ashby that she had a book made for the penthouse to detail each piece in it, from Robin Friend photographs and Peter Joyce oils to a Grayson Perry map. Now the designer and her team of ten are thinking about their next projects: a London residential development, from the gym and workspace to the penthouse; a Nigerian restaurant in Mayfair called Ikoyi; and a home on Lake Windermere. Her dream is to design a safari camp. “Being African, I love the bush, and there are incredible craftsmen in Africa to commission. It would be cool to do something like that before I’m 30.”


She’s also love to design a home of her own, with at least two bathrooms. “The flat I rent on Portobello Road has just one and my boyfriend [the fashion designer Charlie Casely-Hayford] is 6ft 7in, so he takes up a lot of space. Just a his and hers sink right now would be bliss!”


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