ANNOUNCEMENT – Sophie featured in THE METRO

Words by Oliver Stallwood:

Meet the designer – Sophie Ashby is one of the brightest young talents in the design world. She tells Oliver Stallwood about her style.

Sophie Ashby founded her interior design practice Studio Ashby in 2014 at the tender age of 25. Despite being so young, her style is rooted in the sharp sophistication of modernism, with a luxury twist. Almost immediately, Studio Ashby was seen as one of the hottest interior design firms around, being shortlisted for International Interior Designer of the Year last year, and Sophie’s energy gained her the reputation as a wild card in the development world. Studio Ashby’s recently completed projects include a large penthouse in Chelsea for a young Russian family; a beach house in sunny Salcombe, Devon; a £12million apartment in the stunning new skyscraper South Bank Tower and a penthouse in Soho.

So what’s your style?

It’s eclectic, layered, colourful and homely. Art is the central theme, which, when surrounded by books, beautiful objects, antique furniture and beautiful textures, comes together to create an authentic sense of home, the feeling that the owner has just walked out the room. I believe it’s the story behind the stuff that makes interiors interesting.

A unique kind of luxury modernism is very on trend in urban living now…

I think modernism will always have a timeless appeal, the style represents a time when designers were looking to the future and imagining how the world could be – I think that kind of optimism is something that’s really sought after today.

What trends do you see?

I think people in London are moving away from the slick, minimalist look we’ve seen everywhere of years gone by. We want to make our homes feel real. It’s the individual’s quirks and passions that tell the story now.

Some high-end apartments in London seem soulless. What do you bring to these places?

The only way I know how to design is to imagine something as my own, so we in a sense become the owner, which in my mind means ‘the collector’ – and then we work to bring pieces and gems from all over together to make it work as a whole.

What advice do you have for anyone designing their home?

I would always advise them to stay true to their own style and use as many personal touches as possible. I would also tell people to not be afraid to buy and collect art – even framing prints or postcards and then layering them with books, plants and personal objects really brings a room together. I think people live with bare walls because they are intimidated by the art market or the idea of investing in art, but really your walls should just be filled with things you love.

How do you get inspiration?

From life: books I am reading, exhibitions I’ve been to and the places I travel to. For a lot of the projects I have recently completed in London, I’ve been inspired by the city’s rich artistic and architectural heritage – drawing from the National Gallery’s collection, for instance, and bringing in the work of British figurative artists displayed there. Travel is always a constant source of inspiration and I’m always picking up objects or finding local suppliers everywhere I go.

What was it like setting up your business so young?

At 25 you still have so much to learn but I don’t think that ever changes; there were some aspects that were daunting but I had great support and ultimately felt I needed to be the master of my own fate, time and success. I’ve always known that I needed to do something creative and I’ve always been interested in business and property. For me, interior design was the perfect combination of all those passions.

Did it pose any particular challenges?

Earlier on I certainly had the age question from a couple of private clients, which I think is probably fair – all I can do in that scenario is hope that the body of work my team and I have behind us speaks for itself. The biggest challenge for me recently has been dealing with how much my business has grown this year – we’ve recently moved offices and more than doubled in size. This poses new challenges and stress points but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

Do you have any tips for anyone trying to break into interior design?

My top tips would be to keep reading, researching and enjoy the search for new suppliers and craftsmen. Put the emphasis on quality and longevity over fads.

What’s next for you?

In London we are working on some large-scale developments where we are getting to design the residents’ amenities and shared spaces as well as the apartments, which is great. We also have several fantastic projects in the UK including a Nigerian restaurant in central London opening soon. The thing that is really taking up most of my time at the moment is my first hotel project, the Robertson Small. There are exciting times ahead.   

Sophies style ethos:

◆ Buy art, make art, frame what could be art and adorn the walls with pictures, photos, postcards and paintings that mean something to you.

◆ Don’t try to make anything too perfect – character and personality emerges from a bit of chaos.

◆ Use paint to create atmosphere and drama. Painting a room a stunning colour is one of the cheapest ways to  transform the feel of a space. One of my favourite colours is Panel by Paint & Paper Library.

◆ Books and plants are the best way to create a bit of life and soul without spending much. Palms are pretty indestructible and cheap so I would start there – just don’t over water them.

◆ Mix and match. You can get much better quality if you buy something antique than something from Ikea and they can often be a similar price if you go to a good market. We head to Kempton Antiques Market at the races every month and pick up plenty of bargains.

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