Words by Emily Tobin

By combining a considered approach with individual touches, interior designer Sophie Ashby has ensured this Chelsea flat has the key elements of a glamorous yet relaxed family home.

Sophie Ashby’s peripatetic childhood took her from Cape Town to London and then Devon, and involved hours on end spent peering through estate agents’  windows with her parents. ‘But it wasn’t remotely boring,’ she insists. On the contrary, it gave her plenty of time to ponder her exact formula for the perfect home, which at the time firmly included two staircases and a water feature. Fast forward several years and, although the ingredients may have changed, Sophie has made a career of contemplating the recipe. Her studies at Parsons School of Design in New York were followed by a return to London and stints working for Victoria Fairfax – a doyenne of country-house style – and later the small creative design agency Spring & Mercer. In 2014, when she was just 25, Sophie set up her interior design company Studio Ashby. She now heads up a team of 12 and has completed a wealth of high-end projects across the UK and France. ‘l’he latest in her portfolio is a second-floor flat in a newbuild in Chelsea. A stone’s throw from the glitzy bustle of the King’s Road, the flat stretches a generous 351 square metres across one floor. ‘The rooms were well proportioned so, as Sophie says, ‘nothing felt tight or compromised’. She has created a look that is glamorous but not too slick, with mid-century furniture, an earthy colour palette and a playful take on texture and pattern. ‘This was our first major project and we put our heart and soul into it.’ ln a stroke of good fortune, Sophie had a year to finish the flat and was more or less given carte blanche by her clients, who are based in Moscow and spend much of their time trotting round the globe. They so liked the show flat she had decorated for the development that they asked her to design theirs, too. But this is no carbon copy. Sophie makes a point of never using the same piece of furniture or artwork twice. ‘This wasn’t about spending a tonne of money on a gold-leaf armoire just for the sake of it,’ she says. ‘I hope it’s more interesting than that.’ And so, inexpensive Ebay finds cohabit comfortably with bespoke furniture and one-off ceramics. The open-plan sitting and dining room is drag-painted the colour of milky coffee; it’s a clever trick that softens the large space. The neutral palette is pepped up with splashes of indigo, green and coral a.nd some wonderfully decadent details: teal cush­ions woven from peacock feathers glimmer exotically on the sofa; and a monolithic marble coffee table packs a punch in the middle of the room. l’he large abstract painting by Frederic Heurlier Cimolai behind the sofa subtly brings all these elements together. Sophie has designated the back of the room as the dining area, where a delicate arrangement of lights by Nendo from Carpenters Workshop Gallery seems to float above the dining table. To the right is the slither of a kitchen; a fresh, white room dominated by Jon Tonks’ photograph of chilly looking sheep clustered beneath the Union Jack. The room is hardly capacious, but a bit of trickery provides extra space – a smart marble counter on castors rolls out to provide a long thin table or an additional worktop. At the far end of the sitting and dining room is the media room. Sophie has covered the back wall in Apparatus Studio’s ‘Strata Study’ wallpaper, a monochrome design that might have been cleft from a rock face. The rest of the room is a distinctly more laid­back affair, with a slouchy L-shape sofa heaped with Kuba cloth cushions and a stonking great television that emerges from an ebonised cabinet at the flick of a switch.

At the back of the flat are the three bedrooms, each of which is divided by a half wall incorporating additional storage and beyond which lies a bathroom. In the 10-year-old son’s room, a swirl of clouds billows across a cerulean sky. It is both cosseting and dramatic. He must be the only boy in London to boast a Constable mural above his bed – admittedly not the work of the artist himself, but an enlarged version of the painter’s Study of Cirrus Clouds. The daughter’s bedroom is a pretty confection of marbled grey wallpaper and gauzy muslin drapes – an elegant scheme for someone nearing the end of her teens. Next door is the main bed­room, a large space with walls covered in fawn-coloured silk; smart rosewood cabinets flank the bed and a long burr elm dressing table lines one wall. ‘It drives me crazy that so often in ncwbuilds . everything is built-in, so I wanted something free-standing and moveable,’ explains Sophie. The result is a quirky combination of two circular mirrors, a smattering of brass wall lights and a pair of leather pouffes, which exudes a modernist glamour – part Bond girl boudoir, part Seventies ski chalet. The flat neatly encapsulates Sophie’s refined aesthetic -masculine lines, earthy colours and natural materials. Though multiple stair­cases and bubbling fountains are notably absent, Sophie has created a resolutely chic family home. She has clearly come a long way since the days of pressing her nose against estate agents’ windows.

Studio Ashby Ltd.,Unit 215, Grand Union Studios, 332 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 5AD, 020 3176 2571,

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