Words by Emily Manson

Inside the Artist Studio – Notting Hill interior designer Sophie Ashby is in demand and it’s all about getting personal

The capital’s interior design marketplace is a crowded one, so it takes a certain kind of dedication and vision to double the size of your business within less than a year, and have created a brand that’s been shortlisted twice in a row for the International Interior Designer of the Year award (2015 and 2016).

And yet 28-year-old Sophie Ashby is remarkably modest about Studio Ashby, the interior design company she founded three years ago. “It just snowballed”, she says candidly. “When I started I had one client and thought I would do that from my bedroom for a couple of years. I never thought I’d be here now with ten people and 12 projects.”

The projects include a penthouse in SoHo, a beach house in Salcombe, a £12 m project on Southbank, and even a country house in Somerset for actress Gabriella Wilde, as well as a commercial fit outs, restaurant design for funny diner concept Patty & Bun, and most recently The Robertson Small hotel in her homeland of South Africa.

Growing up Ashby also moved from South Africa to London, Devon and Portugal and always enjoyed the associated house-hunting and decorating.From a young age she was an avid reader of Sunday magazines’ interior and home sections and “practically lived” in the art department in university.

Having decided early on that she wanted to be an interior designer, she initially worked for Victoria Fairfax, then Spring & Mercer, but admits “with creatives, there is always an element of ego and if you’re truly passionate in what you are doing and pouring your heart and soul into what your designing, then you really want your name to be on it at some point.”

But doing it alone at 25 was “quite scary” she admits. There was “a hell of a lot I didn’t know, but I just had raw ambition, availability of time and energy and knew I could plough everything into it for the next few years.” Drawn to Notting Hill because of its vibrancy, community and youthfulness, she loves the “ultra-civilised houses and streets with all the amazing Georgian terraced architecture, it’s mixed with the contrast of the gritty parts.” She feels there is a sense that people choose to have homes and actually live here, rather than the vacant lots in the other parts of town.

Having just moved into larger offices near her Portobello apartment, the funky new Grand Union Studios are a good fit for her. But Ashby is also drawn to the “quietness around here. I am not sure its healthy to work in Oxford Circus every day, it’s simpler around here and I really like that.”

Her new workspace combines her obsession of being clean , tidy and uncluttered with beautiful things to inspire. ‘I need to have space to think freely”, she says. “I can’t start designing a new projects unless the the work table is clear and the slate is clean, but ai also like having lots off stimulating things around like plants and beautiful objects”.  And that is very much her “style”. She is drawn beautiful things and with every project she seeks to  match those objects in with her clients style.” What unifies all of the projects I’ve done is that every single little thing is really beautiful”. For private projects, she likes to help clients create their ultimate home. That means combining functionality and lifestyle with what they are inspired by and working to that.

“Authentic is a horribly overused term now”, she explains, “but the way I design is quite personal. What truly drives me is that I hope to be authentic and original and treat the things I use with authenticity.”


Her top design tip Follow your heart and go for something you think is truly beautiful rather than following trends

Her design heroes  Ilse Crawford, Jaques Grange and Phoebe Philo – I think its crazy not to acknowlegde contemporary heroes. Else is completely original will go down as having changed this generation.

Where’s it happening Australian interior design is really exciting right now, they are just oozing talent and its worth paying attention to the likes of Fiona Lynch, Studio Flack and Hecker Guthrie.

Her favourite object  My convertible Nissan Figaro – I have had it all kitted out in black and white. Driving it around London on a sunny day makes me feel happy and content with my spot in the world, and very lucky to be a Londoner.

The Robertson Small hotel project in a nutshell This ten bedroom, five star boutique hotel aims to source everything locally from artisan South African producers. We want to use traditional African techniques like basquet waving to create and design the hotel with a modern mid western mind.

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

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