April 23, 2024

Architectural Design Kingdom

Home is where the heart is

5 Common Interior Design Mistakes To Sidestep, According To Studio Ashby Founder Sophie Ashby

3 min read

When I first met Sophie Ashby in the autumn of 2018, she was newly married to Charlie Casely-Hayford – their wedding, at the sugar plum-pink Pousada Palácio de Estoi in the Algarve, had taken place that summer – and had just moved into a “really, really small one-bedroom flat” in White City’s Television Centre. “Both of us believe that a home should tell the story of the people who live in it,” she told me warmly when Vogue dropped in to photograph the couple for the January 2019 issue, taking me through their collection of Conservatory Archives plants and Studio Voltaire prints as the afternoon sun glinted off a golden Helios statue outside and a prop stylist arranged chrysanthemums in a vase at the dining room table.

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Studio Ashby headquarters at The Blewcoat School.

Kensington Leverne

Her design ethos hasn’t changed in the six years since, a period in which she launched her own Sister line, cofounded United in Design with Alexandria Dauley, and the Ashby-Casely-Hayfords moved home twice: first, to a pimiento-red brewer’s house in Shoreditch refurbished by Jocasta Innes in the ’70s, then onto a fixer-upper in north London. Now in tow along with their treasured works by South African sculptor Lungiswa Gqunta and cushions by Japanese artist Miroco Machiko: the couple’s two children, daughter Gaia and son Skyler, and Charlie’s daughter Rainbow. That’s before mentioning Sophie’s reimagining of the tailoring mecca that is the Casely-Hayford boutique in Marylebone, and Studio Ashby setting up headquarters in The Blewcoat School, a Grade I-listed building in St James’s Park whose cavernous Georgian rooms are now filled with Sister’s Tiger Rugs and Chess Side Chairs, the six-metre-high walls mounted with moodboards and a moveable feast of art by the likes of Scottish painter Philip Maltman.

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Sophie’s moodtray when decorating her family home.

Kensington Leverne

Both the Shoreditch house – which Ashby and Casely-Hayford rented for years – and the appointment-only Blewcoat showroom are front and centre in Ashby’s first monograph with Rizzoli, Home, Art, Soul, along with 11 other distinctive Studio Ashby projects: think a Victorian bathhouse turned seaside villa in Brighton filled with De Gournay wallpapers in chinoiserie prints and textiles in shades of turmeric, cumin, paprika and saffron; a San Francisco apartment where the blues of the Pacific are echoed in Murano glass and Isaac Julien prints; and a Left Bank bolthole overlooking the Seine whose 17th-century rooms were transformed in the spirit of French designer Jacques Grange.

As the book is released – and Studio Ashby celebrates its 10th anniversary – Sophie reflects on lessons from a decade in interior design, and lets Vogue in on the five common mistakes she always advises her clients to sidestep.

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  1. When you’ve installed beautiful flooring, it’s natural to be reluctant to cover it up, but having a larger rug always makes a space feel more welcoming and generous. I generally suggest ordering a carpet large enough to fit all of the furniture in a room on top of it rather than something your coffee table floats on in the middle of a space.
  2. I’m always looking to create interesting geometric juxtapositions – putting an angular armchair next to a soft sofa, for example. That not only gives a room a more dynamic feel, but when you incorporate lots of different styles in a home rather than buying into one trend, your décor has more longevity, too.
  3. Lighting is deceptively tricky to get right. I typically opt for ambient over directional lights. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid having any bulbs visible, whether you’re looking down into a table lamp or up into a factory-style pendant.
  4. If your house contains rooms with low ceilings – as many Victorian and Edwardian terraces do in London – paint not just the walls but the doors, the skirting board, and the ceiling the same colour. It will make the space feel so much fresher and less disrupted by datums.
  5. Whatever your budget, don’t overlook the value of art, and don’t be intimidating about buying it. If you can afford to purchase original works by blue-chip artists, that’s great, but it’s not a necessity. I always recommend that people start by going to exhibitions and getting prints of the works they loved at the end.

Studio Ashby: Home, Art, Soul is out now.


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