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Curated By... Sophie Ashby

Founded in 2014, Studio Ashby – an interior design and creative direction company – is a hub of inspiration and creative connection. At its helm is Founder and Creative Director, Sophie Ashby.

From their Ladbroke Grove headquarters, the Studio Ashby team draft and dream up spaces with a ‘unique identity’. Placing focus on consciously designed furnishings and prioritising local and homegrown additions where possible, a Studio-Ashby designed space is a considered place of balance and beauty.

Adding a further string to her bow, Ashby has launched Sister – an interiors brand/design concept that is ‘part shop, part playground’. All we can say is, ‘watch this space’ – and take inspiration from it too!

How did you get into interior design? 

I grew up between South Africa, London, and Devon. I studied History of Art at Leeds University and Interior Design at Parsons in New York. I’d say each experience fed my understanding of design, its power and its possibility: from the vast, awe-inspiring nature of the South-African landscape to the grand rooms of a Georgian house in London, the urban intensity of New York to the red, rolling hills of Devon. As a result, I am (and always have been) fascinated by our sense of place and the idea of home.

Photography by Philip Durrant/ Styling by Olivia Gregory

Photography by Philip Durrant/ Styling by Olivia Gregory

What is your design philosophy?

As a studio I’d say we are driven by beauty, discovery, and the potential for telling stories via the spaces that surround us. We find beauty in existing elements, art, natural light, materials, antique furniture… We discover ways to complement and enhance the beauty of individual items by working directly with craftspeople and ateliers to develop specific materials or pieces that create a layered environment. We find energy in this process of collaboration, using the expertise and skill of different sources to create things that feel unique. We look to create cohesive, honest spaces – that deliver a certain richness and eclecticism to each interior. Behind it all is a love of antiques, colour, contemporary world art, modernist furniture, photography, and a real good knack for foraging!

Tell us about Sister…

Having an interiors brand has always been a dream of mine and the past year only clarified that further… During such times of change, our homes became our entire worlds and I think spending more time in spaces that we once just moved through as part of our busy working lives has caused a shift in perspective and buying habits. A more thoughtful and discerning focus, where the brands and the quality of the products we buy are everything. Disposability and sameness have lost their shine. Surrounding ourselves with objects that are local, sustainable, unique, and of lasting quality is becoming more and more important. I launched Sister by Studio Ashby last Autumn to celebrate this ethos and to breathe new life into found things. It’s been an amazing journey so far, we’ve just released Batch 3.

Talk us through a couple of your favourite projects to date…

One of my favourite projects has to be designing my husband’s store, Casely-Hayford on Chiltern Street, Marylebone. A small but perfectly formed space, we created a home away from home and it gives a glimpse into all our favourite things, complete with art, books, and objects we’ve collected on our travels together. It was a family affair through and through, I have lovely memories of the whole family weaving/knitting the staircase in the store to create a balustrade installation out of recycled fabric.

Although not a client project, launching diversity initiative United in Design with my Co-Founder, Alex Dauley, last year has been the most rewarding, humbling, and inspiring milestone for me. We’ve just launched a competition with KLC School of Design, where the winner will receive a sponsored place on a Full- or Part-Time Certificate Course, starting in September 2021, whilst a One-Week or Part-Time Introductory Course will be given to the runner up.

Photography by Philip Durrant

Photography by Philip Durrant

Where do you get your inspiration?

Anywhere and everywhere! I think that’s been one of the biggest adjustments for me (and the studio) since the pandemic started. The design industry is built on tactility – seeing and touching things is so central to the evolution of our ideas. Inevitably, we’ve had to seek inspiration from places closer to home – the British landscapes, London parks, and memories collected over the years…

How important is ‘local’ to your work?

Hugely important – the furniture and fabrics that run throughout our projects are often influenced by homegrown references: the surrounding architecture, landmarks, and abstract art found in local galleries. We proudly support local craftsmen and artisans, most of our furniture is made on home soil and we are on a constant mission to find people who can make and innovate ‘things’, are experimenting with new techniques/materials and are open to the realm of collaboration.

What are some of your go-to local interiors brands?

Photography by Philip Durrant/ Styling by Olivia Gregory

Photography by Philip Durrant/ Styling by Olivia Gregory

List some designers and makers you really admire and tell us why you admire them…

How does travelling influence your designs and tastes?

Travel is without doubt one of my biggest sources of design inspiration and visiting different places always clears my head and brings me fresh ideas – I can’t wait to be able to travel freely again. I think a lot about the Bushveld and the Karoo; the greens, yellows, heathers, clays, and burnt oranges, and after sunset how all the planting changes. I could go on forever!

For our readers, what tips can you share vis-à-vis bringing a touch of Sophie Ashby magic into their homes?

It’s all about the mix – bringing old together with new – juxtaposing antiques with contemporary pieces to achieve true eclecticism. My advice to you would be to trust your instinct and have fun with it! Personality emerges from chaos and a characterful, layered look is far more interesting – and homely too.

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Any Questions or Tips to add?