Sophie Ashby strives for diversity in interior design

Photo: Jon Gorrigan

Interior decorator Sophie ashby is half South African, half English and grew up between Stellenbosch (Cape Town) and the UK. She broadened her vision of design with a bachelor’s degree in art history at the University of Leeds, then studied interior design at Parsons, the New School for Design in Manhattan. Sophie founded her interior design and creative direction firm, Studio Ashby Ltd., in 2014.

But before setting off on her own, Sophie learned her craft as an apprentice to Victoria Fairfax and head of the interior team at design agency Spring & Mercer. In between, she found a love of antiques, an understanding of color, a sense of proportion and how to handle projects. Studio Ashby started out from a laptop, with no investment and working in coffee shops, and grew into a twelve-person team with a studio in Notting Hill.

With a diverse list of projects, Sophie has completed a luxury hotel in South Africa, a penthouse in Battersea and a country house in Somerset, among others. Most recently, Studio Ashby was listed in the House & Gardens 100 top interior designers, Country City Top 50 Interior Designers and Named Rising Star in The English house Hot 150 2018/19.

Sophie is also co-founder of Solid design, a charity initiative launched in July 2020 with the mission to address the lack of diversity in interior design. She lives with her husband Charlie Casely-Hayford in Spitalfields.

Today Sophie Ashby joins us for Friday Five!

indoor dining room with tables, chairs, plants and high ceiling

Heckfield Place, Hampshire, England Photo courtesy of Citizen

1. Public holidays
Our lives are busy and at times very stressful, and the opportunity to take a break and get away from the hustle and bustle of London life is welcome. This was obviously pretty impossible last year, but even escaping the countryside for the weekend – wonders like The Newt in Somerset or Heckfield Place in Hampshire are truly restorative.

2. Nature
Much of our inspiration at Studio Ashby is rooted in nature’s changing landscapes – from palette to shapes, textures and prints. The sounds of wind, waves and wildlife never fail to remind me that we are so small – just tiny dots. This feeling of admiration that nature gives you is very powerful for me.

orange and black abstract art

Photo courtesy of Clyfford stills museum Denver, CO

3. The Royal Academy
From the search for new artists to the summer exhibition to blockbuster exhibitions (in recent years, the Anthony Gormley, Abstract Expressionism and Anselm Kiefer to the shows of the RA schools with their masters programs), the Royal Academy is a dynamic and constantly evolving center of innovation and art.

4. Books
I have a growing collection of reference books and recently took a few from my mother-in-law. From studies by artists such as Gerhard Richter, Juergen Teller and Légér to books on houses in Provence, the Venetian style and African textiles. I’m looking more and more for physical inspiration – I love the tactility of books, and they give me a much needed break from the screens!

group of senior women enjoying indoor swimming pool with sculptures

St. Petersburg, Florida, 1973 Photo: Jonathan blair

5. Stories
When I hear a client talk about their life and what they need, what moves them and makes them feel alive, how their family functions, or the details of their daily rituals, my mind starts to buzz. solutions. I’m a very solution-oriented person and can’t help but want to jump in and solve people’s problems. Conversation and listening are therefore invaluable – and the key to my motivation.

Sophie Ashby’s work:

interior dining room with tables covered with white tablecloths, armchairs and light walls and floor

Mickey Hoyle Photo Robertson Small

bedroom with curvy orange headboard, decorative pillows and light gray walls

Photo: Alexandre James

indoor dining room with tables, chairs, plants and high ceiling

Heckfield Place, Hampshire, England Photo courtesy of Citizen Woman

interior of the store with dark green walls, colorful clothes and a patterned armchair

Casely Hayford Store Photo: Alexander James

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