Sophie Ashby Strives for Diversity in Interior Design

Photo: Jon Gorrigan

interior architect Sophie Ashby is half South African, half English and grew up between Stellenbosch (Cape Town) and Great Britain. She expanded her outlook on design with a BA in Art History from Leeds University and then studied interior design at Parsons, The New School for Design in Manhattan. Sophie founded her practice for interior design and creative direction, Studio Ashby Ltd, in 2014.

But before she started her own business, Sophie learned her trade as a trainee at Victoria Fairfax and head of the interior design team at the creative agency Spring & Mercer. Between the two of them she found her love for antiques, color understanding, a sense of proportion and project management. Studio Ashby started out with a laptop, with no investments and in cafes, and has grown into a team of twelve with a studio in Notting Hill.

With a variety of projects, Sophie has realized a luxury hotel in South Africa, a penthouse in Battersea and a spacious country house in Somerset. Most recently, Studio Ashby was listed in the House & Gardens Top 100 Interior Designers, Country & Town’s 50 Best Interior Designers and named as a Rising Star in The English Home’s Hot 150 2018/19.

Sophie is also the co-founder of United design, a non-profit initiative launched in July 2020 with the aim of tackling the lack of diversity in interior design. She lives in Spitalfields with her husband Charlie Casely-Hayford.

Today Sophie Ashby is there for Friday Five!

Inside dining area with tables, chairs, plants and high ceiling

Heckfield Place, Hampshire, England Photo courtesy Citizen Femme

1. Holidays
Our lives are busy and at times very stressful and the opportunity to take a break and escape the hustle and bustle of London life is so welcome. Obviously it was pretty much impossible last year, but escaping into the country just for the weekend – wonders like The Newt in Somerset or Heckfield Place in Hampshire are really relaxing.

Collection of dried flowers on white surface

Photo: Philip Durrant

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 the wind, the waves and the wildlife keep reminding me that we are so small – just small dots. This awesome feeling that nature gives you is very strong for me.

orange and black abstract art

Photo courtesy of the Clyfford Still 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 RA Schools shows with their master’s programs), the Royal Academy is a dynamic one constantly evolving center of innovation and craftsmanship.

clear coffee table stacked with books

Photo: Philip Durrant

4. Books
I have a growing collection of reference books and recently stole some from my mother-in-law. From artist studies like Gerhard Richter, Jürgen Teller and Legér to books about houses in Provence, Venice style and African textiles. I find myself reaching for more and more physical sources of inspiration – I love the feel of books and they give me the break from screens I need!

Group of elderly women enjoying an indoor swimming pool with sculptures

Saint 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 alive, how their family works or details of their daily rituals, my head starts to buzz with solutions. I’m a very solution-oriented person and I can’t help but jump in and solve people’s problems, so talking and listening are invaluable – and the key to my motivation.

Works by Sophie Ashby:

Dining area inside with white tablecloths, armchairs and light walls and floors

Mickey Hoyle Photo Robertson Small

Bedroom with a curved orange headboard, decorative pillows and light gray walls

Photo: Alexander James

Inside dining area with tables, chairs, plants and high ceiling

Heckfield Place, Hampshire, England Photo courtesy Citizen Femme

Shop interior with dark green walls, colorful clothes and patterned armchairs

Casely Hayford Store Photo: Alexander James

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