Blake Woman - Sophie Ashby
Tell us a bit about yourself, and your life so far...
I am half South African and half English. My childhood took me from London, to Cape Town to Devon and Portugal. After school, I broadened my design vocabulary through a BA in history of art (Hons) at Leeds University, going on to study interior design at Parsons, the New School in Manhattan, New York.
After graduating I worked as an apprentice to a very talented designer called Victoria Fairfax; she has an incredible eye for colour and detail and was very keen on antiques which is where my love and appreciation comes from. A few years later, I left to join a small agency called Spring & Mercer where I learnt a lot about running a business and the London property industry.
I started my company when I was 25. It was the best decision I have ever made.
Today I live in Notting Hill with my boyfriend Charlie Casely-Hayford.
When did your interest for interior design start?
We moved a lot when I was younger and the prospect of doing up my bedroom every time made it all the more exciting. I was art obsessed as a teenager but was also fascinated by property so interior design seemed like the perfect blend. I think I was about 18 when I decided this was the thing I really wanted to do.
With moving houses comes creating new homes. I was always very interested in how our furniture, curtains, keepsakes, artworks, knick knacks – a lifetime of stuff – could, once in a new setting, immediately make a new house feel like a familiar home. I’m driven by a love of ‘things’ and the power they hold to make you feel a certain way.
Worst and best work experiences.
Worst – When our suppliers let us down but the buck stops with us.
Best – Every time we finish a project and leave happy, smiley faces in our wake J
Has the industry changed since you started?
Only in that it is growing so fast. It feels like this city is awash with interior designers! Which is no bad thing, more talented people to join our team but certainly more competition too.
Was it like you expected working with interior?
Not really. I think everyone thinks being an Interior Designer is all about being creative – shopping, fabrics, paint colours, sketching and scheming etc. In fact, it’s the art of directing, managing and the juggling the holy trinity of costs, quality and time! The creative part is the really easy, fast bit.
What is the most important thing you have learned?
To be professional is to know that you don’t know everything.
What tip would you give to young women who are embarking the same journey?
The stress of running a business is not to be underestimated. I feel very lucky with the journey I have had but it can be really testing at times and there are unknowns that can come along and disrupt even the best laid plans, like Brexit, or staffing problems so I think you have to work on yourself to become someone who is pragmatic, calm and able to take a step back and get perspective on a tricky situation – otherwise you will combust!
How would you describe your style?
We create spaces with a unique identity: our aim is to bring authenticity to each project, not only in the selection of furniture, lighting and art but in its use of a natural palette of materials and textures. We are generally unswayed by the passing dictates of fashion, and instead draw on a love of antiques, colour, contemporary ‘world art’, modernist furniture, photography and her latest discoveries to deliver an eclectic richness to each interior. Humour and a love of objects also play an important part.
Top 5 artists:
So, what is next up for you and the company?
At Studio Ashby we are designing a Nigerian restaurant in St James’ called Ikoyi. We are working on a large riverside penthouse in Battersea and a stunning Richard Rodger designed duplex in Southbank. We are also working on a large 126 apartment residential development in Greenwich which is very exciting as well as a Limited Edition collection of penthouses in East London. We are growing, developing, getting bigger and better and it’s incredibly exciting.
For me personally, I would like to make a home. I am ready to nest and settle into something of my own. I dream of owning a (beautifully designed) utility room!
Text and photos by Thea C. Sneve Løvstad