Career-wise I have only ever had two ambitions. The first was to become an interior designer and the second was to run my own interior design studio by the time I reached 30. The first target seemed to arrive at a fairly comfortable pace whereas the second arrived frighteningly fast! However I can happily say last year I took the plunge and set up Muchmore Design and I have never looked back!
I am always looking for inspiration in the industry and where better to look than other female designers already making huge strides in the industry, and for me Sophie Ashby is one interior designer doing just that.
Sophie Ashby grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. With an entrepreneurial mother and a family constantly on the move she experienced life in the city of Cape Town before moving to the valleys of South Africa. The family then moved to England and a further move to Devon allowed Sophie to experience the unique and bohemian lifestyle of both the coastal town of Totnes and its occupants. She gained a BA in History of Arts and became a Young Patron of the Royal Academy of Arts. Art has always been her passion, and her parents’ passion for developing and selling properties exposed her not only to art and design but differing eras of art, design and architecture. A career in interior design would allow her to indulge in both her passion for art and property. Sophie studied and honed her skills in New York, exposing her to yet more diversification of art, culture, design and architecture before returning to the UK.
She started her career working within the industry for a well-respected and established interior design studio where she learned to appreciate antiques and their place in design. Her next step was to work for a ‘new kid on the block’ agency which offered her the opportunity to take creative control of and run her own projects. Sophie was soon ready to take her plunge and she set up Studio Ashby.
For her it was a great career decision, Sophie Ashby now has a very successful company including a new studio in Notting Hill, a growing team of twelve and the respect of the interior design industry.
Her distinctive style
Apart from our shared ages we also share a similar approach to style. Like Sophie I too like to combine masculine influences alongside a feminine palette. I’m seduced by the control and symmetry asserted over the overall design through the use of clean, sharp masculine lines and then constantly amazed at how the introduction of femininity through colour and texture, brings its own subtle yet equally powerful influence to any scheme.
When I look at Sophie’s designs, I see a woman not afraid to say, ‘This is how I think it should look not because it’s on trend but because it feels right to me.’ To design any space with integrity you have to be true to your own style and design beliefs and Sophie has always done that.
So, what makes Sophie’s interior design so distinctive and has led other established designers to take inspiration from it?
For me it has to be the influences of not only her growing up in so many diverse cultures and living in so many different types of properties, but also because of her mother who always had a studio of her own and went back to university at 50 to study sculpture. Sophie has always been surrounded by art, culture, differing lifestyles and the mindset that anything can be achieved.
A great example in which these influences are evident is one of her more recent projects, the Colyer Covent Garden Apartment.
The reception space combines a muted palette with a strong mix of pattern and texture. The layers of pattern could so easily jostle with each other and make the space feel cluttered but there is such confidence in their choice that they work together to bring cohesion to the overall design.
A key element to Sophie’s individual style is to mix the old with the new and this is clearly illustrated by her use of the modern tree print and geometric artwork paired with the antique walnut bedsides which sit effortlessly alongside the retro mustard chair. The early influences of Sophie’s interior design career led her to dislike anything that is reproduced, copied or faked and she instead loves to include and highlight the natural beauty, character and age of antiques into her schemes.
I am particularly drawn to her use of colours in this bedroom and how she has avoided the soft blue tones from appearing cold by adding in the warm mustard colouring of the chair.
I think her successful use of colours is a vital aspect of her design and this is very evident in the Soho Penthouse Apartment.
I’m going to be very brave here and say I am not a great fan of the artwork but I’m sure should Sophie be reading this she may disagree! The modern Gubi desk in the same tone as the paint colour is in such subtle contrast that it needs the black frame to make it come alive and it does. Again, Sophie has introduced her ‘trademark’ antique bedside to bring in the eclectic element, always a key element of her designs.
Unlike the previously mentioned artwork, I absolutely love the green paint colour used on the walls and how Sophie has set against it the gorgeously upholstered berry coloured chaise. I believe the choice of colour used in any space is the key element to getting it right. It has to be used in the right amount and in the right areas and this allows the designer to introduce key pieces of furniture in more dominant colours or texture, something I love to achieve in my own projects.
Peacock fabrics are very fashionable and so it’s not surprising to see them included in Sophie’s portfolio. I, however, have only ever used it on a small scale such as a cushion or small chair for example. Sophie has taken it a step further and used it on an entire headboard. It’s brave and hats off to Sophie, it works so well here. The blue colour in the fabric has been pulled together by the blue colouring of the throw, the artwork and headboard straps and piping. You’ll have noticed by now Sophie’s love of antique pieces and this is evident again in her choice of bedside tables…..for me, maybe a little too orange? However the bedside table does pull out the orange tone of the peacock feathers, so it works as part of the overall scheme.
Sophie is living my dream and that gives me hope that I too can achieve my goal of running my own company. Looking at Sophie’s rise to success and the speed at which she has achieved it challenged my previously held view that I needed to bide my time in the industry before doing it alone. She has proven to me that lack of age and years of experience don’t have to be barriers to taking on the industry when equipped with your own ideas and style.
I choose to write about Sophie Ashby because she is a young and successful woman who I have great respect for as she is making a career from her passion and she’s doing it her way!