Sophie Ashby opens the doors to her home in London for us
Steps away from the hustle and bustle of Brick Lane in London’s East End, where the air is released sweet and spicy aroma of the famous Bangladeshi curry houses, hides a real gem from Georgian times, where British interior designer Sophie Ashby and her husband, designer Charlie Casely-Hayford, live with their daughter, Gaia, born in May last year, and Rainbow, seven, Casely’s daughter. Hayford (when he comes to stay at his father’s house this weekend).
Their one-bedroom apartment in west London had become too small, and therefore they rented this house in February 2020, just a few weeks before the world went into lockdown. “We could have bought an apartment, but I knew it would not be the place I would be happy to live in for the next five or ten years,” Ashby says. Instead, they decided to “wait and plan things well,” he explains as they tested the area for possible permanent relocation. Surrounded by an interior garden with magnolia, fig and laurel trees, the one they live in today is a former home of a brewery, located next to a small pub and a 19th-century brewery – currently by being transformed into a gallery by part of the artist duo Gilbert & George. “I could not believe my own eyes when we walked in,” Ashby recalls.
The simplicity of walls, ceilings and floors, painted in fresh and neutral tones by the current owner, along with the “antiquity”, as Ashby describes it, of the original skeleton of the building, with its clean lines and generous proportions, it was ” very sophisticated, “he says enthusiastically. Part of the house’s charm, which includes fireplaces finished with graceful Delft tiles and kitchen cabinets in iroko wood saved from old chemistry labs, lies in the eclectic imprint left by Jocasta Innes, author of Paint Magic, the guide to painting techniques. it-even from the early 1980s, which had saved the house from its neglected condition in the late 1970s. “The combination of Jocasta with our landlord’s good taste created the perfect setting,” says Ashby. “It was as if the house was talking to us.” So apart from ‘minor changes’, such as some cupboards that have been repainted and some floors, Ashby was free to focus on furnishing, lighting and art. IN a high-low mixture of vintage upholstered chairs and antique wardrobes, including the purchase of affordable items and bespoke sofas, the designer has inserted bright colors such as fire orange and banana yellow along with sophisticated shades of fuchsia, sea green and gold, shades inspired by paintings and photographs, mostly by new artists , that the couple hung on almost all the walls. “That’s how we start decorating each room,” Ashby says of their shared passion as they both studied art history at university, and Casely-Hayford was also an intern at London’s prestigious White Cube Gallery. . Works by London painter Tomo Campbell, South African artist Lunga Ntila and Spanish photographer Salva López trace a common thread that winds through the spaces. Even in the large family bathroom, where, as in a gallery, an installation of framed drawings and prints, along with vintage furniture and modern lighting, makes the space seem “more like a living room,” says the designer. .
In the living room itself, Ashby used warm and citrus shades, inspired by the colors of Heath Wae’s paintings that cover one of the walls, as if to contrast the darkest part of the house, the one facing west. “I did not know if it would work, but it became a really nice room, especially in the evening, because it creates a nice light,” he says. The overall effect is what Casely-Hayford’s late father, acclaimed British designer Joe Casely-Hayford (together they founded their eponymous menswear brand in 2009), would have called “harmonious contrast”, says the homeowner. “That’s what I think of Sophie’s study, because it’s not easy: there’s a lot of activity in there, and it seems to me that everything is working perfectly,” he continues proudly. “But he is the only person I know who can do it, because one can easily exaggerate it in the opposite direction. Every time I step into that room I feel alive because there is always something to confront me with. A space that invites dialogue“It does not mean that the house does not also have a relaxed atmosphere.” I do not want objects displayed just to get attention, “says Ashby. Thanks to the” antique touch “of the upcycled kelim rugs and pillows made with antique kantha, kente and sari fabrics, the designer has given warmth to any room; bizarre artefacts, from piggy banks with the Nepalese tiger to the soft ‘Woolly’ sheep wool “in the style of Lalanne, but certainly not a real Lalanne,” says Ashby with a laugh – they add an extra whimsical touch.
The house has become a true haven for the designer, who, navigating between housing and hotel projects, has been very busy decorating a large new office and showroom space, both for Studio Ashby and for her new lifestyle rib, Sister, as part of a large school building from the early 18th century near Buckingham Palace. All the while remaining at the helm of United in Design, the innovative training project he co-founded with interior design colleague Alexandria Dauley following the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, an initiative working with companies to create more opportunities for people of color in the British interior design sector through apprenticeships, internships and other programs. ‘People are afraid to make choices that they may get bored of. It’s a feeling that does not belong to me. “Ashby claims she never hesitated make bold decisions, such as upholstering the kitchen chairs with a vibrant abstract print. “I hardly ever have customers who choose something so African, so I thought, what the hell, I do it myself, at home, because I really like it so much.”