Interior Design Masterclass...how to style it like Studio Ashby
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get my hands on two tickets to an Interior Design Masterclass with one of London's hottest new design talents Sophie Ashby. As founder and creative director of Studio Ashby, Sophie is making a name for herself with her trademark style heavily influenced by her childhood in South Africa.
Sophie set up Studio Ashby when she was just 25, and is still in her 20's now, which tells you something about what a big talent she is. I spent most of my mid 20's in a fog of booze and showbiz parties and definitely did not have the maturity or capability to start a leading interior design studio.
The talk was held at Mark's Club in Mayfair, which is incredible by the way. David Cameron's a member but don't let that put you off. Chintz, colour and pattern for days but masterfully done. Alas no pictures allowed so you'll just have to take my word for it. However what I did come away with was lots of ideas and inspiration, and even a few extremely budget friendly art buying tips. It would be rude not to share what I learnt with you wouldn't it? So without further ado, here's how to style it like Studio Ashby.
1) Start With The Art
...and build your room from there. "Building a room around a piece of art makes complete sense to me," says Sophie. "Everything ages and moves on. Sofas and armchairs won't be timeless but your art collection will be with you for the rest of your life so it makes sense to start there."
Now I know what you're thinking...most of us aren't lucky enough to own an art collection valuable enough to stay with us through thick and thin. However what I take from this is that it's worth shopping around and buying the art you love and planning your room around that, rather than getting something as an afterthought when the rest of the room is done just because it's got a bit of pink and teal in it which will match your cushions. Buy art that you love and you're heart will always skip a little beat whenever your eyes fall on it.
2) Be Smart With The Art
While Sophie sources some seriously top notch pieces for her clients, she also has some brilliant budget-friendly tips for creating a unique gallery wall. "I bought timelines of artists from the Tate Modern and had them framed and I always go to All Posters.co.uk for old art exhibition posters. I recently bought a Matisse poster for £3 on there." She also recommends a trip to antiques market like Kempton to hunt for vintage paintings. I concur on this. We bought a vintage oil painting at Kempton a few years ago for not very much money and it's still one of my absolute favourite things in our house.
Sophie also recommends getting snippy with it and slicing the pages out of those beautiful coffee table books that you've had sat untouched on your erm, coffee table since you opened them and had a quick flick through last Christmas. "Instead of having them untouched, slice the pages out and hang them all together, that way you get to see them and enjoy them...just make sure the page number isn't showing!" she says. Consider what else would work in a frame. Below is a collection of old artists' palettes framed and displayed together which looks amazing and brings an otherwise very understated room to life. Which brings me nicely to Sophie's next tip...
3) Look back
Vintage and antique pieces play a huge part in Studio Ashby's designs. As a general rule of thumb Sophie likes between 20 - 30% of every project to be made up of vintage pieces. She says: "I buy a lot of found things and then we store them away until the right project comes along. My job is to curate rooms and tell a story and I prefer to look back, rather than forward. Vintage pieces and antiques are an important part of telling that story and bring a room to life."
Now, this doesn't have to mean a French Renaissance dresser picked up at Sotheby's auction house in your lunch break. It's that G Plan sideboard or coffee table you picked up on Ebay or the battered Ercol armchair your granny gave you. All of these things bring warmth and character to a room, rather than filling it with boxfresh purchases....which are also good obviously, but it's all about the mix.
4) Light it up
The vintage rule also applies to Sophie's lighting picks and the vast majority of the lighting she sources for projects is vintage or antique, which she says is mainly because she struggles to find modern lights that appeal to her. Though she is a big fan of Naomi Paul's work which you can see here.
In practical terms she recommends using wall lights instead of table lamps to free up more space on bedside lights and she likes lighting above kitchen or dining areas to be "glowy blobs" rather than too bright and stark.
5) Out of Africa
As mentioned before, Sophie is heavily influenced by her childhood spent in South Africa. Wood and natural materials like linen and marble are a theme that run throughout her designs. But perhaps the most distinctive thing for me is her earthy colour palettes. "It's the colours of Africa, the light at sundown and the colours of nature. Rusty orange, yellow, khaki and greens...I LOVE green."
6) Opposites attract
When you're filling a room with so many beautiful things it's important to challenge the eye. It's about making you look...and then look again. Sophie said: "I think it's important to throw in a few opposites. It's about mix and matching, putting the raw alongside the refined etc. I want the room to be beautiful but I also want it to be original and fresh."
All images are Studio Ashby
Are you a fan of Sophie's work? What did you make of her styling advice? Would you be keen to hear more from interior designers and what makes them tick? I'm thinking about turning the Design Masterclass into an occasional feature as a way of gathering ideas and feeding our need for interior inspiration. Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below. Is there anyone you would like to hear more from?