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The Expert Podcast

Sophie Ashby on Vintage Shopping in Paris and the Pitfalls of Global Design

Words by Laura Dahlgren
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Photography by Kensington Leverne; Design by Studio Ashby

For Sophie Ashby, a nomadic childhood led to a love of interiors from an early age.

“When you move around a lot as a kid, you realize that all the possessions that get boxed away with every move start to carry a lot of weight and emotional value,” shares the London-based designer. “A nomadic childhood drew me to the idea of being an interior designer and everything else just fell into place.”

And did it ever. Next year, Sophie’s firm, Studio Ashby, will be celebrating its tenth year in business with a monograph that will be published by Rizzoli. “I’m really guilty of always looking ahead and asking ‘what's next?’,” says Sophie. “I’m trying to make a conscious effort to wake up and celebrate these milestone moments.” This week, the Expert sat down with host Jake Arnold for the latest episode of The Expert Podcast. Join us as the two designers chat about Sophie’s latest projects and her standout furniture line furniture Sister.

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Photography by Kensington Leverne; Design by Studio Ashby

On Global Design Differences

With her office in London and projects in cities from Paris to Hong Kong, Sophie views interiors through a global lens: “Thanks to social media, so much of design has become globalized,” she shares. “The challenge is to create something distinct that suits the place it’s in rather than everything feeling homogenized.”

On Respect for Architecture

With a suite of architecturally impressive projects under her belt, perhaps her most impressive to date is the 1709 Blewcoat School which the designer took over for her showroom and studio space. “The day that I turn up here and don’t go ‘Oh my god this place is insane,’ I need to check myself,” says Sophie. “It has to be one of the prettiest buildings in London. I feel a real sense of respect for the architecture of the space. It’s like we’re custodians of this building’s history.”

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Photography by Kensington Leverne; Design by Studio Ashby

Photography by Philip Durrant; Design by Studio Ashby

On Giving Back

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, Sophie realized there was more she could be doing to provide a diverse and inclusive workplace. She partnered with designer Alexandria Dauley to launch United in Design: “We put businesses at the forefront of change by taking our pledge to deliver an equal opportunity pathway for entry into the Interior Design industry for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.”

On Where to Splurge

Known for crafting enduring interiors, Sophie recommends making the safe bet of investing in antiques and vintage furniture—and implores to never skimp on the art, “It doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a Picasso, I just mean never forget about the art. Doing the whole room and then having blank walls is a surefire way to guarantee a home will have no soul.”

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Photography by Philip Durrant; Design by Studio Ashby

On What’s Next

With a flourishing interiors business, her charity, a successful line of rugs and furniture, and two kids at home, Sophie’s plate is more than full, “I've bitten off a lot in the last few years. My main ambition for the next half-decade is to look after everybody, look after my businesses and my charity, and keep everything going.”

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Photography by Kensington Leverne; Design by Studio Ashby

Listen to the full episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts now.

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