SOHO SOUL SET IN ONE OF cen­tral Lon­don’s edgi­est dis­tricts, THIS EL­E­GANT APART­MENT COM­BINES care­fully lay­ered in­te­ri­ors WITH ART­FUL TOUCHES

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - House Cape town -

Apart from be­ing one of Lon­don’s most fa­mous ar­eas, Soho has also long been one of the city’s hottest spots. A real 24-hour neigh­bour­hood, the district sports ev­ery­thing from fash­ion­able art gal­leries and trendy clubs to quirky shops and glam­orous restau­rants. It also has an in­de­fin­able edge de­rived from its his­tory as a red-light district where just about any­thing could – and of­ten did – hap­pen on a Satur­day night. Soho’s ur­ban brio makes it an ex­cel­lent choice for young pro­fes­sion­als, such as the clients who own this apart­ment in a newly built de­vel­op­ment in the area. Says in­te­rior de­signer So­phie Ashby of Stu­dio Ashby, ‘ They were drawn to the elec­tric at­mos­phere of hus­tling, bustling Soho.’ In the midst of all that en­ergy, Ashby has cre­ated a home base for her clients that pro­vides a lux­u­ri­ous oa­sis of calm, while also pep­per­ing the in­te­rior with colour­ful art­works and unique fur­nish­ings – many of which are be­spoke or vin­tage.

The apart­ment is en­vi­ably spa­cious, con­sist­ing of an open-plan liv­ing area that in­cludes a kitchen, din­ing area and sit­ting room (and also has a wrap­around bal­cony lead­ing off it) as well as two bed­rooms, three bath­rooms and a study. The clients’ brief to Ashby was ‘to create a light, airy and el­e­gant space with hits of strong colour,’ she says. ‘They love an­tiques and art, so it was im­por­tant to add a good mix of con­tem­po­rary paint­ings and photographs to com­ple­ment the mod­ern, sim­ple apart­ment.’

The in­te­ri­ors are in­deed sim­ple and el­e­gant, but de­cep­tively so. This is not a space that seems ‘dec­o­rated’ or for­mu­laic in any way. Rather, what Ashby has done is – in her words – ‘add that layer of char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity that makes a house a home’. Born in Lon­don to a South African mother and English fa­ther, Ashby spent part of her child­hood in the West­ern Cape and loves South Africa, hav­ing re­cently de­signed charm­ing and eclec­tic new in­te­ri­ors for The Robert­son Small Ho­tel in Robert­son.

Her work in this apart­ment like­wise re­flects her over­all de­sign aes­thetic, in which ‘art is the cen­tral theme,’ she says. ‘When art is sur­rounded by books, beau­ti­ful ob­jects, an­tique fur­ni­ture and lovely tex­tures, ev­ery­thing comes to­gether to create a real and au­then­tic sense of home.’ In the open-plan liv­ing and din­ing area, for ex­am­ple, this means com­bin­ing re­fined neu­tral fin­ishes with eye-catch­ing be­spoke items, such as the din­ing ta­ble, which is made from cus­tom-coloured ter­razzo set in a black steel frame.

The ma­te­ri­als used are of­ten nat­u­ral, with wood play­ing a large role in both fin­ishes and fur­ni­ture items, such as the wood-topped cof­fee ta­ble. Up­hol­stery fabrics are sim­i­larly kept ‘very ba­sic and pure,’ says Ashby, and fea­ture wool, mo­hair, cot­ton, linen and felt. As she suc­cinctly puts it, these ma­te­ri­als ‘are so in­her­ently beau­ti­ful that they do all the hard work for you’.

Vin­tage fur­nish­ings – of­ten made even more spe­cial via the use of those lux­u­ri­ous tex­tiles – add re­strained hits of quirk­i­ness to the in­te­ri­ors. This is seen in the cur­va­ceous cream arm­chairs in the liv­ing room, which were pur­chased from and re-cov­ered in a tac­tile wool fab­ric. Ashby also has a keen eye for lamps and light fit­tings: among a num­ber of no­table ex­am­ples here are the wall-mounted Ap­pa­ra­tus bed­side lamps in the guest bed­room and a hang­ing light by Naomi Paul in the main bed­room, all of which add graphic verve to the rooms in which they are used.

The fi­nal touches are all about colour, most fre­quently in­tro­duced via the con­tem­po­rary art­works that draw the eye through­out the space. Stand­out pieces in­clude a bright ab­stract paint­ing en­ti­tled ‘Search­ing for an Edge to Cling to’ by San­dra Bec­ca­relli in the din­ing area, a David Ryle pho­to­graph in the en­trance hall and a bold piece by Milla East­wood (from The Dot Project gallery) in the study.

When asked about her favourite room in the apart­ment, Ashby con­fesses that it is the study. ‘I tend to like the small­est but bold­est rooms in our projects,’ she says, ‘and of­ten, the study is that room. I love this one’s vi­brant yel­low chair set against the blue-grey join­ery.’

‘Eclec­tic’, ‘con­tem­po­rary’, ‘homely’ and ‘fresh’ are the words Ashby uses to de­scribe her work – and this apart­ment more than lives up to the prom­ise of some­thing spe­cial that this de­light­fully mixed bag of ad­jec­tives sug­gests. This is a home that func­tions as an ur­ban haven as well as an en­er­gis­ing space from which to re-emerge, both calmed and in­spired, into the busy cityscape in which it is sit­u­ated. stu­

Stu­dio Ashby worked along­side Christo­pher Farr (christo­pher­ to create the rug in the sit­ting room, and its dark hues are echoed in the nested sideta­bles by La Chance ( and the fire­place’s honed black olive mar­ble sur­round. The wooden cof­fee ta­ble is by Jeremy Pitts (jere­ The own­ers of the apart­ment have a pen­chant for an­tiques, so in the liv­ing area, Ashby in­cluded a 1950s smoked glass-and-brass con­sole ta­ble as well as a Jac­ques Ad­net-style round lamp from the 1930s with a horse­hair shade by Stu­dio Ashby. A faceted, gilded vase from Willer ( pro­vides a graphic con­trast to the or­ganic land­scape by pho­tog­ra­pher David Ryle.

A be­spoke ta­ble in the din­ing area fea­tures cus­tom-coloured ter­razzo in a steel frame; the kitchen forms part of the open-plan liv­ing area and in­cludes a break­fast counter and Mat­ti­azzi Radice (mat­ti­ stools.

Ashby’s favourite room in the apart­ment is the study, with its yel­low an­tique chair from Les Trois Garçons (le­strois­gar­ and Dead­stock Cather­ine ta­ble lamp by Cas­tor De­sign (cas­torde­

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