Get with the programme
A new home in west London’s old BBC building
Behind the sweeping curves of the restored 1950s, grade-IIlisted former BBC Television Centre Helios building in west London, Sophie Ashby and Charlie Casely-Hayford’s compact one-bedroom flat is a trove of unexpected delights. This is no surprise since both Ashby, who heads up the Studio Ashby interiors practice, and her mensweardesigner husband Casely-Hayford, live and breathe design for a living. Ashby, who bought the apartment off-plan four years ago, was keen to make a considered choice as it was her first owned home.
“At the time I had just started my business and wanted to get on the property ladder, but also I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get a mortgage without three years of accounts,” explains Ashby. “So this was a neat solution – you pay in instalments over the years. Charlie and I had only just met, so I wasn’t necessarily thinking about the future.”
While Ashby was sceptical about living in a development, it was the building’s rich heritage and sociable lifestyle – residents have access to Soho House’s White City House – that appealed to her. “The owners wanted the place to be full of people who actually live here, so you do really feel that sense of community,” she explains. “We were among the first people here when we moved in last February and because of my job I had planned the interior. Everything was installed in days.”
Casely-Hayford recalls: “It was somewhat disconcerting. I left our rented flat one morning to go to work, came back to the new place that evening and it looked as if we’d lived there for six months.”
While the bones of the apartment were specified by the developers – a grey concrete floor, recessed architectural lighting and a grey, tiled bathroom – it’s the terrazzo counter in the open-plan kitchen mirroring the building’s original floors, and the restored midcentury windows and ceiling that remind you of precisely where you are. Ashby then set about introducing her signature layers of colour, texture and, as she puts it, “adding soul”. The first thing she did was to install the wall-mounted, bespoke cabinetry in the living room, which houses the couple’s extensive collection of books and objects. Central to it, a large photograph is cleverly mounted on a rail and slides sideways to reveal a television.
“This place is small,” says Ashby, “so everything has to be versatile. The sofa is a sofa bed and almost all of the furniture is on wheels, so we can move things about as we need to. There’s a bench on one side of the dining table so that it can slide underneath when we’re in the kitchen. Everything has its place.” Spaces for coats and a laundry are all concealed behind cupboard doors.
Casely-Hayford’s four-year-old daughter, Rainbow, who stays with the couple at weekends, has her things neatly
‹ hidden inside a large ottoman. “It’s known as Rainbow’s World and she loves it,” says Casely-Hayford.
Design-wise, Ashby’s South African heritage (she is part Devon country girl, part South African) is evident: a Pierre Frey fabric upholstered headboard on the bed in the sunny, yellow bedroom; the softness of a large bamboo silk rug, the warm earthy colours of cushions and throws as well as ceramics and carvings. “My mother is the South African one and has strong opinions about design,” she explains. “I love pattern and colour generally.”
The couple also share a love of art: every wall is covered with paintings and exhibition prints, the windowsill with sculptures in among potted plants. “I didn’t really have that many possessions, save for art and books,” explains Casely-Hayford. “Because those things play a prominent role in Sophie’s design projects, it was interesting to see how she interpreted my things in our home. It feels very much part of us both.”
The sense of personality and warmth here also comes from Ashby’s love of vintage furniture – she’s a regular browser at Kempton Park and Ardingly antique markets as well as the marchés aux puces in Paris. “It’s partly because I love how it looks, but also it’s good value – around the same price as shopping on the high street, but the quality is so much better.” An art deco cocktail bar adds old-school glamour, as do the walnut and marble-topped book cabinet, occasional
‘Once you commit to the maximalist art and having stuff everywhere, I think it feels really cosy’
lamps and reupholstered dining chairs and armchairs. airs “Very little of ofwhatwe what we have in the flat is new. Every piece of furniture has a story, so it adds a richness to the way we live,” says Casely-Hayford. Ashby agrees. “Once you commit to the maximalist art and stuff everywhere thing, I think it feels really cosy.”
The pair admit that while they’re happy indulging in their cool, millennial lifestyle for now, it’s not part of a long-term plan. “We can’t really start a family here and I feel guilty about Rainbow not having her own room,” says Ashby. “For now, though, we love it. It feels hotel-like. We go to the gym downstairs, read the papers and have what we call ‘steam-room Sundays’ after Rainbow goes back to her mum’s. We’re definitely making the most of this modern, luxury-lifestyle set-up. I think we probably have 30 years ahead of us in a damp Victorian house, so for now, this is extraordinary.” ■
Art and crafts: (clockwise from above) contemporary art and a vintage deco cocktail bar; the sunny bedroom with a Pierre Frey headboard; and midcentury furniture in the kitchen
Walnut drinks cabinet £2,799, heals.com Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec sofa from £3,900, twenty twentyone.com
Dining chair £179 for a pair, made.com
Magazinerack £29.95, grahamand green.co.uk