Get with the pro­gramme

A new home in west Lon­don’s old BBC build­ing

The Observer Magazine - - News - Words BECKY SUN­SHINE Pho­tographs ALEXAN­DER JAMES

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, Ro­nan & Er­wan Bouroul­lec sofa from £3,900, twenty twen­ty­

Din­ing chair £179 for a pair,

Mag­a­zinerack £29.95, gra­hamand

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