Life as the collector of beautiful things and designer of South Bank homes

The open plan living and dining area

The horde of residential skyscrapers set to tower over London in the not-too-distant future may be intimidating, but interior designer Sophie Ashby is more overwhelmed by the prospect of what goes in them. After only a year in business, her design firm Ashby Studios was hired to dress the show apartment of South Bank Tower. The former IPC Media headquarters has been transformed into a mixture of offices, retail space and 191 luxury apartments by private equity investor CIT. Rising 41-storeys above the Thames, it’s likely to be an eye-catching addition to the riverside.

“When you’re doing a Georgian townhouse or something,” says Ashby, “you’ve got moments of the outside world creeping in through the windows. But in these vast skyscrapers, the view is the room. It’s so extraordinary and prominent.” The intrusive urban landscape inspired the neutral colour scheme, which plays around with monochrome and green, the colour of nature chosen in stark contrast to the view outside the window.

The master bedroom

Luckily, Ashby has plenty of experience with tall glass structures as she studied interior design at Parsons in Manhattan after finishing her History of Art degree at Leeds. She describes herself as “a collector of beautiful things” and says the best thing about her job is the hours she spends at auctions, art galleries and antiques markets looking for the perfect item to complete her aesthetic. “I spend my life searching for these odd items and little bits. Unless you make that special effort, then you get everything looking too perfect. I don’t like things to look too pristine, it has to look lived in in a convincing way.”

Sophie Ashby

This, she believes, is the key to her current popularity with developers, who are looking for mass market appeal in a non-sterile fashion. Ashby now employs four members of staff, all of whom are “flat out” working on eight projects. While her rapid success has surpassed all expectations, she now feels she has carved a niche for herself on the South Bank (she also dressed apartments for NEO Bankside). “I feel that I’ve got into the mind of the sort of person who buys around here. I imagine the buyer of that apartment will be very well-travelled, cultured, interested in the arts and a collector – having things from everywhere.
“Basically, I think you’ve got to be a bit of a quirky person to want to live in this area, and that’s the category I feel I fall into.”
For more information on Studio Ashby, email
For more information about South Bank Tower, visit

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