Inside Sophie Ashby’s London Showroom
A stone’s throw from St James’s Park, nestled in a rare skyscraper-less clearing on Caxton Street in London sits the Grade I Listed, National Trust-owned Blewcoat School.
Steeped in history, the red-brick building neighbouring Buckingham Palace has been reimagined as the dazzling destination for the stylish Studio Ashby and its homeware offshoot brand, Sister. Unswayed by the passing dictates of fashion, Designer and Creative Director Sophie Ashby drew on her love of antiques, colour, modernist furniture, photography, and her latest discoveries to deliver an eclectic richness to the interior — and the design world hasn’t seen anything quite like it!
The Blewcoat School has been a commanding presence in the area since 1709 when it was constructed as a school for the underprivileged — a Blue Coat School. In 1899 the Blewcoat charity relocated to a purpose-built space, leaving the building as an elementary school. The name, however, remained through the decades. In 1954, the building was purchased by the National Trust to house a gift shop. This would remain operational until 2013 when fashion and bridal designer Ian Stewart reimagined it into his showroom: The Blewcoat.
Today, the London landmark is the real-life moodboard and shoppable universe for Sister by Studio Ashby Studio. Complete with six-metre ceiling heights, Corinthian columns, and a majestic fireplace, the space’s rich and magical history has been renovated with care and respect by the new custodians, who created a series of vibrant art and vintage-adorned mise-en-scènes to bring comfort and warmth to the grand, historic building.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the visionary studio-showroom-shop has become a designer haven for art and interiors aficionados. Interactive, ever-evolving, and welcoming, Blewcoat showcases a special curation of shoppable and highly covetable design pieces, from vivid paintings and future heirlooms, to statement chairs and charming trinkets.
Nostalgic with a contemporary feel, the top floor is Sister by Studio Ashby’s playground, a fresh and approachable home away from home that welcomes visitors and shoppers alike throughout the week. Downstairs is the realm of the design studio, housing enviable material libraries, meeting spaces, moodboards, and more.
No stranger to gracing the front page of some of the most renowned magazines in the world, Studio Ashby has fast become one of the go-to design studios in the UK and abroad.
As a half-South African growing up between Stellenbosch, London, and Devon, Sophie’s palette is inevitably influenced by the smokey blues, soft greens, ochres, and rusts of the Bushveld.
She loves weaving patterns and layering pieces that mean something. Whether it’s an item picked up while travelling or a family heirloom, she thinks it’s important to use objets that tell a story — sparking connection.
Art is undoubtedly Sophie’s first love, which makes perfect sense given she studied a BA (Hons) in History of Art at Leeds University, with summer courses in interior design in New York. She has a particular penchant for South African artists, with Amy Rusch and Michael Taylor standing out as a couple of her favourites. Their work is often spotted on the walls of Sister’s showroom, with an art exhibition that changes every six months.
The collection in these photographs was hand-picked by South African curator Amy Ellenbogen, with former Blewcoat Artists in Residence Erin and Mia Chaplin’s beautiful textured paintings dotted throughout the space. But art isn’t just masterpiece paintings: it can be photography, sculpture, illustrations, and mixed media, all jumbled together to create a rich and layered feel.
‘We had such a great time reimagining this incredible neoclassical building to work for us. It was an amazing opportunity to play with scale,’ Sophie reflects. ‘The picture rail allowed us to keep amazing art at eye level, which brings the focus down and helps our furniture (albeit supersize) feel at home. We can’t help but regularly look up at the vast columns, windows, and amazing ceiling.’ Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more fitting chapter for the Blewcoat School to live on its 300-year-strong legacy.
Interior Design: Studio Ashby
Photography: Kensington Leverne