sophie-ashby

Interior designer behind Studio Ashby, 29-year-old Sophie Ashby has an eye for art. Ebullient colours and frenzied patterns populate her newly launched furniture collection, Piece by Piece, and congruently many of her clients’ homes take a similar shape. With a dislike for anything reproduced, copied or fake, Ashby loves fun-inducing surrounds. Her designs have attitude balanced out with a natural palette and lusty artwork, meaning that everything from florals to cloudscapes is on the cards.

When away from home – Sophie lives in Portobello with husband, and menswear designer, Charlie Casely-Hayford – her hotel selection process is clear-cut: eclectic finishes in design-led surrounds. Here, Sophie shares her favourite places.

1. Ett Hem, Sweden

Meaning “home” in Swedish, this cosy and stylish hotel owned by Jeannette Mix (and designed by one of my design heroes, Ilse Crawford) really does feel like a home away from home. With no “back of house” to speak of, the hotel flows as it would if you lived there. The conversion of a former arts and crafts building, Ett Hem is built for cosying up by a crackling fire, reading books and eating a variety of sweet Swedish pastries.

2. El Fenn, Marrakech

This impeccably styled boutique hotel in the heart of Marrakech has a rooftop pool and terrace which gives way to hypnotic views of the city. Each room is individual in its design with vibrant jewel-coloured walls, retro 1960s and 1970s furniture, Moroccan art, rugs and other beautiful bits and pieces. It’s a relaxing place to spend a few days with good food.

3. Le Sirenuse, Italy

For me, this hotel is the definition of glamour. Harbouring sentimental memories – we went there the night after we got engaged to celebrate and watch the sunset – there’s an air of romance about Le Sirenuse (rose-tinted glasses or otherwise). A great place for an aperitivo, people watching and gazing at the popularised bay of Positano on the Amalfi Coast.

4. Jack’s Camp, Botswana

Botswana has a very special place in my heart. Sitting on the back of an open vehicle looking for animals is my favourite sort of holiday; I find it really restorative to spend so much time in silence, staring at nature, waiting to see the twitch of a lion’s ear through the long grass. Jack’s Camp is richly decorated, full of colour (unusual for a safari camp) and finished in Arabian style. The desert landscape – in its glorious shades of ochre and sienna – is the epitome of natural beauty.

5. Robertson Small Hotel, Western Cape

This hotel is set in Robertson Valley in the winelands just a few hours outside of Cape Town. Although I am a little biased – Studio Ashby did the interiors – the project ensure that refurbishment were completed by 100% African makers, artisans and designers. A very special spot, it’s full of stories and memories from a time when I was lucky enough to go back to my homeland regularly and soak up some contemporary African art and design in the process.

6. La Granja, Ibiza

I’m itching to go and stay here! La Granja looks so peaceful and paired back – something I could never do because I like “stuff” too much. Full of texture, light and shadow with simple, natural materials and minimal furniture La Granja seems to be the spot to relax and unwind for a few days. I’ve heard the food is fantastic, too.

7. Masseria Cimino, Italy

This place is very dear to me, it’s the first time Charlie and I went on holiday together. We had such a precious week exploring Puglia and sampling the best Italian food in surroundings ranging from caves to hillsides. Beach adjacent, the design of the hotel is playful and fun and it run by loveliest staff – in all, Masseria is a great option for an intimate escape.

8. Misool Eco Resort, Indonesia

This hotel is a real “once in a lifetime” spot. Located on a private island in Indonesia, the Misool Eco Resort ticks a lot of boxes: quiet, luxurious and eco-aligned. The tranquility that comes with exchanging your alarm clock for the lilting sound of waves lapping on the shores will leave you wondering how you can make this is a more than once in a lifetime destination.

9. Monastero Santa Rosa, Italy

Charlie proposed to me here and it will forever be the most magical place on earth. Formerly a 17th-century monastery, Monastero Santa Rosa is a luxurious five-star hotel, surrounded by tiered gardens. In other words, total heaven. It also has the best spa I’ve ever been to with products from my favourite perfumer Santa Maria Novella; we had a massage using a candle of scented aromatic essential oils which was indescribably good.

10. Babylonstoren Franschhoek, Simondium

This South African hotel is owned by former Elle Decoration Editor Karen Roos, who unsurprisingly has an impeccable eye for design and detail. The Cape Dutch house and surrounding buildings form the nucleus of the estate but the contemporary restaurant and wine-tasting room is the main draw. The surrounding gardens – conceived by French architect Patrice Taravella – heave with fresh fruit and veg (more than 300 varieties of edible plants grown) which also appear on the kitchen’s ever-changing menu.

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