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Treasured: Sophie Ashby on her favourite possession

The British interior designer on the precious artwork painted by her husband as a teenager

sophie ashby favourite possession
Mark Cocksedge

My husband Charlie [Casely-Hayford] was passionate about art at school. He and I have that in common – we spent most of our school lives in the art block, painting and drawing. That was our real passion.

He’d held onto a few of his artworks from school, while I’d chucked all of mine away in a moment of insecurity, which I really regret. He had a wonderful art teacher who had truly inspired him, and he could see the value in it.

Charlie painted this piece when he was about 16 in the style of Jenny Saville, which I think so much A-level art often is! It’s in oils, just straight onto this little board. I think it’s really sweet of him that, as a young boy at an all-boys’ school, he decided to paint this woman’s face and did such a beautiful job. It’s so sensitive and soft.

He’d kept it, along with a self-portrait sculpture, so I suppose he likes it, too.

I had it framed for him, quite soon after we got together, through my favourite framer Graham Harrison. He suggested we do it in this really beautiful burgundy leather frame and it just makes it a lot more substantial and special.

The colours have informed the palette and mood of our sitting room, where it hangs, ever since. It’s quite small – so it’s not ‘the big one above the fireplace’ – but it will always have an important place wherever we live. It’s just my favourite thing. studioashby.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2021

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