FIND PARISIAN CHIC AT ASH DESIGN
Ash Design has brought French style to British shores with the opening of its Knightsbridge interior design business. We hear from business partners, and sisters-in-laws, Sharon Elalouf and Amanda Ibgui.
It can be hard to manage the demands of two successful careers in one relationship let alone in two but business partners Sharon Elalouf and Amanda Ibgui of Ash Design have twice turned the upheaval of moving half way around the world for their husband’s jobs to their advantage. The sisters-in-law – Ibgui is married to Elalouf’s brother – were running their successful interior design studio in Paris when in 2004 they were uprooted to Miami after their husbands (who work together at an internet marketing company) were seconded to the US on the same project. So Elalouf and Ibgui simply set up their interior design studio in South Beach. ‘It was the start of a new direction,’ explains Ibgui. ‘Ash Design is known for its French touch, but at that time the style in Miami was minimalist, which was not what we did. The houses we worked on were modern or Hispanic in style, so we had to include some elements in our design and we became more international.’
Having established their interior design studio and an army of trusted craftspeople and suppliers required to bring their designs to life – not to mention a new client base in Miami – the women were unfazed when two years later their husbands were seconded back to Europe, this time to London. ‘It is interesting to set up a company in three different countries: you have to adapt and learn a new mentality, to understand how people work each time,’ says Ibgiu. ‘We now have wonderful suppliers in France and America, as well as in the UK, like Robert Allen and Bruno Triplet.’
One tried and tested method that the women employ before appointing craftspeople to make bespoke pieces for their projects is to become ‘mystery shoppers’ and commission items for themselves. ‘We like to know that any issues will be dealt with swiftly,’ says Ibgui. ‘The level of after service is as important to us as the workmanship and you cannot assume that just because something is expensive that that will be the case.’
Ash Design prides itself on its ‘French touch’, which Elalouf describes as modern, elegant and warm, with a subtle use of colour – and located in Knightsbridge, just a croissant’s throw from the French Lycée school in South Kensington, it’s not surprisingly that a fair proportion of their clients are from across the channel. ‘Some of our Parisian clients moving here were very happy to find us here,’ says Elalouf. ‘One client, when she discovered we were here, sent us her keys and said, “I’ll be there in a month, please decorate my apartment for me”. It was a challenge but fun to do.’
Word has since spread and their client base is now far and wide, with up to six projects on the go at any one time, spanning London, Paris, Tel Aviv and the US. One of their latest projects has just been completed on the doorstep here in Westbourne Grove. ‘This was a new home for a recently blended family,’ says Ibgui. ‘Both husband and wife had children from their previous relationships and not all of the children were going to be living there full time, so we created a playroom where they could all work or play together when they were all there.’ The owners also had an extensive art collection and vintage furniture, which was seamlessly incorporated into the new scheme.
The duo work hard to understand their clients’ lifestyles, as much as their tastes. ‘We’ll go into their homes and count their shoes and bags, and the height of the person, so that we can provide the ideal dressing room,’ says Elalouf. ‘We want their homes to flow and function well so they are easy to live in as well as being beautiful.’
With three children each, ranging from one to 18, the founders of Ash Design understand family life. ‘We speak to the children and ask them what they’re interested in and what colours they like, as well as with the parents,’ explains Ibgui. ‘We like to make their rooms reflect their personalities and suit their needs, whether that’s including an area for a tutor or somewhere where they can play guitar.’
Having just moved to their new studio on Kinnerton Street, Knightsbridge, Ash Design and their families are now firmly settled in London. So if you want to bring a touch of La Parisian chic to your home, you know where to go.
Ash Design, Worlds End Studios, Unit 2.05/06, 132-134 Lots Road, SW10 0RJ; 020 7349 7092; ash-designlondon.com
Words by Jacky Parker