ISSUE 7  |  Living Small

The Compact Live/Work Space of London Designer Ondine Ash

February 15, 2017 6:00 AM

BY Nell Card

After 14 years working as a buyer in the London fashion industry, Ondine Ash decided to take a break and travel. Her time working for a major high street brand had raised a lot of questions about where products come from, so on her return, she reduced her hours to launch Ondine Ash, her own eponymous, ethically-conscious homewares collection inspired by her travels in Japan and South and Central America.

Ash now runs the business from her compact, recently-renovated flat on the first floor of a converted Victorian in London’s Brixton neighborhood. “I did the renovation work on my own, completely naively,” she says. “I think if I knew how much it was going to cost, I probably wouldn’t have started.” Join us on a tour of her vibrant live/work space.

Photography and styling by Anna & Tam.

Ondine Ash Brixton living room

Above: Ash reintroduced the original features that had been stripped from the converted flat: Wooden floorboards, skirting, and sash windows were all reinstated. She says, “I decided to keep the shell very neutral with white walls and bare, oiled floors,” which allowed her to showcase her finds: “I’m someone who loves a lots of things: vintage furniture, textiles, and houseplants. I’m obsessed with houseplants.”

The sofa in the small living area is from a now-defunct café/vintage shop in Clapham. (“I went in for a cup of tea and left with a three-piece suite of furniture,” she says.) It also functions as a guest bed.

Ondine Ash Brixton Living Room Detail

Above: Ash’s houseplant collection adds greenery and texture.

Ondine Ash Brixton living area

Above: “I’ve always been drawn to textiles; there’s a lot of indigo, monochrome, and bold, tribal patterns in my collection,” Ash says. Pieces from the collection are glimpsed throughout her home: Hanging above a small armchair is one of Ash’s handmade hanging baskets, holding a purple Oxalis plant.

Ondine Ash Brixton kitchen

Above: The compact birch-ply kitchen was built by Ash’s uncle, a carpenter. The work surface is protected with Danish oil. The vintage metallic kitchen implements were sourced from antique shops in Ashburton in Devon, Ash’s home country. “Every time I go home, I’ll spend a few hours looking in all the vintage shops. Ashburton has become quite well known for it’s antiques, and it’s so much cheaper than London,” she says.

Ondine Ash Brixton Kitchen Detail

Above: Open shelves hold vintage copper pots; a hook keeps a colorful tea towel at the ready.

Ondine Ash Brixton workspace

Above: Ash’s spare room doubles as her stock room and workspace. In one corner, a small table holds her hardworking sewing machine and stacks of textiles.

Ondine Ash Brixton stock storage

Above: Blankets and baskets, ready to be sold, are efficiently stored in built-in shelving. Ash sources her fabrics from Mali and India; the feather padding for the cushions is responsibly sourced from a company in Sussex that is RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certified, which guarantees that the birds have not been mistreated.

Ondine Ash hanging basket

Above: Ash makes her hanging baskets from cotton cord, which is hand-dyed and sewn on a machine with a zig-zag stitch. “You have to sculpt them as you sew, and every time I make them, I get the first one wrong,” she says. A layer of plastic is sewn inside the basket, making them suitable as hanging planters (as seen in her living room).

Ondine Ash Brixton bedroom

Above: In the master bedroom are examples of Ash’s range of mud-cloth cushions. The fabric is made in Mali from strips of vintage fabric that have been sewn together and dyed with fermented leaves and river mud. Each of the designs has a significance in Malian culture. The gray Welsh blanket is also available through her shop.

Ondine Ash Brixton bathroom

Above: Ash moved a wall in the bathroom to create more space in the spare room and a built-in laundry cupboard in the hallway. The bath, where Ash carefully does all of her own indigo dying, has been paneled with the same reclaimed wood as the floor. (“Not a single board was wasted,” she says.) The tiles are from Terrazzo Tiles in north London.

Ondine Ash Brixton bathroom sink

Above: Ash mounted the bathroom sink on a vintage wooden cabinet. She says: “I really wanted to avoid a modern, wall-mounted sink, so at the last minute, I went off to Lassco on my lunch break; they had just taken delivery of a dozen old hospital cabinets. It cost just £40 [$49]. Sometimes, if you’re persistent enough, stuff just sort of appears when you need it.”

Ondine Ash portrait

Above: Ash at home. “It’s all about making, sourcing, and collaborating with makers who have a similar ethos,” she says of her collection. “It’s very early days, but I’m feeling very excited about the brand.”

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