Known for their bold, eclectic and daring designs, Sophie Nguyen of RIBA Chartered practice Sophie Nguyen Architects launched her own architecture firm in 2003 and has established a studio that continuously pushes the limits of design-led living. Some of the practice's many fantastic projects include a fastidious remodel and extension of a four storey Victorian house with loft conversion in North Kensington, a two-storey pebble-dashed end of terrace house in West London and a glass house set in a conservation area in West Midlands. It’s safe to say Sophie has mastered residential projects that continue to surpass expectations of city living by creating beautiful, spacious and noble spaces, regardless of their complexity or size. We took the opportunity to chat to the master of playful designs about her own home, the changes she made to her interiors as a result of lockdown and the exciting projects in the pipeline for her studio.
Where is home for you?
I grew up and studied in Paris, but my home for the last 25 years has been in West London. I love these cities, very different but both are dense and lively, with a creative energy and a cosmopolitan population.
What does your daily routine look like?
My daily routine is dependent on the projects I am working on. It always starts with a lovely breakfast and copious amounts of black coffee. When I am not visiting on site, I walk to my studio which is next to the Grand Union Canal in Westminster, where I draw and create physical models in order to evolve a project. Then I divide my free time between reading, some exercise, as much of London’s art and culture as we can fit in, and the occasional episode of ‘Curb your enthusiasm’ with my daughters…
What’s the style of your home interiors?
Spacious, light, colourful and joyful. I like a space to be de-cluttered of unnecessary partitions and objects, to allow it to be experienced as a spacious and restful home. I also love applying colours to some of the architectural objects, transforming a staircase, kitchen, and bathroom into a sculptural intervention.
Where’s your favourite room/spot in your home and why?
In our new house, my favourite room is the living room. It is spacious and in the centre of the house. It looks out onto the vibrant street and is connected to the sunny balcony on the rear side. It is a generous room fitted with light, where you feel in the middle of the city, but from where you can retreat to the privacy of a sunny rear garden.
Please can you share your top tips for how our readers can easily refresh their interior for summer?
De-cluttering our rooms provides a lot of rewards. It reveals spaces which were lost under the mess. The rooms feel more generous and restful. Repainting the walls and ceilings, preferably with white shades, increase the sense of light. When adding a new element, the choice of the material is important as it brings colour, reflection, softness, hardness, warmth.
You’ve got a day to spend at home with no obligations or distraction. What would we find you doing?
Thinking of my next project and sketching new ideas, reading a novel on my bed, deadheading notes, spending time with my family, walking in Hyde Park to see an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery!
Lockdown caused everyone to spend more time at home than ever, which renewed everyone’s interest in their interiors and garden. What design changes, if any, did you make to your home or wish you could have made to improve your home environment for this period?
Our design change during the lockdown was to install a new double door to create an entrance space and separate the ground floor from the upper floors, and we loved it! We were six of us living together in our home. The possibility to have private spaces in the house made being together enjoyable, because we could choose to mingle or to have time to ourselves. Open-plan living is enjoyable when there are secluded rooms as well.
What did you learn from spending so much time at home and what do you think we can all take away from this period?
I realised how important it is for the spaces in a house to be versatile, to have the ability to adapt easily to different uses. I also found that a private external space, whether a city garden or a balcony became particularly beneficial. We really appreciated being able to be outside in the privacy of our home, during the lockdown or when in quarantine.
What exciting projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the extension and renovation of a beautiful family home in Notting Hill. Beyond this, I am working with the Westminster Neighbouring Forum to improve the Westbourne area through community engagement and transforming a neglected public space into a meanwhile project or a definitive project if possible.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Several domestic refurbishments, and I am interested in designing social housing on brownfield sites.
All Images Credits to Hufton + Crow
Portrait of Sophie Credits to Sophie Nguyen Architects