The Idealist

Inside a Renovated Soho Loft Studio

Today’s tour is of a Loft Studio Space in Dean Street, Soho that’s been thoughtfully resigned by Sarah Thomas Interiors, who we first met in the 3-storey house conversion in Bethnal Green.

When the clients for this project first took over the loft, it was a completely empty space. Sarah set about making it practical for the two creatives who had commissioned her and to transform the space into a more personal, creative studio with a homely feel that would suit their needs and tastes and also provide a space for clients to visit and a communal meeting space.

IDEALIST: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and your design approach:

Sarah: Based in a North London studio, in one of London’s rare ‘undeveloped’ factory buildings, Sarah Thomas Interiors (Instagram: www.instagram.com/sarahthomasinteriors) offers a flexible, affordable and very personal approach to interior design and styling. I work with clients across the breadth of London, but have also gone as far as Rome to work on a boutique project! 

My work focuses on a collaborative, creative process, always with a lot of consideration to my client’s vision but also trying to push that little bit further; to really bring to life something unique and distinct that won’t date and will remain relevant for a long period.

Whether its timeless high quality pieces, vintage one-offs, or modern contemporary designs, sourcing key pieces or complete renovation and refurbishment, my service aims to guide my clients to make the best possible choices for them and to keep within their budget.  I work on both residential and commercial projects and have a reliable team of builders, decorators, joiners and handyman.  

IDEALIST: Many of our readers might think that working with a professional designer is out of their reach or just the province of the super rich. What would you say to them?

Sarah: Well, I also offer a ‘House Doctor’ service (email: housedoctor@sarahthomasinteriors.com).  This is about working with what my clients already have rather than a whole new scheme.  It can be about rethinking layouts, restyling and reorganising.  A fresh eye on a room, often brings about new ideas.  I also help with decluttering spaces.  Most of us live in small spaces, so its important not to hold on to things we no longer need.  

A Soho Loft

IDEALIST: Today we’re looking at a Loft Studio Space in Soho. What was the space like when you started?

Sarah: It was completely empty. It had been used by an animation company who worked downstairs and kept this room as their ‘server room’ so it hadn’t had any love or attention for a while.  There was a bit of ripping out to do an some reconfiguring of plug sockets etc and some painting of the walls.  I liked the backdrop of the ‘used’ looking floor and the angled walls and low ceilings – it felt like we could make a cosy, homely studio up there.

IDEALIST: What was the brief?

Sarah: This space was going to be occupied by two creatives, running separate businesses but thankfully with some common creative ground when it came to aesthetics.  The idea was to transform this space into a creative studio with a welcoming feel that would enable them to invite clients for meetings and also provide dedicated work space. They were both very visual people, so colour was important.

Redesigning the Loft

IDEALIST: Where did you start with the work?

Sarah: The first thing we needed to decide on were the desks as this would set the tone of the whole space. 

One of the designers had a friend from the Royal College of Art who was making reversible formica desks with powder coated legs, so I was able to decide on a colour palette.  We also decided to make the meeting table out of the same materials, using a yellow/grey/purple colour palette – the desks being a contrasting reversible colour, which meant there was an option to change the look of the room.  With their budget being limited we decided to leave the floor as it was and spend the money on furniture and vintage pieces which were all chosen by me too.

IDEALIST: How did you undertake the work?

Sarah: We used one of my builders to rip out all the existing cupboards that had housed the previous ‘server’ room and used an electrician to move some sockets to the desk and meeting room table area.  A decorator was called in to give the room a fresh lick of white paint.

IDEALIST: What was the look you were going for?

Sarah: We decided on a colourful, eclectic studio feel that could also be expanded on in the future if business grew. For example, with the desks we started off with one long desk but there was space in the room to expand on the desk areas if they were needed. We made a library area in the end corner of the space, using a vintage bench and some Ladderax vintage shelving, so my clients could have a bit of ‘quiet research time’ away from the phones.

IDEALIST: Who are your design heroes?

Sarah: Growing up in the 70’s, my father was an architect and my mother had a very creative eye, so our homes were always considered.  The Conran House book was a constant resource for ideas when I was a child and is still something I look at today, so I would probably have to say Terrence Conran.  I also love Ilse Crawford’s works, especially for Soho House, and Faye Toogood does some amazing work too.  I am also very influenced by colours in art and love David Hockney and Andy Warhol.

IDEALIST: How did you source the furniture for the Soho loft?

Sarah: As this was quite a limited budget project, I had to be creative with my finds and went to vintage furniture shops — I have some regular dealers I use —  plus flea markets and auctions.  The Ercol day bed I got needed some attention so we had it reupholstered by a company I use regularly in Shoreditch and this really made it come to life.  As my clients were sharing the office, they wanted to split up the budget and each buy pieces that they would personally want to keep in the future, so that also had to be considered.

IDEALIST: How did the client react to the work?

Sarah: My clients were very happy with their space and, even though some of their aesthetic tastes were different, it all really worked well together.

IDEALIST: What are your ambitions for the rest of 2017?

Sarah: To get lots more interesting, challenging projects! I would love to work on another whole house project working from scratch… it’s so amazing seeing spaces come together when they have been completely blank to start with. Shops and restaurants would also be a good new challenge for me.

IDEALIST: Is there anything you’d do differently if you could start over with this project?

Sarah: No – in fact i’ve never been unhappy with a project. Some are more challenging and difficult than others and sometimes you come up against problems you didn’t expect but you just have to stay calm and work out the best solution. 

I’ve learnt that it’s really important to identify a budget with my client in the beginning, so there are no misunderstandings or illusions:  a job’s not a job without a budget!  I also feel it’s really important to get to know my client as much as I can, so I can understand their vision and tastes…This can be done through sharing images very effectively.  Often I will look at their references or Pinterest boards and then assess these myself and how I see the project working. Then I put a new starting point reference or mood board together, to take their ideas and expectations a little further.

Get The Soho Loft Look

Items shown in the photos include:

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  • Stephen hails from the north of England but has spent more of his life in Oxford, Cambridge, Boston and London than anywhere else. He lives in an architect-designed modern house in North London which was featured in themodernhouse.com which he is slowly filling with midcentury finds to complement the bare bricks and skylights. Stephen wishes he could afford all the things we feature on The Idealist.

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