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Interior Design (MA)

Sophie Marney

My name is Sophie Marney and I am currently studying MA in Interior Design on the ReUse platform. After studying Interior Architecture and Design at the University for the Creative Arts, I came to the Royal College of Art to further my approach and strengthen my strategies in responding to the climate crisis through interiors. 

  • 2021 Retail Design Student Nominee
  • 2021 'Most Financially Sensitive Brief' from the Museum of Farnham
  • 2022 UCA Interiors Best in Graduate Show Runner Up

My attitude towards Reuse develops from internal guilt and empathy towards the natural environment in an ecological crisis. My interest in global ecologies, the Gaia Hypothesis and interconnectivities provide frameworks for empathy within my design briefs. 

I feel that Reuse is the only way forward in the face of the climate crisis. When the economic growth model is considered largely responsible for its exacerbating and unrelenting role in climate change, Reuse in interiors and architecture is the obvious remedy. Reuse demands an understanding of the site, its histories, both its human and more-than-human users' stories and materiality that forces designers to confront the inherent value in the existing.


My postgraduate practice explores methods of adaptive reuse and positions socially progressive programs in under-used sites in order to highlight the disparity between existing systemic complicity and reality. My body of work imagines possibilities for methods of social evolution that align with speculative economic processes like degrowth to aid in the development of the built environment through the current climate crisis.

My work is strongly paralleled with mental health advocacy. Previously,  I have explored methods of adaptive reuse to accommodate the use and research of therapeutic psychedelics in response to the UK’s mental health epidemic. In collaboration with The CoOp, I have also designed safe spaces in stores aiming to aid those with anxiety and disordered eating habits to make informed, healthy decisions.

The process of creating each design program begins by assessing the emotional value of the space and its anthropological history. This research is then furthered in conjunction with an empathetic evaluation of potential users, which allows me to make decisions sensitive to the site, site ecologies, users past and present, site materiality and accessibility.

outdoor render
The Gables - Outside Approach

The Gables: Intermediate Housing and Support Facility for Previously Incarcerated Mothers

The Gables is an intermediate residential facility for mothers leaving prison. Set in the ruin of Nettleham Hall, Lincoln, the facility responds to the previous use of the site: a home. The ruin previously housed the Hood family and their staff, with spatial variations that reflected both walks of life. My adaptation of the ruin reimagines the site as an egalitarian home to allow for reintegration into everyday life.

The project aims to support mothers with the necessary skills and information to find permanent housing, financial security, and mental health management while helping to gently re-integrate into everyday life outside of prison. Mothers and their children are reunited in the facility after what can be years of incarceration and are supported in their relationship before leaving. The project accommodates mental, physical and social stimulation for mothers and children alike, with opportunities to relax, play and regain a sense of self.

In the scheme, everything a mother could need is immediately available. Each family (one mother and up to three children) is allocated a private apartment and access to counselling and therapy, a shared kitchen and lounge, physical and mental health support, legal and accommodation advice, an on-site laundry, access to the old Nettleham Hall grounds, a children’s play atrium, a classroom and plenty of space to relax and socialise. 

When exploring the site of the Nettleham Hall ruin, the space was immediately characterised by its distinct and varied apertures that served as intimations of the building’s previous life. The new timber and bio-polycarbonate spine that runs through the ruin to create The Gables supports the apertures within the ruin, as well as the women and children utilising the space. Using exposed joinery and keeping the space semi-transparent translates as a feeling of honesty throughout the space, in order to juxtapose the secretive and imposing establishments that many of the prospective users of the space will have come from. At the heart of the facility is the ‘reunion hall’. The reunion hall serves as the focal point of the scheme, and the experience of the users, so other services and spaces available for use stem from this centre point to allow the users to make the most of their special reunion moment. The setting of the ruin in the sprawling Lincolnshire countryside also informed the design. The new structure mainly comprises raw birch-faced plywood, an approachable and neutral material that both compliments and offsets the landscape to allow the women and children using the site to reconnect with nature and ecologies on a tactile level. A large section of the original Nettleham Hall grounds is allocated as a new public nature reserve to sit alongside the facility. By integrating public grounds into the scheme, the women and children using the space can feel included in everyday life outside of prison and are not isolated as prisons are. Lincolnshire Police HQ is also a 3-minute drive from the site, meaning that women due to using the site can be quickly resettled after leaving prison and the incarceration system. The facility serves as a satellite site for the Lincolnshire Police Headquarters. 

I feel that this project highlights a huge disparity experienced by mothers in the UK prison system, where the needs of men are prioritised. Women make up just 3.8% of the UK prison population, meaning that mothers especially are forgotten where support is offered after incarceration. The unseen burden of incarcerated mothers and their families is particularly troubling; just 9% of children whose mothers are jailed are cared for by their fathers, meaning that the financial, social and mental burden of childcare is often left to the family of the mother. Only 5% of children with incarcerated mothers go on to live with their families after their mother has been sentenced, whereas the other 95% of children go directly into care or foster homes. The Gables aim to reunite mothers with their children and to set these families up for a life together outside of prison.

apartment render
Section of Allocated Apartments
Render showing reunion hall
The Reunion Hall
hand drawing
SightlinesA hand-drawn conceptual sketch with gouache illustrating the varying sightlines and perspectives between the working and upper class previously housed within Nettleham Hall.
Sightlines 2A sectional conceptual model illustrating the varying sightlines and perspectives between the working and upper class previously housed within Nettleham Hall.
AperturesA perspex model showing the apertures of the ruin to be maintained and supported by the timber spine.
PerspectivesA digital collage illustrating the respective perspectives of the upper class groups using the space.
Perspectives A digital collage illustrating the respective perspectives of the working class groups using the space.
Initial Analytical Sketches of the Serving Hatch in the Original Formal Dining Hall in Nettleham Hall
Launch Project
The Handbook of Invasive Species to the River Lea – The handbook shown opening on a concertina-style page to demonstrate the wea

The Handbook of Invasive Species to the River Lea aimed to challenge the accepted presentation and distribution techniques used in showing information about ecologies. This project aimed to provide a speculative model of information distribution that informs of the unseen ways in which capitalism and the Industrial Model disrupt global ecologies. Historically, informational sources and references such as encyclopedias and handbooks have maintained objectivity and rigidity in their entries, to ensure a controlled and precise general understanding. This technique, however, often fails to present flora, fauna, and fungi in their full wealth of connections, dangerous consequences, and processes. This distribution technique is also inherently colonial, with colonialism being a historically driving factor in the climate change we are experiencing now, new modes of effective and in-depth presentation are now required to allow us to reconsider the makeup of the global ecology and our role within it. 


Hardback Casebound Concertina Style Book



Characterising An Approach to Adaptive Reuse

To characterise my approach to Adaptive Reuse, I selected my great-grandmother’s 1950s cigarette lighter as my object to ‘repair’ or amend. This object is of particular interest because of its ornate floral detailing. My great-grandmother, Dora, (otherwise known as Nanny Brotherton in the family) had this detailing covering my two mother-of-pearl panels, which is a testament to her confident, conversation-starting, and fashion-loving nature. 

The cigarette lighter has since fallen into an unusable state. The mother-of-pearl panelling has fallen off one facet of the lighter, the flint is oxidized and the fluid chamber is rusted shut. This project aimed to repair and reframe the lighter while incorporating Nanny Brotherton’s personality and legacy.

The final development manifested as a cigarette lighter tobacco/ display case in a light turquoise to match Nanny Brotherton’s beret and to align with her love of fashion. The brightness of the piece provides an eye-catching conversation starter, a feature that Dora would have taken full advantage of when smoking with her customers, colleagues, and family. 

Analytical sketches showing a smoker's process to aid in designing functionally
A handmade concertina book detailing the life of Nanny Brotherton
A display Stand for Nanny Brotherton's Cigarette Lighter
Development Maquettes

The Empathy Pavilion

The Empathy Pavillion is a proposal for an interactive and immersive experience, designed to encourage connection, observation and reflection through nature, art, animation, augmented reality and design. The pavilion serves as a culmination of our Across RCA team’s practice, and the opportunity for the realisation of our respective working theories about self-care, responses to grief and our role within global ecologies.

The key feature that I feel should be highlighted within our final response, is the accommodation for each contributor’s element. Each group member’s contribution has been positioned in a bespoke arrangement that allows for each element to be highlighted in its own space, but to be cohesive as a whole. Working collaboratively and requesting information on how each element can be presented to its full potential served as the core of my design process when creating the pavilion. The first step that I took when designing the pavilion, was arranging each element sensitively, so the structure of the pavilion could serve as a vessel purely for the group’s artefacts, making the design unique to our group’s output and thoughts. When discussing balance throughout the scheme, and the weighting of each of our contributions, the subtle inclusion of nature is also an aspect that I was proud to include the design. It was particularly fulfilling to have the freedom to include aspects like slatted walls to accommodate wind and carrying aromatherapeutic scents through the space and to have these aspects be crucial to the efficacy of the scheme.

From a personal point of view, my response allowed me to develop my practice by returning to the roots of why I wanted to become a designer: to design spaces sensitive to the user, materials and the environment. The project allowed me to have complete freedom and responsibility for the ethics, outcome, and visualisation of the design itself, and to take the role of lead designer, an experience that I had not had up to this point. As ‘the lead designer’, the project allowed me to develop leadership, decision-making and communication skills, especially towards different demographics and skill sets.

From a wider point of view, The Empathy Pavilion serves as a reference point for other designers to contextualise artistic and multi-disciplinary collaboration to elevate a design to its full potential, especially for the user. Within the interior design field, space is typically created within a rigid, designer-forward approach. Often, little value is assigned to the role that fine art and technology can play in finalising and creating an engaging and meaningful space. The design of The Empathy Pavilion also characterises the possibility of creating a symbiotic relationship between art, design and nature. Although the pavilion is not yet as technically advanced as the bio-material-based and advanced biological projects that Oxman produces, the subtle cues that allow nature to inhabit the space, as well as humans, are valuable in introducing this idea as the precedent in the future.

From the beginning, our pavilion aimed to reposition empathy as a priority in our daily interactions, whether these be, familial, professional, medical or platonic. Outside of practice, the pavilion provides a starting point for empathy within the community. Through art, therapeutic aromatherapy augmented reality and design, mindfulness, stillness, self-care and observation through varying perspectives, empathy is given space to develop and prosper in the community. Through the art and animation included in the pavilion, introspective observations can be made, Jack Whitlock’s paintings explore feelings of grief and ‘letting go’, allowing the users to connect with and come to terms with their feelings; looking into themselves and into what formulates our interpersonal responses allows us to respond with more care for others. Emmie Thompson’s inclusion of animations that encourage self-care also encourages this knowledge of validation and creating emotional space in ourselves to become more empathetic. Anna Tsiganchuk’s development of vessels for augmented reality accommodates both of these ideas and elevates Whitlock and Thompson’s work. Leona Li’s aromatherapeutic contribution to the output allows users to be present, mindful and calm throughout the experience. In conjunction with the immersive and nature-centred experience of the pavilion, all elements would allow communities to reframe their possibly unconscious attitude and approach towards empathy. As a group, we discussed possible positions for the pavilion in areas with increased violence or community disparity, and with a distinct lack of access to meaningful outdoor, natural spaces. The pavilion could sit in a small, natural site within each area, to serve as a place where the value of nature, interpersonal sensitivity and introspection can value. We discussed possible uses in medical environments too; a space for busy doctors to relax and reconnect with their attitudes and profession to provide more empathetic and holistic care to patients.

Exterior Illustration of The Empathy Pavilion
Sectional Illustration of The Empathy Pavilion
Detail Illustration of 'Cuteness' and Augmented Reality Features of The Empathy Pavilion
Detail Illustration of Aromatherapeutic and Augmented Reality Features of The Empathy Pavilion
Sectional Illustration of The Empathy Pavilion

The World of Interiors Bursary

Since 1981 The World of Interiors has documented the rich diversity of ways in which we live, showcasing the stylish and the unexpected as well as applauding individuality. Published monthly in print and daily on its website and digital platforms, The World of Interiors is a global title celebrating originality in design, decorating, arts and culture. After 40 years, it continues to surprise and inspire.