Jo Littlefair joins us for the latest instalment of Curated By…
Establishing Goddard Littlefair in 2012, with her co-founder Martin Goddard, Jo Littlefair works between the UK and Porto offices.
Here, Littlefair shares her design wisdoms, some hard and fast decorating rules, plus other useful tricks of the trade…
How did you first get into design?
I have always been drawn to interiors, but at first, I didn’t realise it was possible to make a career out of it. I studied textile design and originally planned to work in fashion, perhaps as a buyer. I also had a huge wanderlust, so in my gap year before university I went travelling. During this year I got a job working on a super yacht in the mediterranean. This yacht was incredible; everything was bespoke and the finishes were exquisite. When I found out it had been designed by an interiors company it really opened my eyes, and led me on my career journey.
What was the catalyst that led to the creation of Goddard Littlefair?
Martin and I met when we worked for another design company. He was completely different to the other designers at the firm in that I saw someone who truly believed in every line he put on paper, and his passion and conviction was utterly convincing. We were thrown together on projects and I knew by then that Martin was my perfect teammate. The fact that we ended up as life partners as well was a very happy consequence.
What is your design philosophy?
Our ethos is about combining aesthetic perfectionism and boundless curiosity with a team-playing, service-driven attitude. We aim to constantly evolve and create truly unique spaces that work within the context of each project. Whether it’s an ultra-contemporary new build, or sensitive historical refurbishment, we are inspired by a building’s architecture, location and history. We create strong stories for our interior concepts, which users instinctively understand or enjoy discovering layer by layer.
How would you describe the Goddard Littlefair aesthetic?
Creativity for us encompasses not just a flair for design, it’s about maximising all the ingredients that deliver a destination hotel for our clients that will fulfil their aspirations. Creativity is much more than a colour scheme or a mood: it’s the correct planning of the public spaces, the right mix of suites to standard rooms, and optimising restaurants and bars.
Talk us through your design inspiration behind the Heritage Collection penthouse apartments at 9 Millbank, and how you worked to transform the original heritage of the building?
In the case of 9 Millbank, we drew heavily on inspiration from the architecture and heritage of the building: the prominent location on the Thames and therefore the calibre of clientele that would be drawn to this residence. The interior architecture of the spaces are incredible and they simply needed bringing back to their former glory with an application of love and patience from skilled craftspeople. The additions that we made were in some cases very contemporary but, by retaining a degree of detail, they didn’t feel out of place in such a grand setting. We also chose some strong colour schemes which perhaps are more used in traditional settings, but at the same time we ensured we mixed in enough contemporary shapes to give a modern edge.
Talk us through some of your favourite design projects to date…
This is a really difficult question to answer as we connect so personally to projects, and it’s not always the biggest budgets that provide the most personal satisfaction. I could point out the Royal York Hotel, which went through a total transformation and was uplifted in such a dramatic fashion.
List some designers and/or makers you really admire and tell us why you admire them…
Vivienne Westwood challenged the establishment and developed an enduring international brand, while championing authentic materials such as Scottish tweed fabrics. She injected humour and intelligence into timeless fashion that transcends trends. Anni Albers was a textile designer who progressed her designs over her career, evolving beautifully textural pieces which reflected the art movements of their time. I’m always intrigued by textiles which can be more than functional – they can be art pieces themselves.
Some of your favourite places to shop for homewares…
Conran in London always has such a great selection of pieces, be it decorative or practical. I’m an avid collector of ceramics – much to my family’s distress – and I like to buy things which remind me of holidays and people. For example, a favourite cake plate was bought from an artisan in Provence, while our Porto studio recently gifted Martin and I with a Bordallo Pinheiro pineapple jug. It brings a smile to our faces every time we use it.
How does travelling influence your taste?
I am really inspired by visits to various locations in Africa, most recently North Africa. The materials are so tactile and deep-rooted in the local culture. I love being amongst nature, being in the mountains, and seeing wildlife. These are spiritual moments that make you stop and question your day-to-day life and really get the creative energy flowing when it comes to design.
What are some tips you have on how our readers can bring a touch of Jo Littlefair magic into their homes?
Focus on making your home a sanctuary. That starts with decluttering as much as possible. We’re being more ruthless about our possessions using the tried and tested William Morris principal, ‘have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’. I’m currently sifting through a raft of sepia tinted photographs of our families and looking at re-framing and hanging them in a more contemporary way.