Although Jo Littlefair launched London and Portugal-based interior design studio Goddard Littlefair with fellow founder Martin Goddard 10 years ago, she was drawn to design and its many facets long before that. Nature, travel, and a rural upbringing played complementary roles in the development of a worldly view.
Where did you grow up? Has it affected your career path?
My parents were third generation dairy farmers from County Durham [in North East England]. There is a part of me that still feels rooted in that place. While I eventually rebelled against what I saw as a conservative upbringing, I now respect that my drive and determination stemmed from seeing my father’s work ethic. I owe it to my mother and grandmother for giving me ways to explore creativity in three dimensions, teaching me to knit, crochet, and make my own clothes, leading to a pursuit of textile design.
What is your first design memory?
When a new textiles teacher joined my high school, we went from making a piece of clothing for each class to designing experimental textile art. From that moment on, I was hooked on the combination of using textiles to create art pieces, and it never stopped.
After college, I wasn’t ready for the world of fashion. I loved to travel. For seven months, I ended up as one of the crew of large sailing yachts that ferried tourists around the Australian Whitsunday Islands. Then I went back to Europe and worked on a luxury yacht with interiors designed by Donald Starkey. I didn’t realize you could design something on this complex level – I was fascinated. It never occurred to me that there was an industry doing such things. I had to work my way around the world, and it made me a different person. [I had the chance to] Experiencing places and learning about people and cultures. My first design job was sourcing antiques and buying chandeliers on the island of Murano for the palaces and hotels of Saudi Arabia.
When and why did you decide to open Goddard Littlefair?
We launched Goddard Littlefair in 2012. Martin and I met while working at another studio, and we connected right away. After a break from the kids and travel, we reconvened through LinkedIn authorities and began working on new commissions from the likes of Hilton, Berkeley Group and Corinthia Hotels. The demand for work increased, and we opened a small studio in the Barbican [in London] It can only accommodate about seven employees at one time. With increased work from hotel and lodging developers we had to increase the size of the studio and moved to Hatton Garden in Farringdon.
We have spent many happy years there winning prestigious projects such as the Gleneagles, refurbishment of four major hotels, and completion of the Ebury Square residences for Berkeley homes, helping us cement our place in the industrial landscape as a creative, practical, personable, and professional with a depth of knowledge that our clients can truly benefit from.
We have recently realized our ambition to own our own studio and are in the middle of moving into an old warehouse building in the Barbican. Martin and I are excited to be back here. It is as if the streets speak of real, historic London juxtaposed with brutal modernity, and we look forward to sharing this raw feeling with our international colleagues and friends we have worked with over the years. It’s like we came out of our first decade with a real sense of accomplishment, and we’re super excited for the next chapter.
Why did you launch Epicurean in 2019?
We are passionate about dining experiences and as part of our development it has been instinctive to have in-house restaurant and bar professionals who understand process and are experts on trends in the food and beverage sector. Epicurean is branded as a separate division – we believe in a different attitude to food and beverage design and wanted to free ourselves up to think differently about those schemes.
What are you currently working on?
A former castle nestled in the Majorca countryside, the elegant and timeless building is now home to Hotel Castillo Son Vida, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Majorca with timeless appeal, we have presented a contemporary yet sophisticated and layered interior scheme, revealing notes of romanticism and glamor inherent in the hotel’s past while A more modern and elegant aesthetic encapsulates the island’s design-mindedness.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet houses a well-known local landmark that was once a prison and features a landscaped courtyard surrounded by stone walls, a public mosque and guard towers. We created design solutions that reflected the beauty and history of the site and old Istanbul, while staying true to the contemporary residential design language synonymous with the Four Seasons brand.
Villa Copenhagen is located in the Danish capital’s historic main post and telegraph office, originally built in 1912. We were asked to transform the iconic building’s public areas, with the aim of highlighting both the historical aspects and the architecture. Introducing contemporary Scandinavian designs.
What is your favorite part of hospitality design?
Traveling has always been a lifelong passion, and Martin and I are both curious and fascinated by different parts of the world. Hotels are the window that tends to frame much of our destination experiences. For us, it is important to ensure hotels enhance and elevate the experience by catering to the weary traveler and allowing them to get to the heart of the place. We are fortunate enough to work in many sectors of design. The design of the hotel gives an element of escapism and addictive scale.
What engineer or designer do you like the most?
Vivienne Westwood defied the establishment and developed an enduring international brand, while championing indigenous materials such as Scottish tweeds. She brings attitude, humor, and wit into timeless fashion that transcends trends and is deeply admired.
Textile designer Anni Albers has evolved her designs over the course of her career, developing beautifully woven pieces that reflected the artistic movements of their time. I’m always fascinated by textiles, which can be more than functional—they can be pieces of art in their own right.
What’s next for Goddard Littlefair?
We work on a wide variety of projects, stretching from Europe to Asia and beyond. In addition to seeing high-profile projects (such as the Guerlain Spa at Raffles, London at OWO and the Mandarin Oriental Vienna), we also work extensively on all spas. The standout project at the moment is a Mediterranean resort run alongside owners who understand hospitality, including all elements of food, beverage and spa. We are really excited to see this project come to life.
If you weren’t in your current career, what would you be doing?
I love all things gardening, so landscape design is something that interests me. In my spare time, I try to occupy myself at home within the realms of our little walled gardens. Being connected to nature still gives me a great sense of well-being and happiness.
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