Practice Perfected


Jo Littlefair, co-founder of GoddardLittlefair, has a curious and observant nature which quickly recognises evolutions and trends. L-J Andrew spoke to the award-winning interior designer about her inspiration, passion and projects

When did you first realise you had a flair for interior design?

I have always been drawn to interiors but in the early days, I didn’t realise it was even possible to make a career out of it. I studied textile design and originally planned to work in fashion as a buyer. I also had a huge wanderlust, so in my gap year before university, I went travelling, and managed to secure a job working on a superyacht in the Mediterranean. The boat 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. This led to me becoming an FF&E design specialist. I love working with materials and seeing design in 3D – it perfectly combines styling and architecture.

What location most inspires you?

I’m fascinated by North Africa. The materials are so tactile and deep-rooted in the local culture. Marrakech also hugely resonates with me. I love being amongst nature, in the mountains, observing wildlife close at hand. These are spiritual moments that make you stop and question your day-to-day existence. They fuel your creative energy.

What’s the first step you take when starting a project?

I harvest all the information made available to me. You have to delve deep and shake up the status-quo. Whether the building is new or it’s a renovation project, the process is still the same. It’s equally important to understand the context of the location, the land, the people and the culture. As a studio, we engage our design team and sound them out on their initial thoughts. We then work on weaving together a strong narrative and scoping out a unique design story for each project.

How do you balance aesthetics with practicality within the home environment?

Designing interiors is similar to being a chef. You have the key ingredients, but you have to know how to mix and balance them to create the right recipe, or in this case – the right interior scheme. In the residential arena, we’re acutely aware of the fact that we’re creating spaces for daily living. Our clients have children, pets and complex needs. My husband, Martin and I have a busy family dynamic, so webring that personal experience to bear. We understand the need to balance practicality when it comes to selecting materials and creating different zones - if we choose a beautiful silk, we are careful to place it in the right area, so that clients can still enjoy those standout aesthetic details in their home.

You recently won ‘Interior Designer of the Year’ at the Brit List Awards. How did you feel when you received the award?

It was quite an accolade. I felt very proud and surprised – a number of esteemed colleagues were shortlisted. Being recognised in the industry is so important, however it hasn’t altered my perception of myself or my work. I’m not one to sit still, as there are always new opportunities to discover. The older I get, the more I want to learn and challenge myself.

You are often a point of reference in interior design for innovations in consumer behaviour. How do you identify the latest trends?

We don’t have a think tank or a trend forecaster that we subscribe to, however we do listen and observe as much as possible from all aspects of life both professionally and personally. I think receptiveness to change is all about attitude. We know that change is an integral part of life, however how we respond to that individually, is completely variable. Overall, it’s important to filter new information and so-called trends and truly question the validity before embracing something new, while being respectful of design that works, and being conscious that new doesn’t always mean better.

How did your collaboration with Martin Goddard come about?

Martin and I met when we worked for another design company. He was completely different to the other designer sat the firm, in that I saw someone who truly believed in every line he put on to paper and his passion and conviction were utterly convincing. We were thrown together on projects and I knew enough by then to know that he was my perfect teammate. The fact that we ended up as life partners as well, was a very happy consequence. Laughter has and always will be a key part of our relationship.


Gleneagles Glamour

One of Goddard and Littlefair’s most recent commissions was the re-design of a collection of rooms at the world-famous Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland.

The estate has such a fabled history. Did you want to take the design in a completely new direction or preserve it’s rich legacy?

It was absolutely a case of restoring and resetting the spirit of the Highlands and the grandeur of the building to its rightful place. We saw that previous designs had subscribed to different ‘fashions’ in colour palettes and fabric qualities, none of which brought out the sense of place or enhanced the experience of staying at the hotel. We witnessed rooms dressed in shiny, man-made fabrics in bright colours, whereas we wanted to see warm wools and linens, woven in Scotland, in natural tones that echoed the environmental surroundings and uplifted the spirits in tones of heather and muted greens.

Tell us about the influences behind the makeover?

Right from our very first site visit, we were impressed with the wild beauty and atmosphere of the location. However, when we saw the existing rooms, they didn’t feel particularly Scottish in character – they could have been anywhere in the world. Our concept embraced the glorious Scottish Highlands as our first moment of inspiration. We also had to take in the scale and grandeur of the grounds and the exceptional service of the hotel. Our aim was to design guestrooms that not only complement, but also enhance the guest experience.

What’s the hallmark of a successful project?

Good design should sit naturally in its environment. When you enter a hotel lobby or restaurant, it should feel right - the design shouldn’t look out of place or cause too much discussion. It’s always a great pleasure when we see people enjoying the spaces we design, that’s the ultimate goal.

How did it feel to put your stamp on this landmark resort?

We love spending time in Scotland, whatever the weather, so to be asked to look at this prestigious resort was an absolute honour. Gleneagles and the people that work there, represent the essence of five-star hospitality. Nothing is too much trouble when it comes to fine-tuning the guest experience which is why the interior needed to support and exceed expectations.

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