Jo Littlefair of Goddard Littlefair, Lh Exclusive Designer Interview


From multi-award-winning hotels, restaurants, and bars to spas, wellness centers, and luxurious residences, the Lonon-based interior design studio Goddard Littlefair and its co-founders Jo Littlefair and Martin Goddard are masters of their trade. With a talented and international team, Goddard Littlefair creates beautifully tailored and thoughtful spaces from the inside out. And while Jo and Martin are full-on partners, at Love Happens we are all about sharing the stories of strong women so for this piece we were so excited to have the opportunity to chat with Jo Littlefair about her, the firm, pandemic life, and a bit of expert advice!

Lh Exclusive Interview with Jo Littlefair Co-founder of Goddard Littlefair

Jo Littlefair, Co-founder of Goddard Littlefair
Jo Littlefair, Co-founder of Goddard Littlefair

Love Happens: What first sparked your love for design and desire to pursue the trade?

Jo Littlefair: I always loved to draw as a young child and I think being surrounded by nature-inspired me to try and capture the beauty of it on a physical surface. I loved making things in three dimensions and my spare time was spent experimenting with papier mache and moulding clay, then fabrics and fibres. When my two art teachers at secondary school recognised I had an ability – and told me so – it made me realise I had a chance at shaping a career out of design.

Lh: How did you meet Martin? What led up to your decision to start a firm together?

Jo: Martin and I met at a London-based design firm, he was an Associate and I was an FF&E designer. We were drawn together to work on projects as we had complimentary thought processes and approaches which were slightly different to that studio’s thumbprint. We had both experienced the discipline of traditional interior design aesthetics and learnt a huge amount from it. Martin had worked on Four Season’s in Budapest and Amman, whereas I had cut my teeth on palaces for the Royal Family in Saudi Arabia.

There was a connection that seemed to make complete sense and I’d never met anyone else who I’d enjoyed working with so much, so when I left that firm to start a family, I looked Martin in the eye and said if he ever wanted to start a company he should get in touch. It took him three years to do so through LinkedIn!!

Jo Littlefair & Martin Goddard, Co-founders of Goddard Littlefair
Jo Littlefair & Martin Goddard, Co-founders of Goddard Littlefair

Lh: Was there a specific “this is it” moment when you thought to yourself my career is really taking off?

Jo: I’m very self-critical and dislike staying still or reflecting backwards for too long and so having a ‘this is it’ moment would feel incredibly self-congratulatory and satisfied, whereas I believe we’re on a journey to be the best version of ourselves we can be. Having said that, I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved and being recognised as Hotel Designer of the Year in 2019 definitely made me do a double-take!

Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik lobby design by Goddard Littlefair
Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik lobby design by Goddard Littlefair

Lh: How has the current global pandemic affected your business?

Jo: Right now we are really lucky that technology has enabled us all to continue working from our homes and I think it will change the way we work in the future. As an employer, we’ve recognised the possible flexibility this could bring to our studio but we do still value the speed and subtlety of interaction that you have in a face-to-face meeting. Material boards are so much easier to compile in a library and colour and tactility are hard to convey over a Zoom call.

Lh: Do you have any thoughts on how COVID-19 will change the future of hospitality and commercial design?

Jo: We have debated this at length within our team and externally with our clients and some of the hotel brands as well. The fundamental message that we are picking up on is that people like to be together and they want to travel again. How we do this may have to change in the short term
but, assuming that pandemics are not annual events, eventually, we see people’s desire to laugh, hug and socialise together will come to the fore.

Juliet Rose, Munich, designed by Goddard Littlefair
Juliet Rose, Munich

In the meantime, we as designers are looking at the way we lay spaces out and the materiality that we select to try to keep hotels as humane as possible but offering the owners options in terms of being able to give people more privacy. We feel it’s important not to make knee-jerk reactions but recognise that there may be more emphasis on in-room and private dining space in the short term. Resorts may fare better right now as perceived safe havens and that travellers will be planning trips with much more care. We predict leisure guests will want to have a more experience-led stay with an emphasis on wellness of mind and body.

portland house london spa and wellness center
Portland House, London

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Lh: What has your experience been like working as a female leader in the male-dominated world of architecture?

Jo: I do think the perception of women in this industry is improving and I hope to be able to keep pushing this forward. I’ve definitely had some negative experiences and you have to prove yourself over and above male colleagues in order to earn that respect. However, I think being a woman can be an advantage, we communicate and see things in different ways and we should be calmly confident and believe in our abilities. We have a lot to offer in these industries, after all, we’re creating spaces for guests that are very much made up of both sexes!

The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square, Scotland
The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square, Scotland

Lh: If you were to select a piece from​ ​our publisher KOKET​ to design around which piece would you pick, and why?

Jo: I think the Nessa armchair could fit into a contemporary but luxurious setting and I also love soft, organic shapes. I might choose to split finish the upholstery going for nubuck leather on the inside back and seat and a plush cotton velvet to the back.

Lh: What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring designer/entrepreneur looking to make it?

Jo: It’s not an easy career choice, you have to really love it as it can take over every minute of your life and it’s best to make sure both you and your life partner are happy with that!

You continually need to be inquisitive and curious about design, materiality, and people to keep progressing.

Eighty-five percent of our work is about delivering a project, the concept which is often touted as the ‘creative part’ is really only the starting point. Converting the dream to reality through endless meetings and cost exercises forces you to become even more creative!

South Bank Tower, London apartment building
South Bank Tower, London apartment building

Lh: Are there any locations you dream of working in that you have not yet had the opportunity to?

Jo: The Gemini in me can’t give you one answer so I’m going to say Japan and New York!

Lh: What’s next for Jo Littlefair?

Jo: We are lucky to have a myriad of projects underway and some about to complete in Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Copenhagen. We’re hoping to do our own European Grand Tour as soon as we safely can.

A Peek Inside the Fabulous and Inspiring Mind of Jo Littlefair with the Lh Design Questionnaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sailing on a teak decked maxi yacht around the islands off the west coast of Italy.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Two Carl Hansen Signature armchairs and foot stools.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My children, we learn something new together every day.

What profession does your alter ego have?

Sustainable farmer and horticulturist.

The project you will never forget.

Gleneagles – Scottish highlands and fires crackling, I can’t think of a warmer welcome.

Gleneagles hotel golf resort, Scotland by jo littlefair
The Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland

Your favorite business tool or resource.

My iPhone and a 2B pencil.

The most timeless design.

A Chanel 2.55 handbag.

The biggest design faux pas.

Flocked anything.

Your motto.

Live life in the present as much as possible and ideally not through a screen.

Love happens when…

You make time to really listen to one another.

By Anna Beck Bimba