STYLE ICONS: Goddard Littlefair on sticking within a brief and budget

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Goddard Littlefair has built up a solid reputation in the hospitality sector since its formation over a decade ago, designing some of the most prestigious and eye-catching style schemes seen in hotels since. Fresh from the redesign and revamp of the Mondrian Shoreditch, which the company spearheaded, we spoke with co-founder Jo Littlefair to find out just how buoyant business has been over the last 12 months.

Goddard Littlefair was founded in 2012 by Martin Goddard and Jo Littlefair. Dubbed a ‘forward-thinking, luxury interior design practice’, the company has built up quite the project repertoire and has become widely renowned as one of the best in the business.

At the duo’s core creative process is with both architecture and interior design, working from the inside out to come up with new concepts. Encompassing residential projects as well as hospitality schemes – from hotels to bars, restaurants and spas and wellness centres – Goddard Littlefair’s expertise has seen them partner with top establishments such as Gleneagles, The Biltmore in Mayfair and The Principal in York to breathe new life into spaces.

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The company’s work over the last 12 months hasn’t slowed down either, with the completion of the Mayfair Townhouse in December 2020, part of Iconic Luxury Hotels, and the launch of the much-anticipated Mondrian Shoreditch as the brand marked its return to the capital.

We caught up with Jo Littlefair to find out how business has battled through the pandemic, future project prospects and how the design duo approach new concepts and create new ideas.

What have been some of your biggest UK hotel projects of the last 12 months?

Jo Littlefair: Despite the pandemic, we’ve been extremely lucky to see the opening of several hotels both internationally and in the UK. Notably The Mayfair Townhouse opened in December 2020 and then re-opened this May 2021. Even more recently The Mondrian Shoreditch opened its doors in only a week or two ago and we’re really excited to see how it’s received.

How do you first approach a hotel design project?

JL: We believe that every hotel project is different and deserves individual thinking. The building, brand owner, location and ultimate guests all shape our thinking in order to create a unique and strong narrative for each project. Once there is a consensus on the design direction, decision making becomes much more fluid.

How many members of your team do you have on one project at one time and how does the company structure work?

JL: This is extremely variable and completely depends on the scope of the project and the programme we need to abide by. There’s also no point in overloading a project with too many members of the team otherwise it becomes incredibly difficult to manage from a design perspective. It is critical to select the right team members for each project and internally we talk about the ‘chemistry’ between different people. Interpersonal relationships are incredibly important and the better we can understand these and ensure everyone is working to their best potential then the better our creative output can be.

Martin and myself have tried various structures within our company and we’ve discovered that we really enjoy being in amongst the design teams offering our experience and advice. There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to dive into several projects in a day, enjoying the interaction with the team and having that sense that you’ve made a difference.

What are some of the main challenges you often face with hotel projects?

JL: Hotel projects can last for years and over that time the challenges change constantly. It would be very obvious to respond with the building’s structure, the budget and the programme. But more nuanced is working with the assigned contractor and ensuring their standards meet our expectations. Similarly the working with new FF&E manufacturers can necessitate understanding specialisms and limitations in order to design to maximise the potential finished items.

How do you ensure you design a scheme that fits both a brief and a budget – how does your design process work?

JL: Listening keenly to the brief and the client in the early stages is critical. We need to ensure we’re on the same page and prioritising the same elements as those outlined in the brief. Constantly checking against this is important, producing early and loose options is crucial to being able to talk through the pros and cons of each avenue to try and nail down that definitive brief which will create the DNA for the design aspiration.

From a budget perspective, we initially try to think open mindedly in order to really open up the potential of a project. It means we think in scale and in expansive materiality initially so we don’t shy away from the maximal effect we may want to create. We are, however, realists and understandd very well how to curate, tailor and trim to deliver the effect we want to achieve.

What do you think are some of the key elements to good hotel design?

JL: Really respecting the building and setting of the hotel is key to creating a timeless design that has longevity rather than something that is fleeting. This ethos intrinsically helps to create a more sustainable and ethical approach to hotel design which is extremely important to us as a company. Equally, a great design narrative and story help to shape the brand and identity of the hotel which can be a compelling reason to visit a hotel over similar competitors.

It takes experience and understanding of the hospitality industry to calibrate the experience that a designer can create versus the investment available and the operator’s requirements. A hotel has many moving parts which have to be pinned down with confidence in order to progress.

How has the impact of technology impacted the design world over the last 12 months?

JL: In terms of communication and business, it has only helped us to keep our projects on track and to help unify us as teams. Video conferencing has certainly created positives however nothing replaces the productivity of meeting people and working together as a team. Social media sites continue to be prevalent in our collective worlds and as designers we are conscious of the spaces we create being focal points for this attention.

However, above and beyond this need, we always strive to ensure that our designs fit the spaces and the purposes they need to as a priority.

What will be some of the big trends of 2021 / 2022?

JL: Experience and honesty, ideally coupled together. Swamped with information, overloaded by the anxieties of an uncertain world, we predict that there will be an appeal in transparency of brand and guests will seek out an honesty of design and an opportunity to experience something simple yet unique.

In contrast to this, there are those who want to catch up on time lost and long-elapsed social occasions. We predict guests seeking venues where they can live a little, eat and drink well and perhaps end up unexpectedly dancing on a table in the moonlight.

What are the main things to consider when designing a) hotel bedroom b) hotel restaurant c) hotel reception?

JL: This is such a difficult question to answer succinctly – projects vary hugely as do clients, brands and guests and each area has a different set of requirements. To give you some insight on rooms –the number of guestrooms, the number of suites, the size of each room, the fixtures required in each bathroom, the brand standards and the ultimate expectations of the guest all need deep consideration before you can start pulling the design ideas together. And that really is the tip of the iceberg with rooms!

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

JL: We’re working in the Hong Kong on a residential scheme, Istanbul on the refurbishment of Four Seasons Sultanahmet, the Mandarin Oriental in Vienna and in the Middle East on a resort hotel, residential villas and a golf club – it’s great variety and we’re enjoying the challenge of responding to each individual brief.

Tags : DESIGNdesignsGoddard LittlefairHOTEL MANAGEMENT
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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