Award-winning British designer, RIBA Chartered architect and the man behind HBA Residential, Chris Godfrey is taking the world of elite residential interior design by storm. With a studio in Singapore and a newly launched one in London, Chris talks to Design Pataki about HBA Residential’s future goals, his creative process, and the inspiration behind his career.
Hirsch Bedner Associates is the largest hospitality design firm in the world, with a strong international presence, their recent venture into the realm of high-end residential interiors is no different. Chris’s work has taken him around the globe, with projects in Singapore, Dubai, China and India. Professionally Chris has scaled dizzying heights but that has not stopped him from pursuing his creative interests. He makes time to listen to classic Trojan records when off work on Sundays. Fascinated by culture, Chris makes sure he mixes business with pleasure and explores new places on his trips. He even toured the famed Dhobi Ghat on one of his trips to Mumbai!
Chris’s holistic approach to design involves using architecture and interior design to create residences which are exquisite and beautiful from the inside-out.
Design Pataki: What made you want to take on architecture and design as a career?
Chris Godfrey: Thinking back, I was really immersed in the design world from my earliest days. My father is an excellent artist and architectural draftsman and was undoubtedly pivotal in shaping my creative foundation. From the kitchen table in our small Yorkshire town, he would hand-draw architectural perspectives of large, awe-inspiring London buildings for the big name architects of the time. So that was my introduction to drawing, buildings and the creative process. My father was an artist first, a draftsman second and a maker third. We lived in this ordinary terraced house, however, the interiors were really quite unique with avant-garde décor he made in the backyard shed. My dad collaged the entire house. For years and years, he painstakingly cut out beautiful photographs from design magazines and the Sunday Times supplements, pasting together the pieces on every bedroom wall. So I’d go to bed surrounded by what at the time seemed pretty unusual – nudes, art, archaeology, architecture combined with his own hand drawings and furniture – but was ultimately highly influential. These points of reference, the craft, and attention had a strong influence on my upbringing, schooling and ultimately my design philosophy.
Design Pataki: How does designing for a private client compare to designing for a corporate environment? Which process do you enjoy more and why?
Chris Godfrey: I am inspired by the uniqueness of people and place. For me, creating celebrating uniqueness is the cornerstone of design, I like to create unique environments for unique people. Whilst there are increased blurring of boundaries between the hospitality, F&B and residential sectors, a residential design is fundamentally different from working in the commercial arena. To design someone’s home is a singular, profound and enriching undertaking and must be approached with the client as the fulcrum.
It’s highly rewarding to connect with owners uniquely and create residences that resonate. The time, focus and care we invest in the creative process result in one-of-a-kind reflections of our clients’ personalities and values. To create someone’s personal environment is a privilege and the love for the subject continues to grow.
Design is absolutely a process and creating a residence is a very personal journey for our clients. Our clients are well- travelled and well-versed, so each one defines personal luxury differently.
I really like the early stages of the project as I gain inspiration from the clients we engage with and the ambitions, challenges and opportunities they present. Client’s rightly often come with a vision for the project. By asking the right questions, listening between the words and looking beyond the image we try and quickly disseminate and respond with a design which both demonstrates an innate understanding of underlying ambitions and produces something neither party could have predetermined.
Design Pataki: What is your definition of luxury? How do you feel your personal style embodies the idea of luxury?
Chris Godfrey: For me, luxury is something that is created and experiential and not acquired – it’s about the feeling of something being ‘just correct’ the perfect meal, catching the most amazing sunset or wearing the best-tailored suit. This is something that doesn’t necessarily shout loudly but is evident to the discerning: a quiet luxury.
I say that, in designing residences, we look to ‘celebrate the everyday’ i.e. to create an environment where the luxury of something being correct is enjoyed routinely.
My philosophy is through to create “luxury through design” which means, I understand that each client and context defines luxury differently and I look to translate and cultivate this definition into unique and personal spaces, highly tailored to each client’s preferences and the physical context.
Within the wider context, I think there continues to be an increased movement towards “less is slightly more” a reasoned luxury. It’s less about being ostentatious and more about having something bespoke in the best sense, conceived and crafted just for you. Luxury is becoming more refined and quiet, which accords with my own philosophy.
Design Pataki: What to you are three essential elements of the ‘perfect space’?
Chris Godfrey: Form and proportion; light and shade; serenity and sanctuary. To quote:
‘Architecture is the learned game; correct and magnificent of forms assembled in the light’ Le Corbusier
Design Pataki: With the launch of the London office, what do you see in store for the future of HBA Residential?
Chris Godfrey: By establishing two highly synergetic operations with an international focus, HBA Residential is strengthening relationships with our global clientele, providing them with a wider offer whilst retaining our deeply personal approach. This unparalleled marriage between creativity and service delivery is setting a new benchmark for luxury residential design. It was a clear intention to be able to service our clients both east and west, and in pursuance, we are securing commissions with our Asian clients in Europe and our Western clients in Asia.
In the years to come, we plan to open a third studio in the US and become truly global by creating a wider offer for our cosmopolitan clientele. From the outset, we’ve always planned to have three epicentres that allow us to be only a few hours’ flight to a project anywhere in the world. We will have three studios will continue to work as one team, which means we can easily cover a wide range of time zones and service our globetrotting clients from wherever they travel. Our vision is to stay small and intensely focused, without growing too large, which allows us to work with a select number of clients and be reactive but controlled, delivering everything yet still managing everything.
As told to Design Pataki