Interview: Interior designer Chris Godfrey's approach to luxury, sustainability, and residential design


As the principal at Hirsch Bedner Associates’ ultra-high-end residential design house HBA Residential, Chris Godfrey possesses a design philosophy that draws inspiration from people, places and possessions.

The British architect and interior designer moved to Singapore five years ago and has since established HBA Residential. He has set up design studios in Singapore and London, and a third is slated to open in Los Angeles this year. 

He tells us how he creates luxury through design.

How do you design homes of different sizes?

Our design principles are completely scalable. We apply the same methodology whether we are designing a 40,000 sq ft home or a table. We always start by understanding the premise of a project and appraising the given context – looking at the inherent constraints and opportunities, how we can maximise the potential and make the most out of it. Luxury is also about the space, the quality of light, the materials and the approach. It can be something very subtle and not necessarily just about size. I am pleased with some of the smallest things 
in some projects that I have been involved with over the years, because they present a different sort of challenge.


In your opinion, what defines a luxury home?

The biggest luxury in the world is time. While we cannot create time, we can create space and space in turn creates a sense of time. A well-designed space can be a luxury. A serene interior where the light casts a beautiful shadow on the floor can be a luxury in itself, arising in a moment when you feel perfectly comfortable and relaxed. Within the residential sphere, this is ultimately what it is all about - the qualities and emotions that are quintessential to being in a residential space.

What trends do you see developing in the residential design landscape?  

There is a general trend towards an understanding of individuality and personality, as opposed to brand and expense for expense’s sake. There
is a paradigm shift towards attributing a greater perceived value to something that is made for you, something that has been crafted, over something that simply costs more. As a result of our international approach, we work with a good mix of East and West designs. We do a lot of work in China and there is an increasing appreciation of why design is the way it is. There
is a better understanding of the reasons behind a design, and therefore a greater appreciation for what it is. 


What is HBA Residential’s design philosophy?

We see ourselves as the first 
point in the client-situation- designer triangle. It is a unique triangle that will never be repeated. For example, we may work with the same client again, but in a different location. People are at the centre of everything that we do and we try to respond uniquely to unique clients. We need to remove our personal egos and ambitions so that we can respond objectively to the hows, whats and whys involving the site, programmatic requirements, cultural and religious drivers, the client’s collection and so on. We meld
 all of that together, like cooking; we put all the ingredients into 
a pot and keep reducing it.

How do your projects address sustainability?

We have completed some very green projects over the years, including properties in Europe that were built from solid timber (no steel and no concrete) sourced from sustainable forests in Austria and Switzerland. I also designed a structure that was, at one time, the largest timber structure in the world. For residential projects, we try to source all our materials within a 500km radius around the site. However, sustainability takes many forms, from macro to micro scale. It includes considerations such as where we source our stone and timber, employing a local labour force, engaging local artisans and craftsmen, and providing a platform to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to be engaged in such projects.

Written by Lynn Tan.