Curating art for the home: Joanna Wood shares her career highlights

3rd October 2017

Joanna Wood is an interior designer, entrepreneur and business owner, who has been running a luxury design practice for over 30 years. We interviewed her to learn more about her experience, advice and opinions on art for the home. How to buy it, how to display it and how it can change the look and feel of a room.

“I am the least academically qualified person in my office, but far and away the most experienced.”

Joanna tells us, laughing. We’re sat in her eclectic Victoria office, surrounded by countless books of fabrics, resisting the urge to rifle through the materials paired and spread across the table. 

“I trained underneath a very talented designer and architect called Alana Dowling, at Asprey on Bond Street. Very early on, in my mid-twenties – when I had more optimism than experience – I set up my own business in the spare bedroom of my flat. Since then, it’s grown and grown and grown.”

From the humble beginnings of her home office, Joanna Wood has cultivated a design pedigree which few could question.

She’s done work for The Crown Estate, and for The All England Tennis Club at Wimbledon; runs a retail shop with a furniture showroom in Belgravia, and has two design companies: Phillips & Wood and Lewis & Wood – designing fabrics, furniture and lighting, respectively. As she observes, “It’s enough to keep a girl busy!”

On art

Designing the dwelling-places of the affluent and successful means that Joanna has worked with some of the most famous art in the world. But although she has designed with pieces as well-known as Damien Hirst’s sheep in formaldehyde (“We ended up putting it on a little lobby in the staircase with the most amazing lighting on it. So, you came up the stairs and there it was!”) it’s not always necessary to spend millions to find something you love.

“I say, if you take a collection of pebbles off a beach and put them into a Perspex box and you light them beautifully, then that’s art.” Joanna tells us “We are not a brand led practice which is why we work across such a broad spectrum of art. We translate the client’s look – we do not sell them a particular look. Quite a lot of designers are like “This is what we do, this is how it will look at the end of the day – this is the box.” What we do is design the box to suit specific backgrounds.”

This is one of the most powerful things that comes across in our conversation – just how important the client’s personality, lifestyle and emotions are when designing a space. And equally, it’s often the art and the objects which define the design – not the other way around.

“The more I know about design and architecture the more I understand that all I am doing is designing to present the art and the art must always be the most important thing in the room. Everything we do is about the presentation of the client’s art or sculpture or porcelain… It’s not about the coffee table, it’s about the beautiful bowl on the coffee table.”