Monday, 18 February 2013

Biba Artist & Interior Designer Antony Little



Antony Little, artist and interior designer, first became associated with Biba in 1965 through his connection with Julie Hodges, whom Barbara Hulanicki had commissioned to create a wallpaper design for her first shop in Abingdon Road. Upon moving to her second Biba premises in march of 1966, she once again hired the two designers to decorate the interior. Prior to this, Little had painted the facade of Michael Rainey's 'Hung On You' boutique in Cale Street, using the beautifully fluid Art Nouveau style which had been experiencing a major revival at this point in time. The continuation of this influence can also be seen in the window design that he created for Biba's Kensington Church Street shop, he painted the name above it in gold lettering on a black background, then decorated each window with gold leaf circles which served as portholes, surrounding them with an expanse of black Art Nouveau swirls. The facade proved to be incredibly popular, attracting not only the curiosity of every passer-by but also the attention of many photographers, who liked to use the windows as an interesting background feature in photo shoots. An adaptation of the design also became the new Biba logo, adorning bags and other printed materials. Although he continued to work with Biba in an interior design capacity on further projects, by 1968 Little had co-founded a wallpaper and fabric company with his brother in-law Peter Osborne. Together they opened a small showroom in Chelsea and subsequently produced some of the most striking hand-printed designs of the decade. For those of you with a penchant for interior design from this period and for those who would like to decorate accordingly, it will undoubtedly be welcome news that the firm of Osborne & Little are still active and that quite a lot of their early work is currently available again. *However, in 2006, after spending 38 years designing wallpapers and fabric, Antony Little sold his entire interest in the business to his partner in order to pursue other areas such as furniture design, painting and various architectural projects and has no connection with the firm now although his name remains as a memento of the business that they built together.



Shop  manager Eleanor Powell, wearing a suit from Biba, the photograph was taken across the road from the second Biba outlet which was located at 19-21 Kensington Church Street.





                                Antony Little and his wife Jenny at their London home circa 1970. 
              


 
Aubrey Beardsley inspired illustration by Antony Little which sold in Biba, Kensington Church St.



                               Hung On You, 22 Cale street. Window design by Antony Little 1966.



The interior of Hung On You, 22 Cale Street. A blow-up of a fin de siècle style poster design for the shop by Antony Little decorates the wall in the background, the backdrop was also used on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1966, the same issue featured an article about the rise of the 'Swinging Revolution' in London.



Close up of the exterior of Biba, Empire House, 19-21 Kensington Church Street, W.8. Nouveau window design detail by Antony Little.



Shop manager Kim Wilmot photographed in the window seat of Biba in Kensington Church Street, one of the many photographs which used Antony Little's Nouveau window design as a backdrop.



                                 * Illustration by Antony Little, which sold in Biba  circa 1967.




Part of the conservatory area in the third Biba shop, at 124-126 Kensington High Street designed by Antony Little using stained glass windows which had been reclaimed from St Paul's school. (1969).



                                Size, colour and price labels designed by Antony Little for Biba.
     




Osborne & Little's 'Chinese Dragon' wallpaper, designed in 1968 by Antony Little, inspired by the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, you can view a fantastic example of the paper as it was intended to be seen here. And, if you have fallen in love with it, you will be happy to know that the paper is available again in six different colourways from various stockists, along with some other incredible wallpaper designs and matching textiles from this period, as part of their Vintage Collection


                            Packaging from stockings, with logo designed by Antony Little for Biba.




Yet another example of the Antony Little Nouveau window design used to enhance a photograph,  on this occasion by Frank Habicht.



                                   *Biba diary/noteook, 1967. Logo designed by Antony Little.


                                                               IMAGE CREDITS
All images scanned by Sweet Jane from the following publications: The Biba Experience by Alwyn W Turner, 70s Style & Design by Dominic Lutyens & Kirsty Hislop, Boutique a 60s cultural phenomenon by Marnie Fogg, Look Magazine 1967 photograph by Douglas Kirkland and In the Sixties by Frank Habicht. *except for photo No.8 which is courtesy of the Alwyn Turner website via Antony Little. *update 6/4/2015 Biba diary/notebook scan from The Biba Years 1963-1975.

                                                                             LINKS
                                           Antony Little: Bearsdley, Biba & Beyond here
                                         The Osborne & Little Website can be found here
                          The Osborne & Little Vintage Collection of wallpaper can be found here
              The Restaurant & Champagne Bar owned by Biba's former interior designer Julie Hodges,
                                 which  has been  in business since 1969 can be found here.   
        *Update 26/2/2015: Listen to a radio interview with Julie Hodges on the Jo Good Show here.
                                 the interview begins halfway through the show at approx 01:06          

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this informative blog. Anthony Little is much overlooked yet his work was fantastic and totally epitomised the times. Can I request a blog on Julie Hodges work...? :-)

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  2. Thanks Angie, my sentiments exactly!... I love his work, it's hard to believe that there is such a lack of readily available information about him online. You can indeed, i'm actually in the process of trying to put a blog about Julie Hodgess together at the moment, another wonderfully talented person who's work deserves far more recognition!

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  3. Hi - just discovered your blog through googling Biba. Not sure I am going to get much work done today now! just reading through it all now - love it!

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    1. Hi Grace, glad that you're enjoying the posts, thanks a mil!

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