Monday, 18 February 2013

Antony Little | Biba Artist & Interior Designer


Biba Artist & Interior Designer 

Antony Little, artist and interior designer, first became associated with Biba in 1965 through his connection with Julie Hodgess, whom Barbara Hulanicki had commissioned to create a wallpaper design for her first shop in Abingdon Road. Upon moving to the second Biba premises in March of 1966, she once again hired the two designers to transform the interior. Prior to this, Little had painted the facade of Michael Rainey's 'Hung On You' boutique at 22 Cale Street, using the beautifully fluid Art Nouveau style which underwent a major revival at this point in time. The continuation of this influence can also be seen in the window design he created for Biba's new Kensington Church Street boutique―upon which he painted the name above the shop in gold lettering on a black background, then decorated each of the shop's three windows with gold leaf circles which served as the only portholes, surrounding them with an expanse of opaque 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 window design as an interesting background feature or 'frame' in photo shoots. An adaptation of the black and gold Art Nouveau-inspired 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 Antony Little had co-founded a wallpaper and fabric company with his brother in-law Peter Osborne. They opened a small showroom in Chelsea and subsequently produced some of the most striking hand-printed wallpaper 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 via their Vintage Collection. 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 of interest such as furniture design, painting and various architectural projects and has no active connection with the firm now
although his name still remains as a memento of the business that they built together.

Eleanor Powell Biba
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. 

One of the Aubrey Beardsley inspired illustrations by Antony Little which was sold through 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 featured on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1966, along with an eight page report on the continued rise and rise of the revolution in menswear in London, called the 'Swinging Revolution'. *Note: Unfortunately all in the above photograph remain unidentified at this point, except for Trinidadian-born designer Christopher Lynch (standing).  

A close up of the exterior at Biba, Empire House, 19-21 Kensington Church Street, W.8. Art Nouveau-inspired window design detail by Antony Little. Photograph by Douglas Kirkland , 1967.

Antony Little's original design drawings for the exterior of Biba at 19-21 Kensington Church Street. Work on paper, January, 1966.

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

Another Illustration by Antony Little which sold through 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 Pavilion 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 Limited Edition Vintage Collection

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

Yet another example of the Antony Little Art Nouveau-inspired Biba window design used to frame a subject―on this occasion by photographer Frank Habicht.

The cover of a Biba diary/notebook, 1967. The first Biba 'branded' product. Logo designed by Antony Little.


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. A close-up of the exterior at Biba - photograph by Douglas Kirkland Look Magazine November 1967, and In the Sixties by Frank Habicht. Antony Little at home with his wife Jenny (1970) Photographed by Tim Street-Porter. *Except for photo No.8 which is courtesy of the Alwyn Turner Website via Antony Little. The Biba diary/notebook scan is from The Biba Years 1963-1975. View more examples of Antony Little's artwork via Beardsley, Biba & Beyond and take a look through his window designs at Biba Kensington Church Street (1966), and Biba London's Mini Mecca  19-24 Kensington Church Street (1967). Visit The Osborne & Little Website. Some recommended reading 'Inside the establishment's wild wallpaper purveyor' 50 Years of Osborne & Little. And finally, visit Julie's Restaurant & Champagne Bar―owned by the former interior designer Julie Hodgess which has been in business since 1969, *Update 26/2/2015: You'll find a radio interview with Julie Hodges on the Jo Good Show available for a limited period via BBC Radio London. And finally, Whatever Happened to Christopher Lynch? 


  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...? :-)

  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!

  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!

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