Interior designer Joanna Goodman fell in love with the work of Christopher Architecture & Interiors after hearing president Chris Reebals speak at a seminar. At the time in 2013, the Birmingham, Alabama-based firm was only designing exteriors; Goodman suggested that, if Reebals wanted to create an interiors arm to the company, she would head it up. Fast forward through weeks of conversations, and an interior design wing was created under Goodman, who used her 17 years of design experience to develop beautiful, artful environments that complement the company's renowned architectural work.
Now, years later, she has helped build the reputation of Christopher Architecture & Interiors both across the country and close to home, showcasing her work in publications like Southern Home, Southern Lady, Ocean Home, Elle Decor, and Birmingham Magazine. She and Reebals also earned the company a nomination for HGTV’s 2018 Faces of Design competition, and last year, she was a featured speaker at the 2018 Architectural Digest Design Show in New York City.
Here, Goodman reveals how she approaches each interior to create an intimate, liveable space for her clients.
Q: What inspired you to become an interior designer?
A:My family always encouraged me to create. Exposed to music, art, and travel from an early age, I always found a way to express myself, from playing the piano to drawing or designing detailed barbie-doll houses. However, traveling was probably a key influencer. Travel was, and is, the most inspiring to me. I vacationed across the United States with my family as a child, and now I travel for my career. I have always been inspired by visiting new places, discovering new resources, and meeting new people. Capturing the emotional experience of visiting historical monuments or a newly constructed building encouraged me to study why various interior spaces made me feel a certain way. Interiors fascinate me; everything comes together to complete a meaningful composition — every detail matters.
Q: Which part of the design challenging process is most challenging for you?
A: Designing is like putting a puzzle together. I love the challenge of creating something that is unique for each of my clients. Our team believes not only in the impact of great design, but also in the power of place to enhance the lives of our clients and those who interact therein.
Q: Before you joined Christopher Architecture & Interiors, the firm specialized only in architecture. What inspired you to join the company, and how has it changed under your influence?
A: I began my formal studies in the architecture department at Auburn University, and although I ultimately decided to focus on the interior design program, that early exposure to learning about the poetics of space made me more well-rounded as a designer. For 16 years, I practiced both commercial and custom residential interiors, but my true passion was residential design.
It wasn’t until 2013 that I joined Christopher Architecture & Interiors. After attending a seminar Chris Reebals was hosting, I reached out to him and asked if he ever wanted to incorporate an internal interior design department into his company, I wanted to head it up. Within weeks, we were making plans, and we just hit the ground running. It seemed like a no-brainer to join forces. It has been an effortless partnership since we both share a passion for good design. We enjoy collaborating with our team and our amazing clients who inspire us daily. Our projects span across the United States and range from new construction and renovations (big or small) to furnishings and décor. We are a one-stop shop that can deliver a complete product from the ground up and finish with the final touches that make the house a home.
Q: What's it like to work for a company that now focuses on both architecture and interior design? How is that different from working with an architect from another firm?
A: At Christopher Architecture & Interiors, collaboration is at the heart of everything we do, starting with listening carefully to our client. Our team members uniquely integrate across disciplines to create a meaningful product that is a seamless blend of responsive architecture and thoughtful interiors that reflects each client’s vision of living, work, and play. When the architect and interior designer collaborate from the beginning (and in the same office), we are working on the same canvas in real time. Decisions are made together, not later down the road which could potentially cost the client additional money and time. We feel that offering both design services in-house is a very efficient way to work and deliver the best product for our clients.
Of course, there are times the client has their own architect or interior designer they bring to the table, and we are happy to work with them. Communication becomes an even more important part of the project to make sure everyone understands what the other is doing and working together effectively.
Q: When conflicts arise between you and clients, how do you resolve them?
A: We try to prevent conflicts with clients the best we can, but sometimes things do come up. Open communication is key to any successful project. Staying engaged with clients from start to finish helps keep everyone informed and on the same page. If I do see a potential situation arising, I try to put myself in their shoes and look at the situation from their perspective. I do my homework, and I present options of possible solutions. With a focus on quality and strong relationships, we are passionate about providing a meaningful experience through a joyful process.
Q: You’re based in Birmingham, Alabama. How would you describe Birmingham’s style and design community? Is the community static or evolving?
A: Birmingham has so much to offer, and construction is popping up everywhere. To accommodate our own firm’s growth, Christopher Architecture & Interiors has recently moved into a new office located in the heart of the historic Highland Park area. Conveniently located between the rapidly expanding amenities of downtown and the communities over the mountain, we are excited to be a part of Birmingham’s thriving community. With fine cuisine, art, and entertainment, Birmingham also has a rich history of design and architecture. The southeast has several prestigious architecture schools, and we are fortunate to be surrounded with incredible talent as a result. I would say we are a close-knit design community and have abundant design resources at our fingertips.
Q: What’s one secret behind good lighting?
A: In general, the secret to all good design is great lighting. Lighting creates a mood that affects the way you feel while in the space. For example, people are happier in rooms with large windows that offer abundant natural light. Having a mixture of ambient, task, and natural lighting is key to a well-balanced room. As I often say, a fabulous light fixture is the jewelry of a space, but it is equally important to have the ability to adjust the lighting output level. I add dimmers to all overhead fixtures so that lighting levels can be adjusted according to the activity, time of day, or the weather outside.
Q: What’s the best design advice anyone has ever given you?
A: The best design advice I have ever received came from a good friend who was actually my boss at the time. She said, “Always think about how the space will be used on a daily basis and imagine yourself living there.” Still to this day, while I am designing a home, I envision myself walking through the space and assessing how to make it even more livable and special.
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