Inside Jess Godfrey’s home of worldly treasures

By Jess Godfrey
Photographed by Anna Briggs

Featured in Capital #83
Subscribe to get the real thing here.

Bibliophile and coffee aficionado Jess Godfrey, and freelance art director Sven Wiig, have curated an interior that celebrates their love of New Zealand art, their travels around the world, and the pieces of modern design they’ve collected along the way. Jess shows us around.

Sven and I don’t always see eye to eye about interior choices. Basically we each think we have the better taste. I knew Sven would object to that wall light so I bought it without talking to him about it. Given it’s such a feature that was quite risky, but I got it where I wanted it in the end and he seems to think it’s ok now. The bottom work is by Wellington artist and friend Ben Buchanan. The top is a Derek Henderson photograph, a leaving present to me from Caffe L’affare. I feel I’ve had some of the coolest jobs in Wellington – from Caffe L’affare, Acme & Co cups, International Marketing Manager of Coffee Supreme, and General Manager of the now unfortunately closed Vic Books. Cafés and bookstores – there is no better combination!

I took Sven on a pilgrimage to Copenhagen to stay at the SAS Radisson, the hotel entirely designed by Arne Jacobsen. Sven and I both share Danish ancestry. I thought we’d go to the Louisiana Museum or Tivoli Gardens – you know, usual touristy things – but we spent most of our time in the second-hand shops.
This, Svend Mittelboe “Verona,” is the largest and most spectacular of the seven vintage Danish lights we had to somehow get on our Ryanair flight back to London. Then to Wellington after that!

We used to live in a cupboard of a house – it was super cute but tiny and I had always wanted plants but there wasn’t enough space. The entrance to our current house has windows and glass doors on both external and internal sides which makes it look like a conservatory – I knew straight away I would fill it with plants and that Italian terracotta pots would work.

The Boot Room! Where you take off your shoes or remove your rain coat before entering the hallway. The lettering came from a movie set that Sven worked on in 2006. He was Art Directing Taika Waititi’s short feature Tama Tu. They had to recreate a war-torn village and those letters were on the wall of a building that was going to be torn down just days later. Sven saved them. The aluminium coat rack came from a Paris flea market. We store things and find a use for them years down the track.

Our coffee table is 1.2m square and came about because we couldn’t find anything we liked that was the right scale for the room. So we designed and built it ourselves. I wanted fine metal legs, and Sven came up with this shape which a colleague fabricated for him. And the marble we decided upon by walking around the Slab Gallery in Seaview. We bought a whole piece and used the off-cuts for two smaller side tables. I count it as our most successful collaboration, and it required very little negotiation between us.

Our New York City corner. The Eames rocking chair was purchased on a trip to New York, we really wanted the original fibreglass seat rather than the new plastic ones. We found this army green colour at a shop in Soho and spent all the money we had before realising we couldn’t afford to send it back on DHL. So we found some empty boxes on the side of the road, borrowed some tape from the hotel and put it in the hold of the flight we were coming home on. It arrived with a couple of dings but luckily intact!
The framed Manhattan destination blind was salvaged from the Redbird subway cars that were wrecked to form a coral reef.

Left: Our white ceramics collection began with a vase inherited from my grandparents – it had been a wedding present. The first time Sven came to the family home he noted we had a basil plant sitting in a piece hand potted by Keith Murray for Wedgwood – a New Zealand-born architect who found fame in the UK. Sven soon bought a hand-potted Ernie Shufflebotham Crown Lynn vase to complement it and the collection just grew over the years – we added modern John Parker works, and more Keith Murrays that we found in the UK, and Shufflebothams bought online and in secondhand shops. Sven had this display case in his props store for years. The painting was something Sven and Karl Maughan talked about. My only contribution to it was that I didn’t want too much purple in the colour work. I was totally chuffed when Karl finished it and announced it was called Godfrey Road!

Right: Easy access to all our cookbooks. The large copper work is by Auckland artist Gidon Bing. I saw a picture of it online, made the store put it on hold, and told Sven I’d found my birthday present. The light darts off it beautifully.

So much to love in this photo because it’s a very good combination of Sven’s taste (Omega sign and New York subway) contrasted with my items (the Scandinavian candlesticks, Ruth Buchanan paperweight artworks, and small artworks purchased at Precinct 35).

Blue and green should never be seen! We took a long time to find the right wall colour – our living and dining rooms get so much natural light that when we were testing colours on the wall we kept having to find darker colours. We settled on this grey. It’s pretty neutral, and has good contrast against the white doors, windows, and ceilings, which I always like in a room. And it doesn’t clash with the incredibly lush but hideous carpet we inherited from the former owners.

The collection I thought might break us up! I asked Sven to stop at about ten vases and we have over 40 now. Mostly Holmegaard with a bit of Murano and other modernist coloured glass. The sideboard is G-Plan – we found it at a funny shop in Hastings called Better Used Furniture. The painting is by Tom Sladden – I had told the former owners that I wanted it about ten years before I managed to purchase it from them. They were moving to a new abode that didn’t have a wall big enough.

Left: The JS Parker on the left is the first painting I ever bought, I think. There was a very large JS Parker outside one of my law lecture rooms. There was something about seeing it three times a week for a whole year that clearly had an effect on me, because when I saw this smaller piece of his I had to have it. I knocked on the door of the gallery the day it was being installed and had purchased it before the opening event. Martin Poppelwell top right and a Wayne Youle I bought for Sven bottom right. I like the way the three pieces look together.

Right: Soren Magnus Balthazzar Wiig – world’s cutest dog. Sven and Otto, and even Otto’s grandparents campaigned for a dog for our family. I wasn’t keen but decided if we had to have a dog I’d have to find the breed that worked for our lifestyle. I settled on a miniature schnauzer because they don’t shed hair, they’re small which doesn’t freak anyone out and they only need a reasonable amount of exercise each day. Turns out I am even more crazy about him than Sven and Otto.


Sign up to our newsletter