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Joan Hecktermann, The World of Interiors & Painting in Tangier

By Matilda Sturley

22nd September 2022

As one of these wonderfully creative people, Joan Hecktermann has, over her career, found herself tackling multiple inventive endeavours. The most recent is the Tangier Painting Holiday she and Interior Designer, Artist and Ceramicist Gavin Houghton have put together.

But the painting holiday is just the newest string to Joan's bow. Being raised in Kenya and graduating from art college in South Africa during apartheid, Joan moved to the UK. Shortly after, she spotted a very early edition of The World of Interiors in a local newsagent, and was instantly inspired, describing the magazine as "radical and fresh".

A few months later and a chance discovery of an advertisement in the Evening Standard for a receptionist at WOI, Joan soon found herself at the magazine's original headquarters on Fulham Road in London. In an old house which was then St Stephen's hospital, there up some higgledy-piggledy staircase, you found the start of one of the design world's most influential magazines. Joan began her career as a receptionist and soon received the call-up to join the Editorial staff.

Paintbrushes & Pomegranates in Tangier

"Apparently, the staff said they wanted the girl with the orange dress, and that was me," Joan says of her move from receptionist, "There were no rules - there was no such thing as a stylist then. People did photoshoots, but there wasn't a name for it."

Then working for the founding editor of The World of Interiors, Min Hogg, Joan's career journeyed to Art Director, where pre computers, every page of the magazine was created by hand. "We were doing it all. Sticking down little words and letters and going in the bin to find 'because' and words like that".

Tangier Painting Holiday

With an on-off relationship with the iconic magazine throughout her career, taking moments to try her hand at freelancing, redesigning Homes & Gardens and travelling the world. Joan left The World of Interiors last year, and she and Gavin have since launched their Tangier Painting Holiday.

Tangier has been a famous destination for artists for centuries due to the magnificent light experienced there throughout the day. Artists such as Eugène Delacroix and Henri Matisse, the latter described the city as “a painter’s paradise” and the light of Tangier as “mellow”.

Joan first fell in love with Tangier 23-years-ago when visiting the northwestern Moroccan city with a group of friends, including Gavin Houghton, who bought a house there and playfully named it La Di Dar. He and Joan now use it as base camp for their painting holiday. “It’s not so much a painting course as a painting holiday” Joan explains, “It's all about having a little bit of fun.”

The Internal Terrace at La Di Dar

Guests joining the relaxed painting holiday stay in hotels within the city and convene at Gavin’s beautiful Tangier home for days of painting. Hosting life-model and still-life painting sessions at the house, guests are also given the opportunity to shop, wander the town, visit the Medina and paint the surrounding areas. "The holiday is a local guide to Tangier with painting thrown in... or the other way around,” Joan says, “We like to take guests to places they wouldn’t often visit.”

Chizie with one of her embroidered cushions

As is often the case with hugely creative people, Joan has multiple plates spinning at once.

As well as the Tangier Painting Holiday, she is also learning ceramics, styling houses for photoshoots, and supporting a Kenyan family, Chizie and Patrick by selling cushions in the UK that Chizie (pictured right) has hand embroidered.

From someone with a plethora of skills attained over an amazing career, Joan's advice for young artists and designers is to "keep going and practice, practice, practice - something will emerge."


A huge thank you to Joan for her time and for the brilliant photos. To follow Joan, click here and for more information about the Tangier Painting Holiday, here's the link.


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