The Modern House
The Modern House is an evolved iteration of what an estate agent should be. Recognised for its love of modernist architecture and embracing the less conventional design-led homes in urban and rural locations in the UK, it is recognised for being transformationally different from any other property agency, providing a new vernacular to the process of buying a home. The central themes of modernism – truth to materials and functional design – are at the heart of all the homes represented by the Modern House agency. From a three bedroom London Mews designed by Neil Tomlinson Architects to a converted cottage in Musselburgh, East Lothian (longlisted for RIBA’s House of the Year in 2017), each listed property is accompanied by a visual storyboard that provides a stylish and effortlessly elegant insight into each of the homes for sale with The Modern House.
Offering a unique and engaging experience for prospective homebuyers, it is not only an agency but a lifestyle brand, which is reflected in its online journal, content and unique choice of properties. As this week’s tastemakers, founders of The Modern House, Matt Gibberd and Albert Hill, open their lofty office doors, set within a former church hall in the borough of Southwark, sharing their top ten tips on how to buy a home.
Established over a decade ago in 2005, Gibberd and Hill successfully combined their passion for contemporary architecture to establish a business and service that has been described by the Financial Times as an ‘exclusive puzzle that is as much a lifestyle brand, publisher and heritage champion as it is a seller of houses.’ Sharing backgrounds in journalism, Gibberd (who began his career as a writer on design and architecture, working for five years as a Senior Editor at The World of Interiors) and Hill (who was Design Editor at Wallpaper under founding editor Tyler Brûlé and has written for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent) believe in the importance of functionality; that good design should be intuitive and timeless. Providing a mixture of intimate and large social spaces - a place of refuge on one day, and a venue for celebrations on another. With studies that prove natural light’s positive impact on wellbeing; improving our mood and happiness, the duo advocate the principle of bringing the outside in. Acknowledging the American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright for his organic approach to designing structures in harmony with humanity and its environment; “...Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
Managing to dilute the stigma around modernist and brutalist architecture in Britain; a movement that thrived in post-war and embraced concrete for its affordability and functionality, The Modern House is recognised for shifting the consciousness of unique design styles given their capacity to turn an unfashionable aesthetic into a fashionable commodity. A broad church for varying architectural and interior styles that are all united by good design principles and an aesthetic sensibility, The Modern House provides both practical tips that are geared toward emotional and personal considerations through their agency and lifestyle brand.
Packed with histories and artful photography, their website attracts 15m page views and 1.25m unique visitors a year. Similarly, their instagram boasts a following of 150,000 (higher than any other estate agent in the UK). The Modern House’s distinctive and refined aesthetic paired with their sophisticated approach to storytelling offers a unique and immersive experience; adding to its charm and authenticity. Each process to buying a home has been curated in a style distinctive of The Modern House, highlighting its attention to detail. The Moving in Box, an alternative to the traditional welcome gifts given to new homeowners, is exemplary of this. Overseen by Faye Toogood, the multi disciplinary British designer, the box includes six minimal objects: an apron, a cup, a bowl, a keyring, a candle and a set of correspondence cards all created by UK-based designers. Toogood, who is also wife to The Modern House co-founder Matt Gibberd, wanted to work with individual artisans, ideally those who are part of their community, to create the box. From this, the ‘Outside the Box Series’ has developed as part of The Modern House Journal; talking to the designers, artisans and craftspeople involved, meeting them in their studios and exploring their creative processes.
According to Gibberd and Hill, founders of The Modern House, we should draw inspiration from the likes of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio when looking for the best modern home; “consult the wisdom of the ancients... Vitruvius, a Roman architect, wrote 10 books on architecture, in which he proposed a tried of virtues: Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas or Durability, Usefulness, Beauty…” We should also make sure to have a good lawyer and avoid observing the house as purely an object but more as a “continuously evolving experience...”
With a reputation of being one of the most stressful situations we go through in our adult lives - the financial burden, the uncertain property climate and the ongoing austerity crisis (thanks Brexit) - moving house is more often than not, considered an overwhelming and laborious process. One that is associated with being crammed into a branded mini cooper, driven from house to house with the estate agent telling you “this one is the one” (even though they promised the same with the last). Thankfully, The Modern House offer an alternative. From personal factors such as wellbeing to more macro themes including community, place-making and architectural preservation, they are rewriting the rulebook for estate agencies.
By Lara Monro for Semaine.
Crumpled City - London
St. Ann's Court
The Modern House Box
Spade Chair Black Rubber
Move-In Must Haves
If you've not already bought everything that the previous house owner had chosen to fill the space that you've now purchased, here's a few move-in essentials. Sadly The Modern House moving-in box is politely reserved for buyers only, so here's a selection that quietly rivals their own curated picks, but by all means do go ahead and buy the house for the moving-in box. We're considering it ourselves.
Matt and Albert are partial to a bit of house music, that is - music that they can listen to in a gorgeous house, preferably not over 130bpm and with at least three other instruments than a synth.
The Modern Map of the UK
Where would Matt and Albert take you for design inspiration and must-see modern mansions? Well, look no further - here's a map of the Uk based on all of their favourite hang outs.
Inside The Modern House
Situated in a converted church hall, The Modern House offices have a rich history and Matt and Albert wanted to protect that history when reimagining the space. Fully functional as a vast central London events space and as a communal working space, the offices foster the building's rich history but (of course) add a modern twist on the classic features.
Matt and Albert have been friends since school, so you could say they know each other pretty well. Here we learn how much they know and trust each other while finding a few new things about them for ourselves...
Albert: Low light. I’d just spend more time outside. But at least it’d be nice in the evenings.
Matt: Low ceilings. For me, natural light is the single most important element of a home.
Albert: A good front door and an interesting view.
Matt: A connection to nature.
Matt: I like music in a house, but I don’t like house music.
Albert: Living room. Utility Room.
Matt: The kitchen. It’s where food, family and friends come together.
Albert: The living room is the most ostentatious room in the house and is the most expressive so I always like to see people’s living rooms as they take the most care over it usually. The utility room is usually where the more intimate stuff is that people don’t want you to see!
Matt: Cooking is my favourite thing to do, because it’s simultaneously solitary and sociable, creative and mindless.
Albert: I remember a monochrome new year party that I threw years ago. All black including the food and drink. I remember it was only Guinness and squid ink pasta!
Matt: At The Modern House, we had a big bash to celebrate the opening of our new studio in Southwark. In one corner there was a Spanish man hacking off bits of iberico ham with a sharp knife, and in the other we had our voguish in-house DJ, Corey Hemingway, clad in Paloma Wool and red lipstick.
Albert: Being offered an artwork by a Turner Prize winner as a bribe to help the person secure a particular house. Of course I had to say no!
Matt: Many years ago, one of our sales staff came across a dead cat in the living room. She had to usher it behind the sofa before the buyers saw it, then call the client to explain that Tiddles had gone a little rigid.
Albert: Absolutely. We almost always agree on what the good houses are!
Matt: Yes, Albert knows me as well as anyone.
Albert: I think the joy is roaming through lots of styles and movements. I’ve always liked the Italian Radical Design movement of the 79s / 80s but also Modern Scandinavia stuff (Aalto, Wegner etc).
Matt: I’m like an accident between the Bauhaus and the St Ives School.
Albert: This one: https://www.themodernhouse.com/journal/house-of-the-day-the-factory-by-ricardo-bofill/
Matt: I’d be intrigued to visit Fallingwater to see if it lives up to its billing. The older I get, the more I’m drawn to the idea of houses being fused with the landscape.
The Modern Bookshelf
Coffee table books galore, this selection will have you completely geeking out over architectural and design movements of the last hundred years.
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
The Modern House
Classic Modern Houses in Europe
Interior Portraits: At Home With Cultural Pioneers and Creative Mavericks
Learning From Las Vegas