The Modern House
Written by YOKO
Released May 2020
Designing for the Future
We have been following The Modern House from their early days and since then they have continued to provide us with a superb curation of some of the best designed homes. They have build a business that has design at its core; whether you are looking for a home to buy or sell or simply wanting a sense of escapism from the world to imagine living in an extraordinary home.
We had the privilege of interviewing one of the co-founders of The Modern House, Albert Hill, to help us delve into a business that has reimagined property selling to be design and editorial led, creating a cultural impact on how we view property.
Q. How important is it in our homes to acknowledge both past and present? Are homes, in particular renovated homes, a piece of history that continually adapt to their current residents, while giving a nod to their past?
Homes are more than just brick and mortar, they are standing testaments to the changing nature of how we live and work. This need to adapt to our current requirements plays a key part of the many houses we sell at The Modern House, and we are constantly amazed at how many Victorian houses have been reconfigured to make them suitable to a modern way of living. If you ask us to pinpoint the most consistently popular genre of housing in London, it’s the period terraced house with a modern extension on the back. We have sold countless examples over the years. They come in all shapes and sizes, with multifarious cladding treatments, from timber to slate. Indeed, the rear extension, is the simplest way to create a single space that’s big enough for all of the conviviality that life can throw at it.
Q. Do you have any advice on curating objects in the home?
The arrangement of objects, from priceless pots to simple stones found on the beach, can transform the atmosphere of a room. Above all, we believe the things you surround yourself with at home should be meaningful, considered and incite positive memories, from art to furniture, fashion to cosmetics.
Whether you’re a Minimalists, for whom curation is about reducing a space to its bare essentials, or the modern-day Maximalists, for whom less is a bore and more is more, it is essential to surround yourself with meaningful objects that incite positive memories. “All my friends make fun of me because I have wooden fruit in my fruit bowl,” says artist and designer Oscar Piccolo. “Why?! To me, they’re beautiful objects I happened upon in a charity shop, and they remind me of the places I grew up in.”
A key question we get asked is always: How and where should artworks be hung? Answer: Always lower than you think. The late art collector Alistair McAlpine taught us that objects d’art, found objects and even fruit from the garden should always be arranged in groups – in his house, hundreds of quinces formed the centrepiece of the breakfast table. He could never buy one of anything – he had to have the whole set!
Q. What would you say defines timeless design? Are there any commonalities?
To create a successful and fulfilling living environment, you need to give full consideration to certain timeless principles. We have distilled these into five elements: Space, Light, Materials, Nature and Curation.
• SPACE: The framework from which all else hangs. How we configure, maximise and play with space determines its usability, emotional resonance and aesthetic value, all of which contribute to a sense of wellbeing at home.
• LIGHT: Sunshine has been proven to have a transformative effect on our health, and our homes should harness its restorative power. We must also consider what happens when the sun goes down: how gathering around a fireplace sparks the primitive feeling of being sheltered and protected, or how a correctly-dimmed lamp imbues a sense of warm conviviality to a dinner party.
• MATERIALS: We must consider all of the things that we physically come into contact with every day: the door furniture, the kitchen worktops, the knobs on the cupboards, even the loo seat. Are they pleasing to the touch? The material elements of the home engage all the senses other than taste, and having the right ones is crucial, adding soul, beauty and functionality to a space.
• NATURE: Whether in the country or city, homes should embrace and incorporate the natural world to mood-boosting effect. And, as well as what houseplants we opt for, considering nature at home today means thinking about the environment and questioning the sustainability of the things we buy.
• CURATION: As mentioned above, the arrangement of objects – from priceless pots to simple stones found on the beach – can transform the atmosphere of a room. Above all, we believe the things you surround yourself with at home should be meaningful, considered and incite positive memories, from art to furniture, fashion to cosmetics.
Incidentally, we have just signed a book deal with Penguin Life Books to publish The Modern House's "rules for living": a book about the joy of a well-designed home, which will explore these principles – so you can expect much more on this from us soon!
Q. How do dogs fit into modern living?
Dogs in modern times are much the same as dogs in ancient times and that’s one of the main joys of having them – the link to our ancestors and that sense of timelessness that a dog brings. Having a dog in the home animates a space too and makes you see it in a different way. The fact that dogs appear the same indoors as outdoors (unless you dress them for walks of course) means that they help blur the boundaries between inside space and out, something that Modern architects often try to achieve. As Frank Lloyd Wright, a well-known dog-lover, said “We have no longer an outside and an inside as two separate things. Now the outside may come inside and the inside may and does go outside.”
Dogs are well-known for their positive effect on their owners wellbeing too of course. They lower the risk of developing allergies, trigger happy hormones and accompany you out into the world.
Q. What is the value of well-designed spaces in our daily lives?
Broadly speaking, we find that well-designed spaces make you healthier, happier, and ultimately, wealthier.
Our evidence has shown that well-designed living spaces sell for more money. In 2018, property market intelligence company Dataloft analysed our sales data, examining more than 14,000 transactions in over 100 London postcodes, and comparing them on a price per square foot basis. They arrived at a telling conclusion: “There is a weighted average price premium of +12% for design-led homes sold through The Modern House.” At the upper end of the market (homes valued at £1m or more), the premium was even higher: around 19%.
In short, a terraced house which is identical in size to the one next door, or a flat of the same proportion as its neighbour within the same building, will sell for more money if it has been designed in a thoughtful way.
So, what is it that drives this enhanced value? In our experience, it’s the emotional response that a home can trigger. It might be the way that the kitchen opens seamlessly onto the garden, prompting visions of endless summer barbecues; or the placement of an Eames lounge chair in front of an open fire, for winter nights spent hunkering down with a sheepskin. It’s the promise of a new way of living – an approach that places the human experience at the centre of everything. This is not simply about financial value, but about the positive impact of design on wellbeing, too.
With thanks to Albert Hill from The Modern House