Albert Hill is the Architecture & Design Editor at Wallpaper magazine under founder Tyler Brûlé. He learns of a real-estate agency in Florida specialising in the sale of Mid-Century Modern houses and decides to fly out and investigate. Surely something like this couldn’t work in the UK, could it?
Albert calls his old friend Matt Gibberd, who is a Senior Editor at The World of Interiors magazine, and moots the idea of a design-led estate agency. The Modern House is formed, inspired by FRS Yorke’s influential book of the same name.
The Modern House wins its inaugural instruction: Six Pillars in Dulwich, designed by Valentine Harding, a partner at Tecton. It happens to be one of the finest early Modern Movement houses in Britain. Six Pillars receives unprecedented press coverage all over the world, and the phone starts to ring rather a lot.
Matt and Albert acquire themselves a complete set of the Architects’ Journal on ebay, and gather as many vintage architecture books as they can lay their hands on. These form the basis for a painstakingly researched database of the UK’s finest modern housing, perhaps the most comprehensive of its kind in existence.
An article about The Modern House is published on the cover of Building Design. “Modernist architects looking to flog their wares need look no further,” it states. “The country’s first estate agency specialising in 20th- and 21st-century homes has been launched. The Modern House will sell homes built from 1920 to the present to a target audience of wealthy young professionals.”
The same month, Caroline Roux interviews Albert for a piece in The Guardian: “As Albert Hill has discovered, plenty of people are now seeking modern design both inside and outside. So he has set up an agency called The Modern House to find places for clients after something contemporary with high architectural ideals… Hill is a former design and architecture journalist… His business partner is the grandson of Frederick Gibberd, the architect who designed the new town of Harlow.”
The Modern House holds an open day at a single-storey courtyard house on a 1970s estate in Buckinghamshire. A bidding war ensues. Modernism is officially in demand.
The Telegraph Magazine publishes a full-page profile on Matt and Albert. “Hill and Gibberd delight in tracking down properties and provide excellent photographs and brochures,” writes Annabel Freyberg. “The current roster is impressive, including the artist Jake Chapman’s Spitalfields house with its David Adjaye interior, a Suffolk bolthole by Michael Hopkins (plus fabulous Modernist dovecote), and a single-storey house by Jonathan Ellis-Miller with views of Ely Cathedral.”
Another profile follows in Wallpaper* magazine. Albert and Matt are photographed outside one of Britain’s finest examples of Streamline Moderne architecture, the romantically named Stillness, in Kent. They sell the house shortly thereafter.
The Modern House enters a 5-a-side football team into the “Estate Agents Cup”, a tournament lacking in apostrophes as well as professionalism. The team is defeated in the quarter-final when the goalkeeper decides to play up front.
An office trip is organised to Liverpool, centering on a visit to the city’s Catholic Cathedral, designed in the 1960s by Matt’s grandfather, Sir Frederick Gibberd. So begins a series of annual architectural pilgrimages to great Modernist buildings around the country.
Designed by Peter Foggo and David Thomas in 1963, Space House in West Sussex is one of the few buildings in Britain that stands comparison with California’s celebrated Case Study houses. The house is published in the February issue of Vogue, and sells in March.
Another of the UK’s great Modernist masterpieces is sold following a flurry of offers: Long Wall in Suffolk, designed by Sir Philip Dowson. The buyer is one of the UK’s most successful architects, who recognises its rarity.
The Modern House sells its first ‘Span’ house, on the Cator estate in Blackheath. Designed by the architect Eric Lyons, these elegantly detailed homes on landscaped estates throughout southern England prove immensely popular. In the ensuing years, the agency goes on to sell properties on virtually every Span estate.
An academic from Paris visits The Modern House’s offices and spends a number of days shadowing the staff. She produces a PhD thesis based around the company’s activity.
The Modern House completes its most high-profile sale to date: The Lost House in King’s Cross, a brooding, experimental living space designed by David Adjaye.
The agency moves to a new office building overlooking the Regent’s Canal in Islington, with architects and ducks for company.
The Modern House launches holiday lettings on its website. One particular house in France is promptly booked out for the entire year. Later, other properties are added in countries throughout the world, from Sri Lanka to Mexico.
Augustus John’s former studio in Hampshire sells to a prominent sculptor, a fitting example of art and architecture’s constant communion.
GQ magazine includes The Modern House in its list of “100 Best Things in the World”. It writes, “Their USP isn’t just an extensive expertise in Britain’s rich architectural heritage, but also an enduring affection for the best in 21st-century building design.”
It doesn’t matter what the economic climate is like, an outstanding property put in front of the right people will always sell quickly. A converted warehouse in the middle of Borough market is snapped up overnight, shortly followed by the 1960s house Ansty Plum, in Wiltshire, with its wonderfully dramatic pitched roof.
Albert is interviewed about the company on the Chris Evans show on BBC Radio 2.
The budget for the annual office trip has gone up, and a visit to snowy Berlin is on the agenda. Sporting an array of novelty hats, the team visits Le Corbusier’s Unité and Oscar Niemeyer’s Interbau Apartment House. Flats in both buildings reveal themselves to be remarkably cheap, and at least one person considers emigration.
Albert discusses modern houses with Norman Foster while riding in the architect’s Dymaxion, a futuristic three-wheeled car originally designed by Buckminster Fuller in the 1930s.
The Modern House completes the sale of Britain’s earliest – and arguably greatest – Modern Movement property, High & Over.
The only house in the UK by the great Bauhaus architect and designer Marcel Breuer is sold to a fashion designer.
The team takes a trip to Utrecht to see Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroder House.
The agency is given its first flat to sell in Highpoint, Berthold Lubetkin’s 1930s masterpiece in Highgate. It is sold within days, and so begins a happy affiliation, with prices in the building rising by more than 20% in 18 months off the back of sales by The Modern House.
The Modern House website attracts a quarter of a million unique visitors for the year 2012.
A very active Spring market leads to a number of landmark sales for the agency, including a one-bedroom flat on the Barbican Estate for £1,000,000, and the artist Michael Craig-Martin’s studio and home, designed by John Pawson.
The Modern House is instructed to sell one of the most important and celebrated houses of the 20th century: the 1968 house that Richard Rogers designed for his parents.
Matt Gibberd and Albert Hill are invited to be the architecture experts for The Telegraph’s new website and magazine. Their column, which focuses on high-end architecture across the world, is published online every fortnight.
The Modern House completes the sale of the late John Winter’s seminal house in Highgate. Built in the 1960s and clad in CorTen steel, it is one of only a small handful of private houses to be given a Grade II* listing by English Heritage.
Matt and his wife, the designer Faye Toogood, are photographed in their garden for an article in the London Evening Standard entitled ‘Design Lovers: at home with London’s most stylish couples’.
Albert is invited to participate in the International Iconic Houses Europe Symposium at the V&A. Alongside the directors of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Mies van der Rohe’s Villa Tugenhadt and more, he discusses how to safeguard the future of modern houses and communicate their importance to the public.
The Modern House sells Slip House designed by Carl Turner, winner of the Manser Medal for Britain’s best contemporary house.
Matt writes a chapter about the collectability of Modernist houses for the new Thames & Hudson book ‘Mid-Century Modern Complete’.
A house in London sells to a former winner of the Turner Prize. The Modern House has now worked with a total of 16 nominees and winners of this prestigious award.
To coincide with its tenth anniversary, The Modern House launches a new website. The revised design reflects a company in maturity, and a brand with significant resonance well beyond the confines of estate agency.
The Modern House are instructed to sell a selection of the 41 apartments with interiors by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, at Greenwich Peninsula.
Matt and Albert are profiled in the RIBA Journal. “The Modern House has to a large extent established a market, or at least a marketplace, for these sort of houses. They don’t have to sit alongside the bucolic flounces or over-specified kitchens of other high end agencies, nor the botched conservatories of local estate agents.”
The Modern House acquires new premises in Islington, north London. The office is furnished with vintage Eames chairs, Hans Wegner lights, and handmade desks by the Turner Prize-winning architects Assemble.
The Modern House website attracts more than 600,000 unique visitors in 2015, and the audience continues to rise by 25% every year.
An eponymous book about The Modern House is published, featuring a curated selection of its most iconic houses.
The agency completes the sale of Fog House, one of David Adjaye’s best-known residential projects.
The Modern House has over 100 properties on the market at once, for the first time in the company’s history.
The agency is instructed to sell Raymond McGrath’s St. Ann’s Court – one of the finest and most iconic houses to have been built in Britain in the first half of the 20th century.
The Spaces magazine include The Modern House in their feature ‘The seven best websites for Modernist real estate’.
“If ever an estate agent has raised the bar for selling property, it’s The Modern House.”
The Modern House partner with The Serpentine Galleries to market four specially-commissioned Summer Houses, part of the institution’s internationally renowned annual Architecture Programme.
The team take a pilgrimage to the south of France to visit Eileen Gray’s villa E1027, Le Corbusier’s cabanon, and the Fondation Maeght.
The Modern House team take a trip to Haddenham, Buckinghamshire, to explore British architect Peter Aldington’s Turn End.
The agency is instructed to market Jørn Utzon’s 1962 Ahm House, described by The Sunday Times architecture critic Hugh Pearman as ‘probably the best Modern house in the world’.
The Modern House win two awards at the inaugural Archiboo Web Awards – one for ‘Best Written Content’ and another for ‘Best Overall Experience’.
The Modern House hosts ‘Cape Cod Modern’, a sell-out talk by Peter McMahon, at the AA Schools, London, in association with the Twentieth Century Society.
The agency is instructed by Turner-Prize winning architectural collective Assemble to market their much-admired Yardhouse studio.
The Modern House reaches 50,000 followers on Instagram.
The agency is awarded 7th place in PrimeResi’s list of London’s top 50 boutique estate agencies.
Founding Director Albert Hill joines forces with architect Sophie Goldhill to record an episode of ‘Thought Starters: Conversations with Creatives’, a podcast by White City Place about the business of creativity.
The agency hosts ‘Red House: Architect and Developer in Conversation’ – a sell-out talk at 31/44 Architects and Arrant Land’s new residential project in East Dulwich.
The team braves the elements on a trip to explore Skene Catling de la Pena’s Flint House and Windmill Hill in Buckinghamshire.
Phaidon publish ‘Ornament is Crime’, a visual manifesto offering a celebration and thought-provoking reappraisal of modernist architecture, written by The Modern House’s founding directors Matt and Albert.
The agency hosts a book launch for ‘Ornament is Crime’, in collaboration with ‘Phaidon’, at the Isokon Gallery.
The Modern House completes the sale of the iconic Ahm House in Harpenden.
Founding directors Matt and Albert are interviewed by trend forecasters WGSN to discuss the agency’s forward-thinking approach to selling property.
Founding directors Matt and Albert discuss how The Modern House is innovating estate agency in a VOOM podcast property special.