My Modern House: graphic designer Marcia Mihotich's summer house by the sea
“My friend Nina Tolstrup from Studiomama found this – she has a house two doors down and she knew we were looking for something when she saw a ‘for sale’ sign on a neighbouring house.
“Our son was quite young at the time and we were trying to find a way that we could get outside a bit. In London we live in a lovely loft-style apartment but it doesn’t have any outdoor space, so being able to sit here and look out to the sea is the nicest thing. We’ve been here for almost 10 years now.
“It’s a simple space but it’s the most amazing privilege to have a house on the beach. We’ve done as much as we can to make it nice, but we don’t want to be too precious about it. It’s a way for us to spend time with friends and family and people are always using it.
“The building is pretty crude and basic – I think the majority of it was built in 1954. When we bought it, it was in a sort of half-timber, mock-Tudor-style house. We filled the whole thing with shuttering ply as a form of insulation.
“I think it’s nice how the walls and the kitchen are made of the same material. I even painted all the plastic light switches to mimic the ply woodgrain so you can’t see them as much! It’s pretty funny, they look like really bad pub radiators, but they’re quite convincing.
“My partner Durrell Bishop is the one with all the building skills. Although I’m a designer and I’m good at problem-solving, he’s a product designer and has all the technical skills to make everything happen. It’s through him that I got to know Nina because Durrell met her partner, Jack Mama, when they were studying at the Royal College together. They’ve know each other for a long, long time.
“The wooden phones on the wall were made by my son, Hal, and Nina’s son when they were little. They’re blocks of wood with ‘Nokia’ written on the top in marker pen and they tried to sell them to people on the beach for 5p a phone!
“I’m a graphic designer and illustrator and I often work with Nina and Studiomama. I feel really lucky to have good relationships with the people I work with. I mostly work for smaller organisations and cultural institutes, I do a lot of work for The School of Life and I’ve done a few books for PanMacmillan. I’ve also done a lot with Donna Wilson, and we’ve just started working on the second issue of MYO, which is an inspirational scrapbook-style magazine. I love working with her. When you get on with people you can do really good work with them.
“In the summer we try to come when the weather’s good and spend two weeks here if we can. It’s about two and a half miles along the beach from Whitstable in a bit that borders the nature reserve at Seasalter. It means you can take advantage of Whitstable when you feel like it but you’re also quite isolated. It’s lovely in the winter too – you can go for a long walk in the cold to the pub in Whitstable and then cosy up here and listen to all the noises of the wind and the sea outside.
“Sometimes I bring work down here with me and sit with one eye on the beach. I’ve actually brought Durrell’s latest project with me today to experiment with – it’s a robotic drawing arm called Line-us and I’ve been waiting to try it out. I don’t have a lot of my work here though – one of the few pictures we do have is a photograph of a power station which Durrell loves because it was owned by the engineer who worked on it. It’s wonderful to think that the engineer loved that project so much that he wanted a framed picture of it in his house. I’m just happy being by the water though, there’s no better view.”
If you were to leave, what’s the first thing that you’d take with you?
“I really like our coffee pot, but I’d probably take a picture to look back on and remember how nice it was that we were here.”
How would you define modern living?
“I think the relaxing of barriers of age, respect and formality in everyday life have changed how we live – as has technology. The whole premise of family time together has also changed for a certain section of society and that’s transformed how we live in our homes.”
Are there any houses on The Modern House that have caught your eye over the years?
“There are a lot of houses that I’ve loved but the house in Kenilworth and the Sugden House are two that I’ve noticed recently. I grew up in Auckland and there’s a lot of modernist 1960s housing there. There’s a certain feeling about those houses and I love single-storey designs and the use of natural materials.”
Read more about this area in our Resident’s Guide to Whitstable.
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