My Modern House: why a refurbished 1970s house in Seasalter, Kent, is the perfect family home for Kim and Richard Hill
Richard: “Finding the perfect family home was quite a journey. Our old place was a Victorian terrace in Nunhead, where we lived for seven years.”
Kim: “It had been done up in the era of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. There were feature walls, some of which were two-tone orange and red, others were blue with purple ceilings.
“We gutted it and started again. I loved it, and at the end of the process we had a house that we were incredibly proud of.”
Richard: “We were lucky in that we found an area that wasn’t well known at all. Nunhead used to sound like it was out of London; ‘Nunhead, where’s that?’, people used to say.”
Kim: “And then suddenly, that pocket of south-east London changed dramatically. Having not been able to afford to live in the cool areas, suddenly it was all on our doorstep. We had some really fun years living there.”
Richard: “Then we had a bit of a gap. I’m a film location manager, which often takes us abroad for a few months or so.
“We spent six months living in Fuerteventura and I guess it gave us the space to realise that living outside London was something we wanted to do.”
Kim: “We went through a year-long process of thinking about where we wanted to move to. We couldn’t quite work it out.
“We had gone around the M25, looking at all the counties and towns that made sense for Richard’s work. They were all really expensive, and none of them had a particular pull.”
Richard: “A year in we thought ‘actually, let’s move back down to Kent’, where we’re both from – I actually grew up in Whitstable.”
Kim: “We almost bought a farmhouse in the middle of a field. It was a beautiful place surrounded by nature; very rustic and charming.”
Richard: “For various reasons, we lost that place, which was devastating. It was a beautiful home.”
Kim: “We’re both big believers in fate. We had a buyer for our place in London, and we decided to continue with the sale. This was while I was seven months pregnant. Everyone thought we were crazy.
“We were a week away from exchanging on our house, with nowhere to go. I was sitting at home on Friday night with my parents and the property alert for this place came through on my phone.
“Houses like this don’t really come up in Kent; it’s quite unique. I called The Modern House on Saturday – delighted to find the office open at the weekend! – and booked to see it on Sunday.”
Richard: “We were the first people to see it. Even before we saw it in person, we had fallen in love with it. We called up on Monday morning: offer accepted!”
“It really is the dream house, we never thought it would come up.”
Kim: “It’s funny because we weren’t really sure what we were looking for. It had been such a long process, so we were totally open.
“We just had a few criteria: a feeling of space, that was the main thing, and light. And a bathroom with a view, which we managed to find here.”
Richard: “The house was designed in 1973 by architect Rob Wilson. But it was the previous owners, David and Scott, who should take credit for how it looks now.
“The bare bones of it are architecturally interesting, and they just elevated it to another level. They did an incredible job and there’s nothing we would change.”
Kim: “I think the courtyard is the thing that knocks you over every time. It creates a very calm, peaceful atmosphere.
“Yes, the location is incredible, and we’re near the sea, but the house is what drew us. Everything else is a total bonus.”
Richard: “Our two girls love it too. When we moved in, Chloe was just learning to walk and the two of them spent hours racing around the courtyard. It’s quite a playful house, I think, and great for hide-and-seek!”
Kim: “At weekends, one of our favourite things to do is to walk down to Whitstable. We’ll go into town, get some meat from the butchers or something and potter back.
“But equally, I’m actually quite happy to stay in the house all day. Normally I’d get cabin fever, but this house feels like a sanctuary.
“After leaving London I realised that being in nature is not only inspiring but also healing. So much so, it prompted me to launch The Nature Sessions. We offer retreats in wild surroundings. The next one is at Elmley Nature Reserve and focusses on wellbeing.
“We had a friend who said to us ‘fortune favours the brave’. I feel like we made some very bold decisions, but we feel very content now.
“We have an incredible house, in an incredible part of the world, which the kids love. So, for me, I am so happy about the brave decisions we made.”
Kim and Richard, how do you define modern living?
Richard: “It’s about having a space that works brilliantly on a functional level, but that also has another aesthetic dimension. On a practical level, living here is easy, but the design – the light, the windows, the layout – take it to a dream place to live.”
Kim: “It gives off a sense of peace and calm too. I think that’s what everyone needs in modern life.”
If you were to move, what would be the first thing you’d take with you?
Kim: “This one is very easy. We don’t ever want to move… ever. This is it; we feel like we’ve arrived.”
Is there a property on The Modern House’s website that has caught your eye?
Kim: “The one on Skye. It looks beautiful and the location is incredible. It would be a real retreat.”
Richard: “I like the one in Kenilworth. It looks fantastic and so dramatic.”