As the Co-Founder of The Modern House, the cult estate agency which brought the romance back to house buying, Matt Gibberd knows what makes a home special. To mark the publication of his new book ‘A Modern Way to Live’, Matt shares his own home truths
THE MODERN HOUSE CO-FOUNDER MATT GIBBERD. IMAGE: VIVEK VADOLIYA
Where do you live and why?
On the side of a valley in the South Downs National Park. I was born and raised in London, and will always love it, but we left a few years ago to escape the pollution (our eldest daughter was having respiratory problems) and be closer to family.
How would you describe your home?
It’s a late 19th-century manor house built from a very early form of in-situ concrete, using local flint and fish bones from the river. It has lovely high ceilings and surprisingly modern proportions, but it’s very unadorned. The interior decorator Max Rollitt, who is a friend, describes it as “butch”!
BROCKLEY FLAT, BY CYNDIA HARVEY. THANKS TO CYNDIA HARVEY. IMAGE: ELLIOT SHEPPARD, FROM ‘A MODERN WAY TO LIVE’ BY MATT GIBBERD
What was the first thing you did to your home when you moved in?
Removed as much fakery as we could, in an attempt to add some texture and patina. We swapped the engineered floor for reclaimed quarry tiles, stripped the paint off the original fireplaces, removed the plastic light switches, installed hand-blown glass panels in the glazed doors, and so on.
If the objects in your home could talk, which would have the best stories to tell?
Great question! One of my most treasured possessions is a lustreware jug that I inherited from my parents, which is held together with old Sellotape – I imagine that has seen a few bacchanalian nights in its time. My daughters have a big pile of pebbles that they have collected from various beaches over the years, their perfectly rounded edges formed by many thousands of high tides. When we were refurbishing the house, the builders kept coming across hidden messages from craftsmen of yesteryear, including one buried deep beneath the kitchen floor that read: “If you’ve got this far, then good luck!”
STRANGE HOUSE, BY HUGH STRANGE ARCHITECTS. THANKS TO HUGH STRANGE. IMAGE: DAN GLASSER, FROM ‘A MODERN WAY TO LIVE’ BY MATT GIBBERD
Which part of your home makes you happiest?
The view. For months after we moved in, I would get up, put my wellies on and march out into the garden to take a photograph of the valley. I have hundreds of versions of the same image, taken from the identical angle. On some days, mist is thrown over the fields like a quilt, while on others, the sunlight catches the tree canopy. Sometimes a horse wanders into view in the neighbouring paddock, or a buzzard swoops in for its breakfast. An environmental psychologist would say that the view makes me feel good because it is an archetypal savannah landscape, of the sort that supported the evolution of early Man.
What’s on your bedside table?
Some painted stones, a drawing and several beaded bracelets that my daughters have enthusiastically thrust into my possession.
KENT BEACH HOUSE, BY MARCIA MIHOTICH. THANKS TO MARCIA MIHOTICH. IMGE: ELYSE KENNEDY, FROM ‘A MODERN WAY TO LIVE’ BY MATT GIBBERD
What was your childhood home like?
We moved quite a few times when I was very young. My dad was an architect, and he quickly learned that the only way to make a living was to refurbish the family home and move on. In the early 1980s, my parents clubbed together with some friends to buy three derelict Georgian houses; they refurbished one and sold it on, and each family took one for themselves. We had a lodger on the top floor and another in the basement, which allowed us to live over two floors of this unbelievably beautiful double-fronted house for twelve happy years. It taught me a lot about proportion, natural light and materiality.
Do you have a domestic guilty secret or pet hate?
Sometimes I daydream about rounding up all of the Union Jack cushions in the world and lobbing them on a bonfire when no one is looking.
LONDON HOUSE, BY THOMAS DOWNES AND ERICA TOOGOOD. THANKS TO THOMAS DOWNES AND ERICA TOOGOOD. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ELLIOT SHEPPARD, FROM ‘A MODERN WAY TO LIVE’ BY MATT GIBBERD
What are some of the most memorable things which have happened in your home?
We have a family of hares in the garden, and the kids love watching them have boxing matches. One day we found a shallow hole filled with newborn leverets, which look like aliens with long legs. The best memories involve friends and family, barbecues and hot afternoons in the sunshine.
What makes your house a home?
The sound of children laughing; the smell of a Sunday roast; heirlooms on shelves; a bunch of bluebells in a vase; light falling across the kitchen floor; the steam from a hot bath; serried ranks of hardback books.
A Modern Way to Live: 5 Design Principles from The Modern House by Matt Gibberd, published by Penguin Life, RRP £25
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