Hampstead and Highgate are the ‘high points’ for Modernist homes
- Credit: French+Tye
Hampstead and Highgate are two of the best locations in the world to find Modernist architecture, with a mix of all time classics and contemporary architect-designed properties studding the areas.
For those who are thinking of getting their hands on an architectural gem to call home, specialist estate agents The Modern House are the people to approach. Not only have they more or less cornered the market – the majority of the flats that come on the market in Highgate’s Highpoint go through them, for example – but they will also offer in depth information about a property’s history.
And while most of their sales were to Americans, Australians and Germans when they founded the business 10 years ago, Albert Hill, one of the company’s founders, says that the British have finally embraced Modernism too.
“Modernism’s been a lot more visible in the media in the past few years, modern design and modern furniture are very fashionable.
“There’s also a move towards more sustainable living, people are starting to think about trying to live in more environmentally friendly properties. Modernist buildings were certainly built with sustainability in mind.”
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The market for Modernist homes has exploded over the last year along with the property market as a whole but, more interestingly, it was also strong during the ‘dip’ years of the credit crunch.
Hill attributes this to the fact that “these Modernist houses have value as square foot in NW3, but beyond that they have value as works of art. If you buy one of these things they’ll always retain that value.”
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The most remarkable house the agents have had on their books recently was Winter House on Swain’s Lane, a 1966 property designed by architect John Winter for himself and his family to live in. It was sold by the family after his death for £2.8m.
“It’s one of the very very very few post-War houses to be Grade II* listed. It’s a very interesting steel frame house, made of steel and glass and that’s pretty much it. It’s one of the most important California-style houses in this country.”
Besides the obvious cache associated with living in an architectural masterpiece, the huge windows mean that the interior is flooded with abundant natural light, and it’s set on Highgate Cemetery so “as long as you don’t mind being looked at by dead people, privacy’s not a problem.”
Modernist houses also tend to be very flexible internally as they are designed with an open plan layout, another part of their contemporary appeal.
As Hill points out, “nowadays you see a lot of Georgian houses with interiors that look nothing like Georgian houses, whereas with most Modernist properties, people tend to want that open plan layout anyway.”
Clients also tend to stay very true to the period when decorating their homes. “We have even had people buy houses to fit their furniture – they’ll have amassed a collection and will buy a house to put it in.”
So, who are these people with the deep pockets, impeccable taste and fabulous furniture collections?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many mid-century enthusiasts work in media and advertising, trying to recapture a little of those industries’ Mad Men heyday.
As Hill explains, “the 60s stuff is now seen as having the character of another era, in the way that Georgian and Victorian properties traditionally have.
“Ten years ago people would have bought a 60s or 70s house and thought ‘it’s a bit ugly but I really like the living space inside.’ Now they buy it and the look of it really appeals to them too.”