Ever Changing Collection Of Mid Century Furniture
Step into the home of Caroline, an upholsterer in St Albans, and her husband Marcus Hoggarth, president and creative director of Native Design, and their appetite for modernist design is evident in every corner. The light house is a metaphorical conveyor belt of mid-century furniture-Caroline’s specialty-and their ever-changing collection sits alongside beloved fixed fixtures, including a Gio Ponti wardrobe and a Hans Wegner unit in the living room. If the contents of their house do not confirm their love of design, the building certainly will: from the sensitively restored 1960s structure with its sloping wooden ceiling to the spacious double-height rooms, it is a celebration of modernism at its best.
Here they explain how they adapted the house to family life with their four children, as well as Caroline’s upholstery workshop and a Barbican-inspired patio garden.
Caroline: “We were already living in St Albans when we came across this place. It has been on the market for centuries because people here are only looking for beautiful historic houses, but we could immediately see that this was the right place for us.”
Marcus: “My heart sank a little when we walked in because it was out of our price range, but I knew it had to be our home. It feels like a mid-century Californian house… it’s hidden in a pretty normal street.
“The first thing I noticed was the double high ceilings -it’s two floors at the front, but only one floor at the back, where there is a huge space with very generous windows on the garden.
“You really get a sense of space here. We moved from a four-story Victorian house where we were constantly going up and down the stairs. There is no full hallway or staircase throughout the house.”
Caroline: “The garden was also an important factor. Our old house just had a terrace at the back, so it was a big change to have a garden. We really feel like we are part of the house.”
Marcus: “We didn’t fundamentally change the house, but we needed love. The day we moved in, it rained and water poured through the beautiful wooden ceiling.”
Marcus: “We installed a new roof and changed the layout of the house to create five bedrooms. In the original design, there were all large spaces, but only a small shower room from the 70s that did not work, so we moved the large bathroom and put a large skylight there.
“The biggest job was digging the basement. There was always a storage room there, but we ended up digging a staircase terrace that leads from the basement to the garden. It was a pretty big undertaking – about 25 truckloads of dirt were removed – but it’s now our master bedroom.
“Having our room downstairs completely changed the way we used the house. There are now patio doors that open onto the terraces below, which are inspired by the balconies of the Barbican that spill flowers on the edge.
“We also rebuilt the garage. It was built for cars in the 1960s and 70s, which were much smaller than today’s cars. We turned it into a studio specially designed for Caroline’s upholstery.”
Caroline: “It was very important for us to get the right materials. We spent a lot of time highlighting it, to make sure it matches the old original. It was a lot of effort, but now you can no longer see what is new and what is original.”
Marcus: “The only new material we introduced into the house was slate, which we used in all the bathrooms to connect the interior to the outdoor patio.”
Caroline: “We thought a lot about the objects we brought into the house – especially the art and furniture. Marcus always asks if we can keep the pieces I’m working on, but I have to say no.”
Marcus: “The house is a kind of conveyor belt for beautiful mid-century furniture. That’s great-if you have all these pieces to play with and a canvas of space and light, you can be quite dynamic with the layout.
“We have a pair of Ole Wanscher rocking chairs that we picked up last week, which are excellent. They are in the house at the moment, but will be moved to a new house at some point.
“There are a number of pieces that we just don’t want to give up, such as the huge Hans Wegner wall unit in the living room. It took a long time to find it, but it seems that it was custom-made. And there is a Gio Ponti wardrobe from the 50s in our room.
“Keeping these vintage pieces and being sustainable by not buying new furniture is important to us. We are not trying to make the house a time capsule – you always want different contemporary elements, especially in the kitchen and bathroom.
“But in terms of the quality of the materials, the quality of the construction and the quality of the thinking, there are so many things from that time that are simply awesome. In a way, this house is a pay to that.”
Caroline: “Furniture should be beautiful, but it should also be functional, and I really get to see the extra care and thought put into these pieces when I take them apart and repair them. People think that you can’t have vintage furniture in a family room because the kids will ruin everything, but it can take a lot. It’s really built to last.
“The house has come into its own during the lockdown. When the children were teaching at home, the four of them worked on laptops at the table in the atrium room. Marcus took over the studio where he could close the door and take Zoom calls all day, and in the evenings, when the weather was nice, we would sit outside and have a drink together.”
Marcus: “It certainly helped to reduce the stress level compared to being in London all the time. People try to escape to the countryside for this, but your own home can also be a soothing place. I think that’s really what modern life is all about: creating a sense of space and light that integrates meaningfully with your surroundings.”
Is there a house for sale on our website that you noticed?
Caroline: “So much! And there are so many past sales that we are still thinking about, like the Povl Ahm house. And of course Farnley Hey, which we really contrition not buying.”
Marcus: “I find these two very beautiful examples of houses that fit perfectly into their surroundings; they are very different styles, but also very similar to them.”