Rae And Ben On Modernist Californian Architecture
In 2019, musicians Rae Morris and Ben Garrett, better known by his stage name Fryars, decided to buy and renovate their first home together – and this hidden 1960s house in Primrose Hill, north London, immediately caught the eye. Although it was the beautiful green garden that first seduced the couple, after a careful renovation of the house, it is the tactile and tone-on-tone interior inspired by Californian modernist architecture that is truly captivating today.
When they started the project, Rae and Ben completely took apart the original interior and left a clean cloth to explore their creative vision with architect Louis Hagen Hall, founder of the Hagen Hall Studio. Inspired by Louis’ previous projects and new ideas, the trio created a space with a nostalgic, filmy quality that transforms during the day as the light moves – sometimes even with a Kubrick-like glow. Here, Rae and Ben tell us how they imbued the house with a personality of their own, building a carefully balanced space that is both fun and functional, combining Kim Kardashian’s art with Eames-inspired textures.
Rae: “as soon as we saw this house, we loved it and immediately saw the potential. It was the garden that sold me. The previous owner had such a beautiful, well-kept garden. We spent a lot of time with him because he really wanted to get to know us before he sold the House. He also worked in music and I spent three hours listening to Doris Day with him.”
Ben: “the house was built in 1969, a very special time. It is built like a box, which allowed us to recover it in a completely flexible way. We stripped it to the point where you could see the eaves of the basement roof.”
Rae: “it was exciting to have a blank canvas to work with – we could change the whole structure to make the space work for us.”
Ben: “we met our architect Louis Hagen Hall before we bought the House. We found him through the modern house when we came across Wilton Way II, which he designed. His style really corresponded to our tastes, especially in terms of materials and textures. Wilton Way II has some elements that we like so much, that we asked Louis to bring some of the exact drawings to our house.”
Rae :” we went to the pub with Louis after contacting him on Instagram. We were in the early processes of getting the house, so he was involved from the very beginning to the final touches.”
Ben: “it was a really meaningful project for all of us – it’s the first renovation of the whole house Louis was working on. We let ourselves go to each other’s ideas, constantly reviewing the design. We have taken into account the contribution of everyone, so nothing to the house is not as we imagined. The house was a complete collaboration.
“Louis brought dynamic elements and made them work in a very interesting way. He is a” yes man ” and he is very excited to make things happen. When something seemed a little ridiculous, he always tried to come up with a creative solution to make it work.
“It was a really great and devoted process. We know where we put each thread and each bolt. If something goes wrong, we know what to do.”
Rae: “our house is a little less than 1,300 square meters, which is quite small, but we managed to find creative storage spaces hidden in enclaves of the sofa or walls. The different levels of the House provide a separation of space that allows you to discover parts of the house in a new way. Such an efficient use of space shows how much we did not need, or did not want, a huge place.”
Ben: “we wanted a house where we could build a studio. Since the house next door is on a different level, there was less risk of sound leaks, which was perfect.”
Rae: “we like the configuration of work and home in one space. The beauty of the studio is that you can work a few hours a day, and then rest. It’s good that you have the opportunity to do something stimulating and productive whenever you want.
“When we have people to take in, we like to feed them, make them feel at home. People enter the warm element of the living space before descending to enter a more serious workspace. We worked in studios that felt cold, and we wanted to counteract that. It is really important that we create a warm atmosphere for our creative process.”
Ben: “We feel like we have everything we need. We never want to go out. There was a time when I did not leave the house for five consecutive days.
“Rae and I both spent time in Los Angeles making music and our home really reflects an era of modernist architecture that we saw there. We visited the Eames House in Los Angeles, which is the most charming, quiet and welcoming space. There were pops of warm colors, great textures, and functional use of space that affected all aspects of our home.”
Rae: “I don’t like pretentious things. I need a home that practically has and reflects personality. I think you want to live in a space where you can watch brands grow, make that history book, while keeping the house running smoothly. We are expecting a baby, so we are thinking about ways to protect the sharper edges of the House.”
Ben: “before we came to live here, we went crazy on eBay, getting rid of all our furniture and unnecessary things. Nothing from the past was especially sentimental, and we did not want to be tied to our old objects. Most of the elements of the House are actually built. There is not much furniture here.
“The art we have is a mix of gifts and pieces we have chosen. Rae’s father printed a picture of a donkey from Rae’s hometown of Blackpool, which we framed. The large piece that hangs on the dining room wall is by Jesse Kanda.”
Rae: “we have a drawing of our friend Georgie of us eating a bowl of ramen. We want our baby to be added to the windows Bowl. Below we have a piece by Camilla Gondalez Corea, a master’s student from Central Saint Martin’s. she did a Kim Kardashian piece with emojis.
“We lived with Ben’s parents before moving here and finally getting in was just the absolute dream. It was surreal. Often I come down in the morning and think: “is this really where we live? Is this our home?”He never gets old. I love the morning light, which creates these awesome shadows in the living room. There is that special moment when the sun hits the mirror and it creates kaleidoscopic rainbow reflections.”
Ben: “at night there is an almost filmy element in the House. You get this really relaxing, almost Kubrick-like element of lighting and colors. The living room is my favorite; it has the most identity. It is so soothing to look out the front window into the garden.”