A moment with...
Words by Henrietta Thompson — Photography by Angela Lawson
Since founding The Modern House in 2005, Albert Hill’s dual passions for architecture and commerce have blossomed into one of the world’s most respected authorities on contemporary design and property. An advocate for living beautifully and thoughtfully – often, via unexpected means – Hill speaks to Aather about conjuring domestic magic with living artworks, breathing plants, and surprising scents.
What is your idea of a perfect gathering at home during the winter months?
In our front room with my wife, my two sons and dog playing a board game on the floor. It’s our favourite room in the house and only really gets used in winter.
When setting the scene for these gatherings what are the elements most important to you?
A wood-burning stove going to set the temperature - the dog usually stretches out in front of it – and low lighting with a floor light over the board game.
Quiet music in the background (Thelonious Monk), a hot drink and a candle burning.
And in the summer?
Sitting in the garden, by the roses, catching the last bit of sun before it drops behind the houses.
Where in your own home is your favourite space to relax and why?
In the summer, it’s in the garden, on the bench under the apple tree. It’s just a beautiful spot. In the winter, it’s in the front room as it’s where my favourite artworks are – particularly my Alice Adams tapestry and a sculpture by Jacob Epstein that used to be in my grandparents’ house, then my parents’ house, now mine!
Do you read, write or meditate? If so do you have any rituals to set the scene for these activities?
Yes, I do all three! Although the latter not as frequently as I would like. When I meditate, I go into my wife’s pottery studio and light an incense cone. I write in my bed last thing at night. I used to use a fountain pen given to me by my son but I dropped it one evening and ruined my wife’s favourite linen, so I use a biro now! I usually read on the little sofa that we have in the kitchen, with my dog resting her head on my lap – generally, when I’m trying to put off doing the washing up.
How can we make the most of our domestic spaces, now we’re suddenly spending so much more time in them?
Be playful and creative with your domestic spaces. You want somewhere that makes you smile and embraces you. Don’t let anyone tell you what your home should or shouldn’t be like. I like having artworks that are full of expression in my home as it’s like having human contact at a time when human contact has become much harder to come by.
What concrete actions can people take to change not only the way a space looks, but how it feels?
Besides artworks, plants are easy living things to have in the home. Their colour and life can really change a space.
Think about lighting. The human brain responds well to variety and intrigue in a space so bright, uniform spotlights should be avoided. Take advantage of natural light (which changes throughout the day of course) and use a range of artificial lights at different heights in a space (so think about a mixture of floor, ceiling, wall and table lights).
Scent is an underrated element of a space. Smell evokes strong sensations in us all so it’s a really enjoyable element to play with. Whilst some people have a favourite scent, I prefer to change it often to keep my nose, and mind, intrigued.