House Beautiful catches up with Newgate's founders, and discovers the perfect balance of old and new.
Written by Alice Westgate, Photographs by David Giles
LIVING ROOM - A huge clock face, found at a Paris flea market, and an old leather chair give the room a vintage feel, but mix easily with designer pieces such as the reflective light ball by Tom Dixon and Glove chair by Sir Terence Conran from Urbansuite.
FAMILY LIVING - Chloe and Jim have created a comfortable home that’s perfect for life with children Ruby, Buster and Lola. Bright red floorboards coordinate with a traditional Chesterfield. For similar red paint try Rectory Red by Farrow & Ball.
From the outside, Chloe and Jim Read’s home looks every inch the country house. Set in the Welsh Borders, it was designed in the 1830s by Sir Robert Smirke, who devised the façade of the British Museum. But inside you’ll find a sleek stainless-steel kitchen, contemporary furniture, such as a chair by Sir Terence Conran, and plenty of pop art. ‘The house still has its old doors and windows, but it’s fairly modern inside,’ says Chloe.
This mix of old and new is also evident in the clocks produced by the couple’s company, Newgate, launched nearly 25 years ago and now a household name. Many of its best-known designs, from classic station to retro mantel clocks, have traditional faces with modern mechanisms. ‘There’s certainly a link there,’ laughs Jim.
The couple bought the property in 2004, having searched for a period house in the area for several years without success. When they saw this one advertised in a local paper they moved swiftly. ‘We were only the second people to view it and bought it on the spot,’ says Jim. With their offices just 10 miles away, the house suited them down to the ground. Its generous room proportions and high ceilings also appealed: ‘We were living in a beautiful but tiny cottage in Shropshire and wanted a change from low ceilings and dark beams,’ says Chloe.
On the downside, their new home hadn’t been touched for the best part of 25 years and was pretty dilapidated. Chloe and Jim didn’t want to become embroiled in a lengthy renovation as they were already busy at work and a one-year-old, so, once again, they moved at impressive speed: ‘In just 10 weeks our builders stripped back the house and rewired, re-plumbed, re-plastered and redecorated it throughout,’ says Chloe. The couple’s most frivolous expense during the building phase was lighting, as they wanted a versatile scheme. ‘We installed a five-amp lighting circuit as well as dimmers, coloured bulbs and floor lighting so the whole place could be transformed at the drop of a hat,’ says Jim.
Inspiration for its luxurious yet funky interior style came from a number of sources, including Nick Jones’ exclusive Somerset hotel Babington House. But Chloe and Jim also wanted a bright and breezy look that would suit family life; they now have three children: Ruby, 10, Buster eight, and five-year-old Lola. The solution was to opt for white walls throughout, giving a crisp, clean finish. It’s highly practical and shows off both their artwork and, most importantly, their clocks, to striking effect.
When it came to choosing furniture, the couple visited the 100% Design interiors fair for key pieces. ‘We made most major shopping decisions in just three days,’ says Chloe. ‘We’re both visual people and Jim is very decisive when it comes to design.’ These contemporary pieces sit happily beside battered leather chairs, industrial lighting and vintage clocks, many of which Jim found. ‘I’m addicted to flea markets,’ he admits. ‘I always get into trouble for spotting old clocks, none of which is ever cheap or small.’ It will come as no surprise, then, to learn that the Reads have at least one clock in every room, sometimes more. The kitchen, for example, has six, including a time-zone set, a huge square chrome wall clock and a small vintage-style alarm clock by the cooker.
‘I wouldn’t say we’ve designed the house around our clocks,’ says Jim, who heads a team of eight designers back at the office. ‘But they certainly fit into our lifestyle. And we use the same design techniques in the house as we do when devising a clock face; we often like things to be symmetrical.’ Nothing disturbs the clean lines in this house and its cleverly planned rooms are carefully curated to avoid clutter. ‘We don’t go for bric-a-brac,’ admits Jim. ‘It would upset the balance.’ For Chloe, who heads the key accounts section of the business, the simplicity of their domestic life is an essential contrast to their professional lives. ‘Our working days are full-on, so our home has to be calm to counterbalance those pressures,’ she adds. ‘Being able to build this life in the country, without the need to live in London, makes us feel unbelievably privileged.’
DINING AREA - Removing a stud wall has created a wonderful family space with a table and benches from Ethnicraft.
KITCHEN - Stainless-steel units from Magnet were combined with a bespoke steel worktop with integral sink. ‘The top cost more than everything else put together,’ laughs Jim
BATHROOM - A modern bathroom was a key part of the renovation project. The Reads chose sanitaryware from Lefroy Brooks and hung a vintage sign from Alfies Antique Market in London.
GUEST BEDROOM - Chloe and Jim are film buffs and the guest room is dedicated to their music and film heroes and heroines. The bed and chandelier were both bought at Urban Outfitters.
MASTER BEDROOM - A vast canvas painted by Chloe and Jim in homage to Andy Warhol hangs above their bed and dictates the colour scheme.
To see more clocks visit www.newgateclocks.com