Albert Hill: how Wallpaper* inspired The Modern House

Albert Hill, who joined Wallpaper* as associate design editor in 2001 and remained a contributing editor until 2019, on how one particular commission inspired him to found alternative estate agency The Modern House. Hill’s recollections feature in the ‘25 Years of Wallpaper*’ series, published in our October 2021, 25th anniversary issue

magazine cover of Wallpaper*
Wallpaper* magazine issue 72
(Image credit: press)

I have lots of great memories of course. On my very first day I was put on a flight to Copenhagen (on a Maersk Air plane, I recall – they don’t exist any more but had a lovely blue livery).

My job was to help double-check the measurements of some sort of in-built furniture designed for Wallpaper* – the plans were being given away to readers to build out the piece at home. It was a project that Thomas Lykke was leading I recall, and Thomas clearly wasn’t trusted to get the measurements right!

The story that inspired The Modern House

Magazine spread of a Florida house

W* 72

(Image credit: press)

It was an article I wrote on the modernist residences of Sarasota, Florida (W*72), that inspired me to found The Modern House. I came back from that trip and wondered if a company celebrating and selling great houses might work in the UK. I recall that [editorial director] Richard Cook was looking to buy a house at the time and was always bemoaning the quality of offerings of estate agents – so I really set up The Modern House with Richard as a model customer!

I still haven’t managed to sell him anything…

The way that Tyler Brûlé looked at property was also a big influence. He always saw buildings as part of a bigger story, a bigger narrative – and that was a narrative that you could cultivate.

I remember he once wanted to find a town, buy a house there, and then fill the town with cafés, shops, etc, run by his friends, so that he could comfortably holiday there. He was working on a shortlist of places that he could get to within an hour or two (this was after he’d come back from a hellishly long slog to visit someone in Cornwall!).


A version of this article appears in the October 2021, 25th Anniversary Issue of Wallpaper* (W*270), on newsstands now and available to subscribers – 12 digital issues for $12/£12/€12.