As founders of British success story Newgate Clocks, their look at home is as compelling as the quirky design the brand has become synonymous with globally. ‘We both have magpie tendencies,’ says Chloe. ‘Growing up with parents in the antiques trade has definitely influenced us.’
‘The house lends itself to imposing, large-scale furniture and gave us an excuse to start afresh,’ she adds. ‘If we can’t find the exact piece we want, Jim would rather design it. Our kitchen is made from previously dilapidated antique counters, cupboards and dressers.’ On the back staircase, an impressive four-story bookcase created by Jim hides a plethora of pipes and is filled with 3000 books, all picked up for a bargain £200. ‘We are always on the hunt for gems that Jim can remodel,’ says Chloe.
Built as a vicarage (though never used as such), the house was converted during the Second World War to be a general hospital, and later was used as a maternity hospital. The refined bare bones – with original floors, fireplaces and staircases – resonate a strong sense of provenance. ‘We feel as though we are custodians of something special,’ says Chloe. The family moved in two years ago, having spent a year bringing it back to life. ‘We both grew up in rural Shropshire and never intended to leave. But the elegant Georgian proportions captivated us all and we are now converts to town-centre living – albeit in the same county,’ says Chloe.
Sophisticated this may be, but it is also a lesson in relaxed family living. ‘Nothing is precious,’ says Chloe. ‘You are just as likely to find the dining room table covered with Jim’s sketches and mechanisms as you are glammed up for a cocktail party. We move pieces around all the time – that’s the reason most things are not fixed to the wall,’ says Chloe.
Nods to the past prevail throughout: a barograph (mechanical barometer), owned and previously operated by Jim’s grandfather, a radio engineer for MI5; a cupboard filled with apothecary jars, collected by Chloe since childhood; and Lola’s precious vintage toy shop, sourced and filled with treasures by Jim’s parents. Unsurprisingly a plethora of clocks abound: originals, prototypes and favourites sit alongside travel finds and artworks.
While Jim and Chloe have quickly grown to be one of Britain’s best-known design couples, their self-effacing style and infectious sense of fun has kept them firmly rooted. ‘We were set up 26 years ago and within a year had given up university and art college, moved in together, sold Jim’s Mini Moke to raise some cash and started our business,’ says Chloe.
The idea for Newgate was triggered by a chance discovery of clock mechanisms and hand movements in the back of Exchange & Mart. ‘If we could have fast forwarded a quarter of a century on that blind date, we couldn’t have guessed what it would lead to!’ laughs Chloe.
Written by: Ali Heath - Photos: Joanna Henderson