An interview with the Founders of Story of Home
With a British Property Award 2022 in the bag and House & Garden describing them as revolutionising the housing market, it’s been a massive year for Story of Home. So, as we head towards Christmas, we here at ‘Tales of the City’ have decided to turn tables and interview our very own founders, Stuart and Mathew.
You know about their background and credentials, you know they are passionate about selling beautiful design-led homes, but here’s a chance to get to know a bit more about what makes them tick, and some of the details they left off the CV.
You’ve made your homes in Belsize Park and Hackney respectively. What drew you there and made you want to stay?
Mathew: My fiancé and I were initially looking to buy in Maida Vale, our friends suggested we also look in Belsize Park. We had heard of the area but didn’t know what it was really like. However, when we started exploring, we quickly realised Belsize Park had it all. It’s leafy, laid back and beautiful. Being so close to both Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath is really important for us on the weekends. We love the relaxed vibe and nice sense of community, whilst being just 15 minutes from the centre of town.
Stuart: We fell in love with the lifestyle. Last weekend typifies the appeal to us. On Saturday, we walked along the canal to Islington, went to a couple of pubs, then walked back along the canal and had dinner at Brilliant Corners on Kingsland Road. Sunday, we walked in the other direction along the canal, east to Broadway Market, which was buzzing as always, then strolled through the stunning Victoria Park village, with Sunday lunch at The Axe in Stoke Newington. Hackney has got everything and is multi-cultural which we love. To me and my wife and our dog Elton, Hackney is home. It’s where we are meant to be. I feel a total sense of belonging there. Also the Overground is amazingly convenient and hooks you up to everything, locally and across London.
You are RICS accredited estate agents but what don’t we know about your professional journey?
Mathew: I did work experience at school, aged 15, and was sent to a local estate agent in a Welsh market town called Cowbridge. It was fun, way more fun than any of my friends had. It’s a very simple story – I just really, really liked it. That’s why I did a Real Estate degree and went into property. I know that estate agents don’t always have a perfect reputation, but I see it – at its best – as a wholesome profession.
Moving house, finding a new home is a major milestone in people’s lives, and if we can help make that happen in a really enjoyable and positive way, then I think that’s a decent way to spend your professional life.
Stuart: I always liked property. Even as a kid, I was into architecture and houses and all my school projects or artwork turned out to be houses. I then took the tried and tested route into estate agency by becoming a lifeguard. You know those big wave beaches in Maui and the bronzed, muscle-bound lifeguards there? Well, I was a lifeguard at Coral Reef Waterworld, in Bracknell. We had three flumes. It’s on a road called Nine Mile Ride and a customer once got really angry because he said he had driven half the country to come because he thought there was a nine-mile flume ride. When the glamour of that job got too much for me, I applied for some others and got offered a job in an estate agency which I initially turned down because it involved working Saturdays and Sundays, which as a younger man I considered an affront to my human rights. Then they offered me a company car and that was me Sold! I’ve now been in property for 24 years and I love it.
You sell properties from a starting point of each home’s story and the story of the life to be lived in it. Why do you choose to work this way?
Stuart: When Matt and I first met and got talking, we felt that there wasn’t enough of the right information on a brochure. Most of the spec told you what you could deduce from looking at the photos and floorplans. A lot of our buyers have said to us that the way the property is described meant they came through the door with a mind to buy, because they were already imagining their life in this home.
Mathew: Storytelling is an intrinsic human trait. The whole journey and process of buying a property is suited to narrative, the story of the home and the journey of the people who are going to live in it. That’s how we wanted to work, and we don’t feel anyone else is doing it quite like we do.
One of our sellers said that you ‘sell the intangibles’ – what does that mean?
Stuart: I don’t think I’ve ever actually sold a property. I show properties to people who I think are right for it. I try to add value to people’s experience by pointing out what isn’t obvious, offering advice and being a sounding board and solving problems that arise through the journey. But I have never sold a property to someone who doesn’t love it, that’s where the story of the home is way more relevant than anything I say.
Mathew: We don’t need to be pushing the qualities of a property. We only take on great houses and apartments. What we’re offering is an insight into people’s real life. We try to remain totally authentic and real. Our approach to marketing ensures the right home is found by the right person.
What is the biggest kick each of you get out of your work, the moment you like best?
Mathew: I guess we’re meant to say it’s the day we hand over the keys, but it’s more in the small details of the professional process that we find job satisfaction. There are small moments in a valuation, an instruction, or a deal closed when something just clicks and our experience or knowledge fills a gap or a need and the process moves forward – those are the really satisfying moments.
Stuart: Buying and selling property throws up totally unexpected scenarios and challenges. It’s a period of weeks or months when you are talking to clients on a regular, sometimes daily, or even hourly basis, managing expectation, helping emotions, and solving problems. You become a part of people’s lives and that’s the main part of the job.
Where in town do you like to go to relax and get some headspace?
We both walk a lot, because we love walking in London and also because our work demands we walk a lot in London. Parks and green spaces, streets and urban areas. One of the great things about walking in this city is that you suddenly realise how different neighbourhoods join up, that some parts of town are much better connected that you knew. It’s also how we both enjoy and further our appreciation of architecture.
Bus, train, tube or bike?
Mathew: 100% bike, it’s the best way to traverse the city.
Stuart: All 4 depending on location and weather.
Curry or pizza?
Mathew: Curry – but homemade. We were given the Dishoom recipe book last Christmas!
Stuart: Pizza, Oi Vita in Newington Green is my favourite, I recommend asking for well done.
Pub or nightclub?
Mathew: Pub. When you are over 35, nothing good happens after midnight.
Stuart: I would have said Nightclub in the past, but 100% pub.
Live music or live theatre?
Mountains or the sea?
Mathew: Sea. I grew up on the coast and would spend summers surfing the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. They are some of the best beaches in the world.
Stuart: Mountains, due to my love of snowboarding. But I also love a bit of winter sun too.
Berlin or Rome?
Mathew: Berlin. Good beer, good people and sauerkraut. A great combination.
Stuart: Rome for the food and architecture, Berlin for fun.
New York or LA?
Mathew: LA. I drove across California for 4 weeks with a group of friends to celebrate us all turning 30. We ended the trip in Vegas… say no more.
Stuart: New York. It’s the only city I could see myself living in other then London.
What will you be asking Santa to bring you?
Some lower interest rates would be great.
If Lauren Laverne was casting you away, what would be the one track you save from the waves, and what would be your luxury item?
Mathew: “Oxygen” by Willy Mason and my Sage Espresso machine (solar powered). I will harvest the coffee beans on the island.
Stuart: A homing beacon and Roni Size New Forms.
We are not allowing Stuart his luxury item because it’s cheating. We are giving him a framed photo of Mathew instead.
Finally, you specialise in beautifully designed homes in London; houses and apartments that are visually stunning places to make your home. And you both know and love architecture and design – give us each one visual event occurring in 2023 that you are excited about.
Stuart: I cannot wait for the huge David Hockney show at Lightroom in King’s Cross. It’s called “Bigger and Closer” and all the indications are that it is going to be an experience in sheer beauty to behold.
Mathew: This is a very specific thing but I’m looking forward to a RIBA event in January, celebrating the 2022 RIBA House of the Year Winner, The Red House by David Kohn Architects because it’s an Arts & Crafts inspired house with amazing sustainability credentials and massively creative design elements, all of which I absolutely love.
Stuart and Mathew set up Story of Home to provide their own unique, personable, white-glove approach to estate agency.
All of us here at Story of Home take the time to understand what is unique and special about every home, and what a life in that home and the surrounding area offers.
Get in touch with us on… 0207 867 3999 or at email@example.com