Timely design: Jim and Chloe Read’s playful festive home

Inspired by their upbringings surrounded by antiques, Jim and Chloe Read – the couple behind Newgate Clocks – have filled their home with 1940s finds and created a look that feels anything but dated…

Timely design: Jim and Chloe Read's playful festive home

Imagine a department store that exclusively sold antique and vintage pieces. Where prices were reasonable and the quality was high and everything was laid out in an orderly, contemporary, pleasing way. Just such an emporium is what Jim and Chloe Read dream about creating – that is, if they weren’t in the clocks and watches business. 

Advertisement

Profile

The owners Jim and Chloe Read – founders of Newgate Clocks and watches – live here with their three children Ruby, Buster and Lola. 

The house was built in 1770 and is in Shrewsbury. It has four floors – the basement is currently a painting studio and storage space; the first floor has the kitchen, living room, games room and utility rooms; while six bedrooms, a study and dressing room are spread over the top two floors. 

Jim and Chloe Read, founders of Newgate Clocks and Watches

In 1991 the couple founded Newgate Clocks – the company synonymous with vintage-inspired, often industrial and oversized clocks and, more recently, watches. But, with both of their parents working in the antiques business while they were growing up, Jim and Chloe have a joint affinity with the world of antiques. ‘We both remember coming home to discover chests that hadn’t been unlocked for decades, filled with treasures inside,’ says Jim. ‘Chloe’s parents were dealers at Alfies Antique Market, while my dad still has a shop in Oswestry. And my mum owned a museum of childhood, filled with a 20,000-piece collection of toys, games and children’s clothing. When it was closed, I used to go in and play behind the red rope.’

The drawers in the living room were originally used in a London bank and date from the 1930s. Displayed on top are 1960s Eastern European educational scientific props from school laboratories, bought from Newark Antiques Fair. ‘The barograph was handed down to me from my grandfather who was a radio inventor in MI5,’ says Jim. ‘He loved and owned all sorts of unusual scientific instruments, and has been a great inspiration in my watch and clock design.’ The cocktail bar table is c1940s and bought from a shop called Junk n Disorderly in Shrewsbury. The object displayed on it is a 1970s clamp for scientific experiments. The deer head above the door is 1920s and was a gift from Chloe’s parents.
The drawers in the living room were originally used in a London bank and date from the 1930s. Displayed on top are 1960s Eastern European educational scientific props from school laboratories, bought from Newark Antiques Fair.  The deer head above the door is 1920s and was a gift from Chloe’s parents.

Growing up surrounded by antiques often goes hand in hand with living in a house filled with old pieces as an adult, but Jim and Chloe’s previous home was cool and contemporary, with white walls and a scant amount of furniture. ‘After moving from there, we both had a hunger to return to a more antiques-y feel,’ says Jim. And so, in their current home – a typically Georgian building, striking in its exterior symmetry – they fully embraced antiques.

The kitchen island is made from two 1930s glass shop counters, bought from a local dealer, with mahogany glazed doors and crackled mirrored backs. On the wall is a mahogany 1920s haberdashery display cabinet.
The kitchen island is made from two 1930s glass shop counters, bought from a local dealer, with mahogany glazed doors and crackled mirrored backs. On the wall is a mahogany 1920s haberdashery display cabinet.

‘This was our blank slate where we could start again,’ says Jim. ‘We bought most of the furniture specially for the house. It was all relatively inexpensive as big brown pieces of furniture aren’t as costly as they have been.’ The house had originally been built as a vicarage although it had never been used as such. Later, during the war, it became a general hospital and after that it was primarily used as a maternity hospital. In what is now the games room, there are still hospital bed numbers screwed to the floorboards as well as small holes that would have been used to secure screens. Because of its heritage, says Jim, 1940s furniture feels at home here. ‘Furniture from this era is well made and robust,’ he says. ‘I like the simplicity of the design and the patina of the oak. Plus, it costs a fraction of anything new.’ While the house may have a different aesthetic to their former home, its design is assuredly eclectic – with vintage pieces juxtaposed with a modern palette.

A group of portraits is arranged above the fireplace. Aside from the white Bull Terrier picture, painted by Michelle Coxon – which depicts the family’s old Bull Terrier Bess – they are all by unknown artists and date from the 1800s to the 1950s.
A group of portraits is arranged above the fireplace. Aside from the white Bull Terrier picture, painted by Michelle Coxon – which depicts the family’s old Bull Terrier Bess – they are all by unknown artists and date from the 1800s to the 1950s.
The children pull a giant cracker from Rockett St George. The stars wrapping paper is from Quirky Boots at Not on the High Street, while the crackers are from Talking Tables.
The children pull a giant cracker from Rockett St George. The stars wrapping paper is from Quirky Boots at Not on the High Street, while the crackers are from Talking Tables.

What also characterises this house is its ingenuity. Jim’s grandfather was a radio engineer for MI5 and Jim remembers visiting his house as a child and marvelling at his post-war oak furniture piled with scientific, radio and testing equipment. ‘Our own home probably looks quite similar now,’ he says. Certainly Jim’s office does conjure images of fervent creativity and invention with the piles of reference books and a 1970s educational telephone. ‘I started collecting old scientific equipment – and specifically pieces that have been in schools – six years ago,’ says Jim. Elsewhere, his own handiwork can be spotted. The bookcase, displaying 3,000 books, that runs the four floors of the back staircase was built to hide pipes and electric cables, while the light above the kitchen island was created by Jim from salvaged pieces. ‘I couldn’t find an original chandelier to go here so decided to make one. I stripped a broken 1940s light of its original white globes and brass galleries and fixed them to a brass pipe, then hung it all from an original 1920s ceiling rose. It wasn’t a dissimilar process to making a clock.’ 

An image of the outside of Dennis Severs' House, featuring real Christmas trees and garlands
The desk in Jim’s office is a 1940s oak design bought from Newark Antiques Fair. ‘It’s beautifully made with locking mechanisms,’ says Jim.
The desk in Jim’s office is a 1940s oak design bought from Newark Antiques Fair. ‘It’s beautifully made with locking mechanisms,’ says Jim.

Despite its impressive scale, the house is warm and, beyond anything, fun. ‘It really does feel like a great house for kids,’ says Jim. ‘They’re always nagging us to play hide and seek.’ And really, with so many treasure-filled rooms, who can blame them? 

The wreath on the front door is from Jamie Aston
The wreath on the front door is from Jamie Aston.
Advertisement

Photographs: Brent Darby
Words: Katie Pike