At home with Tom and Jack Smith, St Albans very own property brothers
- Credit: Archant
Through the keyhole and across the threshold of the footballer-turned-property consultants Tom and Jack Smith.
A few weeks ago, I met Tom and Jack Smith - the ex-footballer brothers from Hertfordshire who spent their teens learning the ropes of the property world from their father, their twenties experiencing the ‘joys’ of house-hopping, and have now taken over the sales arm of JW&Co Langleys in and around St Albans.
When we spoke previously, it was mostly shop-talk; the nitty gritty of the property business. Goal posts and astroturf are very much a thing of the past for these two.
But then there’s the fluffier side of property - their style when it comes to their own homes. So, I invited myself round for a cup of tea and a ‘Through The Keyhole’ snoop...
Both brothers live in Berkhamsted, with Tom living a little more in the sticks than Jack.
With his wife Nina and their three children, Ella (11), Max (eight) and Leni (five), Tom lives in a barn conversion, which he describes as a “17th century cow shed”.
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If this is what the place once was, it’s now a far cry from a home only fit for cattle. Constructed using the beams of a ship, the home is almost a nod to M. C. Escher’s painting ‘House of Stairs’, using a variety of levels. Although the ground floor is vast and roomy, the open-plan feel extends not only across the property, but upwards too.
Tom credits his wife for the interior flair, and his father-in-law for a lot of the structural accents (he is a builder). Of particular note is the dipped dining area, encased by a swirl of low-level wooden steps, lights built into them, leading the way up to the completely re-imagined kitchen with its striking mauve splash tiling and larder fridge.
“It’s a very sociable house,” says Tom. “We always have the family here, for roast dinners and things like that. We also didn’t want it to be too stark or minimalist. It’s a family home, and so we’ve made it homey. Plus, with three kids, it’s hard to keep it totally immaculate, which is where the leather sofas and wood flooring come in handy.”
When the family moved back to the area as Tom began winding down his football career to focus on property sales, the Smiths looked at apartments, houses and new builds. Having been used to moving around from club to club over the course of his sporting career, Tom was attune to this process. This time, however, he was looking for a place to settle down and raise his family - something with character.
“The particulars of this place didn’t do it justice,” he recalls of first coming across the barn. “We weren’t expecting to like it. But then we walked in and we knew.”
Surprisingly, the alterations Tom wanted to make were fairly easy to accomplish - while the house gives across a rouse of being historic, untouchable and a property developer’s nightmare, it’s actually not even listed.
“There were no restrictions with the changes we wanted to make,” Tom says. “The only issue we had was with the outdoor courtyard. Planning permission to alter it was turned down, because it affected the footprint of the property.”
The courtyard he speaks of is one of three outside segments, each one self-contained, compartmentalised and ideal for the children. And as a father of three, Tom brings to the table a wealth of insight into the correlation between property and schooling.
“It’s stressful; moving around with children who need to go to school, all the while juggling work and a property sale. I’ve done it. When people call me now and say they have to move into a rental property because they’ve had a great offer on their house but not found their own place to buy yet – I get it. I can relate.”
Opting for the less rural option, Jack resides in a town house in central Berkhamsted, on an attractive hilly street. He lives there with his wife Sophie and their dog Lola, initially moving in during the January of 2010.
Jack runs the Park Street office of JW&Co Langleys. He married Sophie four years ago and his home nods to the couple’s nuptials throughout - personalised pillows, a feature wall of memories and an eye-catching photographic canvas of the pair on their wedding day.
Much like his brother, Jack saw an opportunity to improve, renovate a little and generally increase the value of the property - which was already in good stead due to its town-centre locale.
“The home - and the area - isn’t too over-built,” says Jack. “There’s still character to this house, despite other homes around it being similar in style and look.”
Jack and Sophie had previously been living with Sophie’s family, and were ready to find a place of their own when the property came on the market.
“It had been sold, but that sale had fallen through. We then went for it and it was actually unusually fast for a house sale. The whole thing was lovely and quick and convenient,” Jack recalls.
Not long ago the pair had an extension built at the rear of the property, expanding the kitchen out into the back garden slightly. The previous kitchen was evidently rather pokey, but what stands in place of it now is quite to the contrary. It’s a light, open-plan, modern space. As Jack points out: “it’s a great space to entertain. People tend to gather in the kitchen at parties. At our house, we encourage it.”
Other improvements include the installation of a log burner in one of the property’s two fireplaces, as well as improved flooring throughout and a chic design on the upstairs living accommodation - with a free-standing bath in the bathroom and a silvery palette to the master bedroom.
Completing the home nicely is Lola the dog - who welcomes visitors just as warmly as any log-burning fire.