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Special Agent

"The homes on John's books are among the most Instagramable, inspirational and design-led in the UK."

Photography graduate and hip-hop music producer aren’t lines you’d expect to find on the resume of an estate agent. But then John McDavid isn’t your typical property seller. For starters, the homes on his books are among the most Instagramable, inspirational and design-led in the UK. This is the ultimate in “property porn”. And it’s this creative core that’s lead him down the path to creating his agency Aucoot – named after a favourite cove in Cape Cod – where his day job means indulging his love of telling stories and exploring inspiring spaces through beautiful pictures.

As he takes a short break from photographing the Abode apartment by Cereal on the Peninsula, we caught up with him for a chat about his journey from estate agent to creative and how he’s found artistry in the destination.

Abode by Cereal magazine at Greenwich Peninsula. Photography by Rich Stapleton.

How did an art school graduate end up selling houses for a living?

At first it was a temporary job while I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Coming from a creative background and becoming an estate agent…it does jar, and everyone who knew me was surprised. But I realised I can combine my love of photography with selling properties. Having in-depth knowledge of how to create an image, as well as the emotional side of house buying, allows me to capture what makes a home special. You can be artistic in many ways; you don’t have to draw or paint – the marketing and branding side of the business uses my creative mind as well.

What one photograph would you want with you on a desert island?

I’m looking at a photograph in my kitchen by the photographer, Max Wagner. It’s of some guys in the sea with the sun shining down on them in Mexico. These beautiful colours fade up from a sandy colour through to turquoise and the blue sky in the background. You can sit here on a grey day and be transported by that image. But I realise that if I’m stranded on a desert island, that’s my view anyway. So, I’d rather take something that reminds me of home. There’s a photograph of my son running towards the camera along a jetty at Newtown Creek. It’s right by the sea, the beautiful open country on either side. If I was castaway somewhere, I’d like that with me.

Photograph: Aucoot, Steppingstones

You’re a Dad to a toddler so presumably, your home is piled high with coloured plastic. How has parenthood changed your outlook on interior design?

When you have children you become less precious, that’s for sure – I’ve now got some wonderful drawings on my walls! But the type of space I want around me hasn’t really changed. In this post-Fordist, hyper-connected world we live in, I feel it’s so incredibly important to be able to divide your time between different activities. So I’ve shied away from the idea of open plan; I’d rather create a segregated space that allows me to focus on family rather than sitting with them on a phone or laptop. I’ve always felt that. It’s just more relevant now with a two and a half-year-old.

You ran a record label in a former life. What’s on your ‘at home’ playlist?

I don’t have specific music for different things; it’s about how I feel in that moment whether I’m cooking or having a dinner party or just relaxing. Nineties hip-hop is my love, so anything by A Tribe Called Quest. There’s also a contemporary jazz group, BadBadNotGood, particularly their new track Time Moves Slow featuring Sam Herring from Future Islands. And I enjoy Giles Peterson on Radio 6. For family time any of that would stand – you’ve got to start the musical education early!

Photograph: Aucoot, Londesborough Road

You’ve said that design enables you to understand people. What does your home reveal about you?

Anyone who knows me would probably agree that I’m a calm person. I want my home to help me feel that way, so that’s what I aspire to. I’ve worked with Marc Péridis, the founder of Soho gallery, 19 Greek Street. He runs a talk called Sacred Transformative Spaces, which looks at how to create the home you want. I’ve taken his lead on thinking about how I can feel calm, and for me, that is being at my happy place – Newtown Creek on the Isle of Wight. So I’ve taken my design cues from that lovely calming connection with nature and the colours, textures and materials that resonate with my memories there.

It’s said a buyer knows instantly when a house is ‘the one’. Is it the same when deciding if a property is right for Aucoot?

Our clients have created something special – they’ve worked with an architect or an interior designer, or they’re design literate themselves, and the high street agent can’t do that justice in their communication to buyers. But Aucoot isn’t limited by a style of architecture or when something was built; a lot of it comes down to gut feeling: does this property resonate with me or inspire me in some way?

Photograph: Aucoot, Withdean Road

If you could pick one Aucoot property to move into rather than sell…

We’re currently selling a property on Withdean Road, Brighton, which, as soon as I first walked in, I could just see myself living there. Everything about it for me creates a lovely feeling… high ceilings, a great amount of light and amazing hillside views.

The materials used by the architect John Pardey play a big part in it too. You get a lot of external brickwork exposed internally, and all this solid oak, giving everything a very natural feel. It’s extremely considered, but at the same time very understated.

Photograph: Rich Stapleton, The Abode apartment by Cereal magazine at Greenwich Peninsula

What would you say to a friend wanting the inside scoop on ‘Abode by Cereal’?

Good design is what connects all the properties we sell at Aucoot. So when we were approached to sell the penthouses, we recognised the importance of styling them in a way that’s both authentic to the space and aligns with our ethos. That’s why we’ve chosen to partner with Cereal magazine to get the aesthetic just right. Interior design aside, Greenwich Peninsula isn’t your average development; it’s part of an ambitious long-term transformation and because of that the properties are far more considered than your typical urban development.

For example, the homes in the Lower Riverside district, and especially the Abode apartment, offer a great opportunity to live right on the river. You get to look out at an ever-changing scene of boats sailing by and see beautiful light reflecting off the water. It’s such a tranquil, minimal space. The owner will walk in and feel instantly relaxed.

Discover more about Abode by Cereal.