The eclectic House for Essex, commissioned for philosopher and critic Alain de Botton's Living Architecture program, is a fairytale-inspired holiday home. Architecture studio FAT and artist Grayson Perry renovated the existing derelict structure, covering it with funky tiling and filling it with surreal furniture and artwork inspired by the fictional character Julie Cope to create a vibrant space that is truly unique.
Alain de Botton wanted a house that would be rich and small at the same time. Intricate tapestries and decorative ceramics cover the walls of the original structure, while its copper-clad pitched roof reminds of medieval churches. A one way road leads visitors from the local train station to the house, while a narrow foot bridge connects it with an overgrown lane which Holland and Perry call a pilgrimage.
The decoration is inspired by the fictional character Julie Cope, meant to represent an “Essex Everywoman”. The mouldings, tiling, tapestries and ceramic statues all depict her as a saint, telling the story of her life , from birth to divorce and eventually death, which is marked by the motorbike hanging from the ceiling. Julie “met her end” when her motorbike hit a curry delivery truck. The slightly morbid tale reads in the design as well and creates a rather bizarre space.
The house is the last project completed by FAT, which closed in 2014 after 23 years of practice.
Photos by Jack Hobhouse