This festive, church-like structure may seem like an oddity among the pastoral hills and modest homes of Essex in Southeast England, but for renowned artist Grayson Perry, it was the realization of a years-long dream of building a chapel dedicated to his home county.
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The spectacular holiday rental is one of the boundary-pushing homes available through Living Architecture, a UK–based nonprofit founded by philosopher Alain de Botton in 2006. Perry, along with FAT Architecture, aimed to build something that would not only be aesthetically stunning but also stir up conversations that "challenge some people’s perceptions of what modern architecture can be," says Living Architecture’s Mark Robinson.
A House for Essex does, indeed, push its guests to think outside the box through storytelling, unexpected interiors, and a wild color palette—all which blend to create a "gesamtkunstwerk—a true collaboration between architecture, art, and narrative," Robinson says.
The exterior was inspired by wayside chapels, shrines, and specifically Essex’s St. Peter’s Chapel, a gabled stone structure dating back between 660 and 662. A House For Essex is clad with green and white dimensional tiles which depict the life of Julie Cope, the fictitious saint to whom the home is dedicated; inside, one-of-a-kind Grayson Perry textiles and ceramics chronologically depict the rest of her story.
"This was Grayson’s idea from the outset—Julie is not a ‘saint’ in the traditional religious sense, but represents the every-woman of Essex: a working mother, sister, a woman who later in life goes back into education," he says. "Grayson wove the story around his own experiences and memories of growing up and moving around Essex."
The story goes that Cope was born during The Great Flood of 1953, "which decimated the entire East Coast of the UK," Robinson adds. From there, she lived in the town of Basildon, married, got divorced, and then remarried, before tragically being killed on the streets by a moped driver. According to the tale, A House for Essex was built by her widow in her honor.
And while the trials of Julie Cope are a product of Perry’s imagination, it goes to show that "art and architecture can be a seamless collaboration." Says Robinson, "A House for Essex should influence others in how this can be achieved."
Two-to-three night stays range from £990 to £2200, and are booked through a ballot process hosted by Living Architecture.
Architect of Record: FAT Architecture
Interior Designer: Grayson Perry