The other week, just before lockdown, Stuart and I managed to slip in a couple of days away at Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex in Essex’s glitzy Wrabness.
Back in 2012 Living Architecture commissioned Grayson Perry to fulfil his long-held wish to build a chapel to the history of his home county of Essex. Three years later, with the help of FAT Architecture, it was complete.
Stays at A House for Essex are like gold dust as you have to enter a ballot. After five years of trying we finally got a last minute cancellation booking so jumped at the chance.
A House for Essex is both an artwork in itself and the setting for a number of works by Perry exploring the special character and unique qualities of Essex. The building has been designed to evoke the tradition of wayside and pilgrimage chapels. It belongs to a history of follies, whilst also being deeply of its own time.
Unique and incomparable, the house overlooks the river Stour. The place is a fully immersive experience of the fictional life of an Essex woman, Julie Cope. It is architectural eccentricity at its most creative - albeit with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The house is at the end of a private lane set in an undulating landscape leading down to the shores of the river Stour. We let ourselves in through large wooden yellow doors into a lobby and hallway, off which a small bathroom is situated, and across the hall the staircase leads to two bedrooms and a second bathroom on the first floor.
The first-floor bathroom has both shower and large sunken bath, from where we could soak and take in the views. Each bedroom has an internal balcony overlooking the main living space, as well as views across the river. There is a spacious kitchen and dining area with two hidden doors flanking the fireplace and wood burner, through which could enter into the double-height living room lined with decorative timber panelling and Grayson Perry's richly coloured tapestries.
There are other specially commissioned artworks including red furnishings, large yellow pots and mosaic floors celebrating the fictional story of Julie Cope and her life in Essex. Glazed and shuttered double doors opened to reveal a sheltered porch overlooking the fields down to the Stour.
A House for Essex is a testament to the idea that art and architecture can lift our spirits and allow us to experience the world through the eyes of others, both in reality and fiction.
We loved it. And will enter the ballot again as soon as we can.