Grayson Perry and FAT reveal the elaborate
interiors of their House for Essex


After almost five years in the making, architecture studio FAT and artist Grayson Perry have completed their fairytale-inspired Essex holiday home, which was designed as a shrine to the fictional character Julie Cope (+ slideshow).

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Interior balconies, intricate tapestries and elaborately decorated ceramics compete the interior of A House for Essex – a house commissioned as part of philosopher and critic Alain de Botton's Living Architecture programme.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

FAT's Charles Holland and Grayson Perry collaborated on the ornate-tile-clad house situated in Wrabness, a tiny village in Essex overlooking the scenic Stour Estuary.

"I wanted it to be very small and very rich," said Perry at the opening today, but added that "it would've looked like the set from Game of Thrones" without Holland's intervention.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

While the outer structure – covered in gleaming green and white tiles and featuring a copper moulded roof – completed in August 2014, the interior was finally unveiled today.

The public will be able stay inside, and short-term lets will be allotted through a ballot system open until midnight on 26 May.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

The building is split into four segments that increase in scale, like a retractable telescope, as it slopes back onto the plot towards the estuary.

The copper-clad roof form is based on medieval stave churches, which feature complex roofs with multiple pitches.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Visitors approach the house through a cul-de-sac across the tracks from the local train station.

A narrow foot bridge links with a lane with grass growing between the tyre tracks – a route described by Holland and Perry as a pilgrimage.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

The building sits at the end of the lane like a rural chapel in the middle of a green meadow. "It should just settle into the place and not change it," said Holland.

The design is centred around the fictional character Julie Cope, conceived by Perry as an "Essex Everywoman".

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Iconography depicts Julie as a saint – from mouldings on the glossy green tiling and an aluminium weather vein on the outside of the house to tapestries and ceramic statues inside.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Behind a set of bright red double doors, an entrance hall with primary coloured paintwork leads to a kitchen with a herringbone parquet floor, followed by a chapel-like space with a tall pitched ceiling and rows of arched windows set high into the walls.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Two large tapestries depicting Julie's life, from her birth to her divorce and eventually her death, hang from the walls.

A motorbike hoisted up to the ceiling of the chapel represents a collision with a curry delivery driver, with which Julie met her end – a tombstone in the front garden marks her final resting place at 61.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

A set of steps lead from the back of the house across a threshold decorated with a mosaic skull pattern onto a stretch of lawn, as well as to a pathway that trails around the edge of a field down to the shoreline of the estuary.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Off the hallway, a bathroom features white tiled walls and floors, with bright yellow grouting that matches the paintwork in the hallway.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Opposite, another door opens onto the foot of a spiral staircase made from dark wood, which leads to a bathroom and two bedrooms positioned side-by-side at the rear of the house.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

Walk-in wardrobes open from the back of each room onto two interior balconies overlooking the living room. A life-size ceramic effigy of Julie stands in an uplit recess between the two.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

A more elaborate bathroom with a bath tub sunken into a platform covered in muted green tiles level with a window overlooking the approach to the house.

A House for Essex by FAT and Grayson Perry

House for Essex is the final project to be completed by the now-defunct FAT, whose members disbanded in 2014 after 23 years of practice.

It is the sixth completed home in the Living Architecture series – a project masterminded by Alain de Botton to allow members of the public to stay inside buildings by world-class contemporary architects.

Photography is by Jack Hobhouse.

  • Derek_V

    Truly amazing collaboration. A punch in the face to bland, Modernist crap.

    • Meme

      Why “modernist crap”? Explain.

    • gpa

      You don’t really get the point of Modernism, do you.

  • pipo

    Very cool, really hot stuff.

  • James Burt

    I have first hand experience that this is one of the best clients you could ever want in this industry. Going to see this on Wednesday, pretty excited.

  • Dylan Milne

    To me it’s a bit like a house that’s walked off of a catwalk. There are many small details which are quite desirable but to me the whole thing is quite grotesque in a strangely inspiring way!

    I’m certainly glad it was built and truly fulfilled by Grayson.

    • Xl

      It’s just grotesque in my opinion.

  • SomeoneFromHolland

    This is not architecture or design, this is an amazing piece of art you can walk through and even live in. Houses like these would make daily life much more interesting.

    • Hed

      Yes, it is architecture and design. Not art.

      • amsam

        You two. Can’t it be all three at the same time?

      • empi morin

        Since when architecture is not art?

        • Hed

          Since forever. Architecture is architecture, and why you have to call it something else than what it actually is, is beyond comprehension.

  • Tartarus

    Entertaining, attention-seeking, crafty project, certainly should not be in the category of Fine Art. But well it IS crowd pleasing – so perhaps there is a meaning behind all this money and effort…

    It reminds nothing but a very superficial connection to pretty-looking film set designs for surrealist movies which are obviously much more interesting in comparison and which happened more than half a century ago…

  • madbarka

    FAT – I sincerely thank-you so very very much for being who you were.

  • Mark Kielbasa

    Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.

  • EFS

    Jip, love it..

  • rrrrich

    Just brilliant, an inspiration to those who dare to imagine that architecture can hold meaning beyond the profession of architecture.

  • billy Mac

    Stylistically it slightly reminds me of that spanish designer who was everywhere a few years back. What I like about this is the story and concept behind it. Marmite indeed.

  • James Balston

    Can one of my friends please organise a birthday weekend or something in this house. Simply have to stay there!

  • sinner

    Utterly gorgeous – jealous – sigh!

  • Thomas Jones

    It’s rape of the Essex countryside. All he wants is to cause a scene and push boundaries, i.e dolls with phalluses. Please someone, knock it all down!

  • JayCee

    I watched the documentary of the making of this last night and whilst not a fan of Grayson Perry nor FAT I have come to appreciate what this building is about. Quite moving.

  • Guest

    Folly, fluff, even art; call it what you like, but please, not architecture.

  • Jackexe

    I really disliked this before I saw the pictures, now I can’t help but feel the grotesque charm of the place. It’s different, but not as bad as some of the other FAT stuff.

  • Veronika

    The interior is actually disappointing. I was expecting more based on the crazy facade.

  • William Austin

    This looks like one of those mini houses that rich people build in the backyard for their kids.

  • Peter W

    The best piece of domestic architecture this century!

  • mb4design

    Spawn of drunken night with Hugh Newell Jacobson, Stanley Tigerman and Memphis Studio.

  • Tico

    The ambiance reminds me of the house in Japanese film Survive Style 5+. Very interesting!

  • ii

    “Elaborated” is not always good…

  • oldschool

    My eyes! It burns!

  • Iliana M.

    Reminds me of an early work of Gaudi. Really interesting play with geometry and shapes…

  • Egad

    Ugh. Creepy Hansel & Gretel house.

  • MJ

    I think it’s great! People need to loosen up a bit sometimes, just have some fun!