There is an outwardly unremarkable terraced house in South London that conceals an explosion of colour and art within – the House of Dreams.
This is the domestic home of the artist and designer, Stephen Wright, who just over 20 years ago turned his back on trained art and started filling his home with anything he fancied.
It’s a conventional Victorian terraced house, and every single surface of the ground floor is covered in — well, for want of a better word — clutter. Most of the larger stuff was acquired overseas on visits to India, Mexico and Paris, and filled in with the residue of daily life.
Toothpaste tubes, reading glasses, bottle tops, children’s dolls, bottles of bleach and beer, all the detritus of modern life turned into art.
Amongst all the randomness are boards filled with moods, writing by the artist expressing views, opinions, ideas, thoughts. All laid out in his handwriting, on wood, on tiles, in mosaics.
Everyone has a different way of looking at this – do you peer up close at objects letting them fill your view or look up and let your senses be assaulted by the garish colours and layouts?
It’s a very marmite effect that repels and much as it appeals, and the end result is less a work of art to look at than to live within the art itself. This is still a home.
The art has pretty much filled the ground floor now, so it’s expanding outwards. The front garden wall long decorated with mosaics gained a lot more a couple of years ago. The back garden became a covid lockdown expansion during the summer.
As an experience, it can be best compared to Dennis Severs House, or David Parr’s House, a total immersion in a person’s vision. It’s not a space to visit to stand back and admire, if only because there’s barely enough space in here to do that. It’s an experience. Even if the art is repellent to you, the total experience is why people visit.
If visiting, bring cash, as there’s a book about the house for sale for £15, and also some of the artist’s pottery to buy – starting from £15 for a cup upwards.
Photography inside is not allowed (there are photos on his website), but you are allowed to take photos of the gardens.
The house and its contents have been left to the National Trust to preserve when the artist has long gone to the great easel in the sky.