The Eye

This “Bonkers yet Dignified” U.K. Vacation Home Is an Eccentric Shrine to a Fictional Saint

A House for Essex from FAT Architecture and artist Grayson Perry is an eccentric holiday rental home from the U.K.’s Living Architecture, which offers the general public a chance to sleep in spaces designed by world-class architects at accessible prices.

Photo by Jack Hobhouse

The latest project from U.K.-based Living Architecture, an organization founded by writer Alain de Botton that commissions leading architects to design out-of-the-ordinary holiday rentals in the U.K., is the House for Essex, a collaboration between FAT Architecture and award-winning, cross-dressing English artist Grayson Perry.

The mission of Living Architecture is to give the general public the chance to sleep, eat, and briefly live in spaces designed by professionals whose efforts are usually reserved for large public spaces and high-end residential projects, expanding general appreciation of architecture at an accessible price point that starts at 20 pounds ($31) per person per night.

Exterior from afar.  

Photo by Jack Hobhouse

Located in Wrabness near the Essex coast, the House for Essex is inspired by medieval Stave churches, arts and crafts houses, and English baroque architecture.

The house at night with a close-up of a tapestry visible through an upstairs bedroom window.

Photos by Jack Hobhouse

Designed to be a landmark in the tradition of a pilgrimage chapel, the structure is dedicated to a fictional, secular saint named Julie Cope, described by the artist as an “Essex Everywoman.”

North entrance with mosaic floor.

Photo by Jack Hobhouse

A House for Essex is both a vacation rental and a permanent gallery for a series of specially commissioned works by Perry, including handmade ceramic pots and tapestries depicting Cope’s imagined life.

Interior at night.  

Photo by Jack Hobhouse

The building’s exterior is clad in more than 1,900 hand-cast tiles that the designers say depict Julie as mother and icon.

Exterior tiles.

Photos by Jack Hobhouse

She appears again on the roof in the form of a giant beacon and weather vane.          

Photo by Jack Hobhouse

Charles Holland of FAT said in a press release that the house is “like a richly encrusted and highly decorated barn, with a healthy dose of Essex bling thrown in.”   

Charles Holland (left) and Grayson Perry.

Photo by Katie Hyams

Perry described the project as “a golden chance to realise a long held ambition to build a secular chapel,” calling the design “bonkers yet dignified” and “a total art work, a fiction in which you can live, a digital age shrine” as well as an homage to his and Holland’s home county.

“I hope the people who stay in the House for Essex find it playful yet monumental, cosy and maybe slightly disturbing,” he said. “It is a three dimensional musing on religion, local history, feminism, happiness and death.”

A bedroom.  

Photo by Jack Hobhouse

Kitchen and dining area.  

Photo by Jack Hobhouse


Photo by Jack Hobhouse

The two-bedroom house sleeps up to four. For stays in June, July, and August, a prospective guest must enter a ballot by midnight British time on May 26 and keep her fingers crossed that her ticket is picked.