Behind an unassuming door on a pretty residential street in the heart of upmarket East Dulwich, lies another world. Step inside the House of Dreams...
You find yourself in a house of blazing colour and a riot of plastic. Although it's quite eerie and almost disturbing, there is a vibrant energy and once your eyes have adjusted to the chaos, there is oh, so much to see. Every room is crammed from floor to ceiling with clever sculptures and displays made from everyday objects which have been discarded and re-invented. Limbs from plastic dolls; bottle tops; Christmas cracker contents; freaky eyeballs; joke teeth; pen lids; felt-tip pens; plastic beads. You name it. You'll find it. There is a strong Mexican 'Day of the Dead' vibe as well as a child-like appeal. And an oasis of relative calm in the busy, yet pretty garden.
This residential museum is the 'lovechild' of local artist, Stephen Wright, who takes mosaic-work to a whole new sphere. He started this project in 1998 and it still isn't finished. It will never be finished as every time Stephen stumbles upon another quirky object and finds a space, it becomes an ever-evolving masterpiece. He has lived in the house for over 32 years and had no intention of starting a museum. The House of Dreams just happened organically with his then partner, Donald, who sadly died, so Stephen decided to continue with the project so he could leave a fantastic and unusual legacy. In fact, the House of Dreams has been bequeathed to the National Trust.
Stephen is a gentle and inspirational character and each piece has a meaning and relevance which only he really understands. There is method in his magical madness! Some walls tell his stories written in his unique, erratic handwriting style - he admits to being dyslexic and finds it easier to express himself through colour and creation. He knows where everything is and would definitely notice if anything was missing. Apparently some cheeky individual half-inched a wind-up nose once. Stephen noticed its absence immediately!
Stephen's current partner, Michael is hugely supportive of his work and they make a great duo, hosting the open days together. They kindly invited me for a cuppa and a slice of cake upstairs in the 'other' home which was such a contrast with its minimal beach-house style decor, peaceful white walls, driftwood furnishings and gorgeous crockery. The perfect ying and yang. Some of Stephen's work is for sale at the House of Dreams, but if you have something special in mind, he also takes commissions. You can also admire his mosaic creations at the Blue Mountain Cafe on North Cross Rd, SE22.
45 Melbourne Grove
London SE22 8RG
Open days are one Saturday a month (check website or email Stephen for dates) 11am - 4pm
Private appointments can also be made. Adults £10 Students £5 Children free
Nearest station: East Dulwich (2 minute walk)