Essex council house becomes 25-year art project

NOT everybody can say that they live in a council house containing a New Orleans kitchen, a stone keep, a haunted bedroom and a tree house, but for one Uttlesford artist it has become a fascinating norm.

John Trevillian, 45, is midway though a 25-year art project to transform “the most normal house possible” into a multi-room wonderland that truly takes your breath away.

Although we cannot reveal the location of the house, reporter Nick Thompson has been over to see for himself what Mr Trevillian is talking about when he says he wants to create “somewhere extraordinary within the ordinary.”

Walking up to the front of the semi-detached council house it is difficult to believe what is inside. But as the door opens you become submerged in a different world.

First thing you notice is there are no clocks anywhere – time literally stands still.

John calls his home Talliston, meaning ‘the hidden place’, it is easy to see why when you walk into the first of thirteen incredibly detailed themed rooms.

Called The Watchtower, it is a half medieval, half Victorian stone keep complete with huge fireplace, animal skins and wooden beams.

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“It was a huge project to do this room,” said John. “We had to make the walls thicker and bring in the beams by hand to make the roof – that took three months.”

But it is the little additions that take so much time, everything about The Watchtower reflects in the rest of the house. All of the items are one-offs and are thoroughly researched to add authenticity and also have to have a story attached to it.

“That is one very important aspect in putting together each room and taking the time to do it properly,” said John. “There are no TVs in this house and every room has to feel authentic – right down to the sight, smell and sound.”

After seeing one room the timescale of the project begins to sink in. As we transfer to the New Orleans style kitchen, John says, “That room took four year to do; the kitchen took three and a half. In total I have bought in nearly 1000 objects.”

The kitchen is a delight. Walk in and instantly get a whiff of wheat beer, the roof is one big skylight allowing an unbelievable amount of light in. In the background old country blues songs play on a small radio.

Attached to the back of the kitchen is probably one of the UK’s most detailed toilets. Nicknamed the boathouse, everything inside is nautical, right down to a round porthole in the wall.

From there it is out into a gothic courtyard including ornaments from Westminster Cathedral in London.

A hunting lodge lies at the back, and the path leads around to John’s final room which will start work in three years time – the future room.

Once completed, it will contain all the latest gadgets and also be made out of the most modern materials. No expense will be spared.

John reveals the total price of the entire project. �120,000 and there are still five years to go. “I spend around �500 per month on it,” he said.

Upstairs two completed rooms and two underway. There is John’s office, which is something right out of a 1950s detective series.

And there is the tranquil and peaceful Room of Dreams, where guests stay when they are invited over.

Projects underway are a haunted master bedroom and, in the attic, a treehouse inspired by films such as the Deer Hunter, with bamboo supports holding up the roof.

John reveals how much thought has been put into the whole place. “When buying the house, there were a few astrological and geographical aspects that I wanted to make certain were aligned.

“That the morning sun always shone through the bedroom, and lit the kitchen first thing. And that the moon rose in the correct place for viewing from both the Room of Dreams and the Fountain Courtyard.

“I also wanted to make sure that the Wilderness (the eventual name for the front approach to the house) was set back from any light and roadway. I didn’t want a house people drove by in cars.”

You have the chance to visit Talliston on October 29.

Award-winning writer Linda Stratmann will be talking about Essex murders and wants people who may know anything about a famous Dunmow murder.

Ten people will be invited to the house for what will be an amazing evening.

To find out more get in touch by calling 07760 171100 or visiting