Walking down the unassuming residential street in East Dulwich, you come to a tall blue fence, embedded in a psychedelic wall, made from tiles of all shades, patterns, pictures. "This is me. My dream." reads one of the tiles. Two larger-than-life mosaic heads flank the gates.
This is the House of Dreams.
We tentatively push open the gate, and step into a courtyard, which is covered in pottery.
And we mean covered. Whole plates and bowls are embedded in the floor and walls, and a cement pillar sits either side of the window frame, with teapot handles and teacups sticking out.
We're greeted by Stephen Wright, the artist behind the House of Dreams, and his partner Michael Vaughan. Wright welcomes visitors with more enthusiasm than we'd been expecting, from someone who once described himself as belligerent about opening his house to the public.
Frida Kahlo's Blue House meets Havana's Callejon de Hamel meets Marrakech's Jardin Majorelle is the best way we can describe the courtyard. That's no accident — Wright takes inspiration from all over the world, and proudly tells visitors he can remember where almost everything came from.
That's an impressive feat considering the sheer amount of, well, stuff. On open days, the whole ground floor is available to peruse, and there's not a surface left untouched, from floor to ceiling.
More mosaics lie underfoot, while walls are plastered in everything you can think of: bottle tops, toothpaste tubes, fly swats, more sunglasses than your average branch of Primark, even chocolate wrappers.
Dolls and mannequins — both whole and in pieces — feature prominently, and a Pinocchio puppet hangs in what was probably once a working fireplace. A mix of model cars park up below him.
The house's existing surfaces weren't enough for Wright — he's constructed cement archways across the room, which are, of course, covered in even more objects.
The ceilings don't escape either; records and records sleeves cover a considerable portion, while Wright's handwritten reminiscences — including an honest account of how he learned of his mother's death — have you craning your neck to read them.
The handwritten memories, confessions and statements, all scrawled in a charming mix of upper case and lower case letters, are the crux of the House of Dreams.
Wright grew it as a way to cope with his grief after losing both his parents and his partner in a short period of time, and the house is littered with memories and thoughts, each so raw, simple and unedited that they read as the thoughts of someone who just needed to get it off his chest — and chose his hall walls as the place to do it.
Photography isn't allowed inside the house (though we did get special permission back in 2016), but things are always changing, as Wright continues adding to the art.
He began working on the previously-untouched back garden during lockdown. The back wall of the house is now another mosaic gallery, with a totem pole, towering mosaic figure, water feature and several disembodied heads squeezed into the suburban Dulwich garden.
There's still plenty of garden left untouched though — we've got a feeling Wright isn't finished with his House of Dreams quite yet.
The House of Dreams is located at 45 Melbourne Grove, East Dulwich, SE22 8RG. It's only open to the public for a select few open days a year, and tickets need to be booked in advance (and usually sell out several weeks ahead).
Find out more about the story behind the House of Dreams and see more photos.