John Trevillian has spent 25 years and £700,000 transforming his ex-council house into a themed abode with artefacts from different countries and eras. He talks to Amie Mulderrig

John Trevillian has spent 25 years and £700,000 transforming his ex-council house into a themed abode

John Trevillian has spent 25 years and £700,000 transforming his ex-council house into a themed abode

First published in Interviews
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Features Writer

From the outside, Talliston appears to be nothing more than an ordinary three-bedroom ex-council house, situated in a pleasant street in Essex.

But inside it’s been transformed into a living, breathing work of art.


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For the past 25 years, owner John Trevillian has renovated his home in Great Dunmow with the help of his family (mum Jean, dad Ron), friends, local artisans and, where necessary, tradesmen. 

With astonishing attention to detail, each room has been altered to reflect a different time and place in history – from the 1950s New Orleans ‘Voodoo’ kitchen, to the 1920s-style office, to the Alhambra-inspired Moorish-bedroom, to the Cambodian treehouse loft.

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According to John, 43, the renovation project was supposed to be kept “under the radar“, with the intention of fully revealing his labours to the public on October 6 this year, 25 years to the day that he started the extreme makeover.

But having spent in the region of £700,000 on the house – £200,000 on building materials and £500,000 on artefacts, John is in danger of losing his home.


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“It was all about ordinary people taking an ordinary house and doing something extraordinary with it,“ explains John.

“But what’s happened is that one of the criteria was that the project had to be done on an ordinary wage and completed on time.

“I’m about 18 months from finishing the house, but I’m struggling to pay the mortgage.
“For a while I’ve had to battle the elements of time and money. I’ve never requested a penny from anyone to do this house, never asked for sponsorship.

“In the last year there have been a whole series of dominos: when they were building the conservatory on the side they found this old gas pump and it had to be excavated, which cost a fortune (about £8,000).

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“It was like finding an unexploded bomb, so I had to get a loan out for that. I was made redundant too.

“And I can’t sell individual pieces from the house, because I see Talliston as one, not numerous parts.“

As such, Talliston is now on the market for £350,000.

‘That’s the price of the bricks and mortar,“ explains John, “but I have an inventory of all the items and I’m looking for someone who’s interested in the package.

“Really I want to save this house, I want to finish it.

“But it’s never been my intention to stay here. I just want to finish the project and perhaps go off travelling.

“So in order to achieve that goal there’s only three possible solutions: I sell the house, I find a new job in digital publishing or I find someone who is willing to help support this project.“

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Talliston, Old English for secret place in the woods, is a magnificent example of dedication to interior renovation.

John’s travelled the world in search of objets d’art to fill the property with, visiting no fewer than 27 countries to secure 1,650 relics.

All the decoration is authentic too, with traditional methods used according to the period – the lounge boasts a two tonne beam, which meant the living room windows had to be removed so that it could be inserted.

And the property uses at least 40 different varieties of lightbulbs, which can prove costly.

What hasn’t changed about the house is the functions of the rooms and the position of the walls, which is why the toilet and bathroom remain downstairs, as per the 1920s era.

John admits the project has been a real labour of love and the end result is certainly an extraordinary achievement, particularly as when he started he couldn’t even wire a plug.

“I’ve had a surveyor tell me he wouldn’t have attempted what I’ve done. He knows builders who have spent years in the industry who wouldn’t have attempted it.

“Lots of people say why spend all that money on this house, but I’m from an ordinary East End family, I was never going to afford the sort of house I wanted, Talliston was my dream.

“When people look at Talliston they’ll think I’m mad. They’ll think I’m just someone transforming a house with the help of other people.

“But really, what’s actually happening is that this house is transforming me. Every aspect of renovating Talliston has been a learning experience.“

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Talliston is on the market with Mullucks Wells on 01371 872117 and crowdfunding

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