Hidden Secrets

PUBLISHED: 15:09 26 September 2014 | UPDATED: 15:09 26 September 2014

At first glance Talliston House looks like any other house but all is not what it seems

At first glance Talliston House looks like any other house but all is not what it seems


John Trevillian bought this three-bedroom council house in Great Dunmow with a very special project in mind and as you enter the front door, expect the unexpected

The Chapel comes to life in Linda Blacker's stunning imagesThe Chapel comes to life in Linda Blacker's stunning images

If you were to drive passed this seemingly average three-bedroom council house, in Great Dunmow, it is most likely that you would not look twice. You may find that you notice a quaint garden gate and catch a glimpse of a fairly unique and well-kept garden, but this bares no comparison to the magical world that lies beyond the front door of Talliston House.

More than 25 years ago, the journey of transforming this most mundane house into an enchanted dwelling began. With a name that means ‘the hidden place’, Talliston is not just an interior design project. Talliston was born from the mind of John Trevillian, the home owner and the man with a dream to take something so very ordinary and make it into the extraordinary. 20 years of research and construction has so far accumulated in a home so unique, you may never see another place like it. Incorporating in excess of 1650 antiques and authentic objects sourced from 27 countries across the globe, Talliston House is an inspirational wonderland. Each room is designed to appear as though a different period in time, at a corresponding part of the world.

The Haunted Bedroom by Linda BlackerThe Haunted Bedroom by Linda Blacker

It is the fine details that will take your breath away. From the hidden, miniature home of the magical mice (carefully hand-built within the dining room of Talliston for only children to see), to the beautiful, carefully selected ornaments and photographs which portray a telling story and emphasise the era of each room you enter. Every room is given its own unique fragrance and sound to emphasise the realism of the quarters. It is Talliston’s way of conjuring a story in one’s mind that led to fine art photographer Linda Blacker producing a series of beautiful photographic pieces within the walls of Talliston. Within half an hour of exploring Talliston, Linda had a fully formed idea and story for a series of magical images, such is the power of Talliston alongside an artist’ mind.

The story for Linda’s photographic series goes like this. When a child is sad, a magical house will appear at the end of the street where they live. Unbeknown to adults, it has a magical, warm and wonderful energy that draws in children in need. And so, when a young girl found herself no longer believing in magic, there the house was — refusing to allow a child’s belief in magic to be taken. And so, one fine morning, the young girl came across the home. Her senses tingling from the magical spirit of the house, she went inside. On entering, she finds a world of magic and wonder, so much so that her belief in magic was ignited once more.

Touring Talliston and the imagery that was captured there is quite an experience. Downstairs in Talliston House sits a fully working New Orleans 1950s kitchen, a Welsh watch tower as a lounge and dining room, and finally a boathouse as a bathroom.

The lounge and dining room area is set in the late Victorian era, 1887 in Wales, Snowdonia. Crossing the threshold of this room, you are surrounded by true historical wonder. Details lay all around, from Victorian books to photographs, gothic arched windows to hand-sawn oak flooring, even a bust of Queen Victoria tucked away on a shelf, a clue to how the occupants felt about their reigning monarch. Watercolours of Snowdonia landscapes decorate the walls to show how the surrounding area would have looked. At the end of the room sits a dining hall, although it was once the keeper’s chapel. It was in this room that the first part of Linda’s fine art series, The Enchanted Dwelling began to take shape. In this piece the magical house brings joy and happiness to a lonely girl, as she plays chess with a magical version of herself. The books and chess pieces fly around them, as the room comes to life in this magical image.

The chapel at the end of the room, is host to its very own image and arguably the most enchanting of the series. This photograph stars a young girl who no longer believes in magic. In this room, the little girl finds that true magic does exist through a world of books and stories, as beautiful wooden ships fly out of a large story book and water splashes out onto the table.

Moving on from the chapel, you find yourself in the voodoo kitchen and boathouse bathroom, a wonderfully colourful area of the house. The beautiful atrium-roofed kitchen is full to the brim of 1954 relics and, surrounded by replicated and authentic utensils from the era, is extremely striking.

This room follows the chapel in The Enchanted Dwelling series, as the young girl finds herself surrounded by a beautifully-decorated kitchen as it comes to life all around her. The image is wonderfully vibrant and playful, from the magical washing up in the sink to the flying dishes venturing around the room. For Linda, when she entered the voodoo kitchen, it immediately struck her how alive the room felt as the smells of baking, mixed with herb-based scents enter

your nostrils and the sounds of songs and music drifting from the radio greet your ears.

The bathroom is the perfect place to have a warm relaxing soak in the tub, surrounded by a room that’s interior whispers stories of the sea, as wonderful wooden boats decorate the walls.

At the top of the stairs sits a 1920s New York office, inhabited by wonderful period objects, from a dusty typewriter to an empty glass of whisky, an old US phone to an array of informative old photographs that tell a tale of the successful writer who once worked in this room. As you wander back out onto the hallway, two beautiful doors await you, leading you into two vastly different eras.

First is the haunted bedroom, set in 1911 Scotland. It has a dark mix of Victorian Gothic added over its 16th century core. The room has an eerie atmosphere, emphasised by the carefully placed children’s toys that are scattered about the room. This is where the final image of Linda’s series was shot. In this piece the enchanted house brings strength to a girl who is bullied at school. By entering the haunted bedroom afraid, she soon realises there is nothing to fear from the room and in turn learns to be brave and face the bullies that taunt her. The dark imagery truly emphasises the haunting feeling this room can bring, the black walls enclosing you in, a million miles from the ordinary street waiting outside Talliston House.

The final bedroom, also spectacular, is the guest bedroom, the room of dreams from the year 1977. Set in Alhambra in Spain, entering this room you are surrounded by the wonderful terracotta floor blended from five different Saltillo clay sources. The centre point of the chamber is the king-sized iron and brass bed. Made in 1872, it is decorated with beautiful Corinthian columns.

Finally, above the bedrooms, accessed through a trapdoor and rope ladder, is the tree house, Cambodia 1965. On entering the room, greeted by the sounds of birds singing and the smell of tree tops and flowering jasmine, it is almost impossible to remember you are in the attic of a three-bedroom council house. Staying true to what a treehouse should be, the room is built from bamboo cane poles on a reclaimed teak base. Objects of spiritual importance decorate the room, and a finely-crafted Buddha made from sandstone hangs on the wall.

And so that brings us to the end of the Talliston tour and insight into Linda’s photography. It is hard to imagine that there is anywhere else in the world quite like Talliston House. There are still rooms left to be transformed and the project is not set to be complete until October 2015. But on this date, Linda hopes to return and continue her journey around the house and create more beautiful visual art for the world to enjoy. Who knows what new stories will be possible, all thanks to the wonderful world of Talliston House and the unique mind of John Trevillian and Linda Blacker. n

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