What?: I’ll start by saying I didn’t spot this on Time Out and think ooo, what a wonderful activity for children. Take your kid and prepare to be side-eyed by every other childless visitor, because they’re all wondering why the hell anyone would bring a child here. I took my child because I have one who’s never not with me and I really wanted to go. I emailed Stephen, House of Dreams’ owner and creator, before I bought tickets to ask if two year olds were welcome and he, being an absolute dude, replied that although the house contains a lot of tiny breakables he was sure if I kept an eye on things it would be fine.
Was it fine? I mean yeah, it was fiiine. We had to leave the buggy in the front garden, which obviously meant Babu spent the entire visit asking to sit in it (that and mounting and dismounting a stool that was propping the back door open and crying every time I suggested looking in a different room). I absolutely, 100% was not permitted to watch the documentary that explained the entire history of the house since she deemed it too boring for words approximately seven seconds in, and everything properly freaked her out. I mean fair enough, it was all pretty freaky. I love freaky but I forget sometimes infants aren’t that into it.
I think I was under the impression that because there are dolls everywhere it would appeal to children, but probably not when the dolls are strung up by their heads and missing eyes and limbs. And unless they’re particularly switched on I’d wager the tragic tale of loss and loneliness that underpins the very existence of this eerily beautiful work of art might be somewhat lost on the under-fives too. On the flip side Stephen and his partner were so lovely and welcoming, and definitely didn’t give a shit that Babu spent the whole time doing her depressed ambulance impression – or at least they did a good job of hiding it if they did.
I, on the other hand, was a bit disgruntled. It’s such a gamble taking toddlers anywhere and while I try my best to be super chill and, y’know, an adult when she doesn’t want to do the things I want to, sometimes I wish I could tie her to a railing outside while I just quickly whipped round (and I definitely did not just say that). Anyway, I don’t really want to whip round quickly; I want to stay all day and absorb and be absorbed by the house and its many kooky treasures, which let’s face it was never going to happen with a two year old attached to my leg – crappy mood or not.
Where and When?: House of Dreams can be found at 45 Melbourne Grove, East Dulwich, and is a three-minute walk from East Dulwich mainline station. The house opens one Saturday each month from 10am-4pm. Check the website below for dates.
Best Bits: It’s all really beautiful in a really bizarre way. I love that Stephen has turned his house into this crazy, unique memorial to his loved ones and those of the people he met along the way.
Worst Bits: My child and the noises that emanated from her while we were there.
Facilities: None. There’s no room for buggies in the house and I’d recommend taking a sling/carrier if your babe isn’t walking yet.
Cost: £10 per adult, free for under-16s.
Would We Come Back?: I’m coming back alone to read every diary-entry tile, study every sculpture and watch the documentary 15 times.
Bab and Mummy explore the garden at House of Dreams, East Dulwich.