“You can have it all, my empire of dirt…”
The first thing we realise, as we make our way up the driveway to Burnham Beeches, is that we’re lost. We’ve come in the wrong gate. We know we’re getting closer though as we keep catching glimpses of the divine, if not a little dilapidated, citrus yellow building through the wonderfully overgrown garden. As we try to find our way in, we keep hitting a dead end. Finally out of desperation we jump the fence in a place where it’s fallen over a bit, and make our way through what I think is actually someone else’s garden. But it’s an adventure!
As we reach the house we see a red light emanating from the front door. Red velvet curtains set the stage as we gather at the entrance to receive a map to the house. ‘You’ll need it,’ Rone assures us, ‘it’s a big house and easy to get lost in’. Considering we got lost in the driveway, I have to agree and taking the map solemnly I nod my head in agreement. Pulling aside the curtains, I feel the anticipation building already as I enter the decaying surrounds of this beautiful Art Deco house that has seeming seen better days. Water stains mar the ceiling, and wallpaper peels from the walls. It smells amazing though, like the end of summer. Autumn leaves scattered through the rooms and halls scent the air with their promise of spring long gone.
Sipping on a delicious gin cocktail I can’t remember the name of, I tumble around the house like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Everywhere I turn are more amazing things. Rone’s beautiful paintings are perfectly complimented by Carly Spooner’s styling, while Nick Batterham’s eerie soundscape accompanies every step I take over the worn floor boards, creating the perfect abandoned experience. As I move from room to room, I notice dust has settled on every surface, while everywhere deceased flora adorns tables, sticks alarmingly out of vases or scrabbles through the seams of the distressed furniture. It begins to feel as though I’ve drunkenly fallen into a dream that’s losing its lucidity.
We keep moving, while our senses are happily overloaded by every minute detail. Standing at the top of the stairs, I feel like I’ve walked through the pages of a well-read, dog-eared copy of The Great Gatsby. The parties have long since finished, the drunken gaiety is gone, and all that is left is Rone’s darkly discarded invention. Another hallway looms beyond the staircase, this one enclosing a bower of fallen tree branches, and while I’m busy losing myself in the books hidden within it’s bows, my husband walks over to me casually and asks: ‘Have you seen the library yet?’…
I fall in love with the Library, which is easily my favourite installation. As I walk through the curtain separating it from the rest of the house, my breath catches in my chest, and tears prick my eyes. It’s a room I could happily die in and everything that my inner Gothic child could hope for. My friend Di has a similar reaction in the Scarlet Room, though for her the emotion becomes so overwhelming that she actually breaks down, causing my husband (who was about to take her photo) to murmur awkwardly, ‘perhaps I’ll come back a bit later’. We all have a good giggle about this afterwards as we make our way to the Gallery, which marks the end of our journey through Rone’s Empire. It’s something I’m privileged to have seen and will never forget. ‘This is some next level shit!!’ I gush in-eloquently before we leave. I can’t wait to see what Rone & Carly do next.
You can book tickets online now to see this wonderful experience in the flesh on Rone’s website. Running from 6 March – 22 April 2019 it’s sure to sell-out fast so my advice is that if you care about your eyeballs or brain at all, book now.