'We’ve always been fans of design and interiors but our interest really developed when we moved here five years ago,’ says Cassandra Nicholas, who lives in this Bristol flat with her husband Edward. ‘Being able to put our own stamp on a place was exciting, we were drawn to the individual look that you can achieve with antiques. They make a home unique.’

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Keen collectors, the couple spend most days sourcing curiosities and antiques for their nearby shop Dig Haüshizzle. They are aficionados of flea markets, auctions, fairs and house clearances and work with a network of dealers, ‘seeking out beautiful things’ and ‘trying not to keep everything.’ ‘Part of the fun is the thrill of the hunt – I’m an advocate of taking your time to find things that really mean something and that will last forever. Older things are generally better made than newer things, too,’ says Cassandra.

In reality, not much of the shop stock comes home. ‘If we keep something for the flat, it tends to be because it’s not quite good enough to sell – we mostly have things at home that are a bit broken,’ laughs Cassandra. ‘We have a beautiful vintage carpet armchair at the moment – it looks great but it does need new springs. It’s the most uncomfortable chair in the world.’

This doesn’t mean that they are without charm though. ‘Queena’, the antique stuffed flamingo, is a good example of rehomed, sub-standard, yet beloved stock. ‘I found it at Newark Antiques & Collectors fair,’ says Cassandra. ‘It’s not quite right – flamingoes are only pink when they have eaten shrimps but I think this one was white and somebody has tried to dye the feathers pink.’

The intriguing contents aren’t all that’s striking about this home, the architecture and decor are equally as captivating. All too often, property developers who are looking to make a quick buck ‘modernise’ an interior swiftly and cheaply, removing all its character and soul along the way.

Luckily, when viewing a space like this, some people are blessed with having the imagination to see past the present and to a possible – more beautiful – future, one that will reference the building’s past. Edward and Cassandra are two such individuals. ‘The bare bones were right,’ recalls Cassandra. ‘We loved the location, the high ceilings, the fireplaces, the little alcoves, the shutters and sash windows – but it was a very boring, blank canvas decor-wise, with beige walls and beige carpets. It looked so sad, we wanted to make it look exciting again.’

Many would have been put off by the house’s lacklustre interior, but Cassandra and Edward optimistically viewed the space as ‘a blank canvas’ and dedicated their time and energy to transforming the rather plain interior into something altogether more fabulous. They swapped the ‘boring’ kitchen worktops for more interesting reclaimed school science laboratory benches, fitted some antique lights and bravely painted everything – including the fridge – black.

The makeover didn’t happen overnight and Cassandra isn’t afraid to admit that the end result is a product of a long and painstaking process, involving plenty of mistakes. In the living room, a stunning, arched alcove stands out against the now black walls. ‘The alcove was one of the hardest things to get right in the flat,’ confesses Cassandra.

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‘Painting our walls black was the best decision ever, but it meant that the beautiful alcove got completely lost. I wanted it to stand out again, so painted it olive green. It definitely stood out, but wasn’t right, so I gave it a coat of pale grey paint, but it still looked flat, so I decided to strip it.’

A gruelling session with a sander and a hot-air gun revealed the original Georgian paints underneath. ‘I uncovered a beautiful Harlequin pattern and now the paint effect is layered and mottled. The alcove stands out as it should, but doesn’t look too perfect. The remnants of all the paints I tried added to the final effect,’ she adds.

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The couple’s determination to restore character has paid off. Today, their home is an eclectic cosy den, filled with fascinating antique and vintage finds with not a spot of beige in sight.

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