I’ve spent many happy hours browsing Dig Haüshizzle, a treasure trove of quirky antiques and decorative finds at the top of Bristol’s Christmas Steps. Cassandra Nicholas, who runs the shop with her husband Edd, explains how it all came about…
Please can you tell us about Dig Haüshizzle?
“It’s a decorative antique and vintage furniture shop with a difference. We stock all sorts of things – taxidermy, lighting, old prints, salvaged industrial pieces, bottles, religious bits – but everything is unusual, everything is handpicked, and everything is genuine.”
How did the shop evolve?
“It all started when we were furnishing our own flat. We wanted to fill it with individual pieces, and our friends and family started asking us to source things for them, too. We realised that lots of people want to move away from dull flat-pack items but don’t have the time to trawl markets and auction houses themselves, so that’s where we come in.
“We began with a website, and then plucked up the courage to do a pop-up shop in Cabot Circus. That gave us a massive confidence boost, as we discovered that people really do like our taste. We decided to take the plunge and open up on a permanent basis at 51 Colston Street in 2012. It’s been nerve-wracking as we’ve put everything into it, but it’s going well – so much so that Edd left his job as a veterinary nurse earlier this year to join me full-time in the shop.”
How would you describe your style?
“I studied fashion photography at university so I’ve always had an eye for art and design, and my interiors style evolved from there. I have a real passion for Victoriana, and I love everything dark and interesting. Our flat is full of moody colours and an abundance of mismatched bits and bobs that you can look at and examine. Edd’s taste is a little more minimalist and he’s drawn to classic design pieces by Eames and the like, so they go into the mix, too. We both like things to show their age – we’d much prefer to use something that’s worn and distressed, rather than covering up any trace of character with paint.”
Where do you source so much fabulous stock?
“Now that would be telling! I don’t want to give away our secrets, but we do a lot of research and we’ve developed strong contacts with dealers in the UK and further afield. It takes a huge amount of time, but it’s the best part of the job – we just have fun buying what we like, and luckily other people seem to like it too!”
You have a particular passion for taxidermy – where does that spring from?
“We’ve always been intrigued by it, but I think our real love started when we visited an exhibition by the artist Polly Morgan. She uses taxidermy to create all sorts of eye-catching works and it really sparked our imagination. We also saw lots of taxidermy on holiday in New York, where it’s been undergoing a renaissance for quite some time now, and we came home full of ideas about how to incorporate it into a scheme.”
Out of everything you’ve sold to date, what’s been your favourite piece?
“We recently sold a huge unframed mirror. It was very gnarled and it really divided opinion, but I thought it was stunning and had to resist the temptation to keep it for myself! At the moment we have a series of hand-painted botanical prints from 1798 in the shop which we both love. And Edd is very taken with a gold square-framed embroidery piece. It’s quite symmetrical and has a bit of Damien Hirst about it, but it’s a 19th-century original.”
What drives you?
“This is our passion and we love what we do, but I think what really drives us is meeting people who understand our style and what we’re trying to achieve. We’re always happy to chat to customers and share ideas, and we get a lot of motivation from finding out how people use the pieces they buy from us. Seeing how something we’ve sourced can bring an entire room together is really satisfying.”
And why Bristol?
“We’re both from the Forest of Dean but we’ve always been drawn to Bristol. It has all the buzz of a big city, but it feels like it’s made up of lots of little villages, each with their own personality. It’s also a very creative place, which is important to us.
“A lot of our pieces are actually sold further afield, and we work with designers in London and elsewhere who come to us when they need help sourcing certain items, but we can’t imagine living anywhere else ourselves.”
What are your future plans?
“We haven’t set any boundaries on how we’d like Dig Haüshizzle to evolve, but it’s gradually becoming more of a lifestyle brand. We’ve already started stocking a selection of books and magazines, and we’re considering offering a full interior-design service, too. And we’re really excited to be launching taxidermy courses later this year – the first of their kind in Bristol. We’re planning weekend workshops for people who are keen to have a go themselves, along with demonstration evenings for those who just want to get an idea of how it’s done.”
Find Dig Haüshizzle at 51 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5AX and www.dig-haushizzle.co.uk.
Photography by Edd Taylor, Abi Dare & Cassandra Nicholas