“Flea market meets warehouse” is how Ben and Neil describe the lounge and dining room of their Victorian terrace in the Bedminster area of Bristol, which they share with their Boston terrier, Arthur. It’s a far cry from the sea of magnolia which greeted them when they first moved in, and the result of a total transformation which has seen walls moved, ceilings replastered, 70s fireplaces ripped out and floors stripped back to their original boards.
Linked by double doors, the two rooms are painted in a pale grey that maximises natural light from the bay windows. The dining area is contemporary in feel, with galvanised Tolox chairs and colourful music posters (the couple dub it their ‘pop art room’), while leather armchairs and Union Jack cushions give the lounge a more traditional look. But although they differ slightly in style, both spaces are relaxed, elegant and softly masculine.
Particularly impressive for me is the pair’s passion for reclaimed furniture. “We love finding innovative uses for old items,” explains Neil. “We have a bit of an obsession for salvaged industrial bits – there’s something very satisfying about coming up with ways to incorporate rough, unpolished pieces into the home”. It’s a creative approach that’s evident in every corner: a discarded fish steamer holds kindle for the wood-burner, an antique printer’s drawer from Focus on the Past in Clifton Village acts as a display case for travel souvenirs, and the light above the dining table was constructed from vintage weights and pulleys sourced on eBay. Even a bundle of coffee sacks bought online for £10 has been put to good use on an ottoman and screen, while pallets from a local wine merchant have been reborn as a coffee table and TV stand.
Perhaps most importantly, every item has a personal meaning. A shotgun-cartridge case engraved with Ben’s grandfather’s initials acts as a side table, and the military chest in the lounge once belonged to a navy commander said to have inspired the Rudyard Kipling character Jutsoni of the Empire (his portrait hangs above it).
The same philosophy applies to the eclectic wall displays, which include framed cartoons, tribal sculptures, magazine covers and paintings by Ben’s mother, the artist Caroline McAdam-Clark. There’s even an original cutting from the Nairobi Times announcing the assassination of JFK, which Ben discovered hidden in the pages of a book inherited from his grandmother.
“We’ve had loads of fun putting these two rooms together, and we’ll use the same approach when we do up the rest of the house,” says Ben. “After all, why fill a home with indentikit furniture when you can fill it with stories instead?”
Photography by Abi Dare