Real homes: Rise and shine

No interior designers, no architects: Chloe Grimshaw meets young creative homeowners who have produced their own distinctive domestic style - and usually on a shoestring. First up, Nic Bath, who works for the Crafts Council. Photographs by Josh Pulman
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Nic Bath has lived in a rented flat in Hackney, east London, for 18 months, with her boyfriend Andy, a DJ and musician. When they moved in, they already had two car-loads and three van-loads of possessions, mostly presents and gifts from friends and family. Now every corner of the flat is decorated, with a special shrine or detailed paint effect by Nic. It upsets her to see a spare inch of space in the flat and she immediately starts thinking of ways to fill it. Nic designed the flat herself, and Andy contributes by bringing back strange souvenirs from his DJ-ing trips to clubs all around the world. "I've always collected knick-knacks and I've always had loads of possessions," Nic (pictured, top left) explains. "I'm really materialistic. I kind of arranged them, but never really had a purpose to my arrangements. Then, about six years ago, I went to the Day of the Dead exhibition at the Museum of Mankind and I thought, 'Wow, this is fantastic.' I had discovered a way of arranging things that means something to me. I could arrange all the sentimental things, all the things that my

relatives have given me and just things that I like, together in one space. Kitchen shrine (above)

The cacti have symbolic meanings: a source of sustenance in the form of cacti fajitas, a source of tequila and of mescalin, which Incas used to get high for spiritual purposes. "Anything with cacti in I'll just buy - it doesn't matter how much it costs. I just have to collect them. They've all got their own little personalities and some of them are really mad and wild. Andy always says I'm like a cactus because I'm prickly on the outside and soft in the middle, so I suppose I feel a natural affinity to them. I've built a shrine on a shelf especially for them, with the Madonna looking down on them."

Mantelpiece shrine in lounge

"There's loads of Andy's hi-fi equipment in here and I'm trying to soften it up a bit and not make it look really techy. That's why I got the lava lamp and the cacti. When we first moved in together, my aunts and all their friends and relatives gave us everything they could spare and a couple of things are really good. The vase is from a great-great-aunt; it's a really nice colour and it reminds me of her.

"The Madonna figure and the Jesus (detail, opposite page) are from Portugal, brought back from holiday. The Jesus looked really dull, so I got some glittery nail polish and painted bits. I wanted to make more of a feature of his flaming heart. His halo is made from Christmas decorations. The Madonna's cloak changes colour according to the weather: blue is between sunny and cloudy - though at night it gets confused.

The clock was a birthday present from Andy, from a ceramics shop in Covent Garden and that's the penguin from Wallace and Gromit in front of the clock. There are cacti, the candlesticks I bought from a flea market for a fiver when we first moved in together. The Christmas decorations are from WH Smith; the gargoyle [on the wall] is also from a flea market; the old postcards are from a surprise trip to Paris with Andy."

Next: Iris Palmer, model

Bathroom shrine

"That's an Inca warrior at the centre of the shrine, and the candlesticks from Habitat I painted to match the ceiling. I've got an Indian hand bracelet, a necklace from Sri Lanka, love beads from when I used to go raving, a Japanese postcard from a fan of Andy's in Japan, a head of Ganesh, the Indian god, and another Inca head. The glass bottle has water in it from the Spring of Eternal Youth, in Cyprus. My sister and a friend went along and they were not supposed to take any water away, so they smuggled bottles in and filled them up and brought one back for me and Andy. It's never been opened because otherwise you let all the magic out."