Shops. Places to buy things – right? But, when we came to open our first store, it felt like that wasn’t enough.

Here we were, designing collections for your home, and building places for you to get up close with them, so why not create an environment that feels more like a home than a shop and where you could always walk out feeling inspired in some way? Wouldn’t it feel closer to interior design than ‘shopping’? Wouldn’t it make it easier for you to picture how things would look in your house? Wouldn’t it help you to plan what else you might want to put in a room together? Wouldn’t it simply make the entire shop experience better and nicer? So that’s exactly what we set out to do, six years ago with our very-first store in Winchester, and that’s exactly what we’re doing 31 stores later.

Inspiration starts from the outside-in for us. You shouldn’t have to wait to get through the door before you feel it. And that all begins with location, like it does for most brands setting up shop. But for us, location isn’t just about finding the area that’s best for you, it’s a case of looking for the right building, because Neptune stores are usually conversions of older properties. Original character and buildings with history are always our preferred spots, not just because of their charm, but because it’s easier to take different portions of the interior and design them to represent different types of home. In an older property, you can make the most of beams and nooks to build a country cottage area, but can equally pare the character back to show a more contemporary city apartment interior. Adding character in is doable, but it’s always more convincing when it’s the real deal. That’s another quick perspective point worth mentioning too. Country cottages, modern townhouses, sprawling barn conversions, smaller city homes – they’re all home perspectives that our stores try to reflect. One home doesn’t fit all. We know that and so do our stores.

Inside is where that real sense of home can be felt though. Our retail design team create the same rooms you’d have in your own home. Not nods to rooms, not a living room-like or bedroom-like setup, but full rooms. The living rooms often have working fires, the kitchen cabinets are fully stocked and at least one will be a fully working kitchen (oven and all). The bedrooms don’t have PJs under the pillow, but they certainly feel like nobody would tell you off for getting into bed and nodding off. It’s the way that they’re styled too. One of the ways a customer once described it to me was how their shoulders go down as soon as they come in through our front door. People relax. They feel calm. And, most importantly, that they can leave any Neptune store understanding more about how to create that atmosphere in their home too, through colour, lighting and texture as much as through their furniture choices. We want people to feel as though they’ve had an easy-to-consume interior design session and that they leave us with inspiration in one arm and confidence to fulfil those ideas in the other. ‘Places for you to feel inspired’ is the aim with a Neptune store.

That’s the point. It’s the combination of decoration, design and atmosphere. That warm welcome, that make yourself at home message, that feeling of wishing and wanting to move in, that energy from the ideas running round your head for your own nest. They’re what make our stores not stores. When we see people coming in, putting their feet up, having a coffee with us, leaving an hour or so later, and coming back to show us pictures on their phones of what they’ve done, that’s what tells us people are feeling what we’d hoped they would.

Words can only do so much though. Our stores honestly are an experience sort of thing. I hope that if you stop by one of our homes, be it in the UK or overseas, you’ll see precisely what I mean.

Make yourself at home at your closest Neptune store.