There’s a sense of family that pervades the Neptune brand, from its focus on spaces designed for get-togethers to its understanding of the way families use a home – just think of the sturdy Neptune dining tables that host meals, homework, office work and all the rest. And this sense of family extends behind the scenes too. Founders John and Giles were friends long before they began the business and John’s wife, Emma, an interior designer in her own right, has played an important part in steering the DNA of the Neptune look.
In fact, it was Emma’s innate sense of style that first influenced the Neptune look, over 20 years ago. “When we launched the first freestanding kitchen, I was involved in styling the shoot,” explains Emma, who had left a production role with film-maker Ridley Scott to raise her three children and set up a curtain-making business. “We raided my house for accessories for the photos and soon people were asking where the vases or cushions were from. It was then that we realised we needed to become a lifestyle brand and I got more involved.”
Today, Emma’s elegant and fresh touch is as clear as ever at Neptune, even though she’s also busy running her own successful interior design business, Sims Hilditch, with offices in the Cotswolds and London and projects ranging from city pied-à-terres to rambling country houses (you can see two examples in leading interiors magazines this month – House & Garden features a London family home, while Homes & Gardens showcases a stunning country home). Her focus is on creating deeply comfortable spaces where the modern country aesthetic means combining antiques with contemporary furniture and lighting. “We want to create homely, inviting interiors that feel lived in,” she says.
Back at Neptune, Emma remains the creative brand guardian; inspiring, mentoring and guiding the design teams with her signature light touch. She collaborates with the design team, led by creative director Rebecca Elderfield, to decide on the seasonal themes and style directions and ensure the design vision remains true. And she’s also able to offer insight and inspiration from ideas she’s used in her own private practice. “When we’re designing a bathroom for clients, most want hidden storage so we often build a concealed cupboard with a mirror in the door, lights that come on when you open it and a plug socket for your toothbrush,” explains Emma. “We’d been creating bespoke versions for Sims Hilditch clients for ages so it was a simple leap to make a version for Neptune, albeit at a more affordable price.”
Over at Sims Hilditch, Emma leads a team of talented designers and interior architects following a tried and tested process to ensure projects flow smoothly and stay on budget. Key is the interior architectural service, which tackles everything including staircases, joinery, lighting and power. Layered on top of this is decoration expertise, and with a huge library of fabrics and finishes at the team’s fingertips and the option to source antiques, art and bespoke pieces from specialist makers, the team are able to adapt to each new project.
Conversely, for Neptune, the emphasis is on an edited collection, carefully curated to work across seasons and planned to offer enough choice without being overwhelming. The paint range of 28 core shades (which Emma, with her colourist’s eye, was heavily involved in) and the additional seasonal colours, mean customers can be confident that the editing process has ensured the most harmonious shades of blue, grey or white have already been narrowed down.
But there are many style elements that stretch across both businesses, not least Emma’s love and respect for architecture. Sims Hilditch’s Wiltshire offices are based in a listed building and the team relish the opportunity to work on similar listed properties, while at Neptune, there’s a well-edited package of hard finishes, from stone to timber to tiles and panelling, that means customers can ‘build’ their perfect space.
So, as we all stay at home and have the opportunity to contemplate home improvements, is now a good time to consider renovations? “Definitely!” says Emma. “Now is a great time as we’ve all got time to think and plan.” At Sims Hilditch, the first stage of the design process is ‘concepting’ where the team explore the look and feel of a project along with the spacial planning, while at Neptune, in-store design teams are available (remotely, of course) to offer specialist advice on how and where to start a project. Either way, with our homes fulfilling the role of a sanctuary more than ever, this could be the moment to make it a welcoming, happy and safe space.