2021-01-26 SS21 Eagle House3906


Demystifying the design process

Demystifying the design process

Embarking on a home project can be refreshing, exciting and creative. It can also be daunting. Where to begin? How to configure layouts? What style to go for? What is a realistic budget? The conundrums go on. But according to our co-founder John Sims-Hilditch and his wife, Emma (Neptune’s creative founder), a decorating or renovating project can be easy, smooth and even enjoyable.

‘We’re great believers in standing back and coming up with a concept about what you’d like your home to feel like in the future,’ explains John from their Cornish cottage, as we catch up in a live Instagram session. ‘If you have a clear understanding of where you want to take it, you can start focusing on the part you want to work on with more ease. And talking through the process is key.’

Emma, who is also an interior designer with her own practice, Sims Hilditch, supports this view: ‘It’s important to get the family involved, though one person might lead on the creative side and one on the financial side.’

John and Emma admit they have different strengths which can be a big help when they approach a decorating project. ‘John is brilliant at space planning, he’s particularly good at making small spaces work,’ Emma explains, referencing their own four bedroom cottage – by reconfiguring the layouts, John was able to create four bathrooms out of the existing floor plan. ‘My passions are fabrics and colour and pattern.’

This balance of skills applies at work as well as at home. As John tells the Instagram viewers, ‘Emma loves creating beauty in our Neptune designs while I love dreaming up the next neat little idea.’ One such example is an elegant wood-framed mirror, Lynton, which transforms into a TV with the press of a button, which they both demonstrate live in their cottage to a great reaction from viewers. ‘Trying to hide a TV is really difficult,’ says Emma. ‘We spent a long time designing it and now it can be customised for different spaces by our in-store design team.’

They both agree that involving a design expert in a project can be incredibly beneficial. ‘Working with an experienced designer shouldn’t be scary,’ says John, noting that our home and kitchen design teams focus on supporting the design process rather than pushing it. ‘Putting a home or project together is complex but they won’t stop you having your own ideas, in fact they’ll embrace your ideas. What they will bring is experience, and once they understand where you want to go, that experience can be a great help.’

It’s tried and tested knowledge that John and Emma have drawn upon when working on the designs of our Neptune stores, which feel more like homes than showrooms. ‘We decorated our own house 15 years ago, and out of that came some really useful design tips that we learned along the way and applied in the stores,’ says Emma, ‘like using our Cranbrook rough boarding on the ceiling or installing our favourite Jøtul wood-burners.’

And while we have a strong aesthetic at Neptune, John and Emma are very aware that tastes and constraints (be they budgetary or physical) mean that most people’s projects will rightly develop an individual look. As John explains: ‘There are no rules. If you love a clean, minimalist design and you have a wonderful old cottage, that will look amazing – in fact, it can be an enhancement because the cranky old cottage has so much character, it needs no help. Equally, someone else might fill it with stuff and it will feel warm and cosy.’

And as for physical restraints, John refuses to be put off, always looking for the way around a problem: ‘In the Neptune HQ, which was really an old shed when we started, there was a large metal pole in an awkward part of the room which I couldn’t remove. So I decided to build and repeat more fake pillars to make what was an annoying pillar feel more like a deliberate part of the structure.’

As our Instagram viewers commented on the night, John and Emma are an inspiration.

To see the full interview, visit our IGTV. And if you’d like our help with designing your home, you can find out more about our Home Design Service here.