‘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 agrees: ‘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 that 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-bedroomed cottage in Wiltshire – by reconfiguring the layouts, John was also able to create four bathrooms out of the existing floor plan. ‘Whereas my passions are fabrics, colour and pattern,’ she continues.
They both also suggest 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 them. What they will bring is experience, and once they understand where you want to go, that experience can be a great help.’
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: something you should embrace, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s vision. 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. This is where the help of an expert can come in particularly useful, but as he tells us, sometimes the simplest solutions are the best: ‘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.’
So, there you have it, John and Emma’s tips for a harmonious home design process: have a clear idea of what you’d like (even in just a broad sense) from the start; find and play to your strengths, sharing the responsibility; don’t be intimidated to work with an expert; design a home that suits your style and budget, not someone else’s; and look for the simplest solution to a problem.