Nestled in a tranquil corner of The Cotswolds, interior designer Emma Sims-Hilditch can always be found juggling multiple creative projects. Renowned for elegant, contemporary designs that span country, town, and coast, Sims-Hilditch divides her time between her namesake interior design studio, and her work as Neptune’s creative founder.
"It’s important to appeal to all of your senses with interiors. You have to remember that it’s not just what you see, it’s what you smell and what you feel, as well."
Here, Emma Sims-Hilditch invites us into the picturesque barn conversion that she calls home, and shares her tips for making your spaces feel warm, cosy, and welcoming, this autumn/winter…
What are some of your favourite ways to transition the home from spring/summer to autumn/winter?
The first design tweak I would recommend is easy to do and not too expensive, and that’s to change your cushion covers. We like to go with pink and green shades during the summer months, because the house is always full of flowers from the garden. Then, as the season changes and you start to see beautiful autumn leaves, I like to change the colour of the cushion covers. Warm orange tones are a favourite. We also then bring out the nice, heavy cable throws that you can snuggle up with by the fire.
Another thing that we like to do is paint. We often paint the hallway seasonally. We might do a colour for autumn, and then a different colour in the spring. It’s a great way for us to try out the Neptune paint collections in our own home.
For those who are unable to make a big seasonal décor change, are there any small home tweaks that will increase the autumnal ambience?
It’s important to appeal to all of your senses with interiors. You have to remember that it’s not just what you see, it’s what you smell and what you feel, as well.
We change the scents within our home seasonally. Dr Vranjes is my go-to for home fragrance – it’s a lovely Italian brand from Florence. I love it because the shape of the diffuser bottle mimics the Duomo in Florence. In the winter we go with Ambra, which I love. It’s a gorgeous scent. And in the summer months I favour floral fragrances or Fig.
Is there one area of the home that often gets overlooked, during the seasonal transition?
As winter begins, lighting is a really important element of the home to get right. Having good lighting for reading is important, so we have our floor lamps directed over the sofa for ease. Cordless lamps are a bit of a trend now, and we’ve got beautiful ones at Neptune. They’re LED and you can unplug them and use them all over the house. I place them by my bed, or on the coffee table if I’m reading on the sofa. It’s like a torch, really. They’re brilliant.
Older homes and conversions can often feel draughty during the winter months. Aside from layering up in cosy knitwear and gathering around the fire, are there any practical design changes that will make our homes feel warmer?
Interlining curtains is a really good trick. With our curtain making at Sims Hilditch, we always line and interline. There are different qualities and styles of curtain making, but we always go for the best, and that involves putting a cotton bump lining inside. It’s like a wadding and it makes the curtains thick and cosy. It’s good for the environment too, because it stops draughts getting in through the windows and it means you don’t need to use as much central heating.
Your designs are always full of charm and character. Where are your favourite places to shop for one-of-a-kind home accessories?
I’m really into recycling and reusing, so I love to use antiques in the home. We’re lucky to have Tetbury on our doorstep. Lorfords Antiques is an amazing antique centre in Tetbury, and they have a huge airplane hangar full of stuff. It’s brilliant.
Kempton Market is also great, you can pick up wonderful books and all sorts of accessories: fireside tools, lovely glassware, lovely china. It’s lots of fun. You must take a wad of cash with you though, because they don’t accept cards.
I love those beautiful piles of old leather suitcases and trunks, that you often find in antique shops. You can use them as a coffee table or a side table, or for storing your wellies in. They’re a really good way of bringing the old back into a modern house, because they provide a lot of character.
Finally, we can’t discuss autumn/winter décor without touching on the festive season… What is your approach to Christmas décor?
I don’t have any strong opinions on when the perfect time to decorate for Christmas is. I’m one of those people who goes with the moment, and suddenly you just feel it’s the right time. We used to always get the decorations out for our daughter’s birthday, as she has an early December birthday.
I’ve never been a fan of anything too shiny, so you’ll find no tinsel in our house. That was always the joke, because the children would want a multicoloured tinsel Christmas tree and I would never let them have it. They’d ask, ‘Why can’t we decorate the Christmas tree?’ so we would always have the children’s decorations and then my decorations.
I like to use natural elements in our Christmas décor. Last year we put eucalyptus in the tree, and it was amazing. Dried hydrangeas also look fantastic in the tree – you can prod stems between the branches to act as natural ornaments. It’s different and looks amazing.
Emma Sims-Hilditch wears the Bibury Navy Flannel Shirt, the Witney Navy Crew Neck Jumper and the Witney Almond Cardigan
Photography by Claire Menary