Interior Design

Emma Sims-Hilditch's top home design tips – including what not to do

Dos and don'ts from the design guru

Emma Sims Hilditch interior design tips
(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

Emma Sims-Hilditch, founder of interior design firm, the eponymous Sims Hilditch, knows good taste.

As a true arbiter of classic English elegance and style, there's no-one more apt to ask for the ultimate 'dos' and 'don'ts' for decorating your space.

Read on to discover what mistakes you might be making in your home – and discover the interior design tips that tell you what you should be doing instead.

1. Lighting in cabinetry

Emma Sims Hilditch interior design tips

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

Emma's advice on what to do when lighting cabinetry:

  • Try fixed wall lights mounted on cabinetry or bookcases. Pretty decorative lampshades are a great way to create subtle yet pleasant atmosphere. 
  • Add an element of soft lighting by installing little LED lights within a built-in shower niche. 
  • Make sure your lighting is decorative rather than task for the cabinetry in the bedrooms and sitting rooms, where you might want to avoid harsh light.
  • Use a low glare, LED under cupboard light in a cocktail cabinet to cast a soft, ambient light that highlights your collection of glasses and beverages. 

What Emma warns to steer clear of:

  • Use bathroom uplighting beneath a mirror or cabinet that could cast shadows on your face when applying make-up. Use a combination of wall light and asymmetrical spotlights instead.
  • Design your kitchen layout without lighting. Misplaced lighting can ruin the aesthetic and can be difficult to change once installed. 
  • Forget to invest in dimmable LED bulbs so that all the lighting can be adjusted depending on the mood and time of day. 

2. Creating a back door space

Emma Sims Hilditch interior design tips

Photography/Jake Eastham

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

When creating a back door or mud room area, Emma suggests that you should:

  • Maximise space and use every awkward corner. Create cupboards out of old walkways and utilise concealed doors to hide washing machines or heating systems.
  • Invest in a hard-wearing floor to withstand boots, pets and drips. Brick and stone are practical. Limestone flooring from Artisans of Devizes is always a safe choice. 
  • Add panelling to soften the hard edges of stone and brick finishes.

However, make sure to take note of Emma's advice of what not to do:

  • Use your space as a ‘dumping ground’. Keep it organised by investing in baskets, each dedicated to storing a specific item, which can be slotted into bespoke fitted joinery. Include hidden storage within bench seating too. 
  • Choose an impractical work surface. Marble looks lovely but can stain, so we recommend a black honed granite, or similar, instead. 

3. Hard-wearing upholstery

Emma Sims Hilditch interior design tips

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

When selecting upholstery, take heed of Emma's suggestions:

  • Check the rub count. Choose upholstery fabrics with a Martindale rub count of no less than 18,000 if you have young children and pets. 
  • Use a fabric protector on upholstery. We also often design sofa arm covers that can be washable and protect the arms from wear over long periods.
  • Use a weighty linen to upholster a sofa, dining chairs and even a headboard – this not only looks elegant but is durable. We have used the heavy linens by GP & J Baker and Fermoie in many of our projects.

And make sure to listen to what Emma says to not do:

  • Choose delicates for family spaces. Lace, velvet and anything gathered or embroidered is more vulnerable to pulls and damage, so where possible find alternatives. 
  • ‘Make do’. We believe in the philosophy ‘buy it once and buy it well’, and this means that it’s well worth investing in good quality upholstery that will last.
  • Wash linens at home because it can cause shrinkage. Most will require dry cleaning. 
Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.