Interior Design

Emma Sims-Hilditch's interior 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 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.