In conversation with Louise Wicksteed at Sims Hilditch
Ahead of her collaborative project with Philip Mould gallery, we caught up with Sims Hilditch design director Louise Wicksteed, who gave us an insight into her interior design must do’s (and don’ts). We chatted about the Sims Hilditch style, their ethos that distances itself from trends and the benefits of using local craftspeople.
Louise, we have been admiring your work for so long! Where do you begin when working on a new project? And how would you describe the ‘timeless, English style’ that you are known for?
"Thank you! Well our aim is to create interiors which will stand the test of time using the finest materials and makers, both physically and in terms of enduring style. In all projects we begin by examining the building’s heritage and natural surroundings, considering how we might incorporate this sympathetically into our design.
Repurposing and reusing antiques and our clients’ existing furniture is a great way to nod to timeless English style. This gives pieces that are often steeped in English history a new lease of life. Additionally, paints by Farrow & Ball tend to work well in traditional and contemporary English homes alike. We love their range of timeless whites. These work well as a beautiful backdrop to more punchy shades which can be used on furniture and joinery, such as De Nimes."
Your renovations often reveal natural, handcrafted pieces.
"Yes, we love to feature natural materials which are locally sourced in our interiors. Reclaimed wooden and stone flooring work well in kitchens, hallways and boot rooms and sisal carpet is great for sitting and bedrooms. We also retain much of a building’s existing material where possible if it has historic value."
You work on a wide variety of renovations, from manor houses to town houses full of natural character. How do you recommend adding character to a younger property?
"The key to creating character in a home is to ensure the interior feels that it has evolved over time. Layering an interior using a variety of textures, patterns and colours is a great way to achieve this. Each element works together to make the room burst with life. Incorporating antiques into a newer home is also a key consideration, as they bring gravitas and history to the design."
Family life is often at the forefront of your home renovation designs. What are your key essentials for creating a family space that also works for entertaining?
"An open plan sitting, dining and kitchen area is the ideal solution for creating a social space designed for entertaining. In many traditional homes, the kitchen is often cut-off from the rest of the house, making it difficult to host guests or socialise with family while preparing a meal. Knocking through the wall between a kitchen and sitting/dining area and sectioning off each space with a kitchen island is the ideal solution. Placing stools at the island creates an informal space for guests or family members to sit before the meal is served."
What do you focus on when designing a contemporary feel whilst retaining or adding character?
"The key to creating a contemporary style in a home while retaining character is to choose a carefully balanced blend of sharp lines, metal finishes and punchy colours and pair these with a selection of antiques. This might include artwork, furniture or even family heirlooms like a grandfather clock. The challenge here can be to maintain a curated, layered look while avoiding clutter."
It often pays to ‘go bold’ but it can be hard to know where to start. What are your tips on creating eye-catching interiors without overwhelming the space?
"Accent colours are a great way to be bold in your interior, without overwhelming it. A sofa upholstered in a bright colour, or lampshades and cushions in a yellow, red, or pink bring life to your interior in pleasing statements when threaded throughout a room with a neutral backdrop. For those tempted to be brave and opt for contrasting colours in a room, we recommend using the colour wheel for guidance. Typically, colours which sit on opposite sides of the colour wheel are contrasting but work well together (like blue and orange).
Do you have any tips for bringing light into a room and at the same time, attempting to create a cosy, warm feel?
"Layered lighting allows a variety of moods to be created in one room. This tends to be made up of floor, wall and overhead lighting. We often attach all light fixtures in a sitting or entertaining room to a 5 amp dimmer switch. This can be controlled from a single point, allowing the mood of the room to be altered easily."
What do you find inspires you the most when you start working on a project?
"Design inspiration comes from all around us. In particular, the English countryside, a building's history and heritage inspire our designs."
Do you have any favourite antiques pieces that you have used in any recent projects?
"We repurposed a beautiful commode in our Chelsea Townhouse project, into a vanity for the downstairs cloakroom."
What is the best way to add handcrafted pieces to a home?
"Hand-painted wallpaper and or tiles is a great way to incorporate handcrafted items into your interior. We love to use wallpaper by de Gournay and tiles by Marlborough Tiles. A great way to champion handcrafted pieces, is to research local artists in your area and incorporate their art into your home. This might be a painting of the landscape of your local area, or some beautiful ornaments or crockery that speaks to you in some way. A plate wall is a lovely way to display crockery."
Our furniture brand Lorfords Contemporary produces traditionally constructed and upholstered furniture in our Cotswold studio. Made in Britain with sustainability at the core, do you feel that handcrafted British furniture is the future?
"Absolutely. At Sims Hilditch, we champion the highest quality in terms of the products and materials we use. We love to work with companies that share these values.
Small artisans and independent brands are often made up of smaller teams who are passionate about their brand. They are incredibly knowledgeable about what they do, making them real experts in their field. These handcrafted techniques are steeped in history, so it is important to support these artisans. These skills could die out if there is no longer a demand. What’s more, these techniques often produce the highest quality pieces which will last for generations."
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*Images courtesy of Sims Hilditch.