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Sims Hilditch in Los Angeles

Our founder, Emma Sims Hilditch, is fresh back from Los Angeles where she was the only British interior designer invited to take part in LEGENDS 24. This is the annual design festival, which is regarded as one of the most sought-after events in the US. Now in its 14th year, LEGENDS brings together leading interior designers, architects, taste makers and editors from across America and the rest of the world for three days of open houses, discussions and keynote speeches based in and around La Cienega Design Quarter. Here, Emma shares some insights...

What is LEGENDS about?

The closest comparison that we have in the UK is London Design Week. La Cienega itself became known as a design destination in the 1950s, when many interior designers lived above their studios lining La Cienega Boulevard. Back then, the likes of Elsie de Wolf and Tony Duquette would scour the studios and shops for unique finds. Today, some of those buildings remain and have been converted into antique and design showrooms. During the three-day festival, these were all open and put on some beautiful displays alongside a packed programme of different events.

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Emma Sims Hilditch with Rebecca Birdwell (@Rbirdwell)

Emma Sims Hilditch with Rebecca Birdwell (@Rbirdwell)

Who was there?

Among the speakers and those taking part in the various talks were interior designer Alfredo Paredes, contributing editor of House & Garden Anne Hardy, Kit Kemp’s daughter Minnie and one of my favourite American architects Gil Schafer. The majority of visitors were interior designers from across the US. We met architects and designers from Atlanta, New York, Texas, San Francisco and Colorado. I was delighted to be in the company of the Atlanta-based architect Stan Dixon, Peter Lyden, who is the president of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art and the Washington DC-based designer Thomas Pheasant, among others.

Tell us about your panel discussion, In Good Taste

The panel was made up of four interior designers and was hosted by the Arteriors showroom on Melrose Avenue. The strapline was how to educate clients on design, art, culture—where to begin and how to listen. I was invited by the event organiser, Rebecca Birdwell, to introduce a British viewpoint on design approaches. I explained about how many of our projects at Sims Hilditch include antiques which we love because they are often beautifully made, look elegant and contribute to our mission to re-use and be more environmentally aware. There was a distinct parting of tastes between clients on the West Coast and East Coast with younger ones based in the former being less inclined to use brown furniture than those on the East Coast and in the UK.

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Liz Caan (@lizcaan)

Elizabeth Martin (@bethmartindesign)

Jess Carrier & Mara Miller (@carrierandco) 

Liz Caan (@lizcaan)

Elizabeth Martin (@bethmartindesign)

Jess Carrier & Mara Miller (@carrierandco) 

What are the differences between US and UK interiors?

When we are commissioned by clients–regardless of where they come from and wherever they live in the world–they choose us because of our quintessentially British style. We have a reputation for specialising in historic buildings and making them relevant and liveable for the 21st century.

Many of our British clients will have a family history of their own, with art and antique collections already in place. Others come to us with very little, so it’s our job to curate their home to feel like it has always been there. In general, our British clients want an eclectic look that is more lived in and relaxed, full of colour and pattern. It’s not for nothing that House & Garden magazine won’t shoot a project until at least a year after the clients have moved into the house with all their things—it can’t look perfect. Interiors are more tailored for our American clients who have been so much fun to work with. They are reliant on us to educate them in how to live a quintessentially British life.

Scale is another difference. The country is enormous, so there isn’t such a pressure on land values. As a result, American houses, especially in some states, are that much bigger, therefore, the furniture is larger. The US also has a strong manufacturing industry, of which they are justifiably proud, and the design community in particular is very focussed on craft.

Something else we noticed is that clients look at the interior design industry as being on a par with architects. They command the same level of attention and respect. While things are changing, the British rarely want to admit that they’ve used an interior designer—and often say they don’t want their friends to know that they’ve had help. It always makes me smile! 

Why was it important to attend?

Sims Hilditch is growing. Many Americans love the British aesthetic, so it was great to meet architects from across the US and tell them about our design studio. On a personal level, I wanted to see how our industry here in the UK differs from that in America. All in all, it was a really inspiring few days and it was great to see several British brands with significant showrooms in La Cienega. Among the ones we visited were de Gournay, Plain English and Sarah Vanrenen.

What’s next?

We’re now looking forward to visiting the Nantucket By Design event which runs from July 15 to 18. I instinctively feel that the architectural aesthetic that predominates along the East Coast would be a perfect fit for Sims Hilditch.