Story and photo by Kerry Phelps Dale

If you are looking for a wedding or party planner, Manuel Simpson is your man. Need someone to design your retail space or just the shop windows? He’s your guy. Shopping for a stylist for a photo shoot or an interior designer? Call Manuel.

Manuel will also come to your home and rearrange your furniture, your bookcases and rehang your pictures to bring more style and beauty into your life. For the holidays, no one is better at filling a home with Christmas.
“Weddings, events, interior design. It’s hard to put it on a business card,” says Manuel. “To be honest with you, I do whatever the phone call is.”

Ever since he was a young boy growing up in Winchester, practicing on his mother’s and grandmother’s houses, Manuel has had a designer’s eye. He loved beautiful things and cultivated the skills and talent to make a living from transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Though Manuel has worked up and down the Atlantic seaboard, from Nantucket to Palm Beach to Charleston, he returned to Virginia and has made Middleburg his home for some 17 years. He has come full circle– his retail and design career began with Devonshire, an English garden shop in Middleburg that grew to include shops in the most exclusive towns.

The retail industry is where he cut his teeth. “Retail is not just, ‘I like pretty things and I want to sell them.’ It’s a business. You gauge your clients, you gauge your town, your world, your tourists. There’s so much to take into account to succeed in retail,” he says.

These days, the high-energy, fast-talking creative guru mixes it up, loving the diversity of clients and jobs that have become his professional milieu.

The undisputed success of Windy Hill’s last two annual galas could be due in large part to this designer’s talent. His first gala in 2017, a Great Gatsby themed event, was a roaring success. He followed that up with a Studio 54 inspired theme last fall, and both galas sold out with record-breaking revenues for the local non-profit.

Manuel loves to plan weddings and parties that reflect the personality and dreams of the bride and the party giver, events that reflect their character. Success for him is an event that brings joy to the guests, as well as the clients, and one that goes off without anyone knowing about any of the
inevitable glitches.

Making clients happy and spaces prettier are Manuel’s passions, along with listening to podcasts. “Documentary, anything that’s beautiful and knowledgeable, but I’m obsessed with murder. I’m really into investigative reporting,” says Manuel. “I like getting to the bottom of things. Figuring things out. A good story.” Notions that make for a great designer and event planner, too.

This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.