Khristi Zimmeth, Special to The Detroit News Published 6:42 p.m. ET Feb. 7, 2019 | Updated 10:06 p.m. ET Feb. 7, 2019
It’s a dream shared by many – a house in the country, a relaxing getaway where you can escape the world and its stresses.
Author and blogger Nora Murphy is lucky to have such a place in Connecticut, but she thinks a country house is as much a state of mind as a location, a philosophy she makes clear in her new book “Nora Murphy’s Country House Style” (Vendome; $35).
In it, she recounts her childhood visits to a neighbor whose home epitomized what she came to believe was the country house ideal. “It was warm and inviting. Cozy, but airy and bright. It felt happy – livable and comfortable. She decorated with antiques, which I wouldn’t know much about for years, but I knew that every piece had a story and that it had been chosen with love. The place got into my soul…hers was my first true country house; not so much a place as a state of mind – warm, welcoming, and deeply beautiful.”
It’s something we can all achieve, she believes, even people who live in the city or an apartment. “Making your home a Country House” is the book’s subhead, and the beautifully photographed 210–page coffee table-sized book is filled with equal amounts inspiration and information. There’s plenty of eye candy, of course, including Murphy’s own Connecticut saltbox, but you’ll also find practical tips and ideas (turn that unused antique buffet into bar) that give easy instructions on how to infuse your own home with the Murphy’s elegant yet achievable style.
We caught up with the author for her thoughts on the book, antiques, and her popular blog.
Country house seems to be a term with so many different definitions. How would you describe it?
Country House style is a year-round retreat. A place that’s warm & inviting – like a B&B!
I love that antiques play such a large part in your style. What do you think they add to our homes?
I love antiques and all things wonderfully worn because they have stories. The wear and the patina add so much warmth and charm to a home. Antiques have history and tradition that I feel makes a good foundation to build upon.
Where are your favorite places to integrate antiques?
Everywhere! Even one antique something can make all the difference to any space inside or outside my country house.
Tell me about the blog. What are your goals? When did you start it and why?
ConnecticutCountryHouse.com started in 2012. I shot everything with my iPhone, and wrote about what I loved to do inside and outside my country house: decorating, gardening, and entertaining (including cooking & baking). From the very beginning I took a very seasonal approach that is still my way of approaching Country House living. The blog eventually evolved into a larger, more multi-faceted site,
NoraMurphyCountryHouse.com which of course still features the blog that I write (but now shoot with a Canon Rebel), but now I have a small and mighty team that helps me communicate so much more: videos, recipes, free downloadable goodies, my on-line magazines, and my online shop Hunt Club, where we offer fabulous country house finds – old & new.
I like that one of your key philosophies is no rules. How does that translate into interiors? Are people too rigid?
I think people are afraid to make a mistake when it comes to the interior of their homes. Once something is in place, there it stays forever! The beauty of Country House living is that it’s not static; it keeps in step with the seasons, so there’s always some sort of change – whether it’s taking up throw rugs in the summer, or switching out the pillows on the sofa. Because things keep moving, and nothing is precious, is why it always feels fresh.
I also like the quote from the book “always always real life” — So how does that translate into integrating things like televisions etcetera?
Integrating everyday common items like televisions, remote controls, stack of mail can be a challenge. At my country house, the televisions are housed in cabinets, where the doors are usually wide open, but I can close the doors when I want them to disappear. Remote controls, as well as the mail, get stored in simple baskets. I love versatility!
Another one of your quotes says there’s no room for fussy, but what is there always room for?
There’s always room for flowers, books, and a comfy chair. Always.
What do you collect and why?
I love to collect things that are connected to nature and the outdoors, like 18th-century Martinet bird engravings, vintage garden tools, containers, and prints, just to name a few. But my very favorite collection is found in our painted 18th-century Cabinet of Curiosities filled with beautiful and unusual things found in nature. Every single “find” in the cabinet has a story of where and how it was found. What makes this ever-growing collection so very special is that my whole family participates and contributes.
What should collectors and homeowners never pass up when they see it?
Never pass up a good deal.
Form or function?
Can country house style work in the city?
Absolutely! I’ve found that many city dwellers love to come home to a warm and welcoming home, one that feels like a weekend country house. Actually New York City ranks as #1 in NMCH followers in the U.S.
What’s next for you now that the book is done? What does the future hold?
I’m very excited about 2019. The blog, the book, and my online shop Hunt Club has been incredibly well received, so I’ve decided to take the next step and create a small brick and mortar Nora Murphy Country House shop! It’ll be located in my country house, and offer all things country house! I’m planning on sharing the creative progress of the shop on my blog and social media.
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