Newtown design blogger Nora Murphy, who refined 'country style,' finally has a book

Time was when decorating “country style” meant kitschy mushroom canisters on the kitchen counter and grandma’s crocheted afghan on the back of a garish plaid couch. Welcome Connecticut decorator and author Nora Murphy whose e-magazine, blog and new book, “Nora Murphy’s Country House Style: Making Your Home A Country House,” have made country oh-so-chic. A former vice president at Ethan Allen, Murphy has spent the past seven years hyping country style, focusing on decorating, gardening and entertaining as part of her “Nora Murphy Country House” brand. Her new book features her own home in Newtown and several others that visually reflect how a home can spotlight country style whether in the city, at the beach or the mountains. She put down her gardening tools and her laptop recently to talk style, family, the holidays and what really makes a house a home.

Q: Why did it take seven years to finally get around to a book?

A: I needed to find an agent. A friend of a friend, Caroline Galloway, an incredible agent, believed in what I was doing when she saw the proposal. For a long time I was rolling the idea of a book around in my head. What precipitated me to finally act on it was that my readers wanted to hold something. They would write and say “I want to see pictures on paper.” I feel my audience still likes to get their coffee, settle down and look through the book that features the variety of country homes and the decor. They want to linger. I think there is some kind of disconnection or my book on a laptop. The book was important to me. It made sense. Originally I was going to feature just my house in each of the four seasons. He publisher offered the idea of doing more homes. He was right. I give him credit for that.

Q: Some might contend country means “old” as in your grandmother’s parlor. What’s your counter definition and why is country still relevant today when it comes to decorating?

A: It is how it is all put together. In all the homes I chose for the book, the connection is the sense of warm and inviting and comfortable. They are all very different in the way “country” is interpreted. And the way owners perceive the style. What I love about a “country house” style, is that there is a twist of elegance to it. It does not have to have old but is unpretentious. It is very attainable and doable style for people. You don’t need to be rich or have someone else to do it. And as a “country” fan, I assure you I am very real and understand that people want to be able to do things themselves. In fact, right now I have an aching back because my husband, Rick, and me spent the day hauling stuff from the yard. We are very real and work with what we have.

Q: What is the first room you ever designed?

A: My bedroom. I was in elementary school. I went shopping with my mom and picked out wallpaper with yellow flowers on it and went from there. I grew up in a humble family. I always worked with what I had. If my mom and I went to thrift store or a tag sale, I would keep my eyes open for things for my room. We also had a big enclosed front porch and a family room and my parents would let me turn these rooms into something else like a school or a restaurant and my sister and I and a friend named Susie would play in these imaginary environments. My parents let me be creative.

Q: I noticed as I read your book that you and your contributors are all collectors of things, lots of things, and like them out there and on display on open shelving. That is a bit contrary to the current onslaught of trade articles, ads and social media posts urging people to simplify and get rid of things. Explain please.

A: As I was evolving in my style, and when I did switch those rooms, I did get rid of some things. I did edit. I kept only what I love. I show off my collections though with restraint. Choose focal points, at my home it’s the white dishes in the pantry, the shells in the cabinet, all amassed the look is very striking. My cabinet of curiosities is my family’s personal space, things we have collected. My collections are concentrated in just two spots. You can showcase collections, just do it with restraint.

Q: What should every room in a house include?

A: Something for comfort, something for love and twist of whimsy whether it be a piece of child’s art or a pillow with a quote on it or a color that is unexpected. Every room should have some “happy” in it. I use that word a lot. And that is one thing that can easily be injected into each room.

Q: Will there be another book?

A: I am considering doing a book on entertaining. That is one of my favorite categories and I love having friends and families visit. To me, setting the table and cooking for them is how I show my love.

MaryEllen Fillo is a freelance writer based in Connecticut.