If you find an 18th century gem, it can be a challenge to update and make it your own without taking away its aged appeal. When Nora Murphy, designer and owner of Nora Murphy Country House, and her husband Rick moved into this 1767 home in Newtown, Connecticut 15 years ago, they fell in love with its location and structure and settled in with some initial improvements.
“Any house we live in, I let the house tell me what to do,” says Nora. “When we moved here, our previous stuff didn’t work with the feel, so I introduced an earthy palette.” Years later, when her son Conor moved out, Nora needed a change. “I call it Project Refresh,” she says.
Light and Bright
Nora draped the home in a white color palette, painting the walls different shades of white and covering all her furniture with creamy white cotton denim fabric slip covers and tying them with white twill tape bows. “[The slipcovers] are washable and easy to take care of,” says Nora. “I can now drag chairs to different parts of the house, and they’ll still work.”
Along with the easy care comes a casual elegance from the draped furniture that adds a romantic look to the outdoor accents. “The architectural simplicity of the home gave direction to what the inside of the home should look like,” says Nora. “I wanted it light, bright and nature inspired.”
Home in the Garden
Among the neutral color palette that Nora carried throughout the house is her outdoor garden theme. Wooden tables, outdoor lanterns and large-scale plants and florals grace every room of the home to add a touch of the great outdoors to her interior. Nora also collects vintage copper watering cans and antique gardening tools that reside in the hallway gallery. “Everyone is always asking me about my antique French harvest basket,” says Nora. “It’s perfect for holding seasonal flowers.” The gallery connects the 18th century parts of the house to the newer parts, creating a seamless transition with its checkered flooring, made to appear old.
They made additions to the home, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it. “The house was in good shape when we moved in,” says Nora, “but the bedrooms were really tiny and had low ceilings.” To compensate, they raised the ceilings and added large windows and doors to bring in natural light and showcase the surrounding nature.
Perhaps the biggest addition was their master bedroom suite that used to be a chicken coop. “We wanted an old structure for the add-on, so I looked up dismantled antique buildings and found a company that will take apart antique barns and build them back up at your location,” says Nora. The coop was built in 1857 and closely resembled the exterior of their home, blending the new structure with the old.
This look could not be pulled off without Nora’s sense of simplicity. “It’s a good thing to part with things,” says Nora. “The things that don’t fit anymore, I sell or give away. That prevents things from accumulating, as my tastes and style evolve.”
Creating a neutral canvas with her white slip covers allows her to easily decorate throughout the seasons with a few minor changes. “During winter, I bring in tartan wool pillows and change my artwork,” she says. “It changes the entire room.” This look ensures that your aesthetic won’t be static, but will instead change like the color of falling leaves in autumn.
Like Nora’s house? See the spotlight shine on her fall dining room!