Leslie Murphy, the owner and creative director of Murphy Maude Interiors, creates gorgeous spaces that mix sophistication with comfort and drama with minimalism, for thoughtfully layered rooms that invite you to stay a while. She believes that the impact and beauty of great design should not be limited to the very rich or a select few, and she puts her money where her mouth is. She has built her business from a small boutique business to a dynamic full-service firm that caters to many different budgets and visions. This residential interior design firm also boasts kitchen and bath specialist services, computer-aided space planning, construction drafting, home staging and even a custom “fluff and puff” (read on for more on what that is)! Needless to say, we are delighted to introduce our newest interior designer crush, Leslie Murphy. We asked her to describe her design aesthetic, let us in on some tricks of the trade and give us a glimpse of her stunning portfolio. We hope you enjoy!
What is your design aesthetic and how do you translate that to a client’s home?
I think my personal style could be described as sophisticated with a dash of the unexpected! My clients are diverse in terms of their preferences and needs, but they largely seek me out if they are looking for a clean, elegant design and need someone who is a good steward of their money and an advocate for them in the process. My goal is to design a space that reflects each client’s own personal energy. Whether the look is contemporary or more of an updated traditional style, I tend to use clean colors and neutral palettes as a foundation and then layer objects of interest or pops of color for a little adventure and drama. I also love lighting installations that involve multiple lights and artful placing instead of the traditional linear installations, and I am currently a big fan of wallpapers — especially geometrics!
Tell us a bit about your background in design.
I have a longstanding passion for art and design. My background in business and education (and a prior career in higher education) actually assisted me in building my full-service interior design business, because I understood the importance of a community of learning and education. While I have always had great vision around what I want to accomplish with any project, I needed assistance from technical professionals at first. Five years after starting the business, I now have a team of six employees and relationships with various consultants who provide services to our clients as a part of the overall Murphy Maude Interiors customer experience! I am proud to work with professionals who are ASID and NKBA accredited and have accomplished major milestones in their careers. We learn from each other every day. This collaboration makes us quite different than your typical designer or decorator since we offer substantial technical services in addition to style consulting.
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment, and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
I love the new emphasis on utilizing neutrals, black and white, and warm raw wood tones in the palette. I call them “the new neutrals.”
What has been your most challenging project to date and why? How did it help you grow as a designer?
In the past, the “Do It Yourself” clients have proven challenging. Any time a client wishes to limit your exposure to the project in an effort to control design costs, the end result becomes impossible to manage. There are ways to help these clients, but clear parameters and expectations must be set on the front end and we are working hard to find the best way to serve this community.
In recognition of the desire some people have to “do it themselves,” we are developing a semi-custom design program to help provide the tools for people to succeed in making their own guided design choices. The program includes a structured number of design hours, access to the trade products through our password-protected web portal and a limited number of trips to our 7,000-square-foot warehouse full of to-the-trade products to access designer products and more.
This approach is healthy for the client’s budget, and it also alleviates the liability of purchasing and receiving items for us! In the end, the homeowner can decide whether to proceed based on our suggestions or use them merely as an inspiration and a road map forward.
What brings you the most professional joy?
Working with the talented people in my business — whom I love and whom I love to see succeed — and collaborating with so many creative people is incredibly fulfilling. However, the most professional joy that I experience in my life comes from seeing my clients’ delight through the process and the happiness their new environment can bring.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from a multitude of sources: conversations with other designers and clients, travel and exposure to diverse designs and learning from other design professionals and industry leaders. I believe having an attitude of always learning is so important in continuing to develop as a professional designer.
Do you have a favorite space in the home to design?
It is so hard to pick a favorite! Over the last five years, I have worked on a number of children’s rooms and have absolutely loved the process. I feel the engagement of the child in the process is good for them and opens their creative imagination. It is always a “feel good” part of the project to see a baby girl so excited about her animal friends on the wall who will be wishing her good night and welcoming her to each new day. Or to see a young girl move from childhood to early teenage years and to be so proud of her updated and more sophisticated environment. It is also a great place to add a little whimsy and imagination! When children have fun and get excited about the design process, it can also be formative in terms of what they pursue as an adult.
Who have been your industry mentors and role models and why?
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting designers Kathy Anderson of Anderson Design Studio and Lynn Grubbs of Red Leaf Interiors, who work in Nashville, TN and beyond. Lynn was so helpful to me when I expanded my business in the Nashville area, and I love her amazing attitude and inclusive professional style. When I really needed mentorship, Kathy took the time to have lunch with me and chat about the design business. I find it both kind and motivating when busy, talented people take time out of their day to help a colleague.
Although I don’t know her personally, I am a big fan of Lori Paranjape of Mrs. Paranjape, and I absolutely love her new line of papers for Mitchell Black. She is also a wonderful resource to other designers on social media, covering hot topics and providing valuable advice.
Share one designer secret with us regular folk.
My tip to clients who want to shift their room design concept from good to great is not to short-change the details that make the design. Get the good pillows! One go-to place to find semi-custom brands is Ryan Studio. Buy the good books too, the ones that are thick and heavy and interesting with lovely photography. Chantal Johnson has a great selection at 20twelve from TeNouse and Assouline. If you don’t feel confident choosing the small finishing touches, hire a designer to come and “fluff and puff” your house. Most of us who have access to lots of decor products will be happy to come to your home for a minimal fee and bring you some items to try out. That way you can keep what you like and return what doesn’t work. It is also a great way to see if you might like to work with the designer on future projects.
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If you could choose one designer to redo your home right now, who would it be?
My current first choice is April Tomlin Interiors. April recently redesigned the home of a well-known Nashville-based blogger, Happily Grey. April’s work is gorgeous. I hope she does a line of lighting at some point because she does this so well.
Hypothetical: You have to choose only three colors to use throughout your home. What are the three colors?
Black, white and raw wood
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Elegant, authentic, dramatic, sophisticated & adventurous
Thank you to Sarah Rossi of Sélavie Photography for the beautiful images of Leslie’s work!
Thank you, Leslie, for sharing your insights, inspirations and impressively diverse design portfolio. To learn more about Murphy Maude Interiors or to contact Leslie, visit murphymaudeinteriors.com.
See who else we’re crushing on in our interior design archives. Click here and enjoy a look around!