Interior designer Nora Murphy opens The Little Shop in Chester

“I was driving on route 9 and passing through Chester, heading for the ferry.” Catching his eye, a red “For Rent” sign. Pausing to look out the window, her imagination kicked into high gear. She could see the future of the store. His future. “I’ve always dreamed of having a boutique,” ​​she says. “In the past, whenever I inquired about a space, I was always late to the party.” Not this time.

Fast forward to September 1, when The Little Shop had its official opening. The two-room space has seen constant activity ever since. “Doing it in this lovely destination village is perfect for fans of my brand,” Murphy says. “Not only can they come to the shop, but also discover Chester’s restaurants, galleries and shops. They will love it here.

Interior designer Nora Murphy has opened her store The Little Shop in Chester.

Courtesy of Nora Murphy

Although small in size, The Little Shop has style galore. Murphy brought architectural elements such as a transom, corbels and wood salvaged from an 1888 Victorian home in Mystic. These choices are a nod to Chester’s architecture, as is a nautical mural.

“I wanted to capture the vibe of our location – the 19th century buildings, sailboats on the Connecticut River, and farmland.” As with Murphy’s own home, The Little Shop attracts antiques and vintage finds, as well as seashells and bird’s nests. “Things of nature make spaces accessible, warm and welcoming,” she said. “Its important to me.”

It wasn’t just a shortcut that landed Murphy in Chester. Rather, it was the trip of a lifetime that brought her to the red For Lease sign in the window.

Interior designer Nora Murphy has opened her store The Little Shop in Chester.

Interior designer Nora Murphy has opened her store The Little Shop in Chester.

Courtesy of Nora Murphy

Originally from Fairfield, Murphy began dreaming of interior design as a child. “There was a New York socialite, Mrs. Gilman, who spent her summers at Sasco Beach at her ‘country house,'” Murphy recalled. “My mother used to help her organize parties in her 18th century house. The planning for the party took place in the Cape Cod cottage that served as Ms. Gilman’s artist’s studio. Accompanying her mother, Murphy was “a shy little girl who would sit there and take everything about Mrs. Gilman’s aesthetic like osmosis”. She was drawn to the home’s blend of luxury, both comfortable and relaxed. “It was something to strive for.”

And strive she did. Murphy attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. After graduation, she worked in architectural renderings, illustrations, and visual merchandising. There was a stint as design project manager for the Polo Ralph Lauren Home collection. Then Ethan Allen took notice and hired Murphy as executive vice president of style and publicity. A turning point in the economy saw Murphy leave his post.

Farooq Kathwari, CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors, right, tours the display planning department at the company's headquarters on Mill Plain Road in Danbury, Conn. Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. At left, Anne Lekow.  The center is Nora Murphy, a style consultant.
Farooq Kathwari, CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors, right, tours the display planning department at the company’s headquarters on Mill Plain Road in Danbury, Conn. Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. At left, Anne Lekow. The center is Nora Murphy, a style consultant.Carole Kaliff

Efforts to regain his mojo led Murphy to create a vision board – a compass with aspirations including a website, blog, e-magazine, e-commerce, book, and brick-and-mortar store. In 2011, Murphy created the award-winning Nora Murphy Country House website and blog, inspired by her own Newtown country home and extensive gardens.

Murphy’s personal brand has taken off, with her blog attracting a global audience. The Hunt Club e-commerce component of the compass came into play. Television station WFSB invited Murphy to become their on-air lifestyle contributor for the “Better Connecticut” series. In 2018 her book “Nora Murphy’s Country House Style, Making Your Home A Country House” was published. She became a member of an artists’ collective in Norwich. Yet something was missing.

In 2020, Murphy’s family downsized, selling their beloved Newtown estate and moving into Hadlyme’s 1820 Samuel Brooks home on the Connecticut River. Suddenly, Murphy found himself skirting Chester en route to the ferry. “There is something almost magical about the village,” she said. Indeed, waiting for it was the fulfillment of a 12-year-old dream in the making, The Little Shop.

Interior designer Nora Murphy has opened her store The Little Shop in Chester.

Interior designer Nora Murphy has opened her store The Little Shop in Chester.

Courtesy of Nora Murphy

Rather than rest on his laurels, Murphy has other projects in the works. This fall, she is photographing eight country houses for a book due out in 2024. Next, “I also like the influence of European country houses – French, English, Spanish, Hungarian. We’ll see how many books I have in me.

For now, she embraces the community of Chester and welcomes visitors to The Little Shop. Recently, a customer approached Murphy and said, “I could live in your store.” The woman might as well have complimented the little girl who had soaked up the ambiance of Mrs. Gilmore’s artist’s studio. Murphy replied, “That’s the best thing you can say to me.”

The Little Shop is located at 11 Main Street in Chester.

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