When it comes to the design process, interior designer Zoe Murphy believes that a collaborative relationship with her clients is key in achieving authentic designs. As the proud founder of London-based design studio Stealth Design, Zoe’s creations are all diverse and unique but tied together by ‘low key luxe’ – championing spaces that have that certain je ne sais quoi. As Zoe describes it ‘it’s the idea that everything is comfortable and balanced but it has special elements’.
Here, Zoe tells us how she’s eyeing up our Papa Bear chair and why her top interior design tip is to ‘buy once and buy well’…
Is there a signature Stealth Design look? If so, how would you describe it?
I have to confess I’m not really a fan of a signature look – I’m just not the sort of person or designer to impose their own look on clients. I’m much more interested in designing a scheme in collaboration with my clients – responding to both the place and the person. When clients become involved in the design, it tends to produce a much more effective and powerful result.
But there is one thing I try to achieve in all my schemes – and that’s what I call low key luxe. It’s the idea that everything is very comfortable and balanced but it has special or luxe elements – that can be a treasured piece of furniture or perhaps even that the space has been designed exactly for your needs.
In terms of furniture, what design classics standout for you?
I love classic furniture – it tends to be classic for a reason.
We have Hans Wenger wishbone chairs around our kitchen table and they are so comfortable – essential given how much time I spend sitting in them!
I have also just bought a Noguchi coffee table after being desperate to buy one for years. I’m pleased to report it’s even more elegant and beautiful than I thought it was – literally perfect. Even though classic furniture can be expensive, it was definitely worth spending the money as I can imagine having both the chairs and table for the rest of my life.
What would be your top interior design tip?
Buy once and buy well is my motto.
Focus on the space first. Spend all your money on designing the shell, then wait and when your finances have recovered, buy the furniture you really want to fill it. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap stuff – it’s generally shoddy made, in questionable circumstances and won’t stand the test of time.
What does home mean to you?
Home is an adaptable comfy mash up. It’s literally all things to all people – somewhere to come home and fall asleep on the sofa or somewhere to kick off your shoes and dance around the kitchen. But then the rest of my family have different needs and priorities – it has to be all things to them too.
What are your three most treasured pieces?
That’s easy – today’s list is:
A Banksy I bought years ago – I still feel it’s kind of wrong that it’s not on the street but on our wall but it holds so many memories of the glory days of street art when I’d walk down our Shoreditch street and another killer piece had gone up overnight;
A set of library shelves made by Minty inherited from my great aunt and uncle, which don’t sound inspiring but are amazing and are single most enquired about item in our house; and
A pair of JBL floor speakers which were my husband’s Dad’s in the 1970s – we listen to a lot of vinyl and they sound fantastic so they were worth lugging back from Australia in our hand luggage.
Just a warning – the list might be different tomorrow!
A perfect Sunday is…
Getting up late after a brilliant night out with friends and going skateboarding in the park with my son (me badly, him with panache) to get rid of the cobwebs. At the end of a wintery day I’d be lying on the sofa by the fire reading the paper – or, if I’m honest and more likely these days, catching up with Instagram and the design blogs … In the summer I’d be doing the same thing lying in the hammock under the fig tree!
If you could choose one piece from Layer, what would it be and where would it live?
Top of my wish list is a Papa Bear chair. It would live in that sweet spot in the front room, positioned between those JBL speakers, with something old school New York-ish (Velvet Underground, the Strokes, Galaxie 500) on the turntable.