In Focus

An interior designer’s guide to a transforming your home

Teleisha Thomas

Teleisha Thomas

June 2023
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Interior designer Zoe Murphy from Zoe Murphy Creative Office is a force for colour, art and unique design. Some of the most outstanding homes that we see at Jellis Craig are often those anchored deeply in individuality, and in no home is this more apparent than Interior Designer Zoe Murphy’s stunning (and recently sold by Jellis Craig Armadale) heritage Toorak home.

We visited Zoe in her home to discuss her tips on how to make your bedroom cosy, style open shelving, light a room and purchase art for your home. 

How to make your bedroom cozy

A calm and cosy room starts with the colour you paint your walls and ceiling. I always opt for darker, moody colours as opposed to white or light colours. Dark moody blue and green greys are a luxurious way to create a calming atmosphere.

Just like the rest of the home, layers of lighting are essential in the bedroom. Try to avoid too many overhead lights and rather keep light directional for tasked areas such as over drawers and cupboards. Wall lights are also a great choice for beside the bed for reading, as they free up space on your side tables to allow for candles and books.

Onto soft furnishings and I always opt for a luscious floor-to-ceiling curtain in a dark colour which will create softness and cosiness. In my master bedroom I’ve chosen a dark, green opaque linen which blocks out light and the length is designed to pool on the floor – adding to the luxury mood of the room. In terms of carpet, a high pile, soft, furry carpet is very inviting. I love the transition from floorboards throughout the rest of the home to high pile carpet in the bedrooms – it makes for the perfect transition from living space to sleeping space.

A hero art piece that is tranquil and soft can have a calming effect within the space. 

Finally, dressing your bed in warm linen matching sheets with a couple of sculptural cushions is a lovely way to finish off the room.


How to style open shelving

The tried and tested rule of odd numbers resounds when styling open shelving. This has something to do with the fact that things arranged in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable and effective than even-number things. Most of the time I don’t even realise I’ve used 3, 5 or 7 objects until I’ve taken a step back and taken it all in! Objects grouped in 3 seems to be the magic number, they really do flow and appeal visually.

Begin by placing three items on each shelf, then stand back and decide what, if anything needs adjusting – standing back and reviewing the vignette after each movement you make is essential. Layering two items melds them together and they become one item – such as a book and a candle. Objects are pleasing to the eye when they are arranged in triangles.

Objects are pleasing to the eye when they are arranged in triangles.


A group of objects with a variation of heights is also important for filling your space and adding interest. Trays and books are my go-to grounders and the point at which I always start. When you have a group of small items – say a candle, ceramic bowl and objet d’art – they can look lost on a big shelf so using a big tray or a stack of books as the basis for this arrangement can be a wonderful way to start. This can also add one more point of interest to your self and can really help to pull everything together. Ensure you also vary the height of the items displayed on yourself – don’t feel limited by the size of an object you want to display, instead try setting it on a riser to achieve your desired height.

Whilst height and size variation in your decorative objects is key, it is important to maintain some consistency. I achieve consistency through colours. A steady rhythm of colour spread throughout your shelving will look cohesive. I like to colour group shelves in their tonal value, sometimes adding a contrast colour for impact.

How to light a room

Lighting should never be an afterthought as the right lighting can have a huge impacts on your mood and emotions. Lighting has the ability to lift your spirits, to make you more relaxed or inspire your productivity. Light enlivens the little things.

I am a true believer that each room needs more than one source of light. Think layered illumination whereby each room has a mix of overhead, accent and task lighting.

In the living room, for example, you might begin by hanging a decorative ceiling fixture. You would then move to the outer perimeter of the room for downlighting that will gently wash the walls, curtains and art with warm, functional brightness.

Clever design. Seamless integration. Luxury finishes. The right lighting is essential in all rooms of your home.


Depending on the layout of the room, accent lights may be used to highlight art, table lamps could be placed on bench tops, floor lamps sit beside a couch or occasional chair and for extra ambiance, soft lighting from a candle is a truly luxurious addition.

The end goal is to create a contrast between the multiple sources of individual light and the darker spaces in between. I believe it is the subtle interplay between light and dark within a space that creates appeal.

There are some incredible light designs in the market, and I am a big believer in functional elements such as lighting acting as a form of art or interest within a home. Decorative lighting will not only brighten dark corners and create an ambiance, but it can also be a point of conversation.

Nowhere is layered illumination more prolific than in Zoe’s living and kitchen area.

My number one tip?

Don’t overdo the downlights. Whilst functional and completely necessary in some rooms of the home, an oversupply of downlights can flatten a space.

How to purchase art for your home.

Zoe Murphy 4

If there is one element that truly elevates a space, it is artwork. I adore art and the way that it puts personality and soul into a space. Art helps to create a feeling of movement, colour and diversity against all the static necessities that we must have within our homes.

Although we may be financially and mentally ready to buy a piece of art, actually knowing where to look and what to buy can be the hardest part and I often find that people are paralysed by indecision when it comes to purchasing art – often more so than almost any other piece for the home!

Every room needs a focal point – that first thing you notice when you walk into a space. Art can be an amazing focal point and the wonderful thing about art is that you can choose something that is less imposing if you already have a focal point or something more visually striking if your room needs a focal point. If you’re keen to have more than one piece of art in a room, there should be one hero piece and a secondary piece.

So, how do you actually go about finding (and falling in love with) art?

The first place I point my clients to is local galleries. You can ask to sign up to their databases for invitations to upcoming exhibitions, have a look in their stockroom, or visit their online showroom. Next, I suggest purchasing an art directory magazine with a list of galleries to visit. The NGV has an incredible selection of books on Australian artists.

Next, you want to narrow down the style you’re after.


If you’re choosing art for a bedroom, you might want art that is more subtle or peaceful. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a piece for a dining room, you may want something more dramatic or controversial to promote conversation. A lounge room may require something peaceful, and a kitchen something stimulating. Sometimes my art choice will dictate the colours and shapes in the room, such as wall colour, curtains, furniture, rugs or objects.

One important thing to remember about scale is that if you have a small room, one big piece of art can make the space feel bigger whereas lots of smaller pieces can make the room feel cluttered. What you put on your walls is a very personal choice, so don’t rush into it. Ask yourself what appeals about a piece – is it the colour, the subject or something else? I always say as soon as you’ve made a connection with a piece it’s a done deal.

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Zoe Murphy Creative Office offers interior design and styling for residential and commercial projects. If you would like to speak to Zoe about your next design project, visit her website to book a consult.

Zoe Murphy Creative Office

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