A Conversation With Joe Murphy
Safavieh’s head design guru talks about what’s hot - and what’s not—in home décor.
Joe, how did you come to join Safavieh?
I was hired in January 1996 to help get Safavieh into the furniture and decorative accessories business. Right from the start, we had the ambitious goal of growing Safavieh into a major player in the overall market for home furnishings. Our first complete home furnishings store was opened in Stamford, Conn., in 1996. Since then we’ve grown to 10 successful galleries in the tri-state area.
What did you do before joining Safavieh?
I operated my own high-end home furnishings store in the Hamptons for 18 years. I also worked for Conran’s and Ethan Allen before meeting Safavieh owner Michael Yaraghi. I was immediately impressed by Michael and his vision to create a unique, special approach to the home furnishings business.
What was the essence of that vision?
We didn’t want to be just another furniture company. We wanted the brand to be an authentic expression of our belief in affordable quality, craftsmanship and beauty. Our launch was about purpose, and we figured profit would follow purpose.
How have tastes changed in the last 18 years?
Everything has gotten crisper and cleaner. For example, most upholstered furniture no longer has a skirt. The skirts have been removed for an open, fresh look. Welts have been replaced with tidy French seams. Chairs and sofas with big arms often seem out of place and heavy today; small, delicate arms are moving to the forefront.
Are customers savvier now than when you opened the first store?
Customers are more likely to know the styles and looks they’re seeking. Our stores are staffed with professional interior designers; their roles have shifted to helping people apply the items and styles they love to their life and situation.
What’s your proudest moment at Safavieh?
When we opened our store on Broadway and 20th Street. We needed a strong furniture presence in the city, and our Broadway store has been a run-away hit.
Do you have pet peeves when it comes to decorating?
Loads! Here are three: end tables that are too small. Replace your tiny end tables. Two: a sofa placed on a room’s longest wall. It’s probably a boring room. Three: overuse of patterns. Go easy on pattern and let people be the stars.
What’s the next hot color?
Benjamin Moore Blackberry Wine 2069-20 High Gloss.
How would you describe your own taste in home décor?
Modern with an edge.
What are your favorite pieces of furniture in your own home?
The Sullivan bookcase by Hickory Chair grabs me because of its look and versatility.
Removable shelves slide in and out and the base works horizontally or vertically, changing
the dimensions and look more than you’d think. Plus, the Sullivan adds a touch of industrial
chic to my modern space.
I also love my 1860 solid oak English dining table with four carved urn pedestals from
an English ship, HSS Luna. It plays well with my more modern furniture. Currently I’m using
the 111/2 -foot long table as a desk. I love having a vast work surface!
What’s your number one piece of advice for someone about to decorate a room?
Start with a floor plan. Even if you’re starting off buying just a single piece—say, a sofa or
bed—a floor plan is your guide over time. Safavieh offers free design services, so getting
the floor plan is easy.