Peek Into a Casually Luxurious Forever Home on Casco Bay
Blending a variety of textures and materials, Samantha Pappas keeps it coastal but not kitschy
In Kara and Marc Perrelli’s Falmouth Foreside home, there is a single, shiny nod to what is traditionally thought of as coastal design. It’s so subtle, you’d be hard-pressed to find it, unless you were lucky enough to spend a night in the spacious bunk room. There it is, in the niche built above each bunk to house a reading lamp: blue wallpaper striped with silver lobsters. This clever use of an iconic Maine symbol exemplifies Samantha Pappas’s approach to the interior design of this family home. By layering various textures—linen, leather, wood, rattan, cane, and stone—and accenting the spaces with local art, she created a stylish yet relaxed retreat celebrating its enviable Casco Bay location, but with nary a buoy or whale in the mix. “The color palette throughout the house is very coastal—blues, greens, and white—but I didn’t want it to be too kitschy/beachy, because that’s not their personality,” says Pappas. “The lobster wallpaper is the kitschy-ist thing we have, but it’s hidden away.”
Early in the nearly four-year-long project, Pappas was recommended to the Perellis by their builder, Falmouth-based Brush and Hammer Builders. The designer–client partnership was a great fit from the get-go. “We had an in-person meeting at the beginning of COVID, and we asked her to work on a couple of rooms—the kitchen and the family room—to start,” says Kara Perrelli. “We just loved everything that she picked.” With eight children between them and a busy life in Northern Virginia, the couple decided to place the design of the entire house in Pappas’s hands.
At the end of a narrow lane, the home’s exterior reflects the classic New England vernacular, with a stone foundation and fireplace, wood-shingle siding and roof, gables, and dormers. Next to the two-car garage, a recessed door leads to a generously sized mudroom/entry hall with equally spacious built-ins by Maine Cabinet Company for storing coats, shoes, and outdoor gear. One of two staircases leads from the hall to the bunk room and bath. Down the hallway on the main floor is one of three guest rooms with en suite baths, and a powder room. The latter is wallpapered with a fanciful design by Abnormals Anonymous (also the source of the lobster wallpaper) that evokes undersea plant life. The serene guest room features rattan-front nightstands, paintings by Maine artists Dietlind Vander Schaaf and Jeffrey T. Fitzgerald, a wave-patterned Angela Adams rug, and a striking modern ceiling pendant that recalls a cascading waterfall.
The hallway opens onto the heart of the house—the living room/dining room/kitchen—where windows on three sides offer spectacular views of boat-dotted Falmouth harbor and the Casco Bay islands beyond. To keep the sight lines unobstructed, Pappas chose low-profile, clean-lined furnishings in muted colors. In the living room area, a white linen RH sofa is flanked by two pairs of armchairs: two butterscotch leather swivel chairs, also from RH, and a pair of oak spindle-back chairs by Portland-based Kidwell Fabrications. On the opposite side of the space, gray rattan dining chairs surround a white oak trestle dining table from Huston and Company in Kennebunkport. The rocky shoreline’s hues are echoed in the fieldstone fireplace, the pale gray stools at the kitchen island, and the honed marble kitchen backsplash, and punctuated by the bright brass pendant lighting, kitchen faucet, and cabinet pulls.
“I like combining all the different textures, because I think that’s what highlights them,” says Pappas. “If everything was linen, it just gets lost and kind of boring; having the leather next to it makes you want to touch everything.” Soft, waffle-weave throw blankets add even more tactile appeal. “Those are the things that make it feel like a home instead of just a styled space, and you can see that the Perrellis use them—I just love that.”
A closer look at the details of Pappas’s design reveals linear patterns: pale teal cross-hatching on the custom linen cushions of the spindle-back chairs, bolder stripes on the Erin Flett pillows, and a God’s-eye-like design in the gray and white living room rug. But curvy elements are at play, too. The living room seating faces a round coffee table topped with Carrara marble, and cushions for the window seats framing the fireplace are upholstered in the same swoopy blue and white fabric as those on the dining chairs across the room.
From the spacious kitchen, a second staircase leads to another guest room, a bedroom for the Perrellis’ youngest child, and the primary bedroom. In the guest room, Pappas blended elegance and whimsy, as well as more texture, by centering the bed—with its curved cane headboard and velvet upholstered base—under a collection of colorful sardine-can paintings by New England artist Julie Bowers Murphy. The room shares a Jack-and-Jill bath with the young daughter’s bedroom.
In the luxurious primary suite, Pappas kept the palette and furniture style minimalist to maximize the view and the space. The gray hue of the wall color—Benjamin Moore’s Shoreline—is echoed in the sleek, upholstered four-poster bed, the bedding, and the drapes. A pair of fawn velvet barrel chairs facing the water offer a cozy spot to relax with morning coffee or an evening glass of wine. “We wouldn’t have thought a seating area would fit in that space, but Samantha did, and we use it all the time,” says Kara. In the adjoining bathroom, pearlized shell-framed mirrors over the double vanity are another subtle coastal reference. At the same time, the functional but small walk-in closet provides an example of how the build and design team met the project’s challenges.
Brush and Hammer, along with Waltman Architectural Design of Yarmouth, had to deal with the constraints of the narrow lot. The original home was built as a cottage in 1888, when the neighborhood was originally developed as a summer colony. “The architect’s first design that met our needs was five feet deeper,” says Marc. “But we realized that, with setbacks and everything else, that had to change, and that’s when every space started to matter.” It was important to the Perellis for the home to accommodate their large family and eventually grandchildren, and they decided that a large second-floor landing mattered more than a bigger closet. “We wanted each space to be livable,” says Kara. “For example, we didn’t want a formal dining room. We really wanted to live in all the spaces.”
Pappas’s background as an engineer helped her manage the space constraints, which also impacted the layout of the home’s lower level. A casual family room with an enormous sectional sofa and a table for puzzles and games has a wall of windows facing the water, as do a third guest room and Kara’s good-sized office. To make the guest room work, Pappas furnished it with a full-size bed, which enabled her to fit in a nightstand, and chose narrow double doors for the closet instead of a single door. She also managed to squeeze in a laundry room with a sink. But Marc’s office is comparatively small and windowless, which is a continual source of amusement. “It was hilarious,” he says. “Every time we got together to discuss the project, I found out that something else had happened that would impact that space.” At the end of the day, though, it was a small price to pay for a home gym that also boasts a water view: “The place that we are both in every day is the gym, and the fact that we have that view of the ocean from the basement level, which was a big deal for us, is really nice,” Marc says.
He wasn’t initially so amenable when Kara called to tell him that Pappas wanted to wallpaper the ceiling in one of the guest rooms. “I loved all the bedrooms, but that one wasn’t my favorite,” Marc says. “However, once she did what she wanted to do, I loved it that much more, and it might even be my favorite now.” Pappas, who ended up choosing everything in the house, down to the plates and silverware, says she prefers to design entire homes over just one or two rooms. “She sent me the photo of that wallpaper, and I just said, ‘I trust you,’” says Kara. “As time went on, we really trusted all of her selections.”
The Perrellis plan to eventually spend more time in Falmouth, where Kara grew up and where her mother still lives, about a mile away. “We could not be more thrilled with the house. It’s our happy place, our final landing pad,” Kara says.
Pappas and her husband have a daughter the same age as the Perrellis’ youngest child, and the two couples have become friends. “As far as clients, they were incredible to work with,” says Pappas. “I don’t want someone to come to me because they want to recreate something they’ve seen that I’ve done. I want to create a home that is specific to those people, and that’s what we did here. If you met them, you would see that they fit right into this space. And that’s always the goal. I want people to love it because it’s theirs.”