Peek into a Moody Cumberland Home with a Sense of Material Tactility

Interior designer Samantha S. Pappas draws from “the texture of experience” in this wooded Cumberland haven

MGM Builders accented the facade, painted with Farrow and Ball’s Off Black, with copper flashing, stone veneer, and wood doors. Exterior lights are from The Copper Smith.
Over the living room’s mantel is “Lucht X” by Dietland Vander Schaff from Portland Art Gallery, which looks over a coffee table and swivel chairs from RH, a sofa from Maiden Home, and a rug from Loloi. The stools at the Plain & Fancy kitchen island, which is illuminated by pendants by Allied Maker, are from O and G Studio.
Kader Boly’s “Migration” hangs in the living room.
Lynn Sanders’s “Dream River,” from Gregg Irby Gallery, presides over a seating area in the office featuring Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams swivel chairs and a West Elm coffee table, while nearby is a desk from Bowen Liu Studio.
In a guest room, an Anthropologie bed dressed in Hale Mercantile bedding provides relaxation, alongside LeKrazy Horse accordion-arm wall sconces and a painting by David Ryan.
In the primary bedroom, a Walker bed and Meyer dressers from Shoppe Amber Interiors are illuminated by an Allied Maker pendant and O and G table lamps.
The kitchen’s hood and backsplash are covered in Clé Tile, while the island is Cambria Ironsbridge Quartz. The faucets are by Waterstone. The painting to the right is by artist Kathy Soles, and came from the Willard Gallery in South Portland.

“The texture of experience,” said the artist Willem de Kooning, “is prior to everything else.” Texture, of course, is composed of everything we perceive through our senses: color, light, touch, smell, sound. It is what makes things real to us because we can touch them or perceive them directly in some way. This concept is something that designer Samantha S. Pappas knows a lot about.

For this house in a new residential development of Cumberland, Pappas loaded up on texture. Just step into the powder room to get a sense of how important this element was throughout her overall design of the home. The backsplash here is made of Fantasy Brown marble—actually a cross between marble and quartzite quarried in Rajasthan—with dramatic veining that creates “a lot of movement,” she says. She juxtaposed it with a wood vanity, a colored and sealed concrete sink, and a leather-framed mirror. “It makes you want to touch everything,” says Pappas. “A lot of these materials speak to nature and the surroundings. I take a lot of inspiration from nature.”

The same goes for an office-slash-lounge that Pappas enveloped in inky black grasscloth. In the center is a seating area grounded by a jute rug and barrel-back chairs in a patterned weave, while by the wall is a desk made of beautifully figured walnut. Every room exudes a sense of material tactility.

The clients, a couple in their thirties, had lived in a very different sort of environment prior to purchasing this house. That residence had featured bright colors and, recalls Pappas, who also designed that project, “a lot of blush tones.” But the couple had an adventurous spirit and, she explains, “They wanted something different, more moody. She also comes from French ancestry, so she was hoping to have pieces that felt old-world to her but were still modern. I found that very fun because you’re not glued to one style.”

Working with a design and layout created by MGM Builders, Pappas concentrated on the moody piece of the equation on the exterior of the 2,860-square-foot, three-bedroom structure. “I like dark exteriors in wooded environments,” she says, to explain the black clapboards. “The landscaping and the snow in winter pop against the black, and the copper picks up lots of elements of the outdoors when it patinates.” Warming the potential severity of the black, a large fir front door and stone cladding at the base of the pillars flanking it also reference the sylvan setting.

In Pappas’s signature style, consistency and continuity are just as important as texture. “Every room can have its own personality,” she explains, “but there is an overall palette and design throughout the house. It helps with a sense of calmness, not being torn in different directions by a busyness of mind, especially with an open floor plan.” Continuity shows up in many ways, starting with the room envelopes, which display just a handful of related, nature-inspired shades: dark green, brown, taupe, and gray.

There is also consistency in the use of natural materials—knotty and figured wood, slate, handmade tiles, honed stones—and in the aesthetic blend that dictated Pappas’s choices of furniture and objects. “It’s a good mix of old and new,” she says. “The client didn’t want everything to feel brand-new. Even the tiles—they’re handmade to look older.”

This, of course, meant investing in high-quality materials. “Everything in this project,” says Taylor Manning, construction manager at MGM, “from the engineered framing package to the paint and siding to the fixtures and finishes, was premium product.” The project was pretty straightforward for the most part, he acknowledges. But certain aspects required extra attention and care.

Tile is a prime example. The slate tiles to be installed in the entryway “were almost an inch thick,” Manning remembers. “The heights didn’t quite match.” So, creating a level floor and sealing the tile were not standard procedure. Pappas’s design also called for a range hood wrapped in handmade glazed tile. The edges didn’t come glazed, however, so they had to cut another piece to create a clean return wherever there was a corner.

All the paint came from the English company Farrow and Ball. This required thoughtful application, notes Manning. “It was impossible to just touch up. If there was a blemish, you would have to repaint the entire wall.” MGM’s team also did all the work on the railing details, stone veneer, and copper roof sections, which had to seamlessly flow into the clapboard surfaces of the exterior. All these efforts paid off, however. The sense of depth throughout, from the organic colors to details such as the finishing strips on the tile returns, are all part of creating de Kooning’s “texture of experience.”

The consistent fusion of old and new is most apparent in the furnishings. In the dining room, for instance, a handmade bench and chairs by Portland furniture maker Kyle Kidwell are contemporary, but the chairs are upholstered in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French flour sacks, and the table itself is a French country antique.

Industrial touches provide the modern quotient, such as a metal console in the same space and a double-shaded chandelier hanging over the table. Two chairs by the console have metal spindles on their backs and stretchers. “The industrial elements pull the aesthetic out of being stuck in a rustic or vintage feel,” says Pappas. “The clients didn’t want anything too farmhouse looking, or too industrial either. This works with the mix of old and new and doesn’t fit into a mold.” Additionally, notes Pappas, “The curved seats of the chairs and the mirror over the console soften the metal and the right angles of the console.”

The organic textures and continuity of theme occasionally get a pop of color from art that Pappas selected for the spaces. And occasionally there is whimsy. The clients gave Pappas carte blanche in the guest room. Deep blue lampshades on the accordion sconces by the bed and wine-colored shades change things up, as does a tapestry-like upholstery fabric depicting a blithe garden-fairy-like figure on two French fauteuils.

The consistency of tone and palette throughout the house impart a sense of being calm and grounded. Although individual pieces—a tile wall, a light fixture, a painting—retain their individual character, none feels like it is standing out and saying, “Look at me!” Rather, Pappas deftly balances the ensemble of furniture, finishes, materials, and mood to create a single experience with, yes, its own sensual texture.