On Cumberland Foreside, creative pairings and rustic wood touches punch up a neutral scheme.
In the Marshall family, there’s a phrase for design schemes that could use some oomph: “You’ve got to Nikki it up.” Nikki being Nicola Manganello, the owner of the Yarmouth-based construction, renovation, and interior design business Nicola’s Home, who is known for her inventive rooms. Turning her name into a verb could mean sliding upholstered armchairs up to a kitchen island, encasing a range hood in barn boards or turquoise copper, fashioning vintage-style dressers into bathroom vanities, or “aging” new drywall with salvaged windows and reclaimed wood paneling. “She puts things together that make a statement, yet appear so simple and comfortable,” says Susie Marshall, who, with her husband, John, owns a home in the Maeve’s Way subdivision Manganello developed on Cumberland Foreside. “What you notice initially is the warmth, and then all the magnificent details start to sink in.”
The first time Manganello weighed in on a design decision in the Marshall household, she was five years old. Susie and John were decorating their Christmas tree when Manganello, a family friend, stopped by. “We asked her what she thought, and Miss Artistic Eye responds, ‘Oh, it’s just beautiful,’” says Susie, imitating Manganello’s monotone and tight smile. “She knew our tinsel was bad!” After Manganello launched Nicola’s Home in 2000, the Marshalls and their four daughters kept a close eye on her career. “All six of us would go check out these big renovations she was doing on Route 88 and think, wouldn’t this be cool?” says John. Then, in 2013, he drove down Maeve’s Way and saw a wooded lot for sale on the north side of the subdivision, which had just been opened up for development. Manganello had designed a spec home for the site and was getting ready to break ground on the construction. “We told her we’d take it before we even saw the plans,” he says.
At the time, the Marshalls were living a half-mile away in a 1800s Greek Revival farmhouse where they’d raised their family. “We were ready for our empty nest/retirement home, and we loved the idea of being tucked among the trees on this property,” says Susie, who hails from Bethel. “It feels like we’re in a ski house.” As for the layout Manganello had dreamed up, it seemed tailor-made for the Marshalls. The open kitchen-dining-living area encompasses a sunroom that immerses the couple in the woodsy landscape, and there is a cozy family room to curl up in at night. There’s a first-floor owners’ suite and three bedrooms upstairs, one for each married daughter who visits from out of state. Over the garage is John’s lounge, furnished with a reclaimed wood-paneled kitchenette and black granite bar, and a bunk room rendered in the same paneling, for the couple’s four grandchildren.
“Marmie’s favorite color is wood,” the Marshalls’ four-year-old grandson recently observed, summing up Susie’s taste. Manganello zeroed in on the same sentiment when choosing the home’s interior finishes. The salvaged barn boards seen in the rooms above the garage are repeated on the kitchen’s range hood, and weathered barn beams flank the granite chimney in the family room. The hand-scraped engineered oak flooring that runs through most of the house is also used on accent walls in the guestrooms, owners’ bathroom, and upstairs hall. Gray-toned faux bois wallpaper in the owners’ bedroom, family room, and on the sunroom ceiling provides an artful perspective on the theme.
Manganello has an aversion to drywall in large quantity, a look she says feels “too new.” She began her career rehabbing nineteenth- and early twentieth- century homes and has made it her mission to bring the character of those places to modern construction. In the Marshalls’ guestrooms, the wood walls, positioned like giant headboards behind the beds, are juxtaposed with small-, medium-, and large-scale paisley wallpapers from the same line, creating the pieced-together look of an antique farmhouse but with a more streamlined sensibility. Nickel-gap paneling and vintage-style steel windows, placed on either side of two doorways, set off the foyer. In an adjacent hallway, a pair of salvaged eyebrow windows fused into a jewel-like orb punctuate the same paneling. Incorporating old or old-looking pieces into the bones of a new home “gives it patina,” says Manganello.
White ceilings are another no-no in Manganello’s world—“too cold,” says the designer, who worked with a palette of mostly beiges in the Marshalls’ home. In the primary living spaces, sand-colored ceilings are matched with slightly rosier walls. Warm “greige” crowns the bunk room and John’s lounge, which has darker taupe-gray walls. In the bathrooms, main stairwell, and upstairs hallway, Manganello combined various khaki and smoke shades, alternating the canopy and wall colors. As you move through the house, the gradations are “barely noticeable, and yet mood changing,” she says, like stepping in and out of light and shadow. “There needs to be a connection between the rooms so they flow, but you can’t paint everything the same or the house will feel flat.”
In the kitchen-living area, crisscrossing hemlock beams were faux-finished by Portland-based Chameleon Coatings to enhance the grain. They pick up the mottled tones in the handcrafted and painted clay backsplash, whitewashed oak cabinetry, and the faux bois wallpaper. Against this nuanced backdrop, Manganello layered on neutral furnishings in rich textures and unexpected pairings, creating more energy. In the sunroom, subtly patterned linen sofas and armchairs circle a massive ottoman snuggled into a knit wrapping. The lattice-like design on the knitting is reiterated in the room’s sisal carpeting and on printed armchairs in the family room. In the dining area, outdoorsy wicker armchairs surround a distressed pine farm table. And next to the kitchen’s Cararra marble island, damask-patterned stools resemble living room wing chairs.
“I don’t like the term ‘decorator,’ which I think implies something formulaic, like you pull a coordinating fabric, wallpaper, and trim piece out of a book,” says Manganello. “What we try to do is pull from far-reaching places to create homes that look like they’ve evolved over time.” The lighting in the Marshalls’ home, for example, encompasses an Italian-influenced forged-steel chandelier in the sunroom, 1950s-esque slatted ash pendants over the kitchen island, a contemporary coiled bronze chandelier in the dining area, and industrial-style steel-and-wood lanterns in the hallways. The bathroom vanities also run the gamut, from a marble-topped carved wood chest to a glass-front pine cabinet with a limestone counter to a painted wood sideboard with cabriole legs-heirlooms, you might imagine, passed down from fashionable grandmothers.
In the summer and on holidays, the whole Marshall clan gathers at the home, which Manganello designed to resemble “a cottage-farmhouse,” with a steel roof sloping down to a wide porch and row of shuttered windows. A windowed cupola and Douglas fir carriage house doors distinguish the barn-like garage. Last year, the grandchildren sorted out the Christmas sleeping arrangements in early November. “They get so excited to be together in the bunk room, and top bunk or bottom is a hot topic of conversation,” says Susie, who is partial to the lower bunk on the gable side. “Sometimes I sneak in there at night so I can fall asleep by the window,” she says. “I wanted a mountain cottagey home, and here I feel like Heidi”—ensconced in a cozy attic, marveling at the stars twinkling through the trees.