Linen pillows, vintage finds, colorful buoys: Designer Carol Hartnett captures the essence of the coastal environment in her charming Boothbay shop.
Surrounded by islands and lighthouses, Boothbay Harbor is a midcoast magnet for tourists, fishing, and sailing. So much so, the town seems to be made up of half-boats, half-buildings. Much to our good fortune, it’s in one of these buildings we discovered the chic, colorful, and comforting Casual Interiors shop.
Carol Hartnett, owner and interior designer, says that her light-filled shop is a reflection of a passion for color and design she’s nurtured since childhood. Starting with the important task of designing furniture for her dolls, and moving on to help her mother to pick out fabrics and wall coverings, she has always been mesmerized with decorating and transforming interior spaces. When her mother gave her carte blanche to decorate a room in their home, there was no turning back.
She has been working as an interior designer for over 30 years, and has owned shops for 16. While the Boothbay location is primarily a retail space, it doubles as a wonderful showcase for prospective and current design clients, who can pick up on her coastal-meets- casual design sensibility while selecting fine linens, antique finds, and accessories for their homes. And get some great advice while they’re at it.
Hartnett’s design mission is simple: she fills Casual Interiors with what she loves. Her well-edited collection is inspired by nature and, of course, the sea just down the street. You’ll find classic, timeless pieces to withstand trends and lend visual interest to home or cottage.
She emphasizes to shop visitors and clients alike the importance of sustainable design and discourages them from buying short- lived, disposable products. “Nearly 10 million pieces of furniture and accessory items are discarded annually,” she says. “This is why upcycling and thoughtful design are so important to me.”
Not only eco-smart, the assortment of eclectic pieces made of everything from salvaged wood to vintage glass lend the kind of casual, lived-in charm we all seek in creating a well-loved home.
Hartnett loves nothing more than to travel off the beaten path to discover unique and vintage pieces she can upcycle and give a new lease on life. She also keeps a watchful eye on Maine and New England artisans, as illustrated by the school of reclaimed wooden fish (handcrafted by a Maine artist), the lobster buoy chandeliers and lamps she designs with a blacksmith’s help, elegant jewelry by local designer Christine Peters, and more.
Even in the modestly sized space, there’s always something new for repeat summer visitors. “It takes me no time to upcycle, swap product, and always offer my customers something fresh,” Hartnett says. Her smart merchandising includes loads of gifts for hostesses, brides-to-be, babies, you name it. From classic farmhouse-style ceramic platters to handcrafted pewter serving pieces, candles, and more, you’ll find charming things for all occasions, easily. Careful: you will most likely end up with something for yourself, too.
The passion for fine craftsmanship and attention to the tiniest of details is evident with her impeccably curated line of gorgeous bed linens from John Robshaw, Pine Cone Hill, and Libeco layered with elegant throws from Maine’s own Brahms Mount. Dash and Albert rugs last forever and lend unexpected color and a sense of the practical to any summer decorating theme.
Hartnett offers design services as well, which follow the same “less-is-more” principle as the shop. She’s passionate about living beautifully no matter what your budget is and can put together a room on a shoestring, blending old and new. Whether designing a large or small cottage, she’s guided by her belief in slow living, and creating spaces that are warm and relaxed.
In addition to Boothbay’s Casual Interiors, Hartnett just opened a second retail shop of the same name, nestled in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. It too is filled with the same lovely nautical-meets-country collection that invites you to kick back and relax.