When you open the door into the Maine Cottage furniture store in Annapolis, you might feel like kicking off your shoes and snuggling into a vividly patterned sofa. Around you are Shaker-style tables and chairs drenched in colors with evocative names such as Wave, Pistachio and Lemon Ice. Smell the sea salt candle in the air, hear Van Morrison softly playing in the background and sip a glass of lemonade.
“We wanted you to feel like you’d just walked into a friend’s beach house,” says Lauren Russell, Maine Cottage vice president and creative director. The maker of casual, beachy furnishings opened this retail store at 209 West St. in Annapolis just over a year ago. Its upscale coastal cottage look is turning up at houses by the Chesapeake Bay and Logan Circle lofts.
The American-made maple pieces are available in 50 custom colors, and the upholstery designs sport textile patterns to coordinate. The furniture is inspired by sturdy wood tables, chairs, beds and chests found in traditional New England homes. There’s Inga, a trestle dining table ($2,080); the Margatemedia console with lots of storage ($2,790); and Windsor, a graceful version of the old classic armchair ($490).
Russell was inspired to start a furniture collection because she was always picking up old chairs and chests at flea markets and bringing them back to life. In 2003, she and husband Kevin Russell and her father, Larry Strassner, founded Russell & Mackenna to build and paint wooden furniture in their one-car garage in Severna Park. Meanwhile, in Yarmouth, Maine, a company called Maine Cottage had been establishing a reputation for classic painted New England furniture since 1988. In 2011, Maine Cottage ran into financial difficulties, and Russell & Mackenna acquired the brand. They merged the two businesses and kept the name Maine Cottage. Today, the operations center is in Annapolis, a few miles from the store, located in a 19th-century livery. The furniture is sold online and through a catalogue, and the company is looking for another retail location in Boston.
The Annapolis store has a color bar, where customers can sit and study their choices. Russell says they’ve added a leather collection in seven colors, more painted furniture and wicker styles and rugs that match their colors.
“Our colors are vibrant without being too pretentious and are not as bold as a brand like Lilly Pulitzer, but they have the same emotional response,” Russell says. “If we went too bright, it wouldn’t feel comfortable and zenlike. There is a perfect hue that is not too muted or too intense, but works on your soul and lifts your spirits.”
She says this mood is what customers come to them for, especially those decorating second homes. “Many people’s homes are furnished in a traditional way, but in their second home they want to relax and have fun. ‘I want to go off course a little bit,’ customers tell us. We fit that niche.”