Cottage Living: A Wayne Designer Does More With Less in Her Carriage House

A scaled-down space exudes elegance and rustic charm with décor elements that the homeowners love.

Interior Designer: Mara Ciervo, Mara Style, Manayunk, (610) 755-1393,
Contractor: Nick Miller, ProSource Construction, Villanova, (610) 525-1414
Landscaping: Marty O’Donnell Landscaping, Malvern, (610) 213-0490
Hardscaping: Bluestone Creations, Malvern, (610) 647-1211
See also “Stress-Free Zone: How to Turn Your Bathroom Into a Relaxing Space.”

When interior designer Mara Ciervo moved into her 1920s carriage house three years ago, she found herself practicing what she’s forever been preaching to her clients: Buy what you love and you’ll never be sorry.

Exposed beams bring a rustic charm to the dining room. See more photos below. (Photo by John Lewis)It’s a simple enough mantra that has yet to lead her or her clients astray. “You can make almost any piece work in a room,” says Ciervo. “An elegant mix of style is what makes a home interesting. Don’t feel like everything has to match.”

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Downsizing meant Ciervo had to be extra-selective about the furniture and accent pieces she picked for her new Wayne home. With a dual appreciation for antiques and more modern pieces, she welcomed the challenge of making them effortlessly coexist.

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As she strolls through her home, Ciervo points out favorites like the oil painting she bought from a street artist in Venice, Italy, and a coffee table by artist Aaron Asedo. “Every time I walk by that painting I think about what a wonderful time I had on that trip to Italy,” she says. “It’s pieces like this that make a house a home.”

After her divorce, Ciervo was looking for a cozy, manageable home for her and her 12-year-old daughter. “I love that you can hear what the kids are doing,” she says.

But Ciervo also wanted some land. “A beautiful backyard space was a must, because my daughter and I really enjoy the outdoors,” she says. “As soon as I saw this property, I knew I was home,” she says.

The carriage home was previously owned by a contractor, who’d added many unique features, including exposed beams in the dining area, tigerwood floors in the master bedroom salvaged from a cotton mill in Georgia, and bead-board walls in the living room.

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Ciervo has a number of commercial clients; she recently completed a makeover of the Gypsy Saloon in Conshohocken. Still, a majority of her clients are homeowners. She loves working with bachelors and bachelorettes to achieve that “homey feel.” Now, she’s done much the very same thing for herself.

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Ciervo’s first order of business at the carriage house was painting over the yellow walls. She chose deep purple for the master bedroom, gray in the master bath, and red in the kitchen. “I love the color yellow and I use it often as an accent,” she says. “But something about it on a wall I don’t like.”

Ciervo divided the main space into dining and living rooms, demonstrating her mastery of the art of mixing high-end and low-end with some unique yard-sale finds, including a pair of antique suitcases and a wooden box filled with spools of thread. An antique sofa table separates the dining space from the living room, where a pair of contemporary leather armchairs blends effortlessly with a rustic walnut coffee table from acclaimed American designer Aaron Asedo.

The home’s eat-in kitchen is a surprisingly generous size. Here, Ciervo added a custom-designed island with a black base and a walnut countertop. White accents like the hood over the stove, bead-board ceiling and shelves are offset by the deep-red walls. Stainless steel appliances and gray custom cabinetry complete the space.

Separated from the kitchen by two small French doors, Ciervo’s stunning master suite is an eclectic mix of everything she loves. It’s transitional/modern with an Asian flair—what Ciervo describes as “pure bliss.” She found her headboard at Material Culture in Philadelphia. It’s actually a hand-carved, 80-year-old garden gate from India that was turned into a mirror—and it inspired her custom-made, walnut platform bed.

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The earthy appeal of the headboard is juxtaposed with more contemporary pieces, including a white leather chair and ottoman, and a dramatic crystal chandelier. “I’m not a huge fan of curtains if you don’t need them,” she says. “I prefer to just do simple panels that don’t shield nature.”

Hence, the skylights above the bed. “When it’s raining and I come in here, the sound is amazing,” she says. “It’s so relaxing.”

The gray walls set the sophisticated tone for the master bathroom. Mirrors with ornate, black-lacquer frames hang above dual sinks separated by a mirrored chest of drawers. Crisp, white panel curtains convey a welcome airiness, a skylight provides natural light, and a crystal chandelier is the perfect finishing touch. “I love the white accents,” says Ciervo.

Starting virtually from scratch in the backyard, Ciervo added a patio, fence and in-ground pool. The pool has the look of a pond, designed so the grass comes right up to the fieldstone handpicked from a local quarry. “This space required a pool that looked like it was a part of the landscape,” she says.

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A hot tub attached to the pool is used year-round. A sitting garden, chaise lounges, a dining area, a sectional and benches surrounding a firepit provide plenty of gathering spots for guests when Ciervo entertains. “I wanted a space where I felt like I was getting away from it all—and that’s what I got,” she says. “It’s like walking out to an oasis.”

After spending much of her career making homes beautiful with fresh ideas while celebrating her clients’ own sense of style, Ciervo is thrilled that she was able to achieve the same results with her own house.

“I wanted a home that was warm and welcoming,” she says. “I have that—and so much more.”
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