Casabella in East Sandwich offers a captivating collection of interior décor.
Tucked among Route 6A’s antiques stores, quaint motor inns and gracious homes from other eras, Casabella, in East Sandwich is an unexpected haven of artfully collected home décor. In this meticulously arranged 2,500-square-foot space, treasures abound.
At every turn, there is something to fall in love with: plush furniture, refined armoires and end tables, finely crafted lamps, artwork, luxurious linens and intriguing tabletop items. On a single trip to the store, one could outfit multiple rooms of a home. It’s also the go-to place for a unique wedding present, hostess gift, or an accessory to accent an existing interior design scheme. The only problem might be narrowing down your choices, since the selection of accessories is endless: throw pillows in various textures and prints, blown glass vases, floral arrangements, candles in an array of sizes and scents.
Perusing the selection is an experience unrivaled on the Cape, and that’s precisely what owner Michele Chagnon-Holbrook had in mind when she opened the store in 2011.
Holbrook’s background is in business. “I’m a corporate girl,” says Holbrook, formerly an executive director of human resources for a healthcare company. “But I always loved design. It was my hobby; I’ve been helping people furnish their houses for years.”
Several years ago, after buying a home in East Sandwich with her husband, Holbrook set about decorating the seasonal residence. “I scoured 6A; I went all the way to Provincetown,” she recalls. “I couldn’t find anything I liked. I was told by everyone that you had to go off Cape to buy great things, and that seemed ridiculous to me.” The experience led to what Holbrook calls her “aha moment.” She decided to open a home furnishings shop that brought city chic to Cape Cod.
Holbrook spent two years cataloging items she liked, and a couple more searching for the perfect location. “I wanted to be on 6A between Exit 3 and Barnstable Village,” she says. After an exhaustive search, she was on the verge of renting a 600-square-foot barn when her current location became available. The former location of Sotheby’s Real Estate was zoned for office space, not retail. But during a three-hour meeting with the building’s owner, Holbrook convinced him to have the space re-zoned and leased to her.
Holbrook began an extensive build-out of the space in November 2010, and by April 2011, Casabella was ready to greet the public. The store was initially open just on weekends and Holbrook kept her day job in the city, living in Wayland during the week. From the start, the shop received an overwhelmingly positive response. “People started leaving me notes during the week taped to the door,” says Holbrook, who decided to keep the shop open one day during the week, then another, and another until the place was open seven days a week. A year-and-half into owning the shop, Holbrook left her corporate job and turned her full attention to Casabella.
Early on, customers began to seek Holbrook’s advice on decorating their homes. Soon she was designing the interiors of entire houses. “It’s not what I intended when I opened the store, but I love doing it,” she says. “We have become known for the details: it’s really important to layer in the right kinds of accessories, and a lot of people don’t know how to do that.”
The majority of furniture—sofas, chairs, dining tables, even lamps—are designed by Holbrook and crafted in a factory in this country. “It’s very important to me that things are made in the USA,” says Holbrook. “I’m a small business, I want to support other small businesses.” While the prices of furniture manufactured in the United States might be higher than prices of pieces manufactured overseas, locally made items are much higher quality, says Holbrook.
A section of the shop displays private-label upholstery fabrics for the furniture. “I’m a less-is-more gallery. I’ve picked out the best fabrics so you don’t have to sift through 2,000,” says Holbrook.
The shop is arranged in rooms: a bedroom setup, a living area, a dining room—the vignettes enable customers to envision how the furnishings look in an actual setting. “I want coming into the shop to be an experience. We have a mix of different styles: transitional, traditional, coastal,” says Holbrook. “Everything here is handpicked.”
“Furnishings should look like you’ve gathered them over a lifetime,” says Holbrook. “ You don’t want to recreate the cover of a Pottery Barn catalog.”
Holbrook finds it disappointing to venture into a store she admires and see that the selection hasn’t changed in months. At Casabella, the products on display are constantly evolving. “Every week there is new inventory,” she says. “Three to four times a year, we empty out the entire store and start from scratch.” During the holidays, Casabella is decked from top to bottom in the finery of the season; a popular holiday open house draws customers looking for decorating ideas and accents.
Holbrook prides herself on the customer service she and her staff provide on all levels. “We’re here to design your whole house; to help you create a display for your mantel; to offer assistance while you pick out a gift,” she says. “Even just from one visit in the shop, we’ll remember you the next time you come in.” And that’s a good thing.
By Jaci Conry
Photography by Dan Cutrona
Article published in 2014-2015 issue.