Bespoke Cottage

May 23, 2022

Special Section

Text by Clinton Smith     Photography by Jessica Delaney     Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent


Jenny Johnson, the Emmy-winning host of NESN’s Dining Playbook and Comcast Newsmakers, and her husband, N Magazine editor and author Robert Cocuzzo, partnered with New England Home to reimagine the couple’s newly purchased cottage along Boston’s North Shore. The goal was to reinterpret the 1903 home for life in the twenty-first century, so Johnson and New England Home teamed up with an award-winning interior designer, a renowned builder, and a curated collective of local, regional, and national partners to make the family’s vision a reality without sacrificing the sought-after charm and character that defined the cottage’s original spaces.

“We’re storytellers by profession,” says Johnson, “so it was important to us that our home told a story from the moment we walked in.” To help draft that narrative, Winchester-based interior designer Kate Maloney Albiani was called upon for her expertise and educated eye to marry vintage charm with the contemporary needs of a young family’s active lifestyle. Known for her deft ability to mix old and new, along with color, pattern, and a certain joie de vivre, Maloney Albiani was the ideal choice to imbue the vintage cottage with a veritable breath of fresh air.

“I take a lot of cues from the architecture itself, and then I also try to consider the family that’s going to be occupying the space,” says Maloney Albiani of her process. “So I often bridge the gap with textiles and soft goods to help me mix a younger flavor into a more traditional setting.”

Unique rugs from Landry & Arcari Rugs and Carpeting also give individual spaces a personal point of view, even as rooms flow one into the other. “All of the downstairs rugs are different and define the spaces differently, but they flow really successfully,” says Maloney Albiani.

The public living spaces and private quarters incorporate stylish and family-friendly upholstery, case goods, and other furnishings by Universal Furniture. A chic mix of different textures and finishes, along with sleek and eye-catching silhouettes, effortlessly melds with the spaces they inhabit.

One of the biggest feats of the project was a newly renovated primary bath, as well as the addition of a new shared bath created from unused closet space. Enter builder FBN Construction and the pros at Designer Bath and Salem Plumbing Supply to work their magic.

“I am so grateful to FBN Construction and Designer Bath and the partnerships they brought to the table,” says Maloney Albiani. “When you’re designing something very technical like these baths, strong partners become imperative. Designers have the vision and the conceptual idea of what we want these bathrooms to look like, but it’s incredibly helpful to have partners who are knowledgeable and can really help you with the execution.”

Bob Ernst of FBN Construction notes the challenges of working on older houses. “We have found, over our years of experience, that they ‘just don’t build them like they used to,’ and in many cases that’s a good thing,” says Ernst. “What passed for good-quality construction techniques could pose problems with meeting current codes and supporting the use of available and desired materials and state-of-the-art systems, such as HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. Being involved from the beginning of the design process with the owner and designer in collaboration allows us to listen to program goals and objectives, offer creative solutions, and brainstorm possible options before decisions are made without the benefit of our knowledge and experience.”

As far as that genius move to create a new bath out of previously unused space, Ernst is a house detective, of sorts.

“I have personally been able to carve out a number of these unique and efficient bathrooms where others might have overlooked the possibilities,” he says, “so I always approach them with a positive attitude and an open mind.”

Once the foundation was laid and layers were added, the focus turned to ambience. “Lighting is a really nice way to bring in additional personality to the architecture and is the least permanent of all of the architectural choices,” says Maloney Albiani, “so you can have a bit of fun.”

And with this renovation, “a bit of fun” seemed to be an apropos capstone for both the collaborative partners and homeowners.

Welcome home!

Project Team
Cumar Couture Stone,
California Closets, 
Designer Bath,
Discover Tile, 
FBN Construction,
Kate Maloney Interior Design, 
Landry & Arcari Rugs and Carpeting, 
Universal Furniture,

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