By Design > A Kitchen with Old-World Charm

Interior design is more than how a space looks. Good interior design is about how a space makes you feel, according to muralist and designer Cyndi Pizzano of Pizzano Designs Interior Consulting in Exeter. While colors, architectural detailing and custom finishes are important elements for Pizzano, her goal was to arouse the senses when she embraced the task of creating a livable loft in an old mill building.

“What I wanted to create is a ‘feeling,’ not just a design. A feeling of emotional well-being,” she says. “I wanted to create a space you love living in, one that is comfortable, inviting and where you never want to leave.”

On May 9, visitors are invited to tour the space, as the home is among eight on the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce annual Kitchen Tour (see bottom of this page for more information).

With her husband, antiques dealer Joe Cammarata, Pizzano purchased the decaying gristmill a dozen years ago to use as an antiques shop and studio. But they fell in love with the space and its hidden potential. With help from friends and subcontractors, they created a 1,700-square-foot living space with the Old World charm and warmth of a European villa. The ground level houses Cammarata’s antiques shop, which includes an impressive lighting collection, as well as Pizzano’s art and design studio.

A Designer’s Vision

For the owners, the project was all about Pizzano’s decorative vision. “I just loved this space. I felt I had to create something in it,” Pizzano says while sitting in the renovated dining room.

No doubt, the renovation project was formidable. “Everything was literally rotting away,” Pizzano says. This meant a lot needed replacing—from the floor to the ceiling. About the only thing remaining intact was the original brick exterior wall, which the couple left exposed from the kitchen to the living room.

“I like the warmth of the look of brick and the element of it that evokes the mill. I didn’t want to hide the fact it was once an old mill,” Cammarata says.

The back staircase from the ground floor was added to connect living and working space. Pizzano and her sister, Lisa, used a faux-painting technique that mimics marble for the elegant staircase. Climbing the steps, which are covered in a lush antique Oriental runner in deep red, is truly a regal experience.

“I noticed when our friends or visitors come in, they remark how the space makes them feel. They not only see it, but they feel the design,” Pizzano says.

New oak flooring in a dark, walnut finish grounds the space throughout the open kitchen and living area. An invitingly large—eight feet by six feet—kitchen island with a pine countertop provides space for cooking, gathering and a collection of whimsical antiques that includes a large ceramic rooster. Stainless-steel appliances are tucked away in a connected, spacious pantry, while the main kitchen features an antique copper sink and a custom marble countertop. There aren’t any upper cabinets—old European kitchens didn’t have them, Pizzano says—but handcrafted wooden shelves provide open storage for a collection of copper pots and bakeware.

Above the vintage oak dining table hangs a one-of-a-kind chandelier made from handblown glass beads that were fashioned into bunches of richly colored grapes. The piece is the handiwork of Pizzano and Cammarata, who created it together.

Over the sizable kitchen island, Cammarata installed an antique wooden chandelier he purchased at Architectural Salvage Inc. in Exeter. The piece has a distinct Old World grandness about it. He joked it was like the commercial for Kohler faucets, where a homeowner brings a new fixture to a fashionable architect and says, “Design a house around this.”

The character of the renovated loft comes in part from the built-in architectural elements—or those that appear to be built-in—such as a wine rack or an antique headboard mounted above the pantry entrance. The space utilizes different types of woods: maple for the cabinets, pine for the countertop and an Irish pine antique hutch. Yet the pieces are stained in deeper tones to complement the hutch, a prominent piece in the kitchen that showcases Pizzano’s majolica collection.

European Influences

While Pizzano calls her paint technique on the walls “Tuscan Sunset” (she uses five paint colors and one brush), the design goes beyond Italy. The couple also has traveled many times through France, Germany and Switzerland, and the design reflects Pizzano’s desire to bring a little bit of Europe home. “It’s a continental feel,” Cammarata says.

A talented muralist, Pizzano’s art is featured throughout the loft. A mural inspired by San Gimignano in Tuscany is “framed” by an edging of faux-painted brick to mimic the opposite wall. While traveling in Tuscany, Pizzano noticed the “beautiful colors in the sky.” She captured its blue and the gold of the sun-drenched landscape in the mural, a scene the couple can enjoy in any season in the coziness of their own home.

After all, creating a warm and comfortable home was part of Pizzano and Cammarata’s master plan.

Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce Kitchen Tour

Tour some of Exeter’s coolest— and greenest—kitchens during the tenth annual Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce Kitchen Tour, to be held Saturday, May 9, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This event, the largest fundraiser for the chamber, commemorates the chamber’s fiftieth anniversary.

This year’s tour offers two ticket prices: A $25 ticket includes the cost of the tour and a workshop about kitchen remodeling; a $40 ticket includes the tour, the workshop and lunch at the Epoch Restaurant in the newly renovated Exeter Inn.

Certified kitchen designer Scott Purswell will present the workshop, “New and Improved Field Guide to Kitchen Design,” at the Exeter Town Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Registration is required.

For more information and to register for the workshop, call the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce at 772-2411 or visit

Ticket-holders for the luncheon will be served at the inn from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., where the head chef will escort a tour of the kitchen and answer questions.