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Most folks bristled about heading back to working in person. Not Cordelia Fasoldt. When she and her family relocated from Beacon Hill to a house they fell in love with in Beverly Farms, Fasoldt found work-from-home life less than satisfying. “I missed interacting with people,” she remembers. “I felt restless and ready to try something new.” 

That’s not to say she didn’t have doubts. The 38-year-old brand strategist had only ever worked in corporate America. “As an older millennial, the narrative was: Put your head down and be a good worker,” she says. “It felt radical to even think about trying something else.” Then, she passed by an empty storefront in downtown Manchester-by-the-Sea that she couldn’t resist. Gray House Art & Antiques was in business six months later, in October 2022.

The 700-square-foot shop inhabits the ground floor of an unassuming pale-gray clapboard house with a gable roof and charcoal-colored trim. It’s been a real estate office, a law firm, and, many years ago, a gift shop. “It feels very New England and honest to the area,” its newest shopkeeper says. 

Cordelia Fasoldt

Sunlight streams through the south-facing, six-over-six windows and glass door, flooding the interior with light and casting shadows on the wide-plank wooden floorboards. A simple fireplace with a classic mantel and red-brick surround feels welcoming, and an original ceiling beam riddled with holes adds character. Before opening, Fasoldt commissioned built-in bookshelves complete with library sconces. “I want people to feel like they’re walking into someone’s cozy living room,” she says. 

The shop’s treasures, which Fasoldt acquires from other dealers and at auctions, fairs, and shows, mainly from New England, channel the well-traveled, multicultural aesthetic of her childhood and present-day homes. “I was born in the United States to a British mother and a German father, but grew up in Belgium in a house full of antiques,” she says. 

Primarily drawn to English, American country, and midcentury pieces, Fasoldt is a big believer in mixing eras and styles. Doing so, she asserts, is how you make antiques look modern, not stuffy. That’s the art of collecting. It’s also the manner in which she believes antiques appeal to a younger customer like herself. “People sometimes associate antiques with dusty, overpacked spaces,” she says. “Our space feels collected, layered, thoughtful, and eclectic, which is what I think people today want in a home.”

Fasoldt buys through the filter of things you find in a living room including versatile smaller furnishings such as chairs, ottomans, console tables, lamps, and such. She recovers upholstered pieces in new fabrics so they’re ready to go, and tops lamps with pleated, patterned linen shades from England. Rugs are strewn here and there; she doesn’t shy away from those sporting color variations or uneven wear. She’s crushing on rugs in shades of apricot and coral and also favors pictorial specimens. 

There’s always a sofa littered with pillows, perhaps made from Turkish kilims or Uzbek suzanis. “I want people to sit, take things in, and visualize how these things might look in their own home,” Fasoldt says. “I love when customers come in and hang out.” If someone wants to buy the sofa, she’ll bring in another. Same goes for her desk. 

Artwork and accessories are a big part of Fasoldt’s business. She’s partial to pairing contemporary art—she’s hung several graphic prints with witty quips by British pop artist David Shrigley—with antique furniture. Chinese trade paintings, once so popular in these parts, feel fresh alongside an African mask or a Bengali portrait. And the vintage signs with a sense of humor are a hit. 

As for the accessories, Fasoldt adores styling her shelves with quirky-meets-classic finds. (You can even hire her to style yours.) Where else might you find wooden doll heads of fashionable French ladies that are in fact hat stands from Galeries Lafayette? Or a rare circa 1900 French Aptware tea set? 

Before Gray House Art & Antiques opened, Fasoldt experienced a tingle of unease, wondering how the goods accumulating in her garage were going to fit together. Obviously, it all fell into place. “I follow my gut and buy what I like,” the newly minted shopkeeper says. “It’s about not trying too hard.”