Originally published in the Manchester Journal Dec. 13, 2017.

MANCHESTER — Finding the perfect home is a quintessential tenet of the American dream, as is discovering a fulfilling vocation. For local couple Chris and Nicole Conte, the two go hand in hand.

The Contes launched their business Northshire Living, an interior decorating and home remodeling operation with a focus on kitchen and baths, in 2016. This week, Northshire Living will move into its new showroom space on 5081 Main St. in Manchester Center.

“We got married this September, so we decided that now was the time to go out on our own,” said Nicole, a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. “For the past two years we’ve been doing kitchen and bath design at Attention to Details, but we’ve always wanted to own our own business.”

Nicole, who was recently honored by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as part of their 2018 class of “30 under 30 bright up-and-coming design stars,” studied sculpture in college and discovered a passion for furniture. That interest drew Nicole to a job at a furniture store, where serendipity seemingly led her to design work.

“One day the designer was out sick, and someone came in needing help that day,” she said. “I offered to go, and ever since then I’ve known that interior design is what I want to do.”

She went on to work with an interior designer in New Hampshire, which facilitated her focus on kitchens and baths specifically, and later a hardware store. It was then that she met Chris, moving to his hometown in Vermont soon after.

“I’ve been all over the world, and I like it here best,” said Chris, an Afghanistan veteran and 2006 graduate of Burr and Burton Academy. “It’s a good market, with second homeowners renovating old condos.”

At that time, the East Dorset native was working at the local Temblor Creative Group. As a sort of “side business,” the veteran also worked to renovate and resell homes in the area.

“I saved up a lot of money when I was in Afghanistan, and I always wanted to flip houses,” he said. “When I came back home I bought a house on Cass Terrace and did all of the renovations myself. We flipped that house, and now we’re on another house on Richville Road that we’re also renovating.”

So far, the couple has tackled projects ranging from $5,000 touch-ups to $250,000 home remodels. As Northshire Living continues to grow, Chris says that the couple is “open to anything.”

“We already have a lot of clients, and we’re doing a lot of marketing,” he added, noting that they have begun to develop a relationship with local real estate agents. “As we grow we’d like to hire more designers, and also work with area contractors and subcontractors. We’ll be working to build those relationships.”

While their designs are often client dictated, the couple notes that they lean towards a classic aesthetic with a modern twist. Their new showroom, in an older building with exposed brick and other attractive details, provides them with the ideal space to display their design acumen says Nicole.

“I like to see people do things that are right for the home and right for the style, but also show their taste,” she said. “The showroom really fits with our brand and our aesthetic, which is letting old houses and the beauty of an existing house shine while bringing some modern life into it.”

While the couple expects a “soft opening” for their showroom on Dec. 18, they’re also working to be active members of the Northshire community. Beyond attending as many local events as they can, the Contes have also worked closely with the local VFW on Depot Street, where Chris is an officer.

“We are a family run, local business,” said Chris. “I grew up here, my Dad’s owned a local business his whole life and my Mom owns the Image loft; my whole family is throughout this town. We’re very community based.”

Reach Cherise Madigan at cmadigan@manchesterjournal.com, or by phone at 802-490-6471.

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