A Massachusetts Farmhouse So Quaint You’ll Want to Move to the Countryside

When Jess Cooney’s clients first discovered their dream farmhouse in Monterey, Massachusetts, they were instantly awed by the home’s 1700s charm and beautiful wide-plank floors. Little did they know that all that old-world character would soon be lost to an unforeseen electrical fire.

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The Business of Second Homes: Designer Jess Cooney Makes it Hers to Know How We Live and Play

Interior designer Jess Cooney has made it her business to understand how people live in and experience their homes. Most of her clients are New York City lawyers and business elites looking to escape the city with a second home in the Berkshires, a home that will ultimately function quite differently than a primary residence.

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25 Interior Design Rules You Should Actually Follow

Whoever originally said that rules were meant to be broken definitely worked in interior design. It doesn't matter if you live in a teeny, tiny apartment or sprawling beachside bungalow: Decorating your home is all about throwing out the rulebook.

Why have a cookie-cutter interior when your space can reflect your beautiful, unique aesthetic? Whether you're power-clashing ikat and tartan or blending two unlikely styles together, the best things happen when you go against the grain.

That being said, there are some basic ground rules that are worth noting. Make no mistake, these rules aren't meant to reign in your personal style. On the contrary, they exist to make sure your room looks its absolute best. 

Curious to see which rules actually matter, we turned to some of our favorite design experts. Some of their answers are practical, while others are more abstract. But once you nail down these must-follow rules, the rest is up to you.

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Interior designer Jess Cooney remodeled this beautiful, contemporary home in the Berkshires. The modern space features fun pops of color and unique design elements, especially in the bathrooms!

This home is located in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the clients are from Rye, New York. This is their second home. It has great views of the Berkshires from its windows, and Jess and her team completed five bathrooms, a mudroom, and their kitchen for them.

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      Remember our epic guide to white paint? We figured it was time to ask designers about their blue crushes as well—you know, those just right shades of cornflower, ocean, cerulean, navy, and everything in between. Blue typically isn't a polarizing color. Most people gravitate towards the spa-like, tranquil quality of its lighter shades, while others love the darker side—the energy of aqua, the intensity of midnight. Sure, you could go about picking a blue paint color alone. But why not make selecting a shade easier by starting with this list of designer-approved blues? You'll be that much ahead of the game and ready to tackle swatching sooner. So without further adieu, here are nine designers' (and one builder's!) favorite blues. Oh, and they basically all called out Hale Navy from Benjamin Moore, so give that shade a look if you want to go dark and moody. But I wanted fresh, under-the-radar hues, so here are 10 new blues for you to obsess over.   READ MORE

Remember our epic guide to white paint? We figured it was time to ask designers about their blue crushes as well—you know, those just right shades of cornflower, ocean, cerulean, navy, and everything in between. Blue typically isn't a polarizing color. Most people gravitate towards the spa-like, tranquil quality of its lighter shades, while others love the darker side—the energy of aqua, the intensity of midnight. Sure, you could go about picking a blue paint color alone. But why not make selecting a shade easier by starting with this list of designer-approved blues? You'll be that much ahead of the game and ready to tackle swatching sooner. So without further adieu, here are nine designers' (and one builder's!) favorite blues. Oh, and they basically all called out Hale Navy from Benjamin Moore, so give that shade a look if you want to go dark and moody. But I wanted fresh, under-the-radar hues, so here are 10 new blues for you to obsess over.

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      Our homes tend to show the first signs of the changing seasons, especially when the weather here in SoCal hardly does. Hello,   earthy scents, warm tones, and cozy throws  ! To help get your home ready for fall, we talked to design expert   Jess Cooney  . The New England designer knows a thing or two about transitioning decor for cooler months, and making not only pretty choices, but practical ones too. The best part? These swaps don’t have to be major or expensive in order to give your home   that fall feeling  .   Read the Full Article on inspiredbythis.com

Our homes tend to show the first signs of the changing seasons, especially when the weather here in SoCal hardly does. Hello, earthy scents, warm tones, and cozy throws! To help get your home ready for fall, we talked to design expert Jess Cooney. The New England designer knows a thing or two about transitioning decor for cooler months, and making not only pretty choices, but practical ones too. The best part? These swaps don’t have to be major or expensive in order to give your home that fall feeling.

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      Today’s home takes us to a beautiful winding country road in Alford, MA. Here, designer   Jess Cooney   worked with a couple from New York with two teenage sons. The family purchased this as their second home, and though the Berkshires are often thought of as a summer destination, they planned to use it for long ski weekends in the winter. The house was a new construction home being built by a married couple who parted ways during the building of the home, so it was left with unfinished elements such as trim and moldings, along with stocked cherry cabinets in the kitchen and a light blue glass tile backsplash. The mudroom was an empty sheet-rocked space with wood flooring and no storage. “Upon meeting the clients and their two teenage sons, I decided that the most important aspect to address in the home was the mudroom first and foremost, along with giving them plenty of storage in the living room, master, and the home office,” Jess tells us. “The wife responded instantly to my wanting to get the mudroom in order for her first. She knew that I understood the life of a mother picking up clothing and bags on the floor at all times and the struggle of having nowhere to put things when your family, children, etc., arrive home.”   Read the Full Article on Ruemag.com

Today’s home takes us to a beautiful winding country road in Alford, MA. Here, designer Jess Cooney worked with a couple from New York with two teenage sons. The family purchased this as their second home, and though the Berkshires are often thought of as a summer destination, they planned to use it for long ski weekends in the winter. The house was a new construction home being built by a married couple who parted ways during the building of the home, so it was left with unfinished elements such as trim and moldings, along with stocked cherry cabinets in the kitchen and a light blue glass tile backsplash. The mudroom was an empty sheet-rocked space with wood flooring and no storage. “Upon meeting the clients and their two teenage sons, I decided that the most important aspect to address in the home was the mudroom first and foremost, along with giving them plenty of storage in the living room, master, and the home office,” Jess tells us. “The wife responded instantly to my wanting to get the mudroom in order for her first. She knew that I understood the life of a mother picking up clothing and bags on the floor at all times and the struggle of having nowhere to put things when your family, children, etc., arrive home.”

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      Jess Cooney Interiors have completed an extensive renovation to a home in Stockbridge Massachusetts incorporating a subtle rustic meets modern element.   How were you commissioned?:      Jess Cooney Interiors ( http://www.jesscooney.com ), the full-service interior design and build firm whose homes embody Berkshire living, was contracted to complete a variety of spaces in this 4,000 sq ft home in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Jess and her team were brought in to give a facelift to the kitchen and five bathrooms while opening a variety of walls in the space and renovating the mudroom.   Read the Full Article on designcurial.com

Jess Cooney Interiors have completed an extensive renovation to a home in Stockbridge Massachusetts incorporating a subtle rustic meets modern element.

How were you commissioned?:    
Jess Cooney Interiors (http://www.jesscooney.com), the full-service interior design and build firm whose homes embody Berkshire living, was contracted to complete a variety of spaces in this 4,000 sq ft home in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Jess and her team were brought in to give a facelift to the kitchen and five bathrooms while opening a variety of walls in the space and renovating the mudroom.

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      Oh, furniture. The little pieces of personal expression that fill up your space–ideally, a mixture of investment pieces (hello, always-expensive couches), and vintage finds. When you’re in college, or in your early twenties, nice furniture might not be in your budget, or even a priority. Décor shopping might even mean a quick trip to IKEA, or buying stuff off of your recently graduated friends. However, as you move through different stages of life, the quality of what you put into your home might become more important. To help you figure out when is the best time to invest in certain pieces of furniture, we turned to three design experts. Find all of their helpful advice below.   Read the Full Article on The Newsette

Oh, furniture. The little pieces of personal expression that fill up your space–ideally, a mixture of investment pieces (hello, always-expensive couches), and vintage finds. When you’re in college, or in your early twenties, nice furniture might not be in your budget, or even a priority. Décor shopping might even mean a quick trip to IKEA, or buying stuff off of your recently graduated friends. However, as you move through different stages of life, the quality of what you put into your home might become more important. To help you figure out when is the best time to invest in certain pieces of furniture, we turned to three design experts. Find all of their helpful advice below.

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      Something has drawn you and your family to the Berkshires over and over.  You have stayed in our lovely inns or rented a home in the hills with your family many a summer. Maybe you went in on a ski rental with a group of friends for a few winters. Maybe you attended summer camp by one of our beautiful lakes and the nostalgia is still sitting with you.  Now, you are ready to take the next step and buy a home here. One that will truly be your home away from home.  You’ll join the ranks of poets and writers and actors that have come to the Berkshires and fallen in love with the dramatic seasonal landscape, the people and the culinary scene. You love the coziness of the small town with an influence of the big city in the arts and theater and mix of people that have settled here over the years.  So what’s next? How do you go about finding the perfect home for your family? How do you purchase, build or renovate something to have it be perfect for you and all your needs? This can be a daunting experience for many people. Our firm, Jess Cooney Interiors in Great Barrington, has been guiding clients through this process for the last 15 years. What follows is advice we give clients to help them along the way.  We hope this advice for all soon-to-be second homeowners will maximize your investment and avoid the pitfalls that can sometimes come with owning a second home.  Start with a good realtor. This sounds obvious, but having a person who takes the time to get to know you and your family’s needs is very important. We have several good agencies here, ranging from small to international.  Location, location, location. We have great towns here, but also glorious bucolic countryside. You will have to decide how you’ll position yourself here. Over the years, I have heard people lamenting the fact that they had bought a home in the outskirts of town with lots of land and trees, but now found themselves driving too much. This is especially true for moms with young families. They wished they had more neighborhood and community and less commute. I have also heard over the years from people who bought on the Hill in Great Barrington or close to a town and who now wish they had more space for the kids or horses or gardens. It’s a trade-off that is unique to everyone.  Water vs. nature. Many second homeowners would like to be near or on some type of water. A lake, a river, a backyard pool. Decide if this is a priority for you and, if so, how high a priority. Or instead, is having access to hiking trails maybe a higher priority? How much do you truly want to embrace nature? Are you a nature lover from afar or are you the type to jump right in?  Be ready to renovate (or build new). Many people from the city come to the Berkshires and want to find something move-in ready. I have a little news for you. Rarely does this exist! But, the good news is, this is part of the charm of the Berkshires. You have to embrace that and get over your fear of renovating or building a new home to your exact liking. There are many amazing professionals here who can make this process less daunting and help you truly realize your “wish list” for your home.  This brings us to your Wish List. It is crucial that you know how your family lives in your primary home and how they are likely to live in your second home. Helping you figure this out happens to be a specialty of our firm. When we do a client intake, these are the questions that guide us the most, and they need to be central on your radar: How old are your children? How should we plan for them as they grow in the home? Pets? Grandparents visiting? All of these things will guide the purchase and possibly the renovation of that home, to make it truly a restorative place for you and your friends and family.  Choice of materials in your home. Once you have purchased your home, your next steps are to renovate and/or furnish it. If it’s to be your second home, you may want very different materials from what you have in your primary home. We have found ways over the years to create a beautiful durable home while also minimizing the toxins in the materials you use. Knowing when it’s smart to use fabrics that are stain and fade resistant, and when it’s best to go with a green option, is important. Reclaimed wood, metal, stone and wool are all great natural materials that wear well over time and also remain timeless in their beauty.  Storage. This last item is the one most likely to be overlooked when purchasing a second home. Storage is not a sexy word but many a woman’s heart has melted at the sight of a beautiful functional mudroom or a well thought out kitchen pantry. A second home may have very different storage needs from a primary home. Storage for skis, bikes, pool towels, hiking gear may all be things you wouldn’t store in a Manhattan apartment, but they may require storage solutions in your new home. With smart planning, all of this can be taken care of in the early stages of planning and leave you time to relax and enjoy your new space for many years to come!  So when the time comes that you feel the need to nest in the Berkshires, hopefully this process can be a fun and rewarding one for you and your family. With the right planning and the right know-how, you can find the perfect Berkshire home to fit you individually.

Something has drawn you and your family to the Berkshires over and over.

You have stayed in our lovely inns or rented a home in the hills with your family many a summer. Maybe you went in on a ski rental with a group of friends for a few winters. Maybe you attended summer camp by one of our beautiful lakes and the nostalgia is still sitting with you.

Now, you are ready to take the next step and buy a home here. One that will truly be your home away from home.

You’ll join the ranks of poets and writers and actors that have come to the Berkshires and fallen in love with the dramatic seasonal landscape, the people and the culinary scene. You love the coziness of the small town with an influence of the big city in the arts and theater and mix of people that have settled here over the years.

So what’s next? How do you go about finding the perfect home for your family? How do you purchase, build or renovate something to have it be perfect for you and all your needs? This can be a daunting experience for many people. Our firm, Jess Cooney Interiors in Great Barrington, has been guiding clients through this process for the last 15 years. What follows is advice we give clients to help them along the way.

We hope this advice for all soon-to-be second homeowners will maximize your investment and avoid the pitfalls that can sometimes come with owning a second home.

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      Monterey — As the saying goes, when mama is happy everyone is happy.  This is true in interior design, and specifically when it comes to smart storage for women. A large organized walk in closet or pantry will melt any woman’s heart.  A recent study at Michigan State University concluded what many of us moms have known for years: Women spend 10 hours more per week than men multitasking. It’s in our chemistry; if we are on the phone, we will take that opportunity to fold a few clothes or put away the dishes.  The design of the home plays a crucial role in a woman’s mental state. Order and flow help us keep up with the day’s demands. We feel better when our children have a place to put their backpacks and shoes, when there is a place for the bills and when the flow of the kitchen works well. We need systems to combat the chaos.  The bottom line is that when the design of our home doesn’t make sense, it drives women nuts! Creating smart storage lowers stress levels and makes mama happy.  This concept comes into play in many of my projects. I love to create beautiful, functional spaces for busy families. In the initial stages of the project, some women are very clear that they must have a particular space for everything, and often others are just completely overwhelmed, not quite realizing why. I ask them to walk me through a typical day in their lives to see if the flow of their home makes sense. Where do the kids put their bags? Where do you set down your groceries? Do toys have an organized place? Kids can’t be held accountable for their part in the mess if their stuff doesn’t have a place in the home.  Making a space beautiful is the easy part. Making it function like clockwork for today’s busy overscheduled mom is the magic part.  One of my recent projects was no exception. The clients were a young accomplished couple with two preteen children and two dogs. They had just purchased a second home on Lake Buel, and were thrilled at the idea of having a new home in the Berkshires to spend their weekends, boating in the summer and skiing in the winter.  Lake houses are among my favorite projects. I love creating a relaxed, comfortable, cozy vibe for families and their weekend guests. Some of the demands of our primary homes can be lessened for families in a vacation home, but many of the same storage needs still apply.  This house was a 1,500-square-foot, 1940s one-level cottage that sits right on the lake. My clients wanted to lighten the dark paneling and add bright cheerful furnishings that would be durable for their kids and guests. The kitchen was outdated, cramped and dark and lacked adequate storage even for a second homeowner.  Liz, wife and mom, is a busy executive who travels for business much of the week and was looking forward to her days on the lake. She was organized and efficient and had created a pinterest board for inspiration. As I got to know Liz, I knew the key to her weekend relaxation was to do something about the lack of a mudroom, and the small cramped kitchen/entry area. Ski gear, dog leashes, boots and hats did not yet have a home.  With a tight deadline, my team tore out the kitchen, and I designed a plan to carve openings to allow more light and space in the overall plan, addressing electrical issues and an outdated fireplace.  Walls were opened up and white shaker-style cabinetry was installed as kitchen base cabinets. In place of upper cabinets, my carpenter team installed custom shelves to allow the kitchen to remain open and light. Monochromatic Quartz counters added the sheen and light-reflecting qualities I was going for and completed the look. They also fit our budget quite well. I was able to give the kitchen a much larger feel by doubling up the cabinetry and creating a 12-foot long serving counter. Adding a glass front beverage cooler to the sunroom/dining area was a fun way to add more kitchen storage on that side.  Another space-saving trick was to use an apartment-size range and refrigerator, and an under-counter microwave drawer unit. Simple solutions can save dollars and create space. A lake cottage is the place to forgo the 48-inch Viking range in favor of sleek, efficient appliances.  To tackle the wood paneling, we tried a technique that worked incredibly well and saved us thousands of dollars in sanding, priming and painting. We simply brushed on a coat of white Zars cottage stain over the wood paneling and watched it shrink and curl and dry in beautiful patterns around the walls, creating a washed-out, worn beachy look.  The next step was to tackle our non-existent mudroom. An unforgiving open-plan house required the storage to be incorporated into the living area, and hidden from sight. A large coat closet was built in one corner, and a bench seat with storage for shoes and boots was added to another unused corner of the living room. I used an upholstered bench cushion made with a stain and fade resistant fabric. The bench provided the perfect amount of storage that was missing and doubled as overflow seating for guests while adding a design element that softened the look of the room.  How to dramatically change the aesthetic of the fireplace without breaking the bank? I installed prefabricated stacked flagstone over the existing brick facing, and cut a large bluestone hearth into the floor.  Another “small house” technique is keep the paint colors monochromatic throughout. Light airy simple colors provide great backdrops for pops of color. The fabrics and artwork gave us the opportunity to give the finished project some texture and flare.  In the end my team met the deadline, stayed on budget, and gave the clients a fun and cozy weekend retreat that has all the organizational elements in place. The materials we used were simple and durable and will stand up to the kids, the dogs and the guests for many years to come. It’s truly a house for all seasons now and I think mama is able to relax, knowing everything has its place.

As the saying goes, when mama is happy everyone is happy.

This is true in interior design, and specifically when it comes to smart storage for women. A large organized walk in closet or pantry will melt any woman’s heart.

A recent study at Michigan State University concluded what many of us moms have known for years: Women spend 10 hours more per week than men multitasking. It’s in our chemistry; if we are on the phone, we will take that opportunity to fold a few clothes or put away the dishes.

The design of the home plays a crucial role in a woman’s mental state. Order and flow help us keep up with the day’s demands. We feel better when our children have a place to put their backpacks and shoes, when there is a place for the bills and when the flow of the kitchen works well. We need systems to combat the chaos.

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      Upon entering the Cooney residence, visitors are greeted by clean lines and contrasts that  highlight an organic and contemporary space with a reverence for times past. Jessie and Joe, their three children, a massive Chesapeake Bay Retriever rescue dog named Buck, and an eccentric Rat Terrier named Roxie live in this renovated turn-of-the-century house on “The Hill” in Great Barrington. The home combines antique features with modern-day efficiency for a welcoming, warm, and playful space.   The Cooneys personify Berkshire living. Jessie designs and decorates interior living spaces, bringing clarity, beauty, and ease to people’s lives. Her mastery is in resurrecting deteriorated homes and crafting spaces that work. “I like to think that I make sense of spaces and bring harmony to them while creating efficiency for busy families,” she says.   That design perspective applies to her family’s home as well. Jessie and her husband are active members of the community: Joe is a general practitioner, and his business, Stockbridge Family Medicine, occupies the same doctor’s office building on Main Street featured in several iconic Norman Rockwell paintings. He even treats a number of patients whose family members were featured in Rockwell’s work. Jessie, once a star athlete who excelled at soccer and basketball in her teens, serves on the development committee at Rudolf Steiner School. She is also on the Berkshire Hills Youth Soccer board and is a committee member of the Great Barrington Fair Ground fundraising effort. The couple is unassuming and playful, and their home reflects the effortlessness with which they live.  Before they moved into their house on The Hill, the Queen Anne-style structure stood for years in disrepair. In 2003, Joe and Jessie were living in the carriage house next door and got to know the homeowner, Norma Thompson, a retired professor. The couple’s young daughter, Maya, was a frequent visitor, partaking in afternoon tea and watering the garden. As their friendship grew, Thompson decided she wanted the Cooneys to have the house.  After a long process of attempting to buy the home to help Thompson pay for nursing care, the Cooneys eventually purchased it in foreclosure. “It was clear we had a mountain of work ahead,” Jessie recalls. The house stood shrouded by overgrown trees, so the first thing they did was clear the roof from overhanging limbs.  “The house suddenly seemed larger than life with its high profile,” says Joe. They rolled up their sleeves and started renovating and adapting to the age of the structure to maintain its historical qualities. The work took nine months, and while a few rooms were gutted and redone, for the most part the house maintains its original hardwood floors, woodwork, and overall structure. (Thompson passed away away in January 2012 and the Cooneys recently sold the carriage house to a young family.)  The main house was originally owned by the Stanley family, including, notably, William Stanley Jr., a renowned inventor responsible for providing electrical lights for Main Street in Great Barrington—the first electrified downtown in the United States. Stanley was the creator of the alternating-current device, a precursor to the modern-day transformer, and his house on West Avenue had elaborate electrical knob-and-tube work. “The wiring was quite advanced for a turn-of-the-century home, but we had to strip the structure to the bones in order to rebuild,” notes Jessie. “We carefully cut large chases in sections of the walls to replace the wiring and plumbing without destroying the structure or trim. This was very important to keeping the integrity of the house and maintaining all of the original moldings.”  The renovation included a careful redesign for daily life. The main porch leads into an open foyer, accented with East Asian iconography, modern art, tractor toys, and minimalist textiles. On either side of the foyer, living and dining spaces are characterized by an earthy backdrop of warm tones punctuated by pops of color. Jute wallpaper in some rooms adds texture to the walls. Refurbished light fixtures, stylish seating, and antique glass windows accent the main floor with an updated, yet vintage feel.   The second floor reflects the original design, with updates for modern life. Bathrooms have been remodeled, each featuring white marble, simple, period-looking tile work, and minimalist, Zen-influenced décor to tie the rooms together. A calm Buddhist influence permeates the space, while children and dogs constantly in motion energize the area. Another interesting aspect of the upstairs is the creation of a suite for the couple’s two younger children. “Rather than giving them their own rooms, we decided it’s better for them not to sleep with tons of stuff around them. Their sleeping rooms have beds and a nightstand only, and the toys are in the other room. It works really well,” notes Jessie.   Practicality is a priority, with many items recycled and repurposed. “I like to work with sustainable materials and create simplicity and structure. To me, the modern family has to work on editing rather than acquiring,” she says. With this in mind, the property is made up of historical elements, such as an ornate music room with dark chestnut panels leading out to a stone terrace. There is a servants’ quarter with a notably narrow stairwell—typical of the time period—thin doors, and, compared to the rest of the house, modest trim.   While the space is not open concept, the Cooneys have created a cohesive flow. Design aspects such as Carrera marble, jewel-toned vases, peaceful Buddha heads, toy fire engines and dolls, Moroccan throw rugs, poufs, and vibrant art generate a tasteful whimsy that reflects the full life led here. Along with the kitchen, the majestic dining room is also a hub, with a 16-foot-long table that was once a study area in a law office. “We can house everyone for parties and holidays,” says Jessie, “and that feels really special for us.”

Upon entering the Cooney residence, visitors are greeted by clean lines and contrasts thathighlight an organic and contemporary space with a reverence for times past. Jessie and Joe, their three children, a massive Chesapeake Bay Retriever rescue dog named Buck, and an eccentric Rat Terrier named Roxie live in this renovated turn-of-the-century house on “The Hill” in Great Barrington. The home combines antique features with modern-day efficiency for a welcoming, warm, and playful space. 

The Cooneys personify Berkshire living. Jessie designs and decorates interior living spaces, bringing clarity, beauty, and ease to people’s lives. Her mastery is in resurrecting deteriorated homes and crafting spaces that work. “I like to think that I make sense of spaces and bring harmony to them while creating efficiency for busy families,” she says. 

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      Great Barrington — Clutter is in our homes, our inboxes and our minds. How to edit what comes into our lives is the challenge of our times. Our inability to manage our “stuff” is a growing trend; we accumulate without realizing it, and usually without wanting to.  Yet finding ways to manage our things is stressful and time consuming. Enter the storage industry; they will whisk away your things before your very eyes and help you deal with that beautiful Oriental rug that you can’t find a place for, but cannot bear to part with, or your children’s bunk beds that they have outgrown. Tada! Your things can disappear into the void of the storage industry for a simple fee of $99 a month.  As a mom, I battle this every day. My kids come home with goodie bags from birthday parties, holiday gift exchanges, or a sale item we just have to stock up on that ends up sitting in our pantry for years to come. But the hardest situation is the loss of a loved one and the items people receive from that loss. These are sentimental items that take people years to go through and edit.  During a home renovation, people are forced to remove all their belongings from one area of the home while the work is being done, and must therefore deal with the clutter that has built up over the years. It’s a daunting experience for my clients, but always such a cleansing and refreshing one. Something else happens as well when we renovate: we often realize that there is plenty of storage in our own homes if we can carefully edit what we own and use the space we have more efficiently.  Take this recent project: my clients had moved to “The Hill” in Great Barrington with three teenage daughters and three big dogs. The busy working parents of three busy girls jumped straight into their lives with the intention of eventually tackling a kitchen renovation. The house is a beautiful turn of the century home on “The Hill” in Great Barrington, and it suited their needs quite well. Except for the kitchen. The current layout had the refrigerator and dishwasher in a tight hall that led to the back door. You can imagine, with three teenagers and three dogs, what it was like to get out the door in the morning for school and work. This was a potential minefield for accidents.  Then, there was the large armoire that the family had inherited from a deceased family member, placed in the kitchen, and was now being used for part-time storage for lack of a better use. Its large size drove my client crazy, and she was happy to see it go.  Her husband was most concerned about the safety in the kitchen, since the dishwasher door was in a precarious place. My client loves to bake and didn’t have enough counter space or storage for her baking pans. She also wanted enough space for her girls to have friends come for pizza parties and cook together. The kitchen was not conducive to this, and the girls didn’t bring friends over as much as they would’ve liked.  The layout of their kitchen was common for a turn of the century home. In these homes, the actual kitchen was often in the basement and the upstairs area was set up for serving in the dining room. As a result, this area is usually quite undersized for our modern lifestyle, since no actual cooking was done there. The kitchen was small, but with an original butler pantry behind it that leads to a formal dining room.  But this was an informal family; the dining room was only being used for storage for other items they had recently inherited. That dining room was the key to my plan; I was amazed to see this big bright open space sitting there behind the dark closed-in kitchen, completely underutilized. There was no doubt in my mind that the wall between these two spaces had to come down to relieve some of the pressure on this family.  Also, the pantry was not being used efficiently because the previous owner had used it more for her cats than for storing food.  It soon became clear that getting rid of some of the inherited furnishings, and using all that wonderful space in the dining room and butler pantry area would change everything. It took a little convincing on my part to persuade my client to move the refrigerator into the pantry from the main area. I am a firm believer in getting the refrigerator out of the line of traffic and closer to the eating area. It keeps kids out of the cooking zone, which is important especially when friends are there and dinner is being prepared. Instead of a floating island, we chose to build a peninsula anchored on the wall, extending the work area in that space and creating a large prep and homework area for the kids to sit and hang out while my client cooked.  Living in a home while renovating is no walk in the park. But during that time, my client was able to edit her belongings down to what really mattered. Handmade pottery that her father had made became the focal point of the new kitchen, and a new sitting area and dining space now occupied the old formal dining room. The girls could lounge with friends or sit at the peninsula with their homework to chat with mom while cookies baked in the oven.  The new, light-filled space has changed the way they live. The husband is happy, and the added counter space and open plan will service many pizza parties and sleepovers to come.  And no one is tripping over the dog or the dishwasher door.

Clutter is in our homes, our inboxes and our minds. How to edit what comes into our lives is the challenge of our times. Our inability to manage our “stuff” is a growing trend; we accumulate without realizing it, and usually without wanting to.

Yet finding ways to manage our things is stressful and time consuming. Enter the storage industry; they will whisk away your things before your very eyes and help you deal with that beautiful Oriental rug that you can’t find a place for, but cannot bear to part with, or your children’s bunk beds that they have outgrown. Tada! Your things can disappear into the void of the storage industry for a simple fee of $99 a month.

As a mom, I battle this every day. My kids come home with goodie bags from birthday parties, holiday gift exchanges, or a sale item we just have to stock up on that ends up sitting in our pantry for years to come. But the hardest situation is the loss of a loved one and the items people receive from that loss. These are sentimental items that take people years to go through and edit.

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      Without a doubt, today’s working parents and their children are busier than ever before.  In fact, in a 2016 study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61.1 percent of  married-couple families with children had both parents employed. Add these busy demands of working parents to the constant school, sport and play schedules of children, and it’s easy to see why some families are feeling the strain of keeping their lives balanced and their homes looking clean and organized.  So what would make life at home easier, we wondered?  To find out, we put local moms on the spot. We also crowdsourced this modern day dilemma to designers, including  Jess Cooney , a national interiors expert who hails from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and specializes in helping busy moms and families implement smart and stylish design ideas to make home life operate more seamlessly from day to day.  Some families already implemented these design changes within the home.  But for others who might be mulling over future interior modifications, these ideas just might be the game changers your family needs.  Kid-friendly kitchens  One popular trend that is resonating far and wide with busy moms are kid-only snack and storage zones in the kitchen.  According to Cooney, this is a great way to direct where kids can go in the kitchen. “Put drawers with unbreakable plates and cups down low for kids to be able to be more self sufficient in the cooking area,” said Cooney. But don’t stop there, she suggests. “Put mom-approved snacks down low as well. Refrigerated drawers are a great option for storing kid-friendly foods.”  To take it a step beyond, Cooney suggests adding a prep sink with filtered water or a beverage cooler in that area. “Keep this zone out of your kitchen’s work triangle so the kids are not underfoot when you are cooking,” Cooney stresses.  Playrooms near the kitchen  According to architect Amy Nowak-Palmerini, of  ROAM Design in Congers , her firm is starting to receive a lot of requests for dedicated play rooms or play spaces near the kitchen and living room.  “Moms are looking for a direct line of sight to their kids,” shared Nowak-Palmerini. “Parents want to keep their kids close by, but don't necessarily want the clutter of toys in their living rooms.”   The key to designing these spaces is to consider how the area will evolve in a number of years. “In the future, when there’s less need for a play space, families intend on using these areas for breakfast or sitting areas, computer stations or even small libraries for the children,” said Nowak-Palmerini.  As for playrooms, what is the best way to keep those spaces organized? According to Cooney, it pays to add storage that will conceal toys when not in use. “Create a window seat with rolling carts for toys to slide under. I have this in my house. With this storage, clean up time is fast and fun and it all goes back in the bins in minutes.”  Additional storage for kid-related items that are specifically used outdoors is another request designers are hearing from families who don’t want to utilize space in the garage or basement for their children’s bicycles or winter sleds.   “We've also gotten many requests for sizable outdoor storage areas to be incorporated into home additions,” said Nowak-Palmerini. “This is to contain all of the kiddos' outdoor stuff from bicycles to sports equipment, wagons and more.”  Add and subtract what’s right for your family  For New City resident Kristen Della Penna Greve, the decision to tear down walls had a lot to do with one of her favorite family activities: Entertaining at home.  “I host a lot and people always wind up in the kitchen. We removed the wall between our kitchen and dining room combining the space and making a very large kitchen instead. Between our island and table we still have plenty of seating and even standing room. After redoing literally our entire house, that was the most functional change and my favorite renovation.”  Benay Richman Josselson of New City implemented the exact same space-making adjustment in her own home. The modification worked wonders for her home, and the change was remarkably simple: “Knocking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, adding an island and having a more open space.”  For another New City mom, Jodi Jimenez Daly, a mother of two young children, “going bigger” in certain aspects was crucial to creating functional spaces and accommodating the needs of her family. “We added an entryway with bigger closet, double oven and bigger refrigerator.”  But that’s not all. There were small but important changes that helped achieve a more practical living environment, too.  “We got rid of some lever handles on doors because I was always getting my purse or diaper bag straps caught on them. And we also lowered our fireplace hearth to allow for easier movement in that area. This change is sensible for our space and safer for the children, too.”  Laundry your way  Mom and small business owner Christine Cordey of Nyack is all about reviving bygone design ideas for modern times.  “Multi-tasking and time management is a huge concern for busy families,” said Cordey. “Let’s bring back laundry chutes and situate laundry rooms below the main living space.”   Another Rockland County mom, Viviana Llaurado-Marino, had the opposite to say about the placement of her home’s laundry room. “We are about to start a big renovation in the winter. My biggest request is getting our laundry out of our dungeon-like basement and on the same floor as the bedrooms. I can't wait!”  Mudrooms for the win  Fay Nham of Thiells pines for a dedicated mudroom area. “My DREAM would be to have floor-to-ceiling coat and shoe closet for all eight people living in my house,” said Nham. “All I want to see is clean, organized space!”  For Kelly Rivera of Blauvelt, the mudroom is the star of her living space.  In fact, she had her sights set on the mudroom area even before she moved into the property she now owns.  “I dreamt of my mudroom before I even purchased the house. It’s my favorite room in the entire house.” Rivera continues: “I still need to add a few things, but it's so helpful and keeps the rest of the house clean. After football practice and cheer practice there’s no need to bring yucky clothes up to the bedrooms or bathrooms.”  New City mom Marissa Rotkel-Sherman has a mudroom, but intends to renovate it to be even more functional than it is now by bringing in additional storage for her family’s belongings.  “It's just not finished the way we want yet,” said Rotkel-Shermal. “When we moved in there were cabinets for shoes. I have added hooks for the kids' jackets and bags, but eventually we want to add cubbies or lockers.”  Cooney has done her share of mudroom design projects for clients, and is a cheerleader for a mudroom space with various storage options.  “Great mudrooms have both a mix of quick, open storage and closed storage,” said Cooney. “Hooks and baskets are super kid-friendly: They make hanging things up and accessibility very easy for little ones.” For seasonal items like extra hats and mittens, as well as extra shoes, “always opt for closed storage,” shared Cooney.  Mudrooms aren’t just for kids, though. Those seeking enhanced mudroom amenities might be interested in a pet-friendly accessory that’s growing in popularity: A low to the ground, dedicated pet bath basin built right into the layout of the room. No more giving Rover a bath in the tub!  Smart design for busy bathrooms  Sounds a bit crazy, but a new shower system from Moen works via remote on the iPhone.  Cooney, who has three children, likes the idea of a smart shower as a way to keep the family, and especially the kids, on track with their time. “You can be getting the kids ready for school and turn on your shower to the temperature you want and then hop in the shower and have it ready for a two-minute shower before you all head out the door.”  Got teens? Cooney suggests considering installing porcelain tiles in the bathroom that look like marble and quartz stones. “They are all the rage right now,” said Cooney.  “They are much easier to clean and maintain than real stone and are very family friendly for teenage hair dye, nail polish and makeup!”

Without a doubt, today’s working parents and their children are busier than ever before.

In fact, in a 2016 study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61.1 percent of  married-couple families with children had both parents employed. Add these busy demands of working parents to the constant school, sport and play schedules of children, and it’s easy to see why some families are feeling the strain of keeping their lives balanced and their homes looking clean and organized.

So what would make life at home easier, we wondered?

To find out, we put local moms on the spot. We also crowdsourced this modern day dilemma to designers, including Jess Cooney, a national interiors expert who hails from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and specializes in helping busy moms and families implement smart and stylish design ideas to make home life operate more seamlessly from day to day.

Some families already implemented these design changes within the home.

But for others who might be mulling over future interior modifications, these ideas just might be the game changers your family needs.

Read More