Jess Cooney is Fueled by Passion

January 13, 2020

Text by Erika Ayn Finch    Photography by Lisa Vollmer

In more than fifteen years as an interior designer in the Berkshires, Jess Cooney has outgrown her share of office spaces. When she decided it was time to expand for a fourth time, she told herself she would only do so if she found a building she could purchase. In April 2018, she found it in an unlikely location.

The onetime gas station at the entrance to the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on the Housatonic River, had been vacant for three years when Cooney came across it. The dilapidated, 3,200-square-foot space required a complete gut renovation, but that wasn’t Cooney’s biggest challenge. “I wanted to create an envelope that was timeless, yet fresh and on trend on the inside,” she says. “And I wanted an interior design that I could change up easily.”

She achieved the flexibility she sought by investing in certain aspects of the studio, such as the reclaimed wood flooring, while taking a less permanent approach to other areas. The kitchen backsplash, for example, is a mural rather than tile, because a mural can be repainted easily in a few years.

Cooney also needed an environment that allowed her six-person team—and their clients—to peruse fabric swatches and paint samples without visual distractions. That meant opting for white paint and brightly lit working areas, while letting color and whimsy shine in smaller spots such as the bathroom with its green grasscloth wallpaper and concrete floor. To keep the client meeting space interesting, Cooney designed a gallery wall with art that rotates seasonally.

After a year of renovations, the new digs welcomed the team last spring. Everyone’s favorite aspect: each designer has her own worktable crafted from reclaimed kitchen islands fitted with Caesarstone countertops.

As someone who’s passionate about supporting the makers in her community (the studio’s furniture, cabinetry, artwork, and pottery all come from Berkshires craftspeople), Cooney’s favorite compliment came shortly after she opened what was once an eyesore. “I had someone tell me that I’d given the town a gift by renovating it,” the designer says. “That was the nicest thing for me to hear.”

Jess Cooney Interiors, Great Barrington, Mass.

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