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Berkshire Hills Design

Less Fuss, No Muss


Simplify. You see that pithy injunction everywhere during this complex time when Americans are drowning under piles of possessions, when society urges constant consumption and when our devices deliver a never-ending display of new things to buy.

Is it any wonder that when they turn to their homes, 21st-century homeowners are looking for a clean, crisp look with little fuss and less muss?

“One of the first things clients say is, “I don’t want it to collect dust,” said Danielle Stevenson, manager and designer at Berkshire Hills Design in Canaan. The design center specializes in tile, flooring, custom kitchen and bathroom design and cabinets.

“A lot of what is being done is replacing honey oak cabinets. People want the Shaker door or slab (flat and unadorned) doors with no movement on them.”

It is the same with the entire kitchen or bathroom where sleek, modern designs prevail. “There is a lot of construction going on,” she said, adding that she is booked for months in advance. “We do a lot more bathrooms than kitchens.”

Her clients are looking for functionality with as little need for care as possible. “Granite is no more,” she said, “and Corian is very rare. Manmade quartz is taking over the market. Carrara marble was the go-to for everyone who wanted a matte finish but marble is soft and porous. Most fabricators today make customers sign a waiver for Cararra marble because if you put a glass on it, it will leave an etched ring. Then, when you realize you have one, you see them everywhere. To get them out, you have to sand the marble.”

She said modern clients are willing to pay a little more to get manmade products that are “the least porous and most heat-resistant.”

“Soapstone and marble have now been replaced by porcelain,” she said, explaining that porcelain products come in all different looks, ranging from wood tones to marble. “A good imitation costs the equivalent amount, but requires nothing of you—literally zero maintenance. Hands-down, it has taken over the market.”

Porcelain is not the only product being accessed by modern buyers. “For those who want an ‘out of the ground’ look, quartzite is the answer,” she said. “It has a little mica in it and the ladies like the bling.”

Colors in kitchens and baths are changing subtly, too. “I have to say, I’m getting exciting,” she said. “It used to be white on white on white. Then gray became extremely popular—now that is finally going out the window and blue is the new accent. I see a lot of navy. And a kind of taupe color—not quite taupe but more of a grey-beige that I like to call ‘greige.’ Gray was so popular for so long and I think everyone finally stood back and said, ‘That’s so cold.’ Now, it is blue, green and gray but there is beige in that gray.”

Because so much of the housing stock in the region consists of vintage homes, she often tries to bring in a touch of wood for a rustic look. “Rustic wood accents are popular—just something small. Often, when I am designing a new kitchen, I will think, ‘My contemporary kitchen is little bit more than this house calls for.”

Stevenson has been in the design industry for nearly 20 years, having worked for both Lowe’s in Torrington and S.J. Masters in Canaan. Today, she works in the same building where S.J. Masters had its headquarters at 14 Church Street in Canaan. The showroom now has more than 24 tile floor set ups, four full kitchen back splashes, two full shower displays and three full kitchen displays.

The store is owned by area businessmen and is under her management. “When we started, we had to decide what did we wanted to bring out,” she said. “The most important thing for me was not making it so high-end that people in this town couldn’t shop here. We have all ranges of price points.”

Her next goal was to make the site accessible. “I wanted to make it so designers could walk through the door and pretend we were not here and take their clients shopping. We really want to be a resource which is why I bring in local artisans. There is no gain for us—I’m not looking to make a dime off them. We’re just giving them a platform.”

The win-win cooperation gives the artisans an outlet for their products, ranging from pottery to rugs and woven items like place mats and napkins. “It’s good because I help them and they make my showroom look beautiful,” she said. “If I gain a sale, great—if I don’t, I don’t.”

Stevenson says she is “very much a give-back person,” who values a sense of community.

“The white kitchen (display) is working kitchen,” she said. “My intention was to do cooking demos once a month with proceeds going to a local charity. That’s a work in progress because we have been so busy. But we want to offer the site to other businesses that want to give a cocktail party. The only requirement is that they must donate to a local charity.”

Stevenson works long days to keep up with demand. The warehouse is open Monday-Friday, 7AM-4PM and the design center Monday-Friday, 9AM-4PM. Saturday hours are 9AM-3PM; 860-824-0209.