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Floor-to-ceiling windows with a lake view persuade a designer to rehab a Berkshires home

Designer Jess Cooney squeezed everything she could, including a soaking tub, into this cozy getaway for her family.

Designer Jess Cooney jumps off the dock behind her house, newly stained dark green to blend with the trees, on Lake Garfield in the Berkshires.John Gruen
A slatted screen offers privacy and visual interest in the entryway.John Gruen

Jess Cooney has redesigned many an outdated lake house in Western Massachusetts. Recently, she took on her own: a 2,100-square-foot place on Lake Garfield, in Monterey. “We scooped it up right before prices skyrocketed from the pandemic,” the Great Barrington-based designer says. “The house had some issues, but when I turned the corner and saw the main room with the vaulted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows looking at the lake, I thought, Oh yeah, this is a good house.

Before Cooney could revel in the view, she had to contend with the added-on entryway, where the door swung into a tight vestibule right next to her younger kids’ bedrooms. She tore off the tiny entry, replaced it with a slightly larger one, and then clad it in rich mahogany planks that pop against humble pine siding stained forest green. The small vestibule now provides breathing room as well as a place for flip-flops aplenty.

Cooney incorporated similar details throughout the interior, too. The idea originated in her bath, where she ran slats up the wall and on the sloped ceiling to avoid using too much tile. The entry’s black-stained mahogany cabinetry, which serves as a liquor cabinet and overflow pantry (the supermarket can be an hour’s drive round trip so she likes to stock up) plays off the Asian-inspired slatting. Meanwhile, shiplap walls lean into the lake house aesthetic. “Soft whites, deep greens, and punches of black says ‘Berkshires’ to me,” Cooney adds.


Painting the vaulted-wood ceiling soft white made the great room feel even more expansive. Tweaking the windows on the home’s side walls helped, too. “We slid the windows closer to the lake, which extended the view,” Cooney says. The moves were also practical. Relocating the windows in the kitchen, newly outfitted with a mix of oak cabinets and cabinets painted gray-green, as well as a handsome black range, allowed Cooney to slot in a pantry and a window seat. Prepping food at the island, which she turned 90-degrees to face the view, no longer feels like a chore.


On the other side of the room, Cooney pulled the wood stove away from the windows overlooking the lake, again opening up the view. Rather than a visual obstacle, the stove is now a focal point: The modern unit sits atop a blackened steel platform/log holder made by local metalworker John Graney. Earthy zellige tile, a material repeated in the kitchen and two bathrooms, lines the wall behind it.

The family of five hangs out on the sectional sofa around dinnertime, or in nice weather, on the large deck, where more seating and another dining table greatly increase the living space. “The house feels a lot bigger than it is since it’s spread over three floors,” Cooney explains. Downstairs, she turned what was a huge bunk room with no walls into a hang-out space for watching movies, a bedroom for her older daughter, and a proper laundry room.

“The house had some issues, but when I turned the corner and saw the main room with the vaulted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows looking at the lake, I thought, Oh yeah, this is a good house,” Jess Cooney says.John Gruen

There’s another seating area in the loft-style primary suite that Cooney modeled after the bed and breakfasts that she and her husband adore. “I definitely wanted a destination vibe,” she says. It took some work — most significantly, relocating the bathroom from one corner to another, again to better expose the lake and mountain view. The strategic move provided some privacy for the bed, which is tucked in beside the new bath. Cooney closed up the window behind the bed because it faced the neighbor. “It feels like you’re alone on the lake now,” she says.


Opposite the bed, Cooney paired a sectional with a chunky wood table from Fern, a furniture maker in nearby Hudson, New York. The designer often works here, especially if the kids’ friends are visiting. “I have four other projects on this lake right now, so I’m up here all the time,” she says. “It’s my sanctuary.”

Cooney’s favorite part of the house is her bathroom, where she admits to having spared no expense. It’s a snug, tumbled limestone-tiled space with a slatted wood ceiling, a modest walk-in shower, and a curvy soaking tub. “It took me a long time to figure out how to fit a tub, but it works,” she says.

This situation of things just fitting is common throughout the house. Nightstands are turned sideways, a door doesn’t fully open, but that’s OK. “There isn’t two inches to spare, but it’s really cozy,” she says. “That’s the charm of a lake house.”


Interior design: Jess Cooney,


In the living room, Cooney paired chairs with black caning within walnut frames, by Skrivo Design for Miniforms, with a sectional from nearby Hammertown Barn.John Gruen
Graney Metal Design made the platform/log holder for the Stuv wood stove. “You can reach out the window next to it to grab a log from the pile on the porch,” Cooney says.John Gruen
“My family says I’m a nicer person at the lake house,” says Cooney, pictured here with rescue pups Roxie and Frankie. “I cook homemade meals; they’re shocked.”John Gruen
In the primary bedroom, Cooney reupholstered a bed she already owned in olive velvet and added Pierre Frey wallpaper with a birch tree bark pattern behind it.John Gruen
In the primary bath, Cooney closed the windows on the back wall and added windows on the long side of the tub so everything would fit.John Gruen

Marni Elyse Katz is a contributing editor to the Globe Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @StyleCarrot. Send comments to