Designer Showcase to Benefit Construct

from Berkshire Style: In and Around the Berkshires, an online resource — by Kathryn Boughton

By opulent Gilded Age standards, Cassilis Farm in New Marlborough was a modest château, having a mere 14 bedrooms in the main house and only six more in its annex.

Built in 1890 and burned to the ground in 1902, the rebuilt mansion became the playground in 1910 of wealthy New York City banker Hildreth Kennedy Bloodgood III. It loomed large in elite equestrian circles in the 19th century as Bloodgood, a noted sportsman, and his daughter became preeminent breeders of hackney horses.

After 134 years the property, which has since passed through the hands of several owners, is now poised to enter a new phase of its history. Construct, Inc., a nonprofit provider of affordable housing and supportive services in the southern Berkshires, is preparing to convert it to 11 affordable apartments.

But before the construction begins, the venerable building with its gracious interior will be transformed into a month-long showcase for regional designers. The designers, whose areas of focus range from staging and interiors to styling and textile design, are bringing their unique visions to transform the Gilded Age estate, highlighting the region’s diverse natural beauty and commitment to outdoor conservation and recreation.

“We have 15 designers from the southern Berkshires and New York State,” said Nichole Dupont, showcase project manager. “There are also two landscapers and eight visual artists showing just beautiful works in a gallery in one of the hallways. The Berkshire Gilded Age estates are becoming destinations and this will be a last chance to see the interior of Cassilis Farm before it is renovated.”

The Designer Showhouse opens May 31st and runs through June 30th.

“As we’ve reached out to interior designers, landscape designers and others with our appeal to help us with the showcase, the overwhelming response has been ‘yes!,’” said co-chair and Construct board member Laura Jordahl. “They, like many businesses, have been directly affected by the shortage of affordable housing. All of us know that working to make Cassilis into a place that 11 families will call home will help to strengthen our community ties.”

All proceeds from the event will go directly to much-needed affordable housing in the Berkshires. The housing crisis is at an all-time high in Berkshire County and affects the workforce, the elderly, families and businesses in the New Marlborough area. There is currently no affordable housing in the town and its businesses struggle to keep their doors open because of staffing shortages.

“Housing is the headline of the decade,” said Dupont. “There are currently 375 people on a waiting list in southern Berkshire County alone. It’s the greatest need in the area.” She noted that New Marlborough has been instrumental in pushing the Cassilis Farm project, dedicating ARPA funds to help secure the property.

Dupont said the theme “Nature in the Berkshires,” was chosen because of the location. “New Marlborough is a land-centric community,” she observed. “Some designers took the history of house and paid homage to the 1880s. There is one room with an equestrian, Ralph Lauren, look because of the farm’s history of breeding hackney ponies.

“One designer took inspiration from a Berkshire Eagle article about a mute swan refuge in Pittsfield, and created a swan nursery,” she continued. “It has custom wallpaper and a papier-mâché bassinette with an actual swan in it.

“Another took a small art studio off the main property and turned it into a glass atelier, with a botanicals and period furniture while the Willets Trophy Room, with its 12-foot dining table looks like a gentlemen’s club. There is a bar with a mural of a bookcase with vines growing through it so it looks like nature is entering the room,” she recounted.

The dining room has a “Strawberry Fields” motif in an open, airy chamber highlighted with lush metallic wallpaper and fabrics, according to Dupont. “Strawberry Fields” is an appropriate designation as John Lennon and Yoko Ono were guests at the farm, probably on multiple occasions, when George Maciunas, founder of the Fluxus international art movement, lived there in the 1970s.

Designers include Barrington Outfitters, C Herrington Home Design, Carly Jane Design, Danielle Sweet Interiors, Gallery 315Home Germain Interiors, Hammertown, Harry Heissmann, Irwin Feld Design, Jennifer Bianco Design, Jess Cooney Interiors, Pryor & Peacock, Staged Ryte, Tillett Textiles, Tune Street and Wingate Ltd. “These designers are spending hundreds of hours and other resources on these rooms,” said Dupont.

The landscapers are Helia Native Nursery and Whalen Nursery while artists Laura Christensen, Kathryn Freeman, Ann Getsinger, Pops Peterson/Maurice, Kate Knapp, Gail Gelburd, Shawn Fields, Robin Tost and Bob Watkins will exhibit in the gallery.

“The people I’m working with on the Construct Board of Directors are very dedicated to making this (affordable housing) happen,” reported Dupont. “These are second-home owners who are dedicated to preserving the towns they have chosen to live in. I’m amazed at how they want to build the community.”

“Nature in the Berkshires” will be a timed, ticketed walkthrough and will be open to visitors through five weekends in June. Additional events surrounding the fundraiser include a New Marlborough community day as well as a special Opening Night tour and reception at Cassilis Farm.

Information about the Designer Showcase will be updated on Construct’s dedicated website as well as via Construct’s social media handles. Tickets are now on sale.

For more than 50 years, Construct Inc. has played a role in offering affordable housing in southern Berkshire County. Its accomplishments include managing the construction of Forest Springs, an 11-unit development in Great Barrington, and successfully transforming a local inn into workforce housing. More information on Construct can be found by clicking the link below or by calling 413-528-1985.

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