Standing on the corner of Routes 22 and 23 in Hillsdale, NY, and looking up at the quintessentially provincial brick colonial – formerly known to nearly every generation of Hillsdale native as the Aubergine – now refurbished and redesigned in a masterfully subtle way by Carrie Herrington in order to house her interior design and retail store C. Herrington Home + Design, it’s difficult not to feel a slight tinge of nostalgia, even if you’ve never seen it before. That is in fact the essence of how Mrs. Herrington who, despite travelling to the design capital of the world to study and learn her craft, grew up a mere ten minutes from Hillsdale – just across the border in Great Barrington MA – has framed her venture from within the historic hamlet.
Carrie started her career as a retail assistant buyer in Manhattan, at Saks Fifth Avenue and Gucci, working with accessories until her husband Rich Herrington proposed, prompting a move back to her hometown where she started work in the wholesale production of home furnishings – her first introduction to interior design. It wasn’t long before Carrie’s new ambitions matched her skill however, and she began to contemplate opening her own interior design firm, “I had an epiphany: I remember thinking there was not a whole lot in Southern Berkshire County that filled the specific niche of home furnishings/interior design and that sparked my interest.”
Now in its sixth year, C. Herrington Home + Design’s unique yet indescribably familiar style has helped to set the standard for the growth in the interior design market in the Hudson Valley. She has successfully crossed niche boundaries within the industry while maintaining the same kind of homegrown passions for community relationships that perfectly represent the immutable impact both the building and the Herrington family have had on the small hamlet and the rolling hills that softly surround its historic Main Street.
Upon meeting and speaking with Carrie, it becomes easy to understand that finding certain niches is the key to interior design, it is also unmistakably plain to see that she has successfully captured perhaps the most important niche of all … people.
Your introduction into the world of interior design happened in Great Barrington, how did you end up pursuing your passion for owning your own store?
“I opened my first store in 1999 on South Main Street in Great Barrington, originally called Urban Country and later changed to Farmhouse, where I stayed in business for around 10-12 years, mostly featuring gifts and light home furnishings. However the most important step I took was educating myself, because I’m completely self-taught and I had only previously worked in retail.”
Is there a relationship between retail and interior design?
“Most interior designers don’t have 4000 square feet of retail space to work with. I was essentially running two businesses, the retail portion as well as the interior design aspect.”
After the housing market collapse in 2012, Carrie was forced to close Farmhouse in Great Barrington, a decision that did not come lightly and was paralleled by intense emotions of both sadness and joy, “I basically had my twin girls at the same time the economy was going into a deep recession. So that, of course, put a lot of stress on the business and I did not want to make a rash decision.”
Just two years later Carrie had a son, a full-fledged family on her hands, and time to reflect. “When I look back now I have come to accept that I had to move on, because at that time you couldn’t give home furnishings away. Simply put, because nobody was buying houses.”
The Aubergine building has been such a prominent part of Hillsdale’s Main Street through the ages, how did it come to house C. Herrington Home + Design?
“About 15 years ago, when the Lawson’s who owned the Aubergine, decided to move back to the Midwest where their family was from, my father-in-law purchased the building. His intention was to make sure that something beneficial to Hillsdale happened there, but there was also a nostalgic notion in acquiring the real estate as well. A descendant of his, named Parla Foster, had built the building in the late 1700s. So what was once Mr. Foster’s home has in essence come full circle from a lifetime of serving as a source of hospitality, as multiple restaurants and hotel/bed and breakfasts for people passing through Hillsdale, back into the family. I actually spent the night before my wedding with my bridesmaids at the Aubergine, my husband and I enjoyed many fabulous meals there, and my sister-in-law married one of the chefs there as well. So I knew the building intimately. It was only a few short years after closing my retail location in Great Barrington that I started fantasizing about re-opening in such a magnificent space, which would serve as such an amazing backdrop for a home furnishings business with every room having a fireplace and fabulous architectural detail. My children were also transitioning from preschool in Stockbridge to Kindergarten in Craryville, so it only made sense to relocate closer to where all of my family was. It was a difficult and emotional decision, because I was essentially leaving my hometown and crossing an imaginary line into New York State. I had to make the decision to cut the emotional cord and move on. In the end, once the decision was made, I quickly realized that it was the best decision I could have made for both myself and my family, and I am very lucky to be where I am.”
How have you seen Hillsdale grow from a design point, especially coming from Great Barrington?
“I feel very fortunate to be part of the growth of Hillsdale, especially on Main Street. Everything that I see on the horizon is super exciting. I think Hillsdale is growing in a positive direction and I think it’s always good when interesting and artistic people are drawn to a town in a way that’s happening here. I think it’s good for the whole design community.”
What would you say are some of the keys to success in the interior design industry? What sets C. Herrington Home + Design apart?
“In starting the process of creating a personal, intimate space for our clients, we interview them to understand what aesthetic they are drawn to. Every one has a type of architecture, aesthetic, and color palette that speaks to them. We take the approach of understanding and interpreting that to create a space that is reflective of that so that it feels familiar and comfortable for them, but fresh and transformed at the same time. We have put a lot of time and effort into understanding what is out there in the world so that we can educate our clients on what is available to them.
We also strive to serve as a resource for other designs and do-it-your-selfers. We have built an elaborate fabric, wallpaper, lighting, and flooring sample library that is available for anyone’s use. Samples can be borrowed at any time so that they can have a visual in the space. We welcome any size job, from a complete new build to a simple request for pillows or window treatments. We have put together a great team of subcontractors such as upholsterers, seamstresses, and installers to enable us to complete any type of interior furnishings job. The building is brimming with a vast array of home furnishings, furniture, and gifts so that our clients can see and feel the quality of things and get a sense of how these products will present themselves in their homes. We are essentially running two businesses here; a retail store and an interior design studio, but it is a convenience that we gladly offer to our clients. We have worked hard to show a range of aesthetics, yet stay true to the architectural integrity of the building.”
Have you noticed an evolution in interior design industry wide?
“We live in the age of the internet of course, so everyone can be as researched and knowledgeable about what they want more so than ever before. It is easy to create an aesthetic from an online resource of mass-produced goods. We make sure to try and educate people on the quality of things and how they are built. We utilize local resources as much as possible. Customization is our niche and is how we truly are able to provide a space for our clients that doesn’t look like it’s a page from a catalogue or website. We prefer the end result to have more soul and reflect the personality of our clients.”
What do you find most rewarding about maintaining this art-based business so locally?
“It will always be the people we meet and have had the pleasure to serve as our clients. We simply believe that we should give them the best version of what it is they tell us they want. Helping them to understand what that is and implementing that is the most rewarding truth. It is often difficult to visualize the end result, as the process requires you to do things in pieces and parts, but when it all comes together and is reflective of who they are, it is so rewarding. Creating a space for our clients that is such a big part of their lives is why we are so grateful to do what we do!”
To learn more about Carrie Herrington and C. Herrington Home + Design, you can visit their store at 2693 NY-23, Hillsdale, NY, call them at (518) 325-6452, or visit them online at www.cherringtonhome.com.