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A Conversation with Designer Wendy Berry

RugNews.com caught up with designer Wendy Berry to talk about how she expanded her thriving Cleveland business to Florida, the design industry’s COVID-19 boom, the future of trade show shopping, and her signature style.

RugNews.com Editors
Designer Wendy Berry in a dining room she designed
Interior designer Wendy Berry, known for her sophisticated, approachable style, sees business take off as clients focus on home.

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio -- Interior designer Wendy Berry, with offices in Chagrin Falls, a charming village just outside of Cleveland, and upscale Naples, Florida, has seen her luxury residential projects accelerate as her clients look to upgrade their primary homes and vacation spots during the pandemic.

The young designer, who launched her full service studio, W Design in 2002, in that time established a reputation for her sophisticated but approachable interiors. And today, as more Americans are staying close to home, she is increasingly being sought out by affluent clients for her inviting yet elegant interiors.


living room in blue and cream
Clients are asking interior designer Wendy Berry for casual but chic interiors, and in this Florida Gold Coast home she lays the foundation with a textural blue area rug.

And while commissions are keeping Berry busy, she and her team have had to adapt their strategy during the coronavirus pandemic. The group typically attends High Point Market annually to source new products, however this year due to concerns over the Covid-19 crisis, they will not attend. Instead they are leaning heavily on industry partners to keep them up to date on the latest products. 

"Reps should be bringing market to the client. We've got really great reps! I would love to have a presentation from each one of our main reps at our studio," Berry tells RugNews.com. "We have an amazing studio in Cleveland, Ohio, and another in Naples, Florida, that we pump a lot of work out of. So we are always in need of fresh things. We really rely on our reps and they really take care of us."

W Design, despite the economic upheaval and coronavirus restrictions, like other home furnishings industry players has reaped the unexpected benefit of Americans staying home. "Our business is one of the few -- other than grocery stores and Amazon -- that is still going strong because people are nesting and they're staying in their homes. They wanted their vacation homes ready so they don't have to get stuck quarantining in New Jersey when they could be quarantining in Florida on the beach. So we're lucky ... we've actually had an acceleration of business."


textural geometric rug in bedroom
Many of designer Wendy Berry's affluent customers, who are in nesting mode due to the pandemic, are investing in their vacation homes.
In this bedroom, Berry chose a textural high-low area rug by Feizy to add subtle movement to a soothing space.

Berry's design style, while painstakingly focused on the client's taste and lifestyle, is anchored by a recurring theme of sophistication and comfort. "I love comfortable and I love sophisticated. Those are my two buzzwords," she declares. "A client might say, 'I like ultra-modern, or I'm more traditional'. But if they give me free rein, I love casual that feels expensive, sophisticated and eclectic -- that doesn't feel contrived.

"I like a room where you walk in and you feel good," she explains -- adding that during these uncertain times it has become even more important to carve out spaces that are comfortable and soothing.

"Our clients have really large homes, and they say one of the compliments they get for our work is that despite being so big but their home feels so comfortable. You feel like you could sit in any room, and you could sink into any piece of furniture. You don’t feel you can't put your cup down on a table. It's approachable." 

An element of her livable style always includes area rugs, as either a tool to anchor an area within a larger space, or as a statement-making component of her design, or just simply to offer comfort underfoot. If budget allows, Berry will often create a custom rug to highlight a unique design or because there is a specific palette she has selected for a space.

a luxe bathroom with area rug
Architectural details and hard surfaces are softened with an inviting area rug by Feizy in this generous master bath designed by W Design's founder Wendy Berry.

Each piece, from the architectural details to the lighting to the furnishings to the area rugs, is a carefully orchestrated to flush out a plot line and carefully threaded through the narrative she is trying to achieve.

"I don’t like to make everything a feature. I like to either let something become the backdrop and put the feature on top of it. Or I like to make something – let's say the rug – the feature. So if I do an awesome rug that has a lot of pattern or color or different levels of texture, I build from that. Sometimes I make the rug the first thing I pick and start my inspiration that way. Or sometimes I'll find an amazing fabric -- like the feature fabric -- and then I work backwards and make the rug the second element.

"I'm going to do it both ways, and I often do it differently from one room to the next, so I don't always do all calm rugs that just feel good and complement the design. Sometimes I make the rugs the introduction to the design."

Berry often employs a pair of identical rugs to help anchor a space, especially if it's an open plan dining and living room. "I'll do a pair of the exact same rug, with fabric and the furniture and the wood and the metals on top of it. The rugs anchor that the space, gives you division and I sometimes think it feels less contrived. But in some instances, if I don't do that, I'll do a more patterned area rug under the dining room table, and I'll probably do something more simple and textured in the main seating area and put a busier pillow fabric on top of that.

contemporary seaside bedroom
Interior designer Wendy Berry put comfort over pomp and transformed this seaside interior to a exercise in livable luxury.

"Or we want something really unique -- and those are really expensive rugs; they're tens of thousands of dollars. Not under $10,000, which is the average price of a rug we would do for our standard client's house. We might do a special rug here and there. But many of our clients have grandkids and they don’t want the most expensive fragile rug. Everyone has pets so dog friendly is huge. They want easy care and we often use wool because it is forgiving. In less trafficked spaces we might select viscose because it feels great, and sometimes they're the prettiest ones. So we'll use them in bedrooms."

She takes an eclectic approach to her interiors and has no qualms about mixing rug styles. "I love an eclectic design," she says. "One rug might be modern, and another might be tribal."


home furnishings showroom
The W Home showroom in Ohio features furniture and lighting created by designer Wendy Berry.

Berry, who also created a line of furniture called W Home Collection, began her design practice in Ohio, with two clients subsequently commissioning her to fill their homes in Florida. Those early assignments led to more local work, including designing several model homes for developers, and to the opening of her studio in Naples.

"Cleveland is much more traditional," Berry says. "But even the traditional clients in Cleveland still want a cleaned up version. They don't like the big, heavy, over-designed feel that used to be fun to do. They don’t want the layers and layers and layers of furniture and fabrics and patterns."  The clientele that often commission Berry to recast their homes are typically around 60, with children that have flown the nest, or just about to. Many are also recently retired and are getting their next homes in order. "Often, they have grandchildren. They've had the big houses with the formal dining room and heavy drapes, the patterned everything and now they want calm, classic, clean, and that comfortable, approachable feel ... Some still might want an opulent look but not over-designed.

"Now people want lighter, airier, brighter and calm. Our lives are busy and crazy, and its's great to be in an environment that's calm -- that just feels good."

Berry says her style has evolved over the course of her career. As life and lifestyles continue to become increasingly casual, so too has her work. But she notes that her clients still like "nice things." "I love quality, so I would rather have a few quality pieces -- and that doesn’t have to mean a huge brand name or a big price tag attached. It could just be a really great piece that you found or had made."


modern contemporary living room
Designer Wendy Berry, founder of her Ohio-based W Design studio and showroom, often employs architectural elements on the ceiling and walls to identify a space.

The design process for Berry often begins with a review of a client's lifestyle, the space itself and how she can carve out architectural details. She sees herself as an expert storyteller where a design unfolds as a space is entered. "I like a room to unfold," she explains. "So you don’t just walk in and only see one thing with everything perfectly matched. Instead, you have a foreground, middle ground and background."

Within her design inventory is an exploration of space and highlighting or adding architectural details. "Architectural details are huge in my opinion. That's one of the first places I spend money. So I'll do a ceiling detail or a wall detail that kind of identifies the space. It could be one gigantic room but you could create three or four separate spaces by how you treat the ceiling and/or the walls, or arrange the furniture."

Another key focus in her oeuvre is exploiting lighting and using it to add another layer to a space. "Lighting is everything," the designer explains. "I always say to people who have a tight budget that if you don’t illuminate things properly, you lose the shadows; you lose the accenting."


charming store front
The W Design studio sits alongside a new W Home showroom featuring the W Home Collection of furniture and lighting in addition to a curated collection of artisan products in its Chagrin Falls, Ohio, location.

As its private clientele roster continues to grow in Ohio and Florida, W Design has also expanded its reach to consumers and fellow interior designers with a new 1,00 square foot shop in Chagrin Falls showcasing its private label W Home Collection of furniture and lighting. "We opened a really pretty brick and mortar store adjacent to our studio, where we're featuring all the products that we've been sharing with our personal clients over the years. We did it because we were already making furniture for clients when we couldn’t find what we wanted, or when what we wanted was really expensive."

reception area in showroom
W Design's Naples, Florida, studio showcases select designs by the W Home label, alongside other unique or hand-made pieces.

"We took the best [upholstered] pieces that we could find and created a cushioning that is as nice as anything I've ever sat on. And we manipulate the shapes and sizes. We have some amazing case goods and lighting."  Up until the pandemic struck, Berry was a consummate traveler using her trips to find items that are crafted by artisans.

"We have some really unique pieces that we use for our installs, and now we're bringing them to the community, where other people and other designers can purchase them."

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