By Helena Palazzi / Yellow House Production
Rhinebeck-based real estate pros Jon and Delyse Berry dreamed of starting a brokerage that went above and beyond sales. The secret of their success: a self-proclaimed “holistic approach to home.”
Fifteen years ago—after a whirlwind romance that began with the couple locking eyes across a crowded bar—Jon and Delyse Berry got married at her mother’s home in Rhinebeck. At the time they were happily living in Brooklyn, but it was a hint of things to come. Once they started having kids, relocating upstate just felt like it made sense. “We decided to make Rhinebeck our home,” says Jon. Now the Berrys have two daughters and a son, ranging in age from nine to 14, and a menagerie that includes two dogs, a horse, a cat that showed up and never left, and three cherished chickens. Better yet, two of Delyse’s three siblings, along with their children, live within walking distance.
When the family first moved to the Valley, Jon was working hard to make a name for himself in the financial industry and Delyse became a real estate agent. Long hours were a given for Jon, and he was away from home a lot. Meanwhile, Delyse dreamed of creating a different type of real estate firm and wished Jon could be part of it.
Ultimately, a 10th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii sparked the fire that became their company, Upstate Down. Jon gave notice, earned his real estate license, and started working with Delyse in sales. At first, it wasn’t easy. “We lost a lot of financial stability and had to learn how to work together in a career as a couple,” notes Jon. Then they purchased an old house in foreclosure and set about fixing it up on a minimal budget. This is when Delyse knew it was time to begin pursuing interior design work, like her mother before her. After two and a half years of working together as agents and doing their own designing, the plan crystallized, and Upstate Down was born. “We officially became a company in February 2021, secured our first location in March, and opened the UD Studio, which is our combination design studio and store in Rhinebeck, in May,” says Jon. Within months they signed on their first few agents (they now have 12) and began booking design jobs.
A fireplace as a focal point offers warmth in more ways than one.
Their business model for Upstate Down leans heavily toward lifestyle rather than just real estate. They dig deep to understand clients’ needs. “From there, we plug them into our various services to help create their ideal experience. That’s why we call our process a holistic approach to home,” says Jon. They can offer staging for sellers or help buyers see the potential in a house that needs work and thoughtfully prioritize a renovation budget. Sometimes they help clients buy a house and then do the renovation, but this is not required. They also get design inquiries through their website, social media, and shop, which features a mix of curated kitchenware, new and vintage pottery, pillows, blankets, Moroccan rugs, and more.
Meanwhile, a few months before launching Upstate Down, the Berrys sold their Rhinebeck starter and bought the 3,200-square-foot house that became their current home. The dated, ‘80s-era basic build needed a ton of work, but they didn’t care because the location was perfect. Per Jon, the kitchen, fireplace, laundry room, and primary bathroom were all in the wrong places. “It was difficult to reimagine, but we were excited for the challenge,” he says. The day after closing, gutting began.
Clearly, the kitchen was designed with entertaining in mind.
They relocated the kitchen, closed off three entrances that surrounded the fireplace to create intimacy, built a new hallway in the center of the house to access the garage and new laundry room, and resituated the bathrooms. Throughout the process, the pair thought hard about how to get the most value for their money.
In the end, the fireplace, kitchen, and primary bath took priority. “We light the fireplace almost every day from mid-September through April,” says Delyse. “The smell, the crackle, the depth of the fire going against the stone, it’s my favorite spot in the house.”
Functionality was key in the kitchen because the Berrys love to entertain. Great appliances and plenty of storage were musts. Also, since Jon is an avid chef, he wanted the stovetop in the island so he can stay in the mix while cooking.
As for the primary bathroom, the trick was to make the most of limited space. “Jon loves a good shower and I need a tub,” says Delyse. “By creating a wet room with a shower and bathtub sharing the same waterproofed floor, we were able to accomplish our goal. It’s peaceful, has great light, and feels like a mini spa.”
Now, post-renovation, growing Upstate Down is even more top of mind. The couple’s newest addition, a blog called The Journal provides a forum to share Hudson Valley highlights, feature favorite local businesses, and create town guides for visitors. “We see this as part of the Upstate Down lifestyle experience,” says Delyse. A lifestyle that revolves around all the comforts of home.
The bathroom isn’t big, but still manages to feel spa-like.