Dogs & Yoga
This family’s holiday spirit lives on throughout the year
Photographs by Scott Barrow
“For the past 25 years, dogs have been in my life,” says Kari Harendorf, once a dog trainer, a vet tech, and a dog walker. Her love of dogs—she has five of them—is blended with her love of yoga, family, and just about everything else in her life. Her family also has two horses (that they board), three bunnies (in the backyard), and ten chickens (back there with the bunnies, except Pepper the black silkie who lives in the house most of the time). Her home is first and foremost a warm, welcoming place, and that warmth is most apparent during the holidays. For Kari, it’s not so much a particular religion that she follows, but the underlying message that each brings: love, compassion, gratitude. Fittingly, the family’s holiday tree, visible through the window by anyone passing by outside, is called a “Peace Tree.”
“The thing about holidays is being together,” says Kari, whose family includes husband Michael Cohen, daughters Karma, 13, and Lotus, 11, and son Bodhi, nine. “We have a menorah out; a Christmas tree; we fill the stockings, even a dog stocking, with treats. We do a big Christmas morning of opening gifts. Religion shouldn’t be what separates us; it should be what brings us together, like yoga, elevating our consciousness.”
Kari’s view on religion is in sync with her view on yoga. She was living in the East Village when 9/11 happened. She put herself downtown with a respirator, handing out waters and working overnight shifts in a restaurant, feeding first responders. “Yoga was the only community that felt safe,” she says. From there, she turned her attention from going to veterinarian school, to beginning 200 hours of yoga teacher training. Always by her side was Charlie, her husky shepherd mix. (The two even starred in a series called K9 Karma, which ran on Animal Planet for two seasons.)
Eventually, Kari and Michael moved to Sag Harbor, New York, where they lived full-time for three years. They still own the home and go there in the summer. The couple discovered the Great Barrington Steiner School from a friend who was scouting schools. They, too, fell in love with the area, and the school, after just one visit. “I wanted our children to grow really slowly, like the trees, like the mountains. I love the community here,” Kari says. She is now on the faculty at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, leading yoga teacher training there and elsewhere around the U.S. Kari also teaches at Yoga Great Barrington and has a private yoga therapy practice. Michael recently set aside his job as a marketing consultant and tech investor to partner with Chris Weld to begin a cannabis business called The Pass, which includes growing, processing, and opening three retail locations, the first one planned in Sheffield to open in the spring.
Kari and Michael rented a home on the Hill when they first moved to Great Barrington. They became friends with their neighbors across the street, Mary Campbell and David Case, whose home went through extensive renovations at a cost of more than $500,000, says Great Barrington-based interior designer Jess Cooney. Kari recalls sitting on her rented front porch and thinking how grand Mary’s porch was. After Mary and David moved out, their home became a short-term rental. Over time, it began looking worn, beaten, outdated. Then Mary contacted Kari and asked whether she wanted to buy the home. She did.
Jess knew Kari from the Steiner school, where their kids attend. “She kept asking me to work on the house, and I said no, I don’t want to work with friends.” A year later, Jess took on the project. The original contractor, Iovan deRis, was in, too. “Both of us knew the house really well,” says Jess. She was familiar with Kari’s style, having visited her Sag Harbor house and taken her yoga class. “Kari has a very clean, modern aesthetic, but she likes being in that old home. We tried to mix the two.”
It was more important to have fewer, bigger-scale pieces of furniture, with the dogs, the kids, the friends coming through. “They needed pathways, but needed to be cozy,” says Jess. That meant no fussy stuff, and several comfortable zones, such as a sofa in the kitchen. Some changes were minor, like replacing the window shades and changing the paint color. Other changes were more involving. In the master bathroom, a marble-top vanity with two sinks and a recessed three-panel medicine cabinet were created by Eric Schultz, and a modern bathtub was added. (Jess had suggested to the previous owners during renovations that they plumb for a bathtub, even though they didn’t want one at the time.) The attic was transformed into bedrooms for each daughter, and a shared bath. Wall-to-wall carpeting was replaced with pickled-oak floors. On the second floor, the bath was renovated for their son, and a little hatchway in his room goes to a secret hiding space.
On the first floor, Kari got rid of the green and gold wallpaper and replaced the old glass windows. The front of the home was painted white, and the trim in the entry was carried into the kitchen. The kitchen was cantilevered out ten feet, essentially adding 150 square feet. Blown-glass pendants by Simon Pearce hang over the kitchen island. The backsplash is a modern version of traditional subway tile. The cabinets made by Peter Thorne were repainted, and the stone kitchen counters made by Rock Solid in Sheffield were retained. Mugs and plates in the kitchen, many within view, were created by local potter Daniel Bellow.
“I love having a house that my kids’ friends like to come to,” Kari says. “I’m in the kitchen all the time. I love cooking, baking—pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies, vegan and gluten-free, soups, roasted veggies and salads. I’m really into Ayurveda, using food as medicine, coaching people on how to make better choices.”