Two Top New York Based Designers Reflect on “Designing on a Dime” in a World That’s Getting A Whole Lot More Expensive


There is no one better to ask than two top Interior Designers when we want to understand the Turbulent Real Estate market. Is the stock market affecting their client’s decision on how much to spend and whether they are going to buy or stay put, renovate one room at a time or do a full gut renovation?

Our guests this week, Sergio Mercado and Jennifer Cohler Mason, just did gorgeous vignettes for one of the industry’s most talked about event “Design on a Dime.” It was put on hold for two years during Covid. This year the crowd and designers were top tier with the CEO of Gucci being honored and it was covered on Channel 4 and Channel 2. (Here is video.)

Roberto and I periodically ask expert Lisa Ben-Isvy when we want to talk to the very best in design business. Why? We look to design when we want to make sense of a turbulent real estate market., New York’s best designers are the tastemakers for the world. Designers must be good listeners and the best of them have an instinctive feel for where the market is going. Theirs is a more collaborative process with their clients than is found in other industries and consequently designers the first to know if clients are feeling optimistic, or anxious, whether people are spending or holding back. Their clients are our clients, and we want to know are their clients focused on Florida or heading back to Connecticut. Are they hiding in the Hamptons or starting projects in New York? Are clients reacting to a turbulent stock market and rising interest rates, or are they feeling good about strong employment and continued strong housing prices? This week we have Sergio Mercado and Jennifer Cohler Mason on the show, both recently featured on the TV show “Design on a Dime”  I was intrigued that Sergio’s clients say of him, “Everything he turns his attention to is done artfully.”  I am equally intrigued by Jennifer’s background as a fashion designer and her emphasis on craftsmanship. This should be a great conversation.

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   J Cohler Mason Design is a full service design firm creating interior spaces that are contemporary, yet classic and timeless, resulting in the perfect mix for warm and inviting interior spaces.
​​​​​​​     Jennifer’s approach is highly collaborative, involving not only each client but also an extraordinary group of carefully selected artisans and craftspeople — including lighting designers, cabinet makers, weavers, painters, upholsterers and others who contribute their well recognized talents to each of Jennifer’s unique projects. But it is Jennifer who is intimately involved with each of her firm’s design projects down to the last detail.
​​​​​​​     Jennifer’s work has appeared on HGTV, DIY Network, CBS-TV, and designer show houses as well as in numerous US and international publications.
Designing on a Dime
Jennifer Cohler Mason
Designing on a Dime
  Sergio Mercado
     New York City-based Sergio Mercado Design Studio specializes in residential projects and hospitality interiors in broad reaching locations from Manhattan, Connecticut and New Jersey, extending down to Miami and Palm Beach. Critically acclaimed for creating breathtaking spaces that are at the crossroads of contemporary design and timeless comfort, it is the Studio’s mission to curate a personal aesthetic for its clients by employing bespoke color palettes, luxurious textures, and well-cultivated detail elements.
​​​​​​​     Now heading Sergio Mercado Design Studio into its seventh year, Sergio continues to pull his inspiration from textural materials, contemporary lines, soft palettes, and a refined industrial aesthetic. Sergio enjoys interpreting the world through a modern lens, while respecting the traditional tenets of interior design.
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John Engel – John Engel can be found at He is a consistently top-producing agent in Fairfield County, Connecticut. John recently won the Realtor of the Year Award in New Canaan where he is has been Chairman of the Town Council and is currently a member of the Planning & Zoning Commission. John also brings an insight into internet-based marketing that is unsurpassed. Before going into real estate he was the founder of two successful internet businesses, and e-Media for which he won the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year Award. John spent his earliest years in Stuyvesant Town in lower Manhattan and went to New Canaan High School before attending Davidson College in North Carolina. After graduating, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army and spent some time leading a military intelligence platoon on the front lines of the first Gulf War. He currently lives in New Canaan with his wife Melissa and four children. In addition to hosting this podcast on the market each week, John Engel produces an easy-to-understand and in-depth monthly market analysis called the Market Report for the 16 towns of lower Fairfield County.

Roberto Cabrera – Roberto can be found at With 20 years of experience, I have been recognized throughout the industry for achieving outstanding results: Ranked nationally by REAL Trends as one of “America’s Best Real Estate Agents” for avg. sales price of $4.350M. Sold a single family Townhouse faster than any other on the Upper West Side over $10M. I live with my wife and daughter on the Upper West Side, the neighborhood I have called home for the past 23 years. I was originally born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in Maryland, just one mile south of the Mason Dixon line. After graduating with a degree in Mathematical Economics from Hampden-Sydney College, the 10th oldest school in the country, I spent 5 years in Washington, DC working as a financial consultant. I also studied at The National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts and I’m a former actor who once moonlighted as a stand-up comedian. Many years ago, I authored APPLE PIE – The Real Ingredients for Buying and Selling Your Slice.

Boroughs & Burbs Past Episodes

B&B 1: Heym, Kliegerman, Stevenson, Karp, Hobbs

B&B 21: “The Townhouse Show” with Bo Paulson & Anna Shagalov
B&B 22: The Evolving Business of Real Estate with Bess Freedman & Matt Leone
B&B 28: “The Definitive Fairfield County Tour” (John Dicenzo and Robyn Kammerer)
B&B 29 “How’s The Real Estate Market Right Now?”  Lisa Lippman and Rob Johnson
B&B 30 “Am I A Brand?” Brand Building in Real Estate. Matt Leone & Chris Halstead
B&B 31 “The Townhouse Show” New York Real Estate: Terry Niaini & David Kornmeier 
B&B 32 “The Pricing Show” Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuels and Dr. Rob Docters 
B&B 33 “The Current Market” Talking About Real Estate with Scott Hobbs 
B&B 34 Darien, New Canaan & Westport: Discussion on What Makes these Towns Special David Genovese, David Waldman, Tucker Murphy, Laura Budd
B&B 35 “The Ranch Show” Montana Ranches Are Selling For Record Prices
B&B 36 NYC Real Estate “What We Can Expect in 2022”  (Greg Heym & Kevin Kovesci)
B&B 37 About Real Estate w/ Tony Fox, Scott Hobbs & Michael Goldenberg
B&B 38 Super-Lux Condos at $2500 Per Foot Selling in New Canaan and Westport.
B&B 39 What’s the Price of New in New York? Kliegerman & Tomana, New Development
B&B 40: Bob Stefanowski: Critical Issues for Connecticut’s Real Estate Economy
B&B 41: Ari Harkov on the NYC & Brooklyn Markets and Running a Top Real Estate Team
B&B 42: Affordable Housing – Who Needs It? w/ Tony Hwang, Ryan Fazio, Scott Hobbs & Francis Pickering
B&B 43: Benjamin Moore’s Color Expert & Top Designers Talk Color Trends in Real Estate
B&B 44: Noah Rosenblatt of Urban Digs on the New York Market
B&B 45: Governor Ned Lamont. Conversation on Real Estate & the Connecticut Economy
B&B 46 “Tax The Rich, They Won’t Move” A Conversation on Migration and Demographics
B&B 47: “Mexico is Hot” What You Need to Know about this Rising Real Estate Market
B&B 48: Zoom On Q1 Market Report for Real Estate in New York & Connecticut – So Hot
B&B 49: Mike Lubin & Matt Cohen, Top Realtors in New York, on The Post-Covid Market
B&B 50: “Can Housing Keep Rising” A Conversation with Jonathan Miller on Rising Rates