Arlene Gross


Expert Organizers Give Tips for Decluttering Your Home


You look around your house and feel overwhelmed by the piles of papers and countless tchotchkes and simply don’t know what to do.

It might be a good time to call a professional organizer.

“Being organized and decluttering one’s home results in people feeling better emotionally, mentally, and physically,” says Vinnie Giacalone of Massapequa, owner of The Organized Guy, Inc. “It also makes you more productive and saves time and money.”

Giacalone says he starts by trying to get a general understanding of people’s issues, followed by an in-person or virtual tour of the problem areas of the home. The three-step process can be boiled down to the A.C.E. mnemonic: Assess the situation; Create the plan; Execute the plan.

Giacalone advises starting with smaller projects or tasks. Even if your goal is to organize the entire house, it’s better to tackle one space or room at a time.

“It’s easier to measure progress and it’s a great way to feel positive, productive, and empowered,” he says.

Through the years, a person’s belongings often gain sentimental value, so Giacalone says he’s careful to respect people’s wishes.

“However, I will make suggestions and recommendations that remain in line with the vision we defined,” he says.

To achieve a more manageable space, it’s not necessary to throw everything out, but to remain true to the goals set forth in the plan, advises Giacalone.

“If their goals were to clear out stuff but instead they keep giving me reasons to keep stuff, I will ask if they’re changing the goals or altering the plans. It’s always about accountability.” 

Basements, garages, attics, and closets prove the most challenging spaces to declutter because these are the places where we typically stash things away.

“Over time, these spaces become dumping areas for stuff that’s no longer used or wanted,” says Giacalone, who advises people to periodically clean out and remove old, unused, unwanted items from these areas.

Bonnie Reich, president of Symmetry Closets in Holbrook, suggests the following tips for organizing/decluttering closets and pantries:

  • Take everything off the shelves and place in groups of like items

  • Separate into three piles: Keep; Toss; Donate

  • If you spend more than 3 seconds choosing a pile for any item, place it in a fourth pile: Maybe

  • After sorting everything, return to the Maybe pile and sort items into first three piles

  • Place seldom-used items on the top and bottom shelves; frequently used items at eye/hand level; heavy items at the bottom

  • Add Hafele hooks to hang mops, dog leashes, reusable grocery bags and more

  • Add drawers or wire baskets to organize smaller items, table linens, cleaning supplies and spices that otherwise get lost on deep shelves

Once you’ve gotten things under control, Giacalone recommends creating a schedule and blocking out time in order to maintain the order and basically create new habits.

“We all have busy schedules, so if we can find or make the time to do everything else, then we need to do the same for keeping our spaces as neat and clutter free as possible,” he says, adding that he shares his calendar and reminders list to illustrate how this can be accomplished. “But if they have issues or challenges, I’m always available to conduct a ‘maintenance’ session to get them back on track.”

And if you begin to feel defeated in your quest to declutter, Giacalone suggests an old and helpful joke: Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time!

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Home Decorating Tips for Transforming Your Bathroom Into a Cozy Retreat


Obviously, a bathroom is an integral part of your home. But why not consider turning a utilitarian room into an appealing, cozy retreat?

First, decide whether you want to go with wallpaper or paint.

For paint, go with a semigloss for both walls and ceiling, notes interior designer Lynn Breindel, owner of LB Interiors of Bellport and New Rochelle. 

If you prefer the look of a matte finish, go with a flat paint made specifically for bathroom walls and ceilings, advises Breindel. 

“It’s a little more expensive, but well worth it,” she says. 


Color is all a matter of personal preference and truly anything goes – except for the ceiling, which should always be painted white, she says.

“You can go bold in a small bathroom with dark paint or wallpaper,” says Breindel. “If you want more of a dramatic effect, I tend to do that in a powder room that you don’t spend a lot of time in.” 

In small bathrooms, stick to a single color palette to keep it simple, clean and soothing. In a larger room, experiment with more color in towels, mats, and artwork.

“Any color with some gray added to it makes it more peaceful, especially lighter colors,” says Breindel.

With a plethora of designs and varying degrees of texture, wallpaper gives you many options, from grass cloth to more tactile, high-resolution materials that really stand out. 

Breindel recommends vinyl wallpaper for bathrooms that have showers. 

“There are beautiful ones now, even ones that look like grass cloth,” she says. 

For a powder room, Breindel advises any wallpaper, even paper backed, as long as you make sure it stays dry behind the sink. To protect the area behind the sink from wetness, add a 4-inch backsplash made from countertop material such as quartz or stone.


For a full bathroom, especially with enough wall space, a medicine cabinet is great for extra storage. 

“My favorites now are the ones with the built-in LED lights,” says Breindel. “You can stack medicine cabinets next to each other to create a wall of mirrors with function behind it.”

Generally, you won’t have the space nor the need for a medicine cabinet in a powder room, but you’ll want a good mirror, which also can have the built-in LED lights.

“Mirrors can be used to enlarge the space and reflect other elements in the room, such as lighting or wallpaper,” explains Breindel. “I also use wall-mounted vanities to give the impression of larger space in a small bath. It’s very effective.”


As with any room in your home, a bathroom should have layered lighting.

At the sink or overhead, lighting can be either recessed or a ceiling fixture. In a large bathroom, you can have both, and always use dimmers to control brightness, advises Breindel.

Hardware is the jewelry of a bathroom and there’s so much to choose from, adds Breindel.

“Polished nickel and brass look great in bathrooms, but do tarnish over time and need maintenance,” she advises. “Polished chrome is easier to maintain.”  

Tiles can reflect your taste and personality. If you have a full tiled shower, Breindel suggests adding shiplap to the walls to add texture and interest.

Besides adding color to the room, bath mats are essential to give the room a cozy feel, especially when you walk on a tiled floor, even with radiant-heated floors, notes Breindel. 

“A Toto Japanese heated toilet seat is also worth every penny,” she says.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Landscape Designer Offers Ideas for Sprucing Up Your Backyard This Spring

Courtesy Hicks Nurseries

Spring is here! With Covid-19 not quite in the rearview mirror, you’ll be spending lots of time at home and a spruced-up landscape will work wonders to rejuvenate your spirit.     

As we once again begin to welcome friends and family into our homes, a relaxed yet safely distanced al fresco setting is the perfect place for entertaining.

This spring you’ll want to maximize your space, which can best be achieved outdoors, where you can push out the boundaries, advises Ken Muellers, senior landscape designer for Hicks Nurseries in Westbury.


These days, a flexible outdoor design is key.

A patio can have both an intimate bistro table for two and sprawling conversation areas for people to spread out as needed, with spillover seating on the grass. 

“If you have flat lawn area, there’s no reason the party can’t extend onto the lawn area,” Muellers says. 

Portable potted plants, which can follow the sun as it shifts through the seasons, are another great way to achieve a flexible landscape.

“If you need more space, you can take them off the deck and put them somewhere else in the yard,” Muellers says. “If you want it to look beautiful, put them close to the house where you can see them.” 


In many established landscapes, patios and decks have been penned in by shrubs that cut people off from their yards and limit their space.

“Sometimes removing hedges or pruning hedges to open up views and open up pathways and space can be an asset,” says Muellers. 

Overgrown yews and Japanese holly (Ilex crenata), for example, can benefit from an extreme spring pruning.

Adding steppingstones such as bluestone can complement the main patio and create a more informal setting. 

“You gain more space without detracting from your existing patio or deck,” Muellers says. “That’s the key: how to add on without it looking like an add-on.”


A firepit – gas powered or wood burning – has dual functions, serving both as a focal point and heat source for the backyard.

“It also works well to extending the gathering into the evening a little better,” says Muellers. “You have the warmth; you have the light from the firepit, so that can be a nice element in the landscape.”

To stretch out the season, concentrate on a progression of bloom, with plants flowering early in the season, throughout the summer, and well into the fall.

“That’s done with multiple layers, from the canopy of the trees, flowering trees, flowering shrubs, perennials, and then supplementing that with annuals and even tropical plants in the summer months to give that extra pop of color,” Muellers explains. 


As you spend more time outdoors, you’ll desire more privacy from neighbors who also will be hanging out in their yards.

“Evergreens are a great way to get that privacy between homes,” Muellers says.

For smaller properties that can’t easily accommodate a 20-foot wide spruce or pine border, try plants that stay more in scale with your property, like skip laurels and emerald green arborvitae, both of which grow tall and narrow and work better in tight spaces, notes Muellers. 

To keep noise levels down from other properties, add a water feature to help dampen the sound. 

“You kind of counter it by creating your own white noise,” Muellers says.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

Interior Designer Gives Home Decorating Tips for a Cozier Bedroom

home decorating
Jeanne Campana Design, photo by Kyle J. Caldwell

With spring on the horizon, love is in the air. Now might be the perfect time to take a fresh look at how you can cozy up your home’s inner sanctum: the bedroom. 

Bedrooms are meant to be restful retreats, a place for recharging and relaxation, says interior decorator Jeanne Campana of Jeanne Campana Design in Centerport.

“Selecting a soft color palette with soothing textures can create a sense of calm,” Campana says. “Throw pillows, comfy knits in neutral tones, rich wood accents, and faux-fur throws are all great starting points. An upholstered statement bed with an area rug underneath anchors the space to create a feeling of warmth. “


Colors and fabrics can transform any space and should promote rest and relaxation in a bedroom, while also be energizing for those lazy mornings when you need a little help getting out of your cozy bed.

“Muted and lighter neutral colors, with textural fabrics in subtle patterns, tend to enhance a serene mood and generate relaxation,” says Campana, who advises clients to strive for less contrast and more tonality.

To make your bed more inviting, Campana advices adorning it with soft linens, a luxurious duvet, plenty of pillows, and a faux-fur blanket.

“Layering in these soft elements with various textures throughout the space creates a warm and welcoming feel,” she explains.


Sitting areas, such as a pair of upholstered armchairs or a loveseat placed at the foot of the bed, blend form with function and are an ideal means to maximize your bedroom’s space.

“The symmetry makes it elegant so it can blend into a variety of styles while still feeling plush and comfy,” Campana says. “Upholstery fabrics like chenille and velvet add an extra touch of softness.”

A chair with a small table and lamp in the corner of a room is also a great opportunity to create a perfect spot to relax in, she says.


Light control and privacy are absolutely essential in a bedroom. During the day, you’ll probably wish to bring in optimal natural light. In the evening, you’ll want to close your window treatments for privacy.

“Drapery panels, with a liner to give them an extra layer of insulation, are the best option for noise and light control,” Campana explains. “These panels are also versatile because they open and close easily and can be added on top of other window treatments such as blinds and shades to create a layered look.” 

Prized for their warm colors and textures, hardwood floors should be layered with plush high-pile rugs to add comfort and coziness and give your feet a soft landing in the early morning, notes Campana. 

“Rugs can also provide a jumping point to the room’s decor by adding color, texture, and pattern to your space,” she says.


Cozy bedrooms need light, Campana avers. 

While natural light is best, various sources of lighting such as soft bedside lamps, candlelight, chandeliers, and overhead recessed light with dimmers create a sophisticated, tranquil and intimate atmosphere,” she explains.

How To Create A Warm, Safe Outdoor Space At Home For Hosting

outdoor space
Photo by Ken Muellers

Though Covid-19 is on the rise, it won’t quash your desire to entertain friends and family. To gather together safely at your home, take a few steps to create a lovely, socially distanced space, protected from the elements and frigid winter temps.

Outdoor living spaces are great in winter when protected under the roof of a covered patio or pergola, says interior decorator Jodi Dell, of Southampton-based Jodi Dell Designs. 

“When your living space is covered, it’s easy to add ceiling-mounted electric patio heaters into your design as they are nonobtrusive, and when paired with a fire pit or fireplace you can quickly create warmth,” says Dell.

For a warm hardscape, Dell uses cozy wood furnishings with soft, weather-resistant upholstery. 

“Using teak outdoor furniture in silhouettes similar to that of indoor furniture, like a sectional sofa or comfy club chairs with custom upholstered cushions and pillows, are great ways to achieve comfort and warmth,” Dell says.  


As you spend more hours outdoors, you’ll want to consider designing your landscape for year-round entertaining, says Ken Muellers, senior landscape designer at Hicks Nurseries of Westbury.

“In the winter, you want to be in a protected spot that’s blocked from the wind, but in the sun, to get that little bit of warmth from the sun,” says Muellers, adding that you’ll want a blend of evergreens for protection as well as deciduous plantings that lose their leaves and allow the sun to shine through.

“A lot of times you want to situate your evergreens more towards the northwest quadrant of the landscape where they’ll block those winter winds better,” says Muellers.

“I also like to incorporate planters filled with plants that thrive in cold weather,” adds Dell.  

If done properly, you can plant well into the winter, though local nurseries might be short on stock in the off-season; the ground is often frozen and some plants, like Skip laurel hedges, which offer year-round screening, won’t survive a winter planting, advises Muellers.

Muellers recommends winter-blooming flowers like witch hazel, and hellebore and holly bushes, which bear beautiful crimson berries. 


Whether you want to cover your patio or deck from the rain or sun or both, retractable awnings can be used all year, notes John Biondo, owner of Long Island Retractable Awnings of Babylon.

“In a light rain or even a medium rain, they could still have a party of 25 people in the backyard underneath the awning,” says Biondo, noting that the awnings are made of acrylic, go up to 40 feet wide and 14 feet deep, and can be attached to any kind of house or roof surface. 

“It’s obviously waterproof and comes with a 10-year warranty, although it holds up for around 20, 25 years,” says Biondo. 

An awning can also come with an optional wind sensor, which, in the event of high winds, will automatically close up the awning.

“It adds a lot of living space to the house. You can put your party outside in the broad sunlight as well as a light rain,” says Biondo, adding that awnings are not recommended for a heavy snow load. 

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

How To Warm Up Your Home With Decorating Tricks

decorating tricks
Courtesy Chris Conte Interiors, photo by Nicole Larson

As winter marches on and the thermometer dips ever lower, you’ll want to hunker down at home. Instead of turning up the heat to warm up your abode, consider a few decorating tricks to create both a warmer feel and cozier look to your surroundings.


Forget the standard white painted walls and opt instead for a creamy white hue, like Chantilly Lace from Benjamin Moore, advises Christine Conte, owner of the eponymous Christine Conte Interiors, of Huntington.

“Go warm and enveloping with Sherwin Williams’s 2021 color of the year: Urbane Bronze,” Conte says.

When choosing a warm paint color, consider the paint’s undertones, advises Donna Sheehan, owner of Inner Sense Interiors of Bellport. 

Warm white tones that have a touch of yellow or peach undertones add warmth, as opposed to the crisp, colder feeling of a pure white room, adds Sheehan.

“You may be interested in painting a room blue, which is considered a cool color, but, grey or yellow undertones in some blues can add warmth, giving it a very cozy feeling,” says Sheehan, adding that Benjamin Moore’s Aegean Teal is a perfect example. 

Light bulbs in the soft white range – 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin — can give off a warm and yellow glow, notes Conte.

“This light creates a warm and cozy feeling when used in living rooms, dens and bedrooms,” Conte explains.


Darker stains on wood floors tend to warm up a space, but nothing compares to combining any type of flooring with area rugs to add warmth, notes Sheehan.

“Aside from defining a space and protecting underlying flooring, area rugs unquestionably add warmth and coziness to a room,” explains Sheehan, adding that carpeting is a good option for rooms where people go barefoot or children play, such as bedrooms and playrooms.


To bring light and warmth into your home, layer your window treatments with a combination of shades and drapery panels.

“The drapes can be pulled back during the day to let in sunlight and warmth, then closed at night, providing cozy privacy and to help prevent heat from escaping,” says Conte.

Layer soft, stylish throws on sofas and chairs and add smaller throw rugs on floors for an instant feeling of warmth and charm, Conte adds.


The absence of any artwork in a room renders the space bare, cold and uninviting, avers Sheehan.

“Artwork adds interest and warmth – it can hug your walls and bring you in,” Sheehan says. “It can define areas, break up expansive space and create a mood. A gallery of photos/artwork, when properly placed, can make a wall feel dressed, even cozy.” 

Noting that walls take up a lot of real estate in any room, Sheehan advises, “It would be foolish to forget about addressing such space when trying to create a warm environment. Add art to tell your story and create a mood.” 


Wooden display objects, such as bowls or beads, can create an organic warmth in a space, advises Conte. 

“Incorporate objects made from warm metals, like brass or those with an antique or patina finish, to add a warm vintage and heirloom feel to a room,” Conte says.

Store summer linen and cotton pillows and switch to velvet and bouclé pillows rich with texture to add a cozy and soft layer in any room, Conte remarks.

“Using high-quality soy candles with fragrances such as Ski Chalet, Tipsy Bourbon, and Fireside S’mores will help create a cozy atmosphere,” adds Conte.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

What To Know When Building A Greenhouse

Getty Images

If you’re an avid gardener, you’ll want to get a jumpstart on planting for the spring and summer seasons. And there’s no better way to start than with your very own greenhouse.

The first step in designing a greenhouse is figuring out where to put it, notes Andrew M. Simko, owner of Garden Under Glass, a Dix Hills-based company that builds the foundation, assembles, and glazes greenhouses. 


You’ll have to assess which part of your yard gets the most sunlight. Typically, it’s either a southern, eastern or western exposure, but it often depends on how much shade there is due to tree cover.

“You don’t want to put it on the north side of the house because you do most of your growing in the winter time and with the sun low in the sky, the house would shade it for the whole day, so you would not really get any sunshine into it,” explains Simko. 

Since most gardeners work in greenhouses in the winter, the structures are typically attached to the house, so you don’t have to go outside to work in them.

“So you’d like a door to go right from the house into your greenhouse, if it’s possible,” says Simko.

But if your house faces south and the back faces north, you might need to place a detached greenhouse in the backyard, so the house wouldn’t shade it.


Glass is the least expensive glazing material and costs less than plastic, which doesn’t hold up over time. 

“The sun deteriorates plastic rather rapidly,” notes Simko.

Greenhouses come in various shapes, from lean-to, which looks like a shed roof that slopes down to a vertical wall, or gable, which attaches to the house at one end, or curved eave or straight eave, both of which look similar to a house.

A greenhouse can run anywhere from 4 feet wide by 6 feet long to 25 feet wide by 75 feet long, and anywhere in between, says Simko.

“It depends on how much space you have, how big your budget is, and what you’re going to grow,” says Simko. “That determines the size.”

Getty Image


The greenhouse is built on a concrete foundation that’s dug about 30 to 36 inches below grade.

“That’s to get under the frost line, so when the ground freezes it doesn’t push the foundation up and break the glass,” Simko explains. 

You place the structure on a concrete block about 8 inches above ground so that you can open the door without worrying about shoveling snow. 

Above the concrete, the floor consists of 4 inches of gravel and, between the benches, flagstone walking paths. The gravel floor prevents fallen seeds from germinating into weeds and plants.

Garden Under Glass will also supply custom-sized benches, windows, and ridge vents that can be automated with a motor and thermostat. In addition, the distributor will install suspended misting nozzle water systems controlled by a time clock, thermostatically controlled gas, propane or electric heating systems, and shades that can be used during the warmer months


The greenhouse, which is made from aluminum and glass, requires no maintenance, says Simko.

“Maybe once a year, if you want to get a pressure washer and wash the outside of the glass a little bit, that’s about it,” he explains. “It’s really maintenance free.”

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here.

Pro Tips For Making Your Dream Room A Reality

A room dedicated to music inspires new tunes. A custom wood piece holds guitars and clears up floor space. Courtesy of Design Inspiration.

If you’ve always dreamed of a special room designated just for you or your family, dream no more. Creating a room that can serve as a sacred space for hobbies, passions, and favored pastimes is easily attained.

The first step in approaching any room design is to consider the room’s function, says interior designer Dawn Totevski of Sayville-based Design Inspiration. Once you know the functionality, you can determine the need for seating and storage. Secondly, decide on a style and a vibe, advises Totevski.

“Is it Bohemian? Is it modern? Is it farmhouse?” she asks.

To grasp the style her client’s going for, Totevski saves images to Pinterest that capture an array of styles.

Next, Totevski prepares a couple of floor plans from which the client can choose.

Music room seating. Guitar and headphone wall art match the music room’s theme. Courtesy of Design Inspiration.


For a client in East Islip with two elementary school-aged children, Totevski designed a music room where the kids take lessons and practice their guitar and drums.

“She wanted a designated place for them to practice and for them to learn, so that everything they needed was there and accessible,” Totevski explains.

To tackle the challenge of guitars which were taking up lots of floor space, Totevski commissioned Barricelli Custom Woodworks to create a custom wall-hanging piece of stained, rustic, reclaimed wood planks, to which they added guitar hooks. If, one day, they redesign the room for another purpose, the piece can easily be removed from the wall.

“We did a Bohemian look,” says Totevski. “We have some leather and a raw-edged coffee table, a fun black-and-white geometric rug and some really bright, bold colors on the paintings that we had custom painted by a local artist.”

The room also has a casual, slipcovered loveseat and leather pouf for both seating and decor, and a drum kit and music stands.

Designing the room to grow with the kids, Totetvski says, “Everything in there currently would be cool for a teenager, too. It was really funky and fun.”

Totevski endeavored to make the space inspirational, so that the kids can have fun, even when they’re practicing.

“The colors are vibrant and motivating,” she says. “It’s just like a fun, really cool lounge.”

A scrapbooking room is where memories are made. Wooden cubes hold hobby supplies. Courtesy of Leane Paul.


Scrapbooking enthusiast Leane Paul decided to create a room over the two-car garage of her Coram home dedicated exclusively to her hobby.

With a framed-out room, Paul enlisted her husband and his friends to insulate, install sheetrock, and paint the walls. Afterwards, they added carpet and an air conditioning/heating unit.

“And he built the cabinets that are on the one wall,” says Paul. “And just over time, we kept adding pieces to it.”

Along one wall, there’s a series of wooden cubes where she can place different scrapbooking items.

“I have a scrap rack sitting on top of a table that has lots of supplies in it,” notes Paul. “We also put a television and a couch up there, so in case he wants to come up and hang out with me while I’m scrapbooking, he can sit on the couch and chill out, or if the girls are here, we can have the TV on in the background.

With eight additional 4-foot-long folding tables, the room can accommodate an octet of her scrapbooking pals, and also houses the scrapbooking albums she’s created, tool kits, magnet boards and a mini-refrigerator.

Let There Be Light: Tips to Brighten Up Your Home

Christine Conte Interiors, photo by Nicole Larsen Photography

On dreary winter days, you’ll want to bring as much light as possible into your home.

To add light, consider all the elements, from walls to windows, that can enhance it, advises Liz Kohart, an interior designer at Liz Kohart Interiors of Garden City.


Use light colors to cover your walls, Kohart advises..  

“Soft shades of white and taupe will make a space feel brighter,” she says.

Wall paint with a satin finish, which is a little more shiny than matte, adds sheen and will help reflect more light, adds Kohart.

For a very high sheen and higher-end look, consider a lacquer finish, but take note that lacquer shows imperfections.

“You’d have to have perfectly smooth walls for lacquer,” explains Kohart.

Light-colored floors such as oak and light-colored carpets, or natural fiber rugs such as sisal can help brighten spaces, notes Kohart, adding that a higher-sheen finish on a wood floor will also reflect more light.

Liz Kohart Interiors, photo by Andrea Giarraputo


To brighten a room, upholster in light-colored fabrics and select light-colored woods for furnishings, including end tables, cocktail tables, cabinetry and built-ins, says Kohart, adding that a decorative mirror helps reflect and add light.

For window treatments, Kohart advises avoiding dark colors or velvet or other heavy fabrics. 

Opt instead for linen or cotton.

“Natural blinds, such as woven woods, will seem less heavy and more airy, and can be used as a window treatment in lieu of fabric drapery,” she says. 

Liz Kohart Interiors, photo by Andrea Giarraputo


In designing a new home or renovating an existing one, there are a few techniques that can bring in as much natural light as possible, says interior designer Christine Conte of Christine Conte Interiors of Huntington.

Start with larger windows and, if possible, add a floor-to-ceiling window at the end of a hallway to flood the whole house with light. 

An open-concept plan does a lot for light, notes Conte. 

“You can really move light from one side of the house to the other,” she says.

Clerestory windows – smaller windows that are positioned higher up on the wall – can go along the top of a room and add abundant light. 

“And you don’t have to worry about putting any kind of window treatments on them,” notes Conte.

For low-light rooms, a light tube – a metal pipe that gets reflected from the roof –  is a great way to get natural light into a bathroom or kitchen. 

If your house is set back and privacy is not an issue, add a transom above the front door or even consider a front door made entirely of glass, Conte says.

Fewer mullions on windows create the illusion of more light and adding black casement to your windows frames and accentuates the outside light.

Adding glass panels to doors of rooms where privacy is not an issue, such as offices, allows light to move through the house and backlighting a stained-glass window will give the appearance that there’s an actual window behind it.


Utilize artificial light by adding sconces and some overhead lighting and enhance natural light with table and floor lamps, advises Kohart.

Overhead lighting, such as a few high hats in the corner, significantly increases the amount of light in a room, says Kohart, adding, “Always put overhead and sconce lighting on a dimmer, so you can control the amount of light.”


Renovating Your House Without Any Demolition

Christine Conte Interiors. Photo by Nicole Larson

Renovating your house doesn’t have to mean taking it down to its studs. It does, however, entail some big decisions.

First establish why you want to renovate, says Micah Finkel, owner of the Brooklyn-based Sons & Co., a custom millwork company. Are you looking to create your dream house or improve its value at resale, or, perhaps, to accomplish both?

Also, consider whether you’re renovating for aesthetic or functional reasons and convey your intentions to the designer and contractor, says Christine Conte, of Christine Conte Interiors of Huntington.

Before you begin, interview three interior designers, three contractors, and, if required, three architects, advises Wendy Lepkoff, of Wendy Interiors of Bethpage.

“That will educate you and help you realize possibilities that you did not think of,” Lepkoff explains. “Then hire the ones that you connect with.” 

Look for quality and experience by avoiding new people in the field and the lowest bidders, adds Lepkoff. 

Christine Conte Interiors. Photo by Nicole Larson


Think about how much money you’re willing to put into the project, says Finkel, adding that designers usually will want to push the budget with their somewhat lofty ideas.

“A lot of times what ends up happening, clients will end up spending just a little more because they end up falling in love with what the house can be,” says Finkel. 

Jobs can frequently go over budget, as contractors invariably end up doing more extensive work than previously planned, notes Finkel.

Start with a wish list and consider your budget, advises Conte. Next, plan out the space, which often involves a designer’s computer-aided drawings. Then select and order the pieces to fit your style, from tile to carpets, wallpaper to cabinetry, to actual furnishings. The final phase is installation.

“Form has to follow function,” says Conte.“The layout has to be functional. It has to serve the space and it has to be in the style that the clients want.”

Christine Conte Interiors. Photo by Nicole Larson


Decide how far you want to go with the renovation. A good start, Finkel advises, is the kitchen, where new cabinets and counters add a lot of value to the home and don’t require any changes to  the plumbing or electrical work. Rehabbed closets and bathrooms in master bedrooms also get a lot of bang for your buck.

Built-ins in libraries, dens and mud rooms are very versatile, adding both utility and beauty to the home, notes Finkel. New windows, doors and embellishments, such as exposed wood beams, wainscoting and trim, can add a lot of character to a house.

Once you’ve started the renovation, you’ll have to determine what’s salvageable in the house, particularly in older homes, which touches on everything from mechanical to electrical to plumbing systems, notes Finkel.

“Every single element of the house has to get looked at, along the lines of the design, the budget, and also the dream,” she says.

Go on Pinterest and Houzz.com to get more ideas that represent what exactly you’re looking for, says Lepkoff. 

“Be very open-minded and you will have a dream come true,” she adds. 


In some instances you’ll need to temporarily move out of the house, notes Conte.

“You just never imagine how much dust is involved in this and the noise and the disruption,” she says. “It’s a very stressful time.” 

Be realistic about the time frame of the project, adds Conte. One room, like a kitchen or master bedroom, can take about three months; a full house renovation could last up to eight.