Ruth Bashinsky


Architect-Interior Design Team Overhauls Sands Point Family Pad

The kitchen counter tops with custom banquette and island. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)

Laura Casale and Amy Urban are a double threat when it comes to design and architecture. Both women are accomplished and multi-talented.

Casale is a third-generation designer with a passion for historic architecture and decades of experience in interior design, interior decoration, architecture and landscape design. Twenty six years ago she started her own full service architectural studio, Manhasset based Laura Casale Architecture, specializing in residential architecture.

Urban has a degree in civil engineering and a master’s in architecture. She has worked on many notable large residential and commercial projects in Manhattan and the tri state area. In 2008, Urban opened Amy Urban Architecture located on the Gold Coast. Five years ago, both women joined forces to collaborate on new projects and enhance client services.

“For all of our projects, we design the architecture and the interiors,” says Casale. “We coordinate all purchasing and do all the project management. It is a project in its entirety. We coordinate it all. At the end of the day, that is how a project should be run.”

One standout project that went over seamlessly, explains the design duo, was a Sands Point property purchased by a young couple with five-year-old twin girls. The family moved from their two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan to the newly renovated house.

Casale and Urban transformed the existing ranch, built in 1971, that was dark and small
for a family of four into a light filled, spacious and inviting space. Using their expertise, both women demolished nearly 60 percent of the home in order to start the renovation process on close to 5,000 square feet.

“We were able to come in and reconfigure the first floor by relocating the kitchen and creating a nanny suite and guest suite and rearranging the living space,” says Urban.

On the second floor, what was once a porch became a spacious master bedroom suite with private bathroom. The library became an office and two bedrooms were created so each girl had their own room. A second story was added to the home, which brought the property to an entirely different level.

“Adding the second-floor addition allowed us to have water views of Long Island Sound,” says Casale.

“It was a unique challenge and opportunity taking a non-descript building, adding to it and really capturing what hadn’t been there for the 40 -year life of the house.”

Another unique aspect of the project was designing the project in two phases, explains Urban. At the time of construction, the couple, she says, was not sure if they were going to expand their family. A phase one was created and phase two was a larger extension of the home if they need it.

“We were able to design the home with future growth in mind, but we executed for phase one, which can be lived in forever if they decided not to move forward on phase two,” says Urban.

The home that sits on two acres was clearly a labor of love for both designers/architects.

“The fact that we are women architects and interior designers and mothers allows us to look very realistically at how you can keep your house kid friendly and beautiful at the same time,” says Casale.

The detail and workmanship throughout the home is timeless and the style is refined. Urban describes it as a “pared-down elegance.” Some of the design details include 10-foot French doors that Casale adds, “brings the outside inside.”

A ceiling to floor butler’s pantry that is all custom cabinetry, one of their specialities. A master bathroom that has a two-foot by three-foot marble tile gives the illusion of one monolithic slab and elegant thin white glass tile in the shower area. A honed limestone countertop that compliments the industrial style lanterns and subway tile in the kitchen and intersecting hallways located on the first floor adds architectural interest.

“We had to create an entrance into one room from three rooms,” says Casale. “This articulates the circulation and flow.”

The renovation from start to finish involved two months of working on the design and securing the permits. The remaining five and a half months was spent on construction. For both women, staying on budget and finishing on time has been one of the keys to their success. As well as keeping their clients happy.

“We really strive to stay on time and on budget,” says Casale. “It is in everyone’s best interest. Plus, when you are on time and on budget the client loves you and will
 want you to do more projects.”

She laughs, “We want to be invited back.”

The custom bulter’s pantry, with custom English metal grills. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
The master closet, with custom island cabinetry and winter water views. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
Full view of the kitchen with large sliding doors, sink has winter water view. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
The master bath, with rain shower, water closet and custom vanity. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
The master bath with tub, 24×36 bardiglio flooring and mirrored vanity (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)

Beauty Products That Make Perfect Stocking Stuffers for $50 and Under

Keep that smile looking sparkling with Flosstime, an automated floss dispenser that sticks directly onto your bathroom mirror, tile or wall. The dispenser lights up, making flossing easy any time of day or night, $36. Available at

Say goodbye to shine with the MAC Pro Longer Powder/ Pressed that gives a velvety matte finish and up to 12 hours of coverage in any climate. The powder comes in three shades – Light Plus, Medium Plus and Dark. The powder is packaged in a limited edition sculptural hammered gold compact specially designed by sculptor/jewelry designer, Robert Lee Morris, $45. Available at and MAC retail locations.

Get your skin feeling baby-smooth soft with the CORE Razor, a single-blade wet shaving razor that eliminates razor burn or ingrown hairs and promises a close, smooth shave similar to the traditional single-blade barbershop experience, $49.95. Available at

Make a statement with Note Cosmetics Dark Smokey Holiday Eye Kit. Kit contains silk mono eyeshadow, perfect lash mascara, smokey eye pencil in black and eyeshadow pencil in blue grey. All products are vegan, paraben free and cruelty free, $25. Available at

Milk Soaps by FarmHouse Fresh look good enough to eat. Each wedge is hand-poured and looks like a block of artisanal fine cheese. Made with goat’s milk or cow’s milk, each soap includes gourmet ingredients such as pistachio, chia, lavender, blueberry, oatmeal and honey, $14 each. Available at

A touch of glow or shimmer will complete your holiday look with Onomie’s ACE Illuminating Eye Treatment Highlighter. Packed with Vitamins A, C and E, it fights free radicals and smooths fine lines over time so the more you use it, the better your skin will look, $40. Available at

Fiber Cream by American Crew is the answer for the man who takes his hair seriously. The cream that was just launched last month is the newest hair care product in the American Crew family that combines flexibility with control and gives your hair that refined texture with a natural shine finish, $11.95. Available at or

The perfect gift for the bearded male: The Beard Care Kit by Bulldog Skin Care. Each kit contains beard oil made with a blend of aloe vera, camelina oil and green tea that softens and conditions your beard, a 2-in-1 beard shampoo and conditioner and limited edition Bulldog beard comb, $20.62. Available at

Get those gorgeous plump lips just like your favorite celebrity with Lancer Volume Enhancing Lip Serum. Created by Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer, the lip treatment smooths out the appearance of vertical lip lines, defines lip contours, and provides hydration for plumpness, $42. Available at

For the nail obsessed here’s Dermelect’s Peptide Infused Anti-Aging Color Treatment Lacquers that strengthen weak, brittle nails, help prevent chipping and splitting, restore flexibility and are UV protected and free of DBP, toulene, camphor, formaldehyde resin and formaldehyde. There are 65 fun hues to choose from, $14. Available at

Local Jewelry Designers’ Labors of Love Make Perfect Gifts

Hand-fabricated bracelet in sterling silver and 22K gold with diamonds, $360.

Elizabeth Taylor once said, “Jewelry has the power to be the one little thing that makes you feel unique.” Shall we say more?

In our pursuit of the most unique and personal gifts to give this holiday season, we found an assortment of bracelets, bangles, necklaces and rings, each handcrafted from a variety of local jewelry designers. For those obsessed with fine gold and precious metal to colorful beads, stones with healing properties or just bling, we’ve got you covered.

Each artist is passionate about their craft, which is translated into their designs.

Designer: Annie Fensterstock Fine Jewelry

Specialty: Annie is known for her intricate designs that utilize ancient goldsmithing techniques. She works in 18-karat gold, 22-karat gold, sterling silver and platinum. She uses precious gemstones including less traditional cuts of diamonds as well as rubies, sapphires, opals and Paraiba tourmalines. Many of her bracelets, earrings and necklaces feature open framework that lends itself to the Renaissance, Baroque, or Art Nouveau style.

“All of my jewelry is individually hand fabricated. I don’t use molds and I alloy my own gold. I combine traditional goldsmithing techniques with a modern aesthetic to make jewelry for the strong, independent woman,” she says.

Description: Edgy chic, timeless.
Inspiration: Art, architecture, music and family.
Prices: $200 and up.
Where to get it:

Union Jack Guitar String Bracelet made from
nickel-wound “E” guitar string, silvertone and
glass beads with microphone charm detail on
pick with lobster clasp, $35.

Designer: Black Flamingo Designs 

Specialty: Owner/Designer Louise Iacono uses guitar picks and guitar strings that she upcycles to create one-of-a-kind bracelets and earrings. Some of her customized picks feature unique designs from an Australian-based artist she works with. Many of her clients are guitarists and music aficionados.

“Guitar string bracelets are my creation,” she says. “Some customers send me their own strings and picks. One customer found her late grandfather’s guitar after 35 years. I made a bracelet out of the guitar strings for the girl’s mother for Christmas. She was so choked up. I love doing stuff like that.”

(Side note: Louise made guitar string bracelets for Bret Michaels, the ex-lead singer of Poison, and each band member.)

Inspiration: Any type of music, especially classic rock.
Price: $20 earrings; men’s guitar bracelet $35; women’s guitar bracelet $25-$30.
Where to get it: Available at and the Tri-County Flea Market through Christmas.

Maude Graham Aquamarine Intention Necklace with druzy, clear quartz crystal and Buddha charm, $500. Available at

Designer: Maude Graham

Specialty: Jane Zuckerberg, owner of Say La Vie, a clothing/accessories boutique in Cold Spring Harbor, formerly the tie-dye lady, started creating jewelry under a pseudonym.

“I couldn’t find any jewelry that I wanted to wear so I figured I would create it myself,” she says. Zuckerberg uses freshwater pearls, a combination of beads that she says possess healing properties, and a buddha or druzy for glitter and she always adds quartz crystals to the mix for what she describes as The Master Protector.

“I only create jewelry when I feel calm, happy and centered,” she says. “Everything is made with love. There is an energy to the stones and crystals I use.

“For example, Amazonite has a peaceful, calming vibe and Labradorite offers protection from negativity,” she continues. “Citrine attracts abundance and Lepidolite is a mood booster. Buddha reminds me to live and treat others as I wish to be treated and Ganesha is the remover of obstacles in one’s path.”

Description: Jewelry with a spiritual edge.
Inspiration: Nature and the ocean and the beach.
Prices: $20-$35 baby jewelry; $45, $60, $75 bracelets; $295-$500 and up for beaded jewelry with diamonds and gold.
Where to get it:

How to Organize Your Closet Like a Pro

A man's professionally organized closet on Long Island.

Do you have a love/hate relationship with your closet? Do you spend hours trying to find that cute outfit you bought but have no idea where you put it? Do you feel like you are having a wardrobe meltdown every other day because you cannot locate anything you like?

For some, keeping your closet organized can be a daunting task. Jamie Hord, owner of Garden City-based, Horderly Professional Organizing and National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) member, offers these organizing tips to help get you on the right track.


Each time you bring in something new, let go of something old, says Hord. “I have many clients who shop a lot and are bringing new pieces into their closet weekly. I tell them to keep a donation basket or shopping bag in their closet at all times, so they are always making room for the new items and keeping their clothes streamlined.” If you are not sure what to eliminate, a good rule of thumb, she says, is to give away clothes or shoes you have not worn in a year.

A capsule wardrobe on a hanging rack.


Discard all the plastic and metal hangers your closet may be hanging onto and invest in matching felt hangers, she explains. The slim design saves space and slides easily along the rod, she says. For men who may want a more masculine look for their wardrobe, Hord uses a slim wooden hanger that works well and looks handsome in a closet. Unlike a felt hanger that may pucker the fabric, the wooden hangers feature a thicker rounded end that keeps pants wrinkle-free and the jacket intact.

Another tip she encourages is to be consistent and stick with the organizing system put in place even when it’s time to put away that dry cleaning. “I tell my clients to treat their dry cleaning like it is their groceries. Once you unload your items, you discard the bags. The same applies to your dry cleaning. Switch out the flimsy metal hangers with the felt or wooden hangers.” Keeping everything uniform, ensures Hord, will help save time.

“You want to be able to shop your closet,” says Hord. “You can easily access everything, and it will be easy to get dressed.” 

A married couples shared walk in closet.


First sort clothes by type, says Hord. For tops, place long sleeves together followed by short sleeve tops, sleeveless tops, dresses, skirts, etc. Within the category place them from darkest color to lightest color. Same applies to menswear, categorizing polos, t-shirts, long sleeves, sweaters, etc.

Button-down shirts, she explains, are organized by solid colors, stripes and checkered patterns also working from dark to light. Hord typically hangs cardigans and open sweaters and likes to fold turtlenecks. For those who prefer their t-shirts to be folded, Hord suggests folding them in short stacks. Otherwise, she explains, it may be more difficult to maintain.

Depending on the type sweater, for more delicate fabrics that may pull easily, Hord likes to fold them. The same applies to that chunky sweater since it would be too bulky to hang.

For footwear, Hord categorizes by type of shoe or uses a color coding system. For her female clients, stilettos, wedges, cork heel, open or closed toe, boots, and booties are put in groupings. Loafers, dress shoes, sneakers, and boots for her male clientele.

“I like to encourage my clients to keep everything out so they can see it. If you have it in a box they are most likely not going to use it,” says Hord.

For those who may not have that spacious walk-in closet, there are still space-saving techniques that can keep you organized. For one, get rid of the shoe boxes once you bring that new pair of shoes home.

“They just take up too much space,” she explains. “If you have a lot of shoes I use the clear shoe boxes This way you can see the shoe and the boxes are stackable which maximizes the space.”

An over-the-door shoe storage tree for the inside of your closet is also a great option.