Tammy Scileppi


Unexpected Design Elements Making Bold Statements

Forward-thinking, progressive design diva Robyn Baumgarten of Interiors By Just Design, has a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to incorporating bold and unexpected design elements into her renos. Check out this jaw-dropping kitchen re-dos that got a big thumbs-up from her delighted clients.

While the wow factor is important, Baumgarten says, “You shouldn’t overdo it. I tell clients who ask for amazing this and that, that sometimes, if too much of everything is amazing then nothing is amazing.” 

In any inside job, bold doesn’t have to mean over-the-top. Using the right colors here and there – on walls, with accent furnishings and accessories, and kitchen cabinets – is one way to make a bold statement. 

For added drama, darker colors are another way to go. It all depends on the space.

After gutting a boring, all-white kitchen, the design pro re-imagined an eye-catching, transitional/updated industrial-style, multi-purpose area that was perfect for her 50-plus clients, a Melville couple who loved entertaining. And it had to be super functional because the wife’s passion was cooking. Here, Baumgarten makes a bold statement with her choice of striking black cabinets, special lighting, subway tiles, and more.

A trendy black faucet with gold tone along with a farm sink (both from Fancy Fixtures in Woodbury) completes this interesting design story. These unusual elements create a personalized look that instantly elevates the space, taking it from a typical condo kitchen to va-va-voom.

And during a much-needed reno in Plainview, Baumgarten surprised the homeowners by adding a blue tile backsplash in the kitchen over the stove.

“It added a pop of color and played off of the blue accents throughout their home,” she says.

“I don’t like to do typical,” she says. “I like to give my clients timeless, classic and a bit of a wow factor. And, I know how to put it all together cohesively for an understated look,” she adds.

Interiors By Just Design interiorsbyjustdesign.com 631-680-9691

Adding Value To Your Home In Unexpected Places

Reno fever has been spreading like wildfire across Long Island, but all kitchen and bathroom transformations aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

Remodeling has become a national pastime. In 2015 alone, Americans spent $326.1 billion on renovating, according to Curbed. 

“Your home is an investment, but it’s so much more than that,” says Zillow Lifestyle Expert Amanda Pendleton. “Put your time and money into projects that give you a home you and your family can enjoy and you’re proud of, but recognize that if you’re fixing up your home to appeal to potential buyers, go for changes that have broad appeal and that make an impact.”

Many homeowners are looking for ways to transform their dwelling. But are major renos that end up costing a pretty penny necessary? 

While kitchens and bathrooms may be numero uno, reno-wise, as it turns out, they’re not all that, value-wise. Unexpected spaces that have lots of potential and are just waiting to be discovered can be cool options. And they cost less to transform.

“At any price point, kitchen renovations are among the worst return on investment of the home improvements Zillow studied (Zillow Talk), at about 50 cents on the dollar,” Pendleton says. “You could spend $30,000 renovating a kitchen only to turn off some potential buyers who would have done it differently.”

When reimagining a space, consider whether changing it will enhance its functionality and affect the home’s value. Pendleton points out that creating a family room not only adds square footage and usable living space, but it suddenly opens up your home to a whole new set of buyers — the largest set of new home buyers in the market right now — millennials (42 percent of all buyers).

“Family rooms also don’t typically have a lot of custom features or personalization that could turn off potential buyers, like a kitchen could,” she adds. “Nationally, the median cost of a family room addition is $10,000, which is a relatively low investment for a highly desirable space and a larger footprint.”

Another option: new windows that save money on heating/cooling bills and signal to a potential buyer that this home has been well cared for. 

“But don’t go overboard,” she warns. “Investing in a stained-glass fresco is not going to increase the value of your home at the same rate.” 

Don’t forget about the garage. 

“Garage conversions are a great way to add living space to your home,” says Project Coordinator Evan Lewitas of Center Island Contracting, Inc. in Farmingdale. “As the space is both aboveground and already constructed, it is typically an inexpensive addition.” 

His tip: Many families utilize a one-car garage for creating an additional bedroom and/or bathroom, or, create a hotel-room sized suite with cabinets, a sink, and minifridge (in a two-car garage). Carpeting or laminate flooring are commonly used.

“In many cases, this newfound bedroom is great for an older relative moving in, or a child returning from college, or a caretaker,” he notes.

Need extra storage for coats, accessories, household stuff, vacuums, and more? Though not glamorous, mudrooms are au courant, and can add a little value as well. Some designer mudrooms include custom cubbies and closets for storage

“Another [unexpected] feature that buyers are loving are chalk walls in the playrooms or children’s bedrooms,”  says Melanie Mazzeo of Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Huntington. “I have seen them in kitchens too.” 

But very specific tastes and customizations decrease value, Mazzeo warns. 

“I have sold homes with murals painted on walls, which has taken away value because it is specific to the seller and does not appeal to new buyers.” 

Scott McGillivray, HGTV Canada’s real estate expert, suggests: If it’s in the budget, put in custom storage and heated tile floors in a mudroom.

Additional tips:

For living rooms: Hardwood floors, large windows and practical built-in bookcases, cabinetry can help add value. 

For dining rooms: Simple, inexpensive architectural details, like a chair rail, will help. Also, recessed lighting combined with a center fixture, and nice flooring.

Homeowners are discovering that all these surprising places can become stylish, functional spaces. While it’s hard to measure return on investment, they do add some value while enhancing a family’s enjoyment factor. And isn’t that what truly matters?

Waterfront Centre Island Dwelling Perfect for Nature Buffs

Most Long Island homes don’t offer views of the Great Meadow, a natural habitat for many bird species and specimen trees. But this modern, one-of-a-kind, estate-style residence does, and it’s perfect for nature lovers.

A captivating waterfront property set in the Eastover subdivision of Centre Island — a 605-acre peninsula with more than four miles of coastline, bordered by Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay Harbor — the dwelling is part of a homeowner’s association, which includes rights to a secluded sandy beach overlooking Lloyd Neck. Residents enjoy great year-round water views along with dining and shopping options at nearby restaurants and quaint stores.

“The house and property are truly unique,” says Associate Real Estate Broker Carol A. Cotton of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Locust Valley. “The house is an extraordinary example of mid-century architecture and is sited on almost 20 acres of magnificent inlet waterfront that leads to Long Island Sound with fields of specimen trees [including hickory and red oak] and plantings, offering a peaceful refuge from the outside world.”

“The seasonal water views are magical,” she adds.

Architect and former homeowner John Mooney, who worked with renowned architect Alfred Easton Poor, designed the estate, which is also named Great Meadow, for his own growing family. It was completed in 1965.

This 14-room, two-story home with soaring ceilings is characterized by a master plan that encourages connection with the unspoiled sanctuary of nature.

Cotton points to the home’s celebrated mid-century modern design elements incorporated into the façade, and notes that the house is composed of poured concrete, brick and glass, and topped by a lead-coated copper roof.

Thanks to the homeowner’s thoughtful design plan, the first-floor formal living and formal dining rooms offer floor-to-ceiling French doors overlooking Great Meadow Creek. Wrapped in handsome wood paneling, the library also features floor-to-ceiling French doors that invite views of the outdoors. All three rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, perfect for chilly winter nights, as well as herringbone-patterned Brazilian rosewood floors. 

Each of the first-level rooms are unified in design with waffle ceilings (made of concrete that has been poured into square forms) and each repetitive square has a light fixture that reflects light up to the ceiling, so when illuminated, the rooms glow with soft light that casts no shadows, Cotton points out. 

“This unique element is continued outdoors to the broad overhang that surrounds the home, architecturally blurring the lines between the indoors and outdoors,” she explains.

The second floor has an atrium landing offering wonderful views of Great Meadow, with changing seasonal views that captivate. And the master suite, with wood-burning fireplace and spa bath, has access to balconies with even more views of Long Island Sound, Lloyd Harbor and beyond. Six additional bedrooms and four full baths comprise the second level. In addition, the home offers an inviting eat-in kitchen with pantry, as well as a comfortable porch designed for total relaxation, and detached garage. 

With approximately 6,600 interior square feet of luxury surrounded by nature, the property, which includes the possibility to being subdivided, offers so much beauty and functionality for just $6,000,000. 

The real estate agents listed for the property are Vera J. Wiedenhaefer and Carol A. Cotton of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. Wiedenhaefer can be reached at 516-662-2500 and Cotton at 516-359-7946.  

Photos by Kevin Wohlers & Carol A. Cotton

Bringing Spaces Back To Life With Green Walls and Vertical Gardens

Every month should be Earth Month.

As more people realize how sacred the environment truly is, some are choosing to bring nature into their homes with aesthetically pleasing living green walls or vertical gardens that add wellness and beauty while energizing interior and exterior spaces.  

The trend towards greening built environments and transforming rooms or outdoor areas with lush accent walls made of plants or artistic living murals is growing. Since plants are natural air purifiers as well as mood, creativity, and productivity boosters, the benefits of having a living wall at home or in a workspace are obvious.

“Green walls have been designed in many forms — with soil, hydroponics (lacking soil), air plants, or some combination — to create their green designs,” says Stevie Famulari, a green design specialist and professor in the department of urban horticulture and design at Farmingdale State College. “Living walls, living murals, or living sculptures can be created for any site.”  

On Long Island, green walls are usually installed in public spaces. But homeowners can also transform patios or backyards into relaxing retreats with a unique vertical greenscape that fuses elegant form with amazing function.

The New York City-based green design experts at Urbanstrong have been creating healthy, sustainable and captivating spaces everywhere, and are available for home projects locally. Their team built an eye-catching living wall at 1 Third Avenue in Mineola in the lobby of a luxury apartment building.

Famulari offers living design ideas that anyone can use in her new book due out later this year, Green Up!  Sustainable Design Solutions for Healthier Work and Living Environments.

“In design, what I enjoy is telling a changing story in the works, based on the site: its materials, lighting, people, scale, use, etc,” she says. “The story is also based on time and change. Plants show time and change in unexpected, beautiful ways, creating moments of sheer amazement and beauty that are wondrous.”

For exterior design, Famulari recommends using plants that are appropriate for the light, drainage, and location. The same applies for interiors, with just a different set of plants.  

“The applications are endless: small/large scale; flat and 3-D; low/high light, natural sunlight, artificial light; office, house, apartments; exteriors…everything is possible,” she adds. “Be creative and the green design solutions will come.”

Maintenance is taken into account when developing the design.

“Early maintenance — the first year — is the most extensive,” she says. “The second year is easier and less. And by the third year, usually everything is figured out and it is merely yearly maintenance of the pumps, lights, structure and plants.”

With lots of TLC most green walls can last indefinitely. Famulari points out that some of her early designs are still growing today.  

“For exterior walls, though some plants may be flowering or leafing seasonally, they are still designed to last for an extended amount of years,” she says.

“Plants allow healing, mental soothing, and easier breathing,” she continues. “And something to grow in front of you with visible change in a time frame. That reminds us that all things change and heal and can be wondrous.”

Living Large In A Magical Waterfront Tiny Home

Enjoy the beach, and you can moor your boat right outside

Summertime is just around the corner and living large is a breeze in this magical 890-square-foot waterfront beach cottage at 63 Oaks Avenue in Flanders.

“This is a private beach community of Bay View Pines with sandy beaches around the corner located in the Town of Southampton near the North Fork vineyards, Tanger mall, and the nightlife of The Hamptons,” says Rosie Reiss, Owner/Broker, Coldwell Banker – Trading Places Realty in Hampton Bays.

Built around 2003, the rustic Craftsman-style tiny house raised on four-foot cement piers boasts five rooms and has a lot to offer considering its modest size: a spacious and entertaining open living room/dining area with amazing water views, eat-in country kitchen with unique inside tin ceiling, as well as two to three comfy bedrooms and a colorful, new full bathroom.

“It’s totally redone from head to tiny toes,” the realtor notes. “Everything is new: plumbing, electric, septic, heating, A/C, etc.”

The current owners bought the house as an investment.

Other features include a sliding-glass barn door; extra room in a beachy-looking shed/cottage for so much more, as it has bunk beds for the kiddies; sets of screen doors that lead to porches and walking decks with water views of boating, fishing, and all sorts of water fowl sightings. And, easy-to-maintain native plantings on a 6,223 square-foot lot.

“Enjoy the beach and you can moor your boat right outside,” says Reiss.

This is East End living at its best for $429,000. The house may come fully furnished if the price is right.

“Those amazing water views make this cozy cottage seem bigger,” says Trading Places owner/broker Paul Reiss. “It’s absolutely adorable.”

And it’s hard to resist the home’s location.

Rosie Reiss adds, “Gorgeous sunsets and moon-watching all over the lot and inside the entire cottage.”

Prices for tiny houses vary, and they come in all shapes, styles, and sizes (even less than 200 square feet) and are often sold on wheels so they can be transported to different locations.

This charming beach cottage would be considered quite grand in the realm of tiny dwellings.

The tiny homes movement has been gaining momentum across the U.S. and becoming more popular on the Island, especially with retirees looking to downsize and cut down on the monthly costs of maintaining larger homes.

With affordable housing getting scarcer in New York, going tiny is a great option for anyone who wants to save money and enjoy a simpler lifestyle. That said, there are zoning restrictions on Long Island and other considerations, especially for tiny homes with foundations.

While tiny living has its financial, practical and emotional advantages, and works well for many singles, couples and even families, adjusting to that lifestyle can be extremely challenging for most.

The upside: Living large with less frees up people from the burden of having too much stuff, and paying mortgages or high rents and sky-high electric bills, etc. That means peace of mind along with having more quality time and extra money for family activities, outdoor adventures, traveling, and other pursuits.

It’s all about a minimalist mindset, making do with life’s bare necessities, and a commitment to living tiny.

Sometimes, less is more.

Contact:  Rosie Reiss, Owner/Broker Coldwell Banker – Trading Places Realty, Hampton Bays, 631-728-8070 / 516-840-1044. Paul Reiss, Owner/Broker 631-728-8070 / 516-978-7808

The spacious and entertaining open living room/dining area has amazing water views.
The spacious and entertaining open living room/dining area has amazing water views.
Even the colorful full bathroom has been redone.

Pantone Color of the Year Living Coral is 2019’s Life-affirming Hue

Everyone needs a little pick-me-up now and then — a refreshing cocktail, uplifting music, a snazzy new outfit, or a vibrant pop of color at home or in a work space. The end result is a happier outlook.

Pantone’s Color of the Year Living Coral evokes a sunset and under-the-sea coral reefs. It has been described as a warm and welcoming, reach-out-and touch shade that looks great in any room. And It complements cooler hues like blues and blue greens, as well as browns, beiges, and tans. A perfect summery hue, it’s an organic, nurturing color that appears in natural surroundings.

“We are all happy in sunshine or on vacation and that is the spirit of the color,” says local designer Wendy Lepkoff of Wendy interiors. “Using it on a chair, pillows, accent wall, or curtains combined with the color of sand and a blue ocean transforms you to a tropical island.”

When used as a bold statement in settings and décor, this life-affirming coral shade with a golden undertone energizes and enlivens. And it’s reminiscent of precious coral that adorns unique jewelry pieces.

Providing comfort and buoyancy in a complex digital world, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral symbolizes our innate need for engagement, optimism and joyful pursuits.

“Color is an equalizing lens through which we experience our natural and digital realities,” says Color Expert Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the New Jersey-based Pantone Color Institute. “With consumers craving human interaction and social connection, the humanizing and heartening qualities displayed by the convivial Living Coral hit a responsive chord.”

A culmination of the Institute’s year-round work forecasting trends and developing color palettes for clients, the Color of the Year is one moment in time that provides strategic direction for the worlds of trend and design. Living Coral inspires experimentation and playful expression in makeup products as well as in men’s and women’s street and runway styles. The warm shade suggests comfort and positivity.

Whether used in decorative accessories, on tabletops, or elsewhere, it adds a dramatic pop of color and can beautifully enhance an outdoor space such as a patio or porch.

“A strategic use of vivid color is the perfect way of using a high-powered hue,” explains Jean Brownhill, founder of Sweeten, a free service that matches renovators with vetted contractors, providing support until project completion.

“A Sweeten client built a powder room on the ground floor of their house [in the dining room] for easy access for their small child and guests,” she says. “It was one of their most comfortable and decorated rooms — radiant heated floors, Moroccan tile, Cole & Sons Palms wallpaper — all revealed by a door painted in a vibrant coral.”

Eiseman offers her suggestions for eye-catching home décor using Living Coral.

“Because it’s expensive to change out a piece of furniture, wall covering, etc., one of the least expensive ways {to enliven a room] is to use paint. And it’s so experimental,” she notes. “It’s easy to buy color and use it on something that needs new life, like an old, shabby small chest of drawers — and renew it.”

For those who are a little braver and want to do a bit more with the color, it’s a gorgeous shade to use in the context of a print, as in bedding, Eiseman suggests.

The color makes for beautiful stemware, plates, table runners, and placemats — as a background for food — because it is somewhat of an appetite stimulant. And, it’s a great background for greens, like veggies, according to Eiseman.

She explains that it was chosen for a number of reasons.

“From a symbolic standpoint, coral reefs nurture marine life; fish can protect themselves with reefs, eat the food off the reefs,” Eiseman notes. “We know that’s an issue today – preservation of coral reefs and keeping our ecological balance. It’s important and we feel strongly about it.”

Living Coral lovers can see the color online at pantone.com and have it mixed in any paint store.

Transformative Curb Appeal, Long Island-style

Windowboxes with pretty flowers really enhance the curb appeal of this charming old Oyster Bay home. For a warmer look and feel, and to beautifully complement existing décor, choose double-hung windows featuring a traditional grille pattern that can add a more colonial vibe. Define the porch by painting railings an eye-catching color that contrasts well with the siding, or change railings/overheads. Before making any major structural changes, get professionally rendered drawings to get a better idea of what new windows will look like.

Every home deserves some TLC. Since spring is a time of renewal, a facelift and some sprucing up may be in order. As homeowners gradually emerge from a long hibernation, many have been planning or working on revitalization projects that would increase that all-important curb appeal as well as the value of their biggest investment.


Consider Renewal by Andersen of Long Island replacement windows as a great way to transform the entire look of a house and increase its curb charm as well as its value threefold.

All the original windows in this old house in Oyster Bay were made of wood and all were rotted.

“We installed a whole house of our high-performance Fibrex windows, white interior, white exterior,” says Joel Eskenas, senior design consultant and trainer for Renewal by Andersen of Long Island. “Our Andersen white color added brightness to the exterior and a clean fresh look.”

“Most are double hung with a few awning-style windows,” he adds. “Quite a bit of the wood around the windows on the outside was also rotted. That wood was replaced and then encapsulated and sealed with a maintenance-free material which will prevent rot in the future.”

So, how do new windows add curb appeal and value?

“Our windows are known for their beautiful clean lines, favorable glass-to-frame ratios and their rich interior and exterior finish. Our patented technology also allows for dark colors to be installed on the outside, which is unique to our industry,” Eskenas explains. “For years now, the Andersen brand name has been known to add value to homes, so much so that when homeowners list their homes in the real estate sections of their newspaper, if they have Andersen windows you will always see that mentioned in the for-sale ads.”

What are some features that make these windows so popular, especially on the Island?

One reason, says Eskenas, is that Andersen’s high-performance, Fibrex composite framing material is perfect for the coastal environment they service because it is nonporous, doesn’t absorb moisture and isn’t affected by salt air or salt water. Fibrex doesn’t rot.

Style options that are popular locally? Double-hung, casements and gliders. Many customers also choose bay or bow windows, which can improve their view as well as their home’s attractiveness.

Andersen’s new black exterior windows are becoming very popular with homeowners seeking to modernize the look of their home. They offer multiple color choices, interior wood options, hardware and glass options, and grille and screen options, according to Eskenas. He adds that the design process revolves entirely around the client.

“We invest a lot of time and put a lot of effort into finding out exactly what it is they have in mind,” he says. “Once we determine what their goals and desires are, we show them pictures, talk about various options: style, color, hardware, custom grill options, screen options, etc.”

Add some curb drama with hedges of varying heights and flowering bushes. Create even more drama, especially in the evening, with outdoor lighting. Just place energy-saving solar lamps along a path or driveway; highlight a unique hardscape or water feature. Invest in planters. Place on each side of the entryway/front door for an elegant touch. Symmetry is important. Achieve instant charm with pretty windowboxes filled with colorful spring flowers.


A well-thought-out landscape design is a cost-effective way to show some love while totally transforming a home’s vibe. For visual appeal, add depth and interest without making any major changes to the house itself. And, for amazing results, seek advice from a professional landscaper.

Creative landscapers who know the tricks of the trade, like Bethpage-based Tom Facarile of TMF Landscape Design Inc., use a variety of natural elements for maximum, eye-catching curb appeal. And the design options are endless.

“We strive to create beautiful landscape and water features that are unique and natural-looking and are equipped to install small or large scapes,” says Facarile, who specializes in providing an artistic design (master plan, hardscaping, plantings) tailored to the homeowner’s lifestyle and budget, as well as landscape installation, i.e. masonry, concrete, carpentry, metalwork, grading, drainage, lighting, and more.

When TMF Landscape is called in for a consultation, Facarile surveys the property and comes up with multiple scenarios for different applications.

“In the design of a recently completed project in Garden City, we created a focal point in the center of the front lawn with a garden bed full of beautiful greens and blooms to add color, life, and interest to a very flat landscape,” Facarile explains. “The foundation plants were designed in scape design to enhance the home’s architecture. The entry is more welcoming and ties into the surrounding landscape and hardscape stonework of the entryway.”

He adds: “Upon site inspection many yards of soil and compost were brought in to grade out the property. Free-form islands also were installed to give the property beautiful curb appeal. Many perennial flowers were installed in the planting beds along with the shrubbery. Sod was installed along with a new sprinkler system. Black mulch and annual flowers completed the job.”

Facarile had the opportunity to meet with the homeowners halfway through the project and alter the plans more to their liking. Plant materials were upgraded and some beautiful specimen materials were used. Low-voltage LED lighting was installed. Many of these materials were purchased from North Service Nursery and Half Hollow Nursery in Melville and Deer Park, and the project was completed in six days.

To enhance a Syosset home’s curb appeal, old plantings were removed and replaced with a beautiful new flower bed design and a variety of visually appealing plantings.

Quick Tip: “When starting a landscape project, always consult a pro who will give you their creative ideas and take into account what plants will thrive in the existing areas,” Facarile suggests. “Many times, a project will not last when the homeowner tries to cut corners and save money.”

TMF Landscape Design has perfected building streams and waterfalls that are very realistic and natural-looking.

“When building a waterfall, we do not stack slate on top of one another and call that a waterfall. That is not what you would see in nature,” says Facarile, adding, “I love creating beautiful landscape spaces surrounded by elements that create a sense of peace, tranquility and beauty.”

Northport Smart Home Asks $999,999

In the market for a sophisticated Jetsons-style smart home?

Check out this custom-built, three-story Northport colonial on 591 Old Bridge Drive, at a convenient location giving easy access to the village, beaches, and highways.

Built in 2005, the 5,800-square-foot house majestically sits on a private acre of property and is listed at $999,999. While it doesn’t offer everything in the smarthome spectrum, it has been cleverly outfitted with a suite of key features, and potential buyers will love the layout and open floor plan.

“The current owners just completed a major renovation of the basement giving the home a very large entertainment area with a professional grade bar [with sink and wine fridge], home theatre, full bath and outside entrance,” says real estate professional Melanie Mazzeo of Douglas Elliman Dix Hills.

Being on-the-go millennials, the homeowners wanted a smart security system. They also installed Nest thermostats that control three zones of heat and provide energy savings along with the luxury of coming home to a warm house. There’s central cooling and, of course, surround sound.

Completely updated with beautiful finishes, hardwood flooring, high ceilings, and skylights, the home offers five bedrooms, four full baths and one half bath, a large eat-in kitchen with high-end appliances, two-story den with fireplace, and spacious family room. It also features a lovely garden and patio, as well as a three-car garage that has an electric charger. Other perks: The finished ‘smart’ basement is on its own zone of heat, controlled by the Nest system.

For security, they opted for a combination of multiple outdoor Nest cameras, and movable interior cameras that offer flexibility to monitor specific areas of the house in detail. A Ring doorbell answers the front door, providing instant visual and audio contact with anyone at the door. These systems are integrated with an ADT security system in the house. The ADT smartphone app allows monitoring of the home’s surveillance systems as well as providing security monitoring for the interior and exterior and alerts to the owners, police and fire departments in case of emergency.

“The homeowners, who were both originally from Long Island but had moved out of state, were drawn back by the quality of the local schools for their children, the vibrant community life that the villages of Northport and Huntington offer, as well as the easy access to major airports and thriving economy,” says Mazzeo.

New owners can easily add more features for the ultimate smart-home experience.

For more information, contact Melanie Mazzeo of Douglas Elliman Dix Hills at Mmazzeo@elliman.com or 631-766-3450

Smart, Green Homes Healthier For Residents, The Environment

Healthy, high-performance homes can be attractive as well as sustainable energy producers.

Environmentally friendly and next-generation technologies are making households both smart and healthy as savvy homeowners install devices that simplify their lives and secure their biggest investment.

Home innovation trends include integrative systems that detect leaks, regulate temps, and monitor a home’s security, often with the touch of a smartphone. Such upgrades are often made in concert with cost-cutting renewable energy products, such as photovoltaic cells, commonly known as solar panels.

“I think people are looking at things more holistically now when they undergo home construction,” says Daniel Busi, managing director of the U.S. Green Building Council Long Island Chapter (USGBC-LI). “Due to more information being available to the general public about possible rebates/incentives for innovative systems, people are looking to retrofit with a variety of options.”

Approaches include sustainable construction that maximizes materials, efficient building that uses only the necessary amount of resources, resilient construction that prepares for upcoming natural disasters, and renewable energy production that reduces fossil-fuel dependence. Houses that use these standards are referred to as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified homes.

“These options often cost a bit more upfront, but all lead to significant savings,” Busi says. “People have started to really see the ROI [Return on investment] for geothermal, benefits of innovative and alternative wastewater treatment septic systems, value of solar arrays [panels], etc.”

But Busi doesn’t think LEED-certified homes have caught on quick enough and notes that solar sales have declined since 2016.

“It isn’t the case everywhere, but an industry-wide average ROI is seven years,” Busi says of the up-to-$30,000 cost of installing solar panels. “Energy-efficient upgrades can range, but I’ve heard examples of the payback being worth it after only one to two years.”


Home innovation goes beyond consumer devices like Amazon virtual assistant Alexa.

“The future of housing … is home automation,” says Rick Wertheim, senior vice president of housing and green initiatives for United Way of Long Island. “The newest innovation? How homes adjust their indoor home environment to the occupants. Now a home has the ability to detect things that go wrong, on its own.”

In the past, there was never any device to automatically detect toxins, aside from carbon monoxide detectors.

“The most important innovations coming out,” says Wertheim, “are sensors that communicate with home systems like HVAC and monitor if the air is good or bad.”

For example, the Foobot Indoor Air Quality Monitor connects to smartphones and detects if there are too many volatile organic compounds in the air or if the humidity is too high. If so, exhaust fans turn on.

“The solution to indoor pollution is dilution,” he says. “Dilute with fresh air so toxins are less harmful.”


“Putting bamboo floor in my house doesn’t make it green,” says Wertheim. “Bamboo flooring may have formaldehyde.”

He uses this as an example of a phenomenon called green washing, in which companies sell products that make overstated claims of being environmentally friendly. Real green products are sustainable and renewable, he says.

“We have people asking us for insulation products that aren’t toxic,” says architect JP Lardoux, who works with Wertheim on building green houses. “Instead of fiberglass products, some folks are using cellulose (chopped-up newspaper). Foams can create bad gases. This is a natural recyclable product.”

Cellulose works better on cold air. Borax (boric acid) is also added, a natural fireproofing agent that even acts as an insect and rodent repellent.

For floors, Wertheim suggests strong, economical, sustainable Marmoleum — an all-natural flooring that’s an alternative to sheet vinyl.

Devices like thermal leak detectors that integrate with the home’s water supply systems via smartphones to detect leaks and fix insulation are an efficient way to monitor ducts, windows, and other vulnerable insulation spots.

Wertheim says the next big thing for green tech is the heat pump, an inexpensive, electric plug-in system that can switch between heating and cooling and replace air conditioners.

While most homes here aren’t built to high-level, stringent construction standards, as such building becomes commonplace, more homeowners are taking the plunge.

“Eventually these devices and products will become more economical to incorporate into your house,” he says. “You may not be able to do fully automated systems, but you can try and implement as much as you can.”

“Sooner or later,” he quips, “the house will become more like a machine that’s working for us.”

Tot Spots: Sugar ‘n Spice and Everything Nice

They say that girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, and boys are into frogs, snails, and puppy dog’s tails. And they’re all little angels, especially when they’re napping … in a soft crib surrounded by cool things that mom and dad lovingly picked out just for them.

Happy little girls’ rooms and nurseries begin with a dreamy design concept, and these magical spots for little divas can easily grow and change as their pint-sized occupants get older. First, they’ll need a place to play with their toys and imaginary friends; later on, a space to hang out in with real ones and do homework. Just add a comfy big-girl bed, desk, and beanbag chairs.


This one has it all: Cute storage ideas, fun bedding and accessories, and cool wall decorations that spark her imagination.

“The nursery (my little kiddo’s) started with the world map that’s above the [Wayfair] changer — it set the mood — and it built from there,” says Crystal Sinclair of Crystal Sinclair Designs, who lives in Baldwin and works with Homepolish, a unique service that provides clients with accessible design expertise and gives designers access to clients.  

“I knew we needed items to be kid friendly and fun, nothing expected,” she adds. “Takes some sourcing out of the box, meaning I steered clear of kid shops for items that weren’t baby oriented (lights, rugs, dresser, etc.). And I wanted a ceiling paper, so the self-adhesive panels from Chasing Paper were perfect!”

The expectant parents didn’t want a girly room for 14-month-old Mira, but a space that could grow with her — playful enough for a nursery but serious enough for a tweener who would one day make it her own.

Sinclair’s nesting instinct took over and she enjoyed gathering everything she’d need for baby’s new digs: Delta crib from Amazon, Wayfair glider and square bookcase, Ikea floor lamp, and RH Teen rug; the West Elm mobile was modified to fit the space better.

“We painted the walls Chantilly Lace. Floors were great, just needed a rug. We wanted to see the crib as we entered, making it the focal.”

The windows are offset, so she added extra wide custom drapes from Loom Décor to give the illusion of larger, more centered, windows.

“I was careful with lighting placement; you want light for specific tasks but nothing too bright to wake baby at 3 a.m.,” Sinclair explains. “So, we have a plug-in wall sconce by the changing table, a light for nighttime stories/feedings, and an overhead pendant too.”

So, how will the room grow with Mira? 

“The colors and patterns are perfect for a baby to teen,” she says. “Only the furniture needs swapping as needs change.”