Tammy Scileppi


Cupid-approved Home Settings To Spark Romance

Chocoate-covered strawberries are a fitting centerpiece for any Valentine's Day table setting. (Courtesy Elegant Eating)

Valentine’s Day has evolved over the years and isn’t just about a couple doing dinner any longer.

Love and togetherness can be celebrated anywhere and in many ways: by a group of friends, twos, or just solo — and some rebels even throw anti-Valentine’s Day parties. But for that ever-popular, traditional experience, Chef Jonathan (Scinto) shares his tips for setting up the perfect romantic table a deux for V-Day or any special occasion.

“I do match it up to the client’s taste and really try to keep it as classic and refined as possible, with a little chic thrown in,” he says.

That said, for Ooh la la table settings and room décor that spark romance, DIY creative and a bit over the top works great as well. (Check out some inspirations – à la Etsy – below.)

“I use special plates that are based on the menu to set it all up like it’s a canvas,” Scinto explains. “So, let’s say it’s a seafood dish like oysters Prosecco; I’m using my really good White One idea: china plates that have a texture to them. It really sets off the color of the oyster shells.

So, be mindful of what your serving first, then use that as your paint and the plate as the canvas.”

And finish the meal with decadent desserts and chocolate.

Another element to keep in mind is that all-important mood lighting. Scinto suggests: Dim the lights and light beautiful candles for the table.

“If your lights don’t dim, then close them and use stem candles to give that glitter in the sky ambiance,” he says.

Oh, and don’t forget to put on some sexy music. It can set the tone for that entire romantic evening. Barry White, anyone?

“If it’s an Italian-inspired menu, I’m playing some classic Italian opera; or, if the menu is a fusion, I’m playing like, Billy Joel’s ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,’” says Scinto. “It really depends on the food, though, because I play music based on the menu.”

He adds: “For my clients, every dinner experience is custom tailored to their palates; no menu is ever the same because they’re paying for their own individual culinary adventure. Maybe it’s about a romantic vacation; I would make the table setting theme resemble that experience, from the tablecloth to the silverware.”

Chef Jonathan (Scinto), who was nominated in the 2019 Bethpage Best of Long Island contest, can be reached at 516-428-6968, on Instagram and Facebook via @chefjonathans

V-Day inspirations for décor, table settings and gifts (à la Etsy):

Themed pillows; table runners/toppers and placemats, napkins (red or themed); wreaths and banners, heart doilies for hanging; garland; centerpieces with red, pink, white faux or real flowers; foliage; and hearts and LED lights.

Candle rings made with bows and lace over wire; red tableware and decorated wine glasses (vintage = romantic); place cards, napkin holders.

Clear vases or bowls with red floating candles; heart soaps; a bowl with red, pink painted pine cones.

A Taste of Instagram: Sea to Steak

Chef Jonathan suggests this sumptuous four-course dinner with a cocktail

Cocktail: Strawberry Mint Chocolate Martini

First Course: Asian-Infused Oysters Prosecco Mignonette

Second Course: Seared Scallops and Mango Puree

Entree: Grilled Prime Filet Mignon, Purple and Yukon Potatoes with Spicy Cole Slaw

Dessert: Black and White Chocolate Mousse Cookie

Strawberry Mint Choc. Martini

Laid-Back Spaces That Welcome Family and Friends

These days, living spaces are made for chilling. No longer formal and stuffy, they’re all about comfort, and are cleverly designed for casual entertainment and family fun. Special kid-friendly spots that are nestled within inspire creativity.


Check out this bright and inviting finished lower-level family room that merges multipurpose elements with unexpected features.

The eye-catching layout was conjured up by partners in design Jennifer Fox and Tonia Omeltchenko of award-winning Fox + Chenko Interiors Ltd., for a couple with two active school-aged children in Port Washington.

“They envisioned a cozy space to build Lego creations and have fun with art projects, as well as an area where they could all watch TV, catch up on their iPads, and entertain friends,” says Omeltchenko.

So, the savvy design team carved out a beverage/snack area, anchored a large sectional sofa with chaise to define the TV/media area, and defined a separate spot with a table for Legos and art, as well as a C-table for computer work.

Omeltchenko suggests: “Create distinct zones for all the activities you enjoy, maximize the space by carefully selecting the size and scale of your furnishings, and allow for proper egress.”

The original space was narrow with inadequate lighting, and had an uneven concrete floor and builder’s-grade hardware. A support column was awkwardly positioned, and low soffits enclosed the HVAC ductwork.

That meant the lower level had to be waterproofed and the subfloor leveled. New exterior and interior doors and a window were installed. The support column now defines egress to a play area outlined by another soffit.

Modern solar shades on windows and an exterior door were installed for streamlined coverage, allowing daylight to filter in while providing privacy.

A cool custom bar features a glass tile mosaic backsplash and boasts multiple refrigerators to separate adults’ from children’s beverages, a sink, niches with electrical outlets for small appliances, and solid surface countertops for easy maintenance. The low soffit with recessed lighting is integrated into its design.

Soothing neutrals enlivened with cheery accent colors enhance the laid-back vibe.

When the kids are finally asleep, this space can easily transform into a private sanctuary – perfect for hosting late-night, adult-only parties.


Teals and turquoise and neutrals…oh my! Pops of refreshing colors and eye-pleasing contemporary pieces mixed with touches of traditional styling merge beautifully to create a sophisticated and relaxing great room designed for entertaining, trumping the formerly blah space. The living room takes front and center in this reno.

Pier 1 accessories and a stylish Wayfair bar in the dining area, along with a couple of interesting side-table vignettes strategically placed here and there, take this revamped gem to a whole new level for a couple in their ’60s who had been living in their Babylon Village colonial cape for two years.

“They downsized from a larger house in Nassau and yearned for a home they could entertain in comfortably,”  says design pro Sandra Asdourian of Sandra Asdourian Interiors. “Crown moldings, high ceilings and a waterfront view from every window inspired us to go with a coastal transitional mix in this inviting great room.”

She took advantage of the open floor plan from the kitchen, dining room, and great room with French doors opening to the balcony. Her clients use the combined spaces, with the dining room as a buffet and bar area, for their guests.

Neutral colors were used on walls, the floors were refinished, and beautiful area rugs were put down in the living room where classy furniture pieces spruce up the outdated décor.

“So many times, when designing a space for clients, there are several family members using the room for different functions,” Asdourian notes. “The large sectional sofa is positioned across the room from a large TV for easy viewing. In addition, the arc lighting illuminates the sofa area perfectly for reading.”

She adds: “Working with a beautiful view from the French doors, we wanted the seating to capture the outside, too.”

The “wow factor” is obvious in this unique revamp.

United Way of Long Island Builds House Of The Future in Patchogue

United Way of Long Island’s Housing team, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, and Suffolk County Landbank volunteers gave hands- on help to build a house that they hope will be a model to local developers.

The new year promises to be an awesome one for one lucky homeowner who will be enjoying all the features that an innovative house of the future offers.

Located at 23 Furman Avenue in East Patchogue, the 1,360-square-foot abode on a 10,000-square-foot lot is a new build scheduled to be completed this month. The modest Farm Ranch-style dwelling may seem like an ordinary three-bedroom, two-bath home with a yard, although it’s anything but ordinary. It’s a certified Zero Energy Ready Home featuring advanced energy savings, comfort, health, durability, quality, and per- formance that can be expected to stand the test of time.

“Homeowners will benefit long term and save money on electric, heating, and gas,” says Rick Wertheim, senior vice president of Housing and Green Initiatives at United Way of Long Island, which has been involved with innovative building projects since 1996. “That’s the transformational thing about this house. We’re building these houses to educate and make communities aware of what is a terrific resource when you’re building or remodeling.”

The nonprofit, which has won U.S. Department of Energy awards for similar high-tech homes the group built on LI, follows recommendations from the federal agency on how to build energy-efficient homes. Most Long Island homes aren’t built to such high-level stringent construction standards.

This is the first time that the Deer Park-based nonprofit is teaming up with Suffolk County Landbank to sell a home for struggling first-time home buyers who would otherwise be unable to afford one.

“The work of the Suffolk County Landbank is vital to our operations, helping to fight against blight and abandonment,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “I want to thank our partners at United Way of Long Island, whose commitment and investment have made this project possible.”

The new structure replaced a boarded-up abandoned house that had been a blight on the community. The price of the new home is $375,000.

“One of United Way of Long Island’s goals is to develop quality housing and to ensure that families and individuals are living in healthy and safe environments,” says the organization’s President and CEO Theresa Regnante. “Our organization is not new to housing development…we are simply doing more of it and taking advantage of the latest technology in the industry, such as using tablets to control room temperatures.”

So, what makes this ‘little house that could’ so unique and ahead of its time? According to United Way of LI, such homes have pre-engineered components and advanced insulating materials.

“We build the house as a system,” says Wertheim. “Every component complements the other. Everyone works together for the same goal.”

Key features include:

• High vaulted ceilings and an open-plan living, kitchen, dining area
• Generous-sized covered porch for outdoor living; a drainable driveway
• U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home certified
• Solar panels provide low- or no-energy bill
• Healthy home with continuous whole-house ventilation and advanced air filtration
• State-of-the-art heating and cooling system
• Energy Star certified
• Water management system to protect roof, walls, foundation from water damage
• Advanced exterior wall system consisting of air sealing, quality insulation and high performance triple-pane windows
• Smart home technology
•Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint and interior finishes
• Water conservation fixtures
• Energy-efficient lighting, appliances
• Advanced septic system protects local groundwater
• Drought-resistant, native-grown landscaping

“This is our recipe for all homes: healthy, super energy-efficient and bright,” says Wertheim. “You live better, feel better in them.”

“These homes are so energy efficient — you only need 20,000 BTUs — that all or most of their annual energy consumption will be offset with renewable energy, like solar panels,” he adds.

Workers have been schooled at United Way of Long Island’s E3 SmartBuild Training Center, which also offers residents free Healthy Home Energy Assessments. But best of all, this is a rare case of a builder not trying to make a buck on the deal.

“The Patchogue house is new construction and will be completed February 2019,” Wertheim says, noting that a lottery for qualified applicants will be announced at a later date.

Individuals who are interested in first-time homebuyer counseling or education should contact Elaine Kaleta, United Way of Long Island at 631-940-3721 / ekaleta@unitedwayli.org. To view more images & videos visit; unitedwayli.org/homeofthefuture

BEFORE: The new house replaced an abandoned home, which was demolished.
Professionals and volunteers joined forces to build the house.
AFTER: An artist’s rendering of what the completed house will look like.

How To Get Organized And Declutter in 2019

Many people use the new year as motivation to get organized.

’Tis the season to get organized. The new year means new beginnings, so it’s a perfect time to start fresh, declutter and create more space.

That means out with the old stuff! Here’s a suggestion: Give back by donating some items, sell others at a yard sale or online, and just trash the rest. After all, those newfangled toys, gadgets, tchotchkes and other gifts are going to need a home now.

“Organizing is not rocket science, but it can be hard work,” says Cynthia Braun, a certified professional organizer and feng shui consultant on Long Island. “ So, roll up your sleeves and just make a start. Most importantly, I teach my clients how to maintain order after we’re finished.”                                                                                

Occasionally, Braun visits clients’ homes to conduct an in-depth feng shui assessment using the bagua energy map, five elements theory and other tools and techniques. She offers step-by-step guidance to make personal feng shui adjustments, including organizing ideas, furniture recommendations, room-by-room color and art selection, and more.

Here, she offers tips and suggests solutions for reining in the mess and creating calm from chaos.

“My approach is, first know the goals of the space or room,” she says. “Then declutter. Get rid of items that don’t work for the area. Next, decide what needs to be there to make the tasks of the room function smoothly. Know resources that can build closets, shelves, etc. or purchase items like furniture, organizing supplies that will help maintain the room’s function.”

Finally, add decorative touches that will enhance the space without cluttering it up again.

“After the holidays, it’s important to return decorations to organized storage,” she says. “This will make next year’s decorating simple.”

Use clear, labeled containers and sort, organize, and store by groupings of like items or by area where displayed. For example, containers labelled “fireplace mantel” should hold stuff like candles and stockings.

Get rid of old or unwanted toys and clothing. To avoid paper clutter, set up a paper management system and keep holiday recipes in a binder or recipe box.

Design pro Sandra Asdourian, of Sandra Asdourian Interiors in Babylon Village, injects organizational elements into her renovation projects, based on her clients’ needs.

“Great design starts with the floor plan, organizing and understanding how the family will be living in the space,” she says.

For example, in a well-used guest bedroom she designed, the clients entertained a lot of overnight weekend guests. They required extra storage for additional bedding and linens. So, she installed a storage bed. The bed frame easily lifts with a hidden hydraulic mechanism. This way, they could organize the extra linens without sacrificing closet space.

“We also needed to organize an easy space to entertain, so the clients and their guests could move from the kitchen to the great room to the balcony with ease,” Asdourian explains. “They used the combined spaces with the dining room as a buffet and bar area for their guests.”

Braun’s longtime client Pam, of Commack, says she realized she wasn’t staying on top of the clutter in her house. Her worst enemy was paper. The dining room table and home office desks were always piled high with catalogs, mail, and other documents.

“I wanted to invite friends over but was postponing that until the house was back in order, but that never happened,” Pam says. “I found Cynthia, thank goodness, and just the first day she accomplished what would have taken me weeks…She taught me a new way to think. I realize now that a lot of people have the same issues, so I don’t feel alone. This has been a life changer!”


  1. Identify why you want to get organized
  2. Write it down and keep it visibly posted
  3. Make a plan
  4. Mark a date on your calendar
  5. When done, reward yourself

Old Meets New In This Multi-room Modern Revamp in Old Brookville

A yearning for fresh air and the tranquility and laid-back lifestyle of charming Oyster Bay brought newlywed city dwellers looking for a home where they could entertain family and friends to Glen Head/Old Brookville.

But unlike most locals, Aline and Kevin have been splitting their time between their newly purchased and recently updated 8,000-square-foot abode and their Williamsburg, Brooklyn digs, where they spend weekends enjoying big city activities.

Most homeowners would feel overwhelmed taking on a multiroom renovation in a house that size – especially with 35-foot-high ceilings and massive expanses in the main living areas – but the couple dove right in with the help of talented design pro Robyn Baumgarten, owner of Interiors by Just Design. She worked closely with her clients to turn their individual ideas into a reality by transforming an older mismatched eclectic house (with huge rooms) into the modern dream home they longed for.

“This is your home,” goes Baumgarten’s mantra. “I want it to be all about you and what you love!”

At first glance the house appeared to be move-in ready, purchased with the previous homeowner’s traditional furnishings as part of the package. But Aline didn’t share the same design aesthetic. For starters, the Persian rugs didn’t jibe with that modern, classic look she and her designer wanted.

“My clients had differing opinions on how they wanted their home to look,” says Baumgarten, whose design focus was on the grand living room, family room and first-floor master bedroom. “Together, we took Kevin’s desire to turn the existing fireplaces into focal walls, and his passion for art then combined that with Aline’s desire for this house to feel like a home.”

Since phase one of design is always conceptual, Baumgarten first presented her vision for the focal walls then brought her millworker into the project. They decided to go with separate plans for each wall that were similar in their modern simplicity but different in their varying materials and execution.

“While construction was taking place, Aline and I hit the ground running with our design ideas,” says Baumgarten, who always works on a room from the floor up and usually sources and shops for a rug with her clients as one of their initial meetings. “This way, they pick out a rug style that defines their personality and then I continue to build the room around it.”

Their hunt for new rugs took them to Stark Carpet, where they chose two that had unique tone-on-tone geometric patterns that would surely spruce up both the living and family spaces.

After completing those common areas, Baumgarten and her team moved their design focus to the first-floor master bedroom.

“Like all good husbands, Kevin let his wife take direction on the design here,” says Baumgarten. “Being from Brazil, Aline loves color and lilac is her favorite.”

So, they ran with it.

For the perfect finishing touch in the boudoir, the designer chose a beautiful piece by local artist Anahi DeCanio.

“I am a big believer in details, artwork being a large focus in all my projects,” says Baumgarten, whose inspiration for the space echoed Kevin’s passion for collecting and customizing great pieces of art. “As it turned out, this reno went smoothly and was a win-win for everyone. And most importantly, we had a lot of fun together.”

One Of A Kind Hidden Treasure in Old Westbury Asks $13.9M

Hearts will skip a beat upon visiting this hidden treasure, one of Old Westbury’s best-kept secrets.

An interesting historic past makes this captivating self-contained private resort set on 16 beautiful acres surrounding a sophisticated 10,000-square-foot mansion a truly rare find at $13,900,000.

Made for entertaining, the one-of-a-kind solid brick beauty was built in 1987 by the current homeowners who transformed what was once an old horse farm into a sprawling estate. Driving down the long, winding, tree-lined road and past the private gate leading to the grand home gives one the feeling of being in a movie. In fact, the estate has been featured in 100-plus films, commercials, and famous music videos.

There are seven charming renovated legal residences on the grounds, two barns, a U-shaped stable (there’s potential for horses), and a unique tower that all date back to the 1880s, according to owner Deborah Zayas, who pointed out that the land was once owned by Quaker farmers and later by George Morton Levy, who brought Roosevelt Raceway and harness racing to Long Island in 1940.  

“It was truly a labor of love and took four years to build,” says Zayas, who poured “millions” into the beloved home with her husband Edward. “I had a vision. I chose everything and decorated it myself.”

European artisans were brought in to craft the sweeping wooden trompe l’oeil marble-like staircase in the impressive 36-foot entry foyer and the extensive millwork and crown moldings on the five ornate, oversized fireplaces, and many other exquisite details.

The pristinely landscaped property boasts hundreds of trees and specimens. Zayas said that one of the main reasons she first fell in love with the place had to do with a special grand copper beech tree that had been standing there for more than 200 years and is still watching over the grounds.

Featuring 10-foot ceilings throughout and marble and parquet floors, the sunny main house includes seven en-suite bedrooms, six full and three half baths, a lovely living room and huge den with French doors that open to a palatial patio, vine-covered arbor, and Olympic-size pool and jacuzzi, all situated on four private, gated acres. The patio offers views of Old Westbury Gardens, which border the property, according to broker Donna Demkowicz.

The gourmet eat-in kitchen with a marble island and countertops has a breakfast area. Other unique features: a koi pond, full outdoor kitchen, three-car garage and seven additional garages, as well as a partially finished basement.  

This amazing gem can be bought for a song.

For more information contact Donna Demkowicz, licensed real estate broker. Mobile 516-330-9834 or toprealtor2000@aol.com

Event Planners Share Tips For A Memorable Holiday Party

A cocktail-style party really allows for guests to interact with each other and enjoy each others’ company. (Photo by Vik Photography)

The holiday season can bring with it high expectations that can be a buzzkill, but one surefire way to combat the seasonal blues is to throw a party.

So, why not do something really pleasant for Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s (or all three), and celebrate the season to be jolly? Whether you’re planning a casual and intimate DIY get-together or an elegant soiree, keep these two things in mind: This season, no rules apply, and make it fun and fabulous. And for a seamless experience to avoid getting overwhelmed, let someone else do the catering, serving and cleaning up.

“For us, holiday season means cocktail parties,” says Samantha Payne-Markel, an event producer with Southold-based Grace & Grit. “We find that a cocktail-style party really allows for guests to interact and enjoy each other’s company.”

The party can open with a stationary display offering local farm veggies, homemade hummus and tzatziki dips, assorted local/imported cheeses, sliced baguette, honey, and nuts. Follow that with passed hors d’oeuvres.

Tip: About halfway through the party, move on to something a bit more hearty. Once guests have had their fill of apps, serve small plates laden with delicacies, or add extras such as a raw bar, taco bar, or carving station. For dessert, keep it light and fun with passed milk-and-cookie shots or a pie bar that serves local farm pies.

The party should be as unique as the host or hostess. According to style icon Iris Apfel, it’s important to embrace your special style and make it your own. So, zhoosh up your tree, fire up that menorah, and throw on your fancy caftan (It’s all the rage with celeb hostesses).  

Consider enhancing your décor with a few DIY accents, like home-crafted wreaths and garlands. Hang dreidels from your chandelier. Plate food in creative, appealing ways, and place food platters strategically throughout the house for easier access. A rolling bar can add a stylish touch and make serving drinks a breeze.

Those who prefer a theme party can incorporate hip, au courant styles into the existing décor. Think boho chic or retro/vintage. Then just add accessories that reflect that vibe.

For boho: large floor cushions, exotic embroidered couch pillows, and tablecloths/runners. Add a Moroccan flavor with hookahs for guests’ smoking pleasure. For a retro feel: Choose an era and add customized special touches such as vintage tree ornaments. Use lacy linens, pretty china, ornate serving dishes, fifties-style cocktail glasses and barware.

A hot toddy is a perfect holiday party beverage. (Courtesy Joe Coleman, Lead Mixologist Grace and Grit)

And don’t forget about those holiday spirits!

“The experience of having a skilled bartender at a holiday party is going to be icing on the cake,” says Grace & Grit’s lead mixologist, Joe Coleman. “Think of all the wonderful things we eat around the holidays and how much better it would be to pair with a fun craft cocktail.”  

A few DIY tips: When setting up a home bar, Coleman suggests a large variety of spirits. And don’t forget about mixers. He says knowing your guests is important. If someone is a wine drinker, make sure to have a few good bottles and ask the local store what pairs with the party menu. Also, have a nice ginger beer, good sodas, a bottle of bitters, nice olives, etc.

“If your guests know you can make a drink, you’ll be a slave to the bar all night,” says Coleman, who is a fan of the classics and keeping it simple. “Batch a cocktail for people to pour themselves.

“For the fall/winter season, I like a Kentucky buck (mix bourbon, ginger beer, angostura bitters and lemon),” he continues. “It’s a diverse drink because for the non-bourbon drinkers, you can sub the bourbon for vodka, and lemon for lime, to make a Moscow mule. If you’d like a craft version you can blend sugar, water and fresh ginger to make a ginger syrup. Add spices like cinnamon and use fresh soda water.”

Other trends: For spiked ciders, pour fresh hot cider in a coffee urn and add rum with cinnamon sticks. Or, for a nice hot toddy, use good coffee, nice Irish whiskey and top with cold, fresh-whipped heavy cream.

Now’s the time to make some magic this holiday season.

Tuna tartar in a sesame cone. (Photo by Vik Photography)

Hors d’oeuvres ideas

  • Mushroom, goat cheese and arugula pesto flatbreads
  • Potato latkes with apple cinnamon chutney
  • Slow-smoked pulled pork with house slaw on potato bun
  • Grilled lamb chops with mint pistachio pesto
  • Local butternut squash soup shooters
  • Smoked Peconic Bay scallops with pickled jalapeño