What to do when your home of 21 years, where you raised two children and created a lifetime’s worth of happy memories, goes up in flames, leaving just one-eighth of it livable? Call your favorite architect-cum-interior designer, of course, which is exactly what a couple did in a small village on Long Island’s North Shore.
The ‘builder’s special,’ as the popular, sloped-roof style was called in 1983 when it was first constructed, had been renovated in 2005 by Louis J. Garcia. Pleased with the results then, the homeowners didn’t waste a minute asking him to handle the redo after the blaze.
“Having worked with them before made it that much easier this time around, because I was acquainted with their lifestyle and the dynamics of how they use their home,” says Garcia. “That comfort level and insight, as well as the enthusiasm they brought to the project, expanded our horizons, bringing forth new and exciting ideas for making an even better home the second time around.”
Garcia brought the house up to code and then basically recreated it; the second floor he built to replace that which the fire had destroyed, “allowed us to play with the floor plan and ceiling heights, and to create more open, spacious areas.” The renovated dwelling meets the couple’s wishes to such an extent that the husband says, only partly in jest, “I’m never leaving. They’ll have to carry me out!”
Key to the transformation was bringing the outside in, creating a light and clean feel, and displaying significant pieces from the couple’s art collection. “We had our confrontational moments,” the wife recalls, laughing, “but Louis always found the perfect solution,” doing myriad things large and small, bold and subtle. One of the first was replacing the narrow-strip, red-oak flooring on the ground floor with wide-plank white oak—not only a better choice for the gentle color palette he composed, but properly scaled to the entire structure’s proportions.
And while he is a skillful architect, “Interior design is what it’s all about,” Garcia says. So, in the living room, additional floor-to-ceiling windows were installed and all were framed by sheer draperies with a barely-there metallic hint that add drama when drawn come evening; several of the couple’s salvaged retro-modern pieces were reupholstered with softly-toned, deliciously-textured fabrics, such as the now ombre´ silk-dressed Saladino sofa; and sculptural furnishings, including a pair of midcentury chairs, were picked up at The International Fine Art & Antique Dealers show in Manhattan.
Metal ‘grout’ squares off the kitchen’s porcelain tiles, a subtle motif that is echoed throughout the house. It reappears in a goatskin parchment-topped tea table and the Christian Liaigre coffee table fronting the living room fireplace—converted from wood-burning to gas at the owners’ behest—the latter’s lacquered top embedded with a Mondrianesque pattern.
A contemporary bent does not, however, as Garcia sees it, exclude good old-fashioned glamour; hence the mink throw tossed on the master bedroom’s boucle´-covered chaise and guest bathrooms gleam- ing with marble. And “amazing” lighting, as the wife calls it—utilized to enhance, hide and optimize—pumps up the glitz. Two of the couple’s favorite examples are the living room floor lamps, shaded with an abstract damask, and the back lighting by the tub in the master bathroom, which amplifies the room’s floating sensation.
But the crowning touch is the assemblage of artwork. Inside, among carefully curated others, are Roy Lichtenstein’s lithograph Tel Aviv Museum Print bringing a pop of color into the media room; Jules Olitski’s Mother of Night acrylic mounted above the living room fire- place; and adding a touch of surrealistic sea to the master bath, Patin, a triptych of Josh von Staudach photographs.
“Louis’s attention to detail is beyond reproach,” declares the lady of the house. And while a future move is not in the picture, a little tweaking by Garcia is always a possibility.