Many people face years of labor when it comes to turning a just-purchased dwelling into their dream home. There is a way to speed up the process. Buy one where the dream already has come true. Homes owned by five interior designers are currently on the market on Long Island, each picture-perfect. They include a Centre Island residence that overlooks Oyster Bay, a Great Neck waterfront estate, a cozy Orient farmhouse overlooking fields, a haven in Huntington Bay and a Glen Cove dwelling with Gatsby-era buzzers to call the servants.
The decorators, many of them willing to part with furnishings if requested and ready to take off for their next restoration project, say they chose to emphasize the historical or unique aspects of the houses rather than alter them significantly.
KAREN ROSEN, CENTRE ISLAND, $2.998 million
Karen Joy Rosen, 68, says she fell in love with her nearly century-and-a-half-old Victorian on Centre Island the moment she saw the three-panel front door with beveled glass partitions that sprinkle rainbows around the interior at sunset.
"I've been blessed to run my hand down this banister for 21 years," she says of the polished walnut handrail that leads up to two additional spacious floors, topped with a widow's walk that provides a lighthouse-like view of Oyster Bay.
Over those two decades, she says she has added new windows, refinished the yellow-pine floors and stocked the 12-foot-high rooms with designer items she's collected. That includes everything from a giant mirror over the living room fireplace to a reupholstered wing chair found on the street. Rosen bought the giant armoire in the master bedroom at an Amityville auction. The workman who trucked it in told her the piece originally had come from that very house.
"Everything in this house has a story," she says.
The details: The five-bedroom house with five bathrooms and a half-bath was built in 1871 on the highest point of Centre Island. The three lots included in the sale make up 3.5 acres, including a deeded beach. Rosen's house has a wraparound porch, an eat-in kitchen, a formal dining room, a living room, an office and a finished basement. The house has 13 fireplaces, including one in the kitchen. The detached three-car garage has a two-bedroom, two-bathroom guesthouse above it. The listing agents are Barry Paley and Lucas Paley with Laffey Fine Homes, 516-503-4242.
GREG LANZA, GLEN COVE, $1.299 million
Greg Lanza, 50, was living in a Centre Island cottage a dozen years ago when a real estate agent approached him about buying a historic house in Glen Cove. The pitch -- that it would give him the opportunity to live in his own show house -- was dead-on.
"Every time I find a unique piece or accessory for a future client, I display it here," he says. "A lamp goes in and another comes out. A pair of chairs go in and a pair goes out. It's been a little design lab for me and a great platform to test out new paint colors, wall coverings and room layouts."
The neoclassical residence -- constructed in 1900 for Charles Post Valentine, a relative of the C.W. Post family -- was originally built in an Italianate Victorian style, then renovated in 1935. Its Gilded Age bones remain, says Lanza, a fact reflected in its wide hallways and Palladian-style floor plan with rooms that branch off from a central foyer. Another reflection of the era are the buttons hidden in each of the rooms, which sound a buzzer on the kitchen's "butler annunciator call box" summoning staff to the appropriate location. Touch a call buzzer and a marker springs open, summoning staff to the proper location.
The bathrooms were updated with new lighting fixtures and subway tiles, but the thick, period cork floors and cast-iron tubs stayed. In the kitchen, Lanza added exposed vintage-style plumbing and kept both the period hood over the stove and the farm sink. He also turned the attic into an art studio and put a six-seat movie theater in the basement.
"Mostly, we adapted ourselves to the home instead of making it what it's not," Lanza says.
The details: The four-bedroom house with four bathrooms and a half-bath has an eat-in kitchen with a butler's pantry, a formal dining room, family room, fireplace and an office. It has a detached garage and two outside covered porches. The listing agent is Maggie Keats with Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-449-7598.
DIANE GUARIGLIA, HUNTINGTON BAY, $2.295 million
Although she has been working on her Huntington Bay house for the past six years, Diane Guariglia, 39, tried to keep one thing in mind with her design scheme.
"You really could do nothing to those rooms and they'd be beautiful anyway," she says. "All you have to do is look outside."
Built in the 1930s by an exacting MIT engineer, the house has extensive views of the bay, which is close enough that water laps at a beach on the back of the property. The renovation included gutting and modernizing the kitchen, a family room and a bathroom, updating the dormers and adding dark wood floors. She used reclaimed barn wood in one room and placed furnishings in neutral and blue colors throughout to visually blend with the outdoors.
"The reality is this is a waterfront home, and you want to complement that organic feeling," Guariglia says.
The details: This is a four-bedroom Colonial with three bathrooms and a half bath on 95 feet of beachfront. It has a custom kitchen, a formal dining room, a family room, an attic and a basement. The three-bedroom master suite includes a bedroom, a large, walk-in closet and an office. The house also has a patio, a two-car attached garage, a boat house and beach rights. The listing agent is Janine Gleusner with Signature Premier Properties, 516-637-4842.
CARRICK ROWE, ORIENT, $2.3 million
In 2007, Carrick Rowe, 38, drove from Manhattan to the North Fork to look over a property for a client and discovered the beauty of Orient.
"This is a special place," she says. "The air is different here. The sunsets are sherbet pinks and blues. Artists come here because they love the light."
She also happened to stumble across the project that would occupy her for the next eight years -- a neglected farmhouse built in 1850 with an acre of land and views of Orient Harbor and the Long Island Sound. The house had been kept by one family and, although badly deteriorated, was still structurally sound, Rowe says.
"No one had done much to fix it up, so the old ceiling and the original molding hadn't been removed," she says. "That made it easier to restore. It hadn't been messed with."
The challenge she set herself was to modernize the house but retain its historical charm.
"I didn't want to decorate in a way that lost the farmhouse feel," she says.
Over the years, she put period linoleum back in the kitchen and restored the cabinets. She refinished the oak floors on the first floor and the yellow pine upstairs, and she refurbished the pressed tin ceiling in the dining room. Seashell pink tones, as well as yellows and blues, were added throughout the house to imitate the area sunsets.
She says she discovered one added benefit to moving Out East, a fact reflected by the roses blooming on the porch.
"I became a gardener," she says.
The details: The four-bedroom, two-bath home comes with an eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, a bedroom or office, a two-car detached garage and a wraparound porch on one acre, part of it used by a local farmer for raising vegetables. It is surrounded by farm fields and has two additional outbuildings for storage. The listing agent is Janet Markarian with Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 631-521-3711.
NADIA VEE, GREAT NECK, $5.25 million
The Dutch Colonial in Great Neck purchased by Nadia Vee, 50, eight years ago was a dream come true in two ways. For one, it was based on a design by Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture and -- to her -- an icon. The windows on the 7,200-square-foot house, which includes a rotunda, were created to give the occupant the feel of looking at the water from a ship, Vee says.
The other reason it was a dream for Vee was that the interior was unfinished and painted beige. Perfect.
"I had a blank canvas to create my own story," says Vee.
Reaching for her palette, she added earthen terra cotta tones and a gold ceiling to the kitchen, splashed the family room with turquoise, transformed one of the bedrooms into a purple fantasy and anointed the living room with "Swahili gold," an Italian plaster that, depending on the lighting, becomes "like a living creature," she says. Exotic woods from Asia and South America were added to her office.
Almost all the rooms have views of Little Neck Bay and in the distance, Manhattan. She says her favorite is the turquoise-blue family room, which has an elaborate fireplace, custom-made bar and French doors that open onto a deck facing nearly an acre of waterfront.
"I wanted to feel like every time I came into this room I was on vacation," she says.
Is she done now? Not really.
"You are never really finished with a house," she says. "It's always evolving with you, and reflecting the changes of the people living there."
The details: This five-bedroom house with five bathrooms and a half-bath comes with a gourmet eat-in kitchen, a formal banquet dining room, family room, attic and a maid's room with a full bath. It has a finished basement, a three-car attached garage and an in-ground pool with a large terrace-sized patio. The listing agents are Rudi Sarah Friedman and Jason Friedman with Laffey Fine Homes, 516-643-0630.