What makes the Art Deco-inspired designer show house opening Saturday in Laurel Hollow even better is knowing what lies beneath the home's three sumptuously decorated floors.
A secret door in the powder room off the grand foyer of the circa 1930 Georgian-esque mansion leads downstairs to a space believed to have once been a speakeasy. Its remnants in the dark and cavernous basement would fascinate any historical house lover -- cobwebbed bottles of booze, a door in the floor that might have once led to a tunnel connecting the property to Cold Spring Harbor, a mysterious space plastered with vintage Alberto Vargas pinup girl prints, what looks to be a Prohibition-era safe room. Visitors will have to imagine what's downstairs and enjoy the thought -- the space is off limits for insurance reasons.
The underground details add to the period romance of Cedar Knolls, which gets a decorator touch as its owners try to snag a buyer for the home, priced at $2.495 million. Straddling what once was the Louis Comfort Tiffany Laurelton Hall estate and a property where John Lennon used to summer, Cedar Knolls was built for railroad magnate Jay Gould's grandson and was designed by the architectural firm that worked on the Whitney Museum of American Art's Greenwich Village site.
Many of the 26 decorators found inspiration in the Gold Coast era while designing the rooms. Here are some of the trends that emerged, straight up.
The walls in Baldwin designer Elizabeth Holmes' sitting room -- called "The September Issue" -- look like pressed tin. They're actually covered with high-end Phillip Jeffries wallpaper that is lacquered and embossed. "A definite trend in the industry is metal," she says.
DIY TIP Use paint and stencils to get the same look, but go for a larger pattern than the one in her room, because it will be easier to recreate, she says.
EDGE UP TO YOUR THEME
You barely notice the seashells in Sea Cliff designer Rebecca Goodman's guest bedroom, titled "Inspired by the Sea." That was intentional. In drawing inspiration from the water view out of the second-story room, Goodman says she wanted to be subtle. So she placed the seashells in two vases on both sides of the bed -- under the nightstands. There is a sculpture of an anchor, but it's made of wood. Lamps depict sea urchins in silver. The large photograph on the wall depicts rope but is almost abstract.
DIY TIP If you are going to decorate according to a theme, approach it in unusual and subtle ways, she says. A football-themed room could pay homage to the game with a piece of framed AstroTurf, for instance.
LIGHTS LEAD THE WAY
The butler's pantry gets a futuristic look with Huntington Bay designer Mary Gray's treatment. Gray used square hockey-puck lights and strip lighting, some on a motion sensor, in the open cabinetry. "You can create design with lighting," she says.
DIY TIP Use the energy efficient, cool-to-the-touch lighting anywhere you can in a kitchen, such as in your high hats, to highlight your glassware, she says.
If you go
WHAT Designers' Open House at Cedar Knolls, produced by Claudia Dowling Inc., with part of the proceeds to be donated to Life's WORC, a Garden City-based nonprofit serving individuals with developmental disabilities and autism.
WHEN | WHERE Starts Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is open Thursdays through Sundays, plus Labor Day and Columbus Day, when it closes, at 1450 Ridge Rd., Laurel Hollow, with free parking at and shuttle service from nearby Harbor Mist Restaurant, 105 Harbor Rd./Rte. 25A, Cold Spring Harbor.
INFO $25 general admission and $20 for senior citizens and students; 631-421-5290, cedarknollshowhouse.com