When Tony Purrone decided to move from Plainview to Poquott with wife, Michelle, seven years ago, he barely saw the 800-square-foot cottage they chose (below) – he was too busy seeing what it could be. “I knew when he stepped on the deck and looked out and saw the water that he was buying it," says Michelle, a retired teacher. "He knew he was tearing all that out."

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The home they’ve created bears little resemblance to its former self -- it grew from a two-bedroom cottage with just a small kitchen and living room to a 2,300-square-foot home with a kitchen, a breakfast room, a dining room, a living room, a TV room, three bedrooms and three bathrooms, including a master bedroom loft (above). “The master bedroom is about 920 square feet and two stories. It’s on the second floor. The house is three levels tall now,” says Tony, a retired Nassau County police officer. “We have decks all around the house, upstairs and downstairs. We have a winter water view. We see the Port Jeff ferry.”

Tony and Michelle got ideas from architectural magazines and had a professional draftsman draw up the plans. They hired a professional contractor for the exterior, which took about four months to complete. All the interior work-- from the moldings to the cabinets to the flooring -- was done by the Purrones over the following five years.

The Purrones are no rookies: This is their third renovation, so they’ve learned a few things along the way. Here’s their advice for making a project like theirs a success:

Don’t rush

“Live with something before you tear it apart and try to renovate,” suggests Michelle. “If anyone has the opportunity, mull it over before you tear something down and then say, ‘I wish I didn’t do that.’”

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Bargain hunt

“I watch a lot of HGTV. I got decorating magazines and pulled ideas from there. We did it on our own and on a budget. A lot of things were bought at estate sales, tag sales, antique shops,” says Michelle.

Know when to call a pro

Because of their experience and Tony’s vision, the Purrones were able to design their own home. But if it’s your first big project, you’ll want an architect for that part, says Michelle. “The best thing was to have a professional do the outside,” adds Tony. “The outside was complete and looked good so the neighbors didn’t get annoyed, and then on the inside, just take your time.”

Do you have a great house tale to tell? E-mail us at realestate@newsday.com.

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