A home in Sea Cliff, which was once a hotel known as The Monterey, has been updated and modernized, while maintaining its old charm. NewsdayTV's Rachel Weiss reports. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

The pale green Victorian overlooking Hempstead Harbor matches its surroundings in Sea Cliff: The streets are lined with similar homes of its era, with dollhouse trim, steeply pitched roofs and eccentric splashes of color.

But this home is different: The exterior retains its original 1875 look, but inside, it's 2023.

Owners Stephanie and Leo Leone moved here in 2021 and enlisted the help of The Up Studio to modernize the house for their family, which includes two daughters, ages 11 and 9. The renovation took a year and a half to complete.

Adam Wanaselja is an architect and partner at the studio. He said the biggest challenge was figuring out how to maintain the home’s historic features while also bringing it into the 21st century. The most substantial change made was in the main wing of the house. Previously, there was a kitchen, dining room and parlor all separated by doors.

"Each room had a different height of flooring added on top over the years," said Leo Leone, 47. "So we wanted to open up that space."

It was so cramped in this part of the house that it often caused traffic jams, said Stephanie Leone, 54.

"It had a lot of little rooms and narrow hallways," she said. "When Leo was in the kitchen making coffee, I had to wait until he left before I could go in."

The kitchen, which had previously been so small, the owners could only...

The kitchen, which had previously been so small, the owners could only stand in it one at a time. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Wanaselja's team removed walls, opening up the right side of the house, where the majority of the renovation took place.

"We sacrificed the original detailing just in that one space to give it a modern feel," Wanaselja said. "We wanted to inject the family’s individuality into it, while preserving the tone and feel of the house."

Seeing the Queen Anne Victorian homes throughout Sea Cliff motivated Wanaselja to keep the historic exterior intact.

"There’s a lot of beautiful detailing, the railings, the trim," he said. "I didn’t want to disturb that. You can’t replicate that stuff; it was done 125 years ago, so we didn’t want to take any of it down."

While the interior has been modernized, historic details, like original...

While the interior has been modernized, historic details, like original yellow pine flooring, remain. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

The home’s original yellow pine flooring has remained, scuff marks and all. "We loved it. You really get the character of the home from that," Leo Leone said.

The banister and front door also date back to the 1800s, but were refinished during the renovation. There is 16-inch molding on the main floor that has been preserved, too, Leo Leone said.

While the home is now functional for a family (the newly open space allows mom and dad to always have an eye on their kids), its history remains intact.

"Everyone loves beautiful old homes," Wanaselja said. "But people like modern homes, too. This sort of harmony, if you do it just right, you can achieve."

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