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After 'Makeover,' 2 LI families weigh in

The Lutz family home was remodeled on the

The Lutz family home was remodeled on the TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, from left to right siblings Andrew with their Mom Kathleen, Courtney, Daniel, Timmy and William in their living room, East Setauket. (Jan. 6, 2012) Credit: Photo by Heather Walsh

After the 200th episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" airs Friday -- featuring the rebuilding of seven homes in tornado-torn Joplin, Mo. -- the popular weekly series will end. For now.

In nine seasons, the show has remodeled homes in all 50 states -- including two on Long Island. John Vitale's St. James home was rebuilt in 2005, and Kathleen Lutz's East Setauket home was overhauled in 2010.

Each week, a different beneficiary's home was re-created by local contractors and individuals who volunteered time and materials for the cause -- first lady Michelle Obama even participated in an episode. Each project was accomplished in just seven days, after which the family, sequestered on vacation, was brought home for an unveiling. Star Ty Pennington led crowds at the home in yelling, "Bus driver, move that bus," which was blocking the finished product.

"Probably my favorite moment is when we move the bus," says executive producer George Verschoor. "On the other side is this house that's going to change their life."

Alure Home Improvements of East Meadow spearheaded both Long Island makeovers, and did other episodes as well. "I believed in the concept," says owner Sal Ferro. "I didn't always believe in the extravagance of the home or the over-the-top features some of the homes had." He says that participating made him a better person, that it was an exercise in team-building for his company and that he's sad to see it come to an end. "To me, it's like a chapter of my life is kind of closing."

While the show won't be on weekly anymore, the production company, Endemol USA, is planning four specials for the 2012 holiday season. And Verschoor isn't ruling out a weekly comeback. Here's how the two beneficiaries from Long Island -- the Vitale family from St. James and the Lutz family from East Setauket -- are doing in their "Extreme Makeover" homes.

The Vitale family

St. James

BEFORE Two-bedroom ranch valued at $211,000 ($4,337 taxes)

NOW Four-bedroom ranch valued at $542,000 ($12,949 taxes)

(Source: Peter Johnson, Smithtown assessor)

AIRED 2005 (Season 2)

The "man cave" created by Ty Pennington had to go. Pool table? Out. Bar and stools? Goodbye.

It's been seven years since John Vitale's St. James ranch was torn down and rebuilt for an episode of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" -- and one reason for the revamping he's done since then is sitting on his lap. That's his toddler daughter, Delaney, who is playfully sticking the laces hanging from Vitale's hooded sweatshirt hood into his mouth as he talks about what's happened with his family since 2005.

THE BACKSTORY The Suffolk County police officer was chosen for the show because his then-wife, Ann Marie, had died of leukemia at the age of 29, leaving him with three young sons. Savings meant to remodel their tiny two-bedroom house were decimated by medical costs.

HOME MAKEOVER The show's crew created a bedroom for each boy and a master suite -- bedroom and aforementioned adjacent man cave -- for John. "They tripled the size of the house. Everything was brand-new," Vitale says -- furniture, appliances, flat-screen TVs. Vitale's favorite part: "The three boys' rooms."

AFTER THE SHOW In 2007, Vitale remarried. He and his second wife, Jessica, have added two girls to the family, Jaydan, 3, and Delaney, 18 months. That called for further alterations to accommodate the brood of five -- but this time Vitale was on his own.

Adrian and Luke, now 9 and 8, doubled up in one bedroom, and Luke's former bedroom was changed into a girls room, with pink striped walls. Vitale and his wife moved their bed into what had been the man cave and used the extra space as an additional family room. Half the garage has been turned into a room for an au pair.

The kitchen, with wood cabinets and stainless-steel appliances, counter and chairs, has remained the same. The playroom still has its tree painted on the wall and jolly, red apples on its branches bearing the boys' names as well as an apple dotted with gold dust in honor of Ann Marie.

The oldest boy -- Jack, 10 -- has kept his bedroom's police theme in honor of Dad, with bars on the closet so it looks like his clothes are in jail, and a police-car chase scene painted on the walls. It also still has a close-to-life-size poster of the "Extreme Makeover" staff, including star Pennington.

But Vitale re-themed the other boys' room, because they've grown too old for the Winnie the Pooh theme the show chose. Their room now has Yankee pinstriped walls that rival the creativity of the "Makeover" designers. "I don't want the place to get run down," Vitale says.

FINANCES Vitale still makes mortgage payments on the original house, and taxes have gone up in conjunction with the house's increased value. But Vitale is able to meet those obligations and has even added a built-in pool.

"Once in a while I'll notice people drive by," he says. But it's nothing like 2005, when a stream of cars passed, hoping to get a look at the house TV built.

The Lutz family

East Setauket

BEFORE Five-bedroom ranch valued at $343,368 ($8,890 taxes)

NOW Six-bedroom ranch valued at $402,290 ($11,329 taxes)

(Source: Jack Krieger,Brookhaven public information officer)

AIRED 2010 (Season 8)

Timothy Lutz, 22, shrugs into his gold lamé jacket with "Timmy" scrawled across the back in script. Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" shakes the bedroom as Timmy plays air guitar along with the lyrics.

Brother Danny, 25, is also a big Elvis fan. That's why producers from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" created a music theme in their shared room, with vinyl albums on the walls and a ceiling fan also in the shape of a record disc, and Elvis jackets for both Timmy and Danny.

Those aren't the only bells and whistles the ABC-TV show included when it remodeled the Lutzes' ranch in East Setauket in 2010, where Kathleen Lutz, 41, is the primary caretaker for Timothy, Danny and four of her other siblings who all have Down syndrome.

THE BACKSTORY Kathleen Lutz is one of 18 adopted children, some of whom have Down syndrome. After her parents died, Kathleen assumed responsibility for the special-needs siblings in the ranch home where the family was raised. Later, Kathleen was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

HOME MAKEOVER The redo included a great room with a karaoke stage and a couch made of the back half of a New York City taxi cab. The bedroom corridor was remade into a New York City streetlike scene with an atrium skylight and a fake wrought-iron fire escape. Each bedroom has an apartmentlike door, number and mailbox. Kathleen's favorite room is the laundry room in the basement -- it has two washers and two dryers. "It's a thousand times better," she says. And she adores the pantry, where she can stock up on groceries that are on sale. The backyard has a new built-in pool with a slide.

AFTER THE SHOW While Kathleen emphasizes that she is extremely grateful, she's also grown disappointed in the 18 months since the famed ABC bus drove away. She says the "showcase" aspect of the house -- great for TV ratings -- wasn't designed to translate into practical living for a special-needs family.

The gray rubber flooring is hard to keep clean in such a high-traffic home -- another brother, John Jr., 40, also lives at the house, and aides are constantly in and out to care for Shannon, 23, who uses a wheelchair and doesn't attend a day program as her siblings do.

The karaoke stage had to come down because the brothers were tripping off it, Kathleen says. The heat in two bedrooms doesn't work well, and the atrium ceiling causes the hallway to "cook" in the summer sun, she says.

FINANCES The house has no mortgage. But Kathleen says they live off her disability insurance and the aid she gets for the siblings with Down syndrome. Their car is a 1986 Chevy Caprice.

"The heating bill, the taxes," says Patti Simpson, a friend of Kathleen's who nominated the family to be on show. "They built this beautiful house, but when you don't have the income to keep it up nice, it's hard."

The show left the Lutzes with $50,000 in a fund. Being chosen for the show isn't meant to permanently support a family, says Brady Connell, executive producer for the Lutz episode. "Anyone who owns a home knows the list is endless," he says of expenses and desired alterations.

But Kathleen doesn't want to touch that fund unless they desperately need it. "God forbid something should happen to me, there's got to be things put into place."

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