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Designer redo turns Long Island Ronald McDonald house into show stopper

Robin Baron Design, Inc. created this bedroom retreat

Robin Baron Design, Inc. created this bedroom retreat with multiple patterns for the Project Design 2014 at Ronald McDonald House. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Of all the spaces inside the labyrinthine, five-floor, 44,000-square-foot Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, Greg Levesque's favorite is the meditation room. The 32-year-old father of three from North Carolina arrived at the New Hyde Park facility last week just as Huntington Bay decorator Kim Hendrickson-Radovich put the finishing touches on the contemplative chamber.

It was created for the Project Design 2014 show house, which opens this weekend at the housing complex, where families who have seriously ill children in area hospitals can stay temporarily at no charge. Seeing the successful launch of last year's first show house there, more than 200 designers asked to participate this time around, vying for slots by lottery. Forty-five were chosen to remake and rethink 24 bedrooms, four kitchens, five common areas and two laundry rooms, as well as erect a fitness center and the meditation room. They spent an estimated $5 million in goods and services, says design chair Suzanne Costa, to complete this second, final phase of the renovation.

Unlike typical show houses, everything that's been done is permanent.

That's good news for Levesque, whose son, Jack, was the reason the family ended up there for an anticipated two-week visit. The 4-year-old was undergoing procedures at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York next door, including the fusion of his cervical spine.

This is the third time that Levesque, his wife, Jessica, and older children, Kaden, 8, and Jewel, 9, have stayed at the house as Jack receives medical treatment. "All we're really worried about is the care," says Levesque, a retail manager, describing how difficult and cost-prohibitive it is to live out of cramped hotel rooms that cannot accommodate Jack's wheelchair.

So discovering the new meditation room was a treat. "It's a nice place to sit and calm down," Levesque says. "I have plans of making it a regular stop."


This year's Project Design includes a meditation room, once a small office and bathroom, gutted and re-imagined by Huntington Bay's Kim Hendrickson- Radovich to create what she calls "a nondenominational chapel of sorts." The cocoon-like space features five white, Danish modern faux-leather chairs around a hammered brass barrel table. Beige linen fabric covers the paneled walls, except for one, which features a fountain with water gently trickling over stone into a granite trough. There is a library that includes everything from the Koran to "Chicken Soup for the Soul," and a sound system meant to be played. "I wanted it to be an experiential design ... to be alone, meditate, pray, be quiet, talk privately," Hendrickson-Radovich says.

DIY TIP: Her advice for creating a meditation room is to keep the space simple and calming, always have a water feature and incorporate music. Soft blankets and candles help, too.


It all started with an abstract painting by Icelandic artist Hjortur Hjartarson that Manhattan designer and Woodmere native Robin Baron chose for one of the en suite bedrooms on the third floor. She picked out the taupe, green, turquoise and violet for a hand-painted wallpaper of vines and butterflies. Soon at least a dozen more patterns were making their way into the space -- on pillows, rugs, lamps, bedspreads and drapes. "I like the play of pattern on pattern," Baron says of the playful but tranquil space.

DIY TIP: "Start with one pattern, then make sure what you put with it are small and medium patterns with some plain fabrics to balance it out," Baron says. Keep the scale, color and types of patterns in mind when decorating, aiming to make sure all the elements complement one another, she adds.


Decorator Suzanne Costa, who has offices in Manhattan and Huntington, says she chose a tar roof that houses the air-conditioning mechanicals on the second floor because of the lack of outdoor spaces included in the show house. She transformed the space, accessible by a glass door in a hallway, into an exotic retreat. Two Turkish tiled walls with water that flows into basins, a Moroccan headboard with bedding covered in waterproof fabric and an elaborate door surround framing the institutional doors and windows set the tone. Other decorative accents include a hookah and underlighting on the bench seating.

DIY TIP: The area is defined by cedar walls, which can be easily copied with pressure-treated wood, she says. "The box makes it cozy and soft," she says of the space. Make sure, as she did, to use outdoor rugs. "You can shop for that anywhere," she says.


An embroidered elephant fabric from Kravet, one of the sponsors of the event, inspired Manhasset-based Anne Tarasoff Interiors' safari-themed third-floor bedroom. There is a zebra pattern rug, a transitional wood chandelier, a knotted rope end table and photographs and statues depicting safari animals.

DIY TIP: The photos on one wall were printed on regular paper and hung on clipboards. "It is a fantastic look

and incredibly budget-conscious," says designer Gail Tarasoff, one of the partners at the firm.


Port Washington designer Keith Baltimore chose a nautical theme for his bedroom, imagining it as a stateroom on a ship "docked at a port for a brief visit, implying that the stay there is only temporary and that outside there is hope at the end." There is a porthole-style mirror on the headboard of each of two beds in the navy and white room, on the fourth floor, with its teak accents. White linen Roman shades cover the windows, which are asymmetrically layered by nautical-style flags, also of the same white linen, and tacked down with rope. There is a seagrass area rug. Navy and white tiles cover the bathroom, and glass baubles with seashells hang from the ceiling.

DIY TIP: "When you are working with a theme, do it in a subtle way, being careful not to overdo it to the point that it feels unimaginative," Baltimore says.

WHAT: Project Design 2014 Open House Week, a show house benefiting the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island and presented by Kravet Inc. and NYC & G (New York Cottages & Gardens)

WHEN | WHERE: Opens Oct. 10; hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Oct. 19, at the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, 267-07 76th Ave., New Hyde Park

INFO: $25, $10 students and children under 12; 516-775-5683, ext. 123,


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