Interior decorating was never Cathy Boyle’s strong suit. It certainly wasn’t a priority after she and her family returned to their Copiague home on Christmas Eve 2013, 14 months after superstorm Sandy had flooded the first floor with three feet of water.
“I just painted everything gray, got a gray couch and black chairs and thought, ‘Everything matches,’ ” says Boyle, 52. “It was functional.”
These days, though, the four-bedroom home has a bright, colorful and beachy vibe, thanks to a home makeover arranged by The Fabric Mill, a discount fabric store in Plainview. The redesigned living room, kitchen and dining room hardly recalls the night that Boyle, her husband, Hughy, now 54, and their children, Hughie, Corey and Mackenzie, today 20, 19 and 16 respectively, huddled in an upstairs bedroom listening to the waves inside.
Last spring, Carly Bassen, 24, whose parents, Allison and Mitchell Bassen, own The Fabric Mill, decided she wanted to organize an event at the store, and came up with the idea to help a victim of the storm redesign their home.
Bassen was working in Manhattan when Sandy hit in October 2012, and she said she spent a week wandering around the darkened streets downtown.
“I felt bad because I didn’t know how to volunteer and help,” says Bassen, who was working at a restaurant at the time. “I had been wanting to do something for so long.”
Bassen contacted the Long Island Volunteer Center, which connected her to the United Methodist Church New York Annual Conference Disaster Recovery Ministries to help find Long Island families whose homes had been damaged by Sandy. She met with a few of them, and then spent an afternoon with Boyle and her children, including her eldest son Hughie, who has autism, and decided that they were the people she wanted to help.
Then, one night in mid-May 2014, a group of more than 75 interior designers and interior design students descended on The Fabric Mill for an event called Decorator Madness, a “Project Runway”-style competition that had the decorators running around the store with scissors, cutting from bolts of fabric. The designers used the fabric to create storyboards.
A team of four judges selected Baldwin Harbor-based designer Wendy Lepkoff and Brenda Moskowitz, a recent graduate of the Metropolitan Institute of Interior Design in Syosset, as the winners. The two women donated their time over the next year to transform the Boyles’ living and dining rooms and kitchen.
“I’m a South Shore person,” says Lepkoff, whose neighborhood flooded during Sandy, though her home was spared much damage. “I had a lot of empathy for the family and the situation they were in.”
Bassen contacted a number of business owners she and her family know — including those from Safavieh Home Furnishings in Port Washington, Elements Distinctive Lighting & Home Furnishings in Carle Place, Peykar Rugs & Carpet in Syosset, C & S Marble & Granite in Farmingdale, Thomasville Furniture in Farmingdale and TileBar in Manhattan, as well as Hunter Douglas and Sherwin-Williams — to secure donations. Lepkoff assembled much of the labor and also approached several other vendors she works with regularly to make her, and Moskowitz’s, vision a reality.
“My painter and his crew gave me a day,” Lepkoff says. “My contractor took one of his men and they did the backsplash. Everybody just came through.”
Anthony Golio of Traditional Paperhanging and Painting in Westbury and his crew of three painted the walls of the living room, dining room and kitchen a soothing aqua, and Bay Shore’s Kathryn Monaco-Douglas of Strokes of Creativity painted a panel of wide stripes, one of Moskowitz’s ideas, in a lime green to match the armchair upholstery that was donated by The Fabric Mill. The Bassens also donated gauzy fabric for valances on five large windows, and members of the Interior Design Society of Long Island pitched in to pay for them to upholster six dining chairs, a bench and four ottomans and to create a custom coffee table, as well as throw pillows for the Boyles’ gray sectional.
Lepkoff contacted West Babylon-based AGC StoneWorks, which donated granite for the kitchen countertops, while a slab of stone resembling Carrara marble, originally donated to replace the cement on the center island, was installed on top of the Boyles’ rustic wood dining table.
Contractors also removed a cabinet over the stove that was a fire hazard and installed a coffee bar on a separate wall. Terry Gagliardo of All County Millworks in Copiague transformed a triangular nook beneath the stairs into a small desk area with raw wood, which was painted white.
Before finishing up in July, Lepkoff purchased green and aqua dishes and woven gray place mats, as well as white office supplies, from Ikea, Target and HomeGoods. As a final touch, she took a black-and-white photograph of the family, as well as one of their names carved into a tree, enlarged them and placed them in frames made of driftwood, which were donated by Long Island Picture Frame & Art Gallery in Massapequa Park.
Like Bassen, Lepkoff says she came to love the Boyle family, and she worked hard to make sure everything came together. “I wanted to leave them knowing we did the whole job and we did it right,” Lepkoff says.
The entire job, including materials and labor, would have cost about $65,000, says Bassen.
The makeover was just what the Boyles needed after a challenging few years.
“The generosity of everyone who contributed was overwhelming and inspiring,” Cathy Boyle says. “When you come in, you can’t help but be happy, because it looks coordinated and amazing.”