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With 'Trading Spaces' reboot, Long Islanders look back on their TV makeovers

With the home makeover show "Trading Spaces" returning this year, Newsday sat down with Robert and Susan Grubman of Syosset, who had their kitchen redone on the show in 2003, to discuss their experience and the old remodel.  (Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin)

“Trading Spaces,” the hugely popular home makeover TV series that was the first of its kind when it originally aired from 2000 to 2008, redesigned rooms in several Long Island houses.

As the program's comeback 10th season begins March 16 on cable network TLC, here's a look back at what happened at homes in Nesconset and Syosset once featured on the show.

MARIA AND BRIAN NEGLIA, NESCONSET

It’s been more than 15 years since Maria and Brian Neglia had the great room of their three-bedroom ranch redone on “Trading Spaces,” and they say they wish the crew would visit again.

The budget for the makeovers in 2002 was only $1,000, but they say designer Frank Bielec delivered exactly what Maria wanted — a great room with the look and feel of an outdoor country cafe.

It wasn’t until two years ago that the couple decided to change it, and now they’re in a holding pattern.

“It was beautiful,” says Brian Neglia, 58, an event production company owner. The room was redone with the hard work of Maria Neglia’s cousin Anna Sventora and Sventora's  now-ex-husband, Sal Iannuzzi, who lived around the corner. The Neglias helped turn that couple’s mostly colorless master bedroom into an Art Deco-style retreat designed by Edward Walker in his debut episode.

Maria Neglia, 48, a stay-at-home mother, says she decided to change the “Trading Spaces” room in her house two years ago after feeling it needed a brighter look. The terra cotta walls were painted beige. Her barnlike doors that Bielec had built to separate the great room from the kitchen were taken down. The brick on the fireplace was replaced with a lighter and more contemporary stone. Trees spray-painted onto one wall were replaced by a small set of matching tree prints. A new floor lamp, flooring, end table and area rug were brought in.

Beyond that, Maria says the room has been in a holding pattern and needs a designer. “That’s mostly what we did,” in terms of redoing the show’s makeover, Maria explains. Looking across the now sparsely decorated room at two bulky brown leather sofas, she adds, “I just don’t know what else to do.”

The Neglias' neighbors probably wouldn’t mind the return of the “Trading Spaces” trailer either: The women loved carpenter Ty Pennington, Maria recalls, and Brian notes that he and others had their eye on designer Paige Davis.

The Neglias shared the spotlight, too. “Every day we were filming, there were crowds outside, and after we finished the reveal it was like a museum,” Maria says. “The neighbors lined up outside to see the room for themselves. They brought cookies … The whole neighborhood got involved.”

The cast remembers the makeover well. “It was definitely a lot of fun,” Pennington says of the Nesconset episode. As the former host of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” he did episodes in St. James and East Setauket as well. “I love Long Island and how pretty it was,” Pennington says.

Bielec says he also remembers the Neglias — and the large pig weather vane that was made for their fireplace. “They were a fun couple,” Bielec says.

SUSAN AND ROBERT GRUBMAN, SYOSSET

You could say Susan Grubman brought her work home when she signed up for “Trading Spaces” to come to her Victorian farmhouse to redo the kitchen. At the time, she was decorating editor of Good Housekeeping magazine.

Susan, 54, and her husband, Robert, 53, who manufactures and imports footware for correctional facilities, worked on the home of neighbors Carrie and James Preston, where Vern Yip re-imagined that couple's1970s kitchen with new hardwood flooring. Susan says she lost five pounds in 48 hours just from all the ripping, stripping and heavy lifting involved in removing the old floor.

“One day, we slaved until almost 2 a.m. painting furniture in the backyard,” Susan adds. “To help us see, the crew put up floodlights, and insects got embedded in our painted projects.” However, she says that when the cameras were not rolling, a couple of “angels” were available to help get the work done, and that prop manager Eddie Barnard, known as “Fast Eddie" on the show, lent the carpenter a hand in a pinch.

Designer Genevieve Gorder and carpenter Amy Wynn Pastor worked on the makeover, giving the Grubmans' dark kitchen a lighter country chic look. Like the Neglias, the Grubmans eventually decided to trade in their “Trading Spaces” look. About two years ago, they had contractors gut the kitchen.

Susan says she didn’t know who the designer for their room would be until the morning of the filming, but because she was going to do an article for Good Housekeeping on her “Trading Spaces” experience, she says she knew she’d get someone good. Lucky for the show, the magazine's photographers didn’t wait too long to take pictures for the spread. It turns out the butcher block that Gorder had wanted for a table couldn’t be found locally so Pastor tried to get the look by other means that didn’t quite work. “The table they made for us warped in a few days,” Susan says.

The couple ended up purchasing the butcher block table from IKEA that Genevieve had wanted but was out of stock.

Everything else went fine, Robert adds, noting that he and his wife were too exhausted by reveal time to complain in any case. “By the time the reveal comes, around you’re elated to see whatever unfolds.” Robert Grubman says.

Davis says she’s touched that homeowners kept their makeovers intact for so many years. “I think that’s so neat given it was so long ago,” Davis says.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT

"Trading Spaces" involves two sets of neighbors swapping houses for two days to redecorate a room in the others’ home with the help of a designer and carpenter. The couples haul furniture out of the old room, paint, sew and do whatever else they’re told to do — even pull all-nighters — to make the redo happen on time. No hints are allowed of what’s to come before the neighbors all reunite for the reveal of their rooms.

HOW TO GET ON THE SHOW

Want to be on “Trading Spaces?” Visit tradingspacescasting.castingcrane.com.

OUTTAKES

-Brian Neglia was stopped by production personnel from making a trip to a local pizzeria because the husband in the other couple doing their house was there and Neglia would see the color Neglia’s room was being painted from the splatter on the other man’s clothing.

-The couples had to wear the same clothes for two days so that after editing everything matched up with such details as paint stains.

-Maria Neglia says the outside of the house became like a "museum" after "Trading Spaces" was there, with neighbors lined up to see the redone room for themselves.

-The pig weather vane that was hung on the Neglia’s fireplace named, “Poopalina,” now resides in their backyard.

-The Grubmans' hospitality when “Trading Spaces” visited their home is mentioned in the “Trading Spaces Behind the Scenes” book first published in 2003.

-Maria Neglia sold the barn doors made by Frank Bielec to someone she knew for $50.

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