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Main Course

// By Jeanne Muchnick

Rooms With a View A summer guide to outdoor dining


ooking for a view while you lunch on lobster club sandwiches and sip iced tea? Food (and a chilled glass of Chardonnay) tastes better with a side of fresh air. Whether escaping a stuffy office or stepping out on a warm summer night, you’ll find dozens of Westchester restaurants at the ready with alfresco seating and more importantly, a scenic view. There are the well-known stalwarts—Harvest on Hudson in Hastings, Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry, and Monteverde in Cortlandt Manor, with their gorgeous panoramas of the river; Ebb Tide and F.I.S.H. in Port Chester with their nautical, New England vistas. But what about the lesser-known ones? Places where you can eat under a canopy of stars or munch on calamari on an airy patio? The thing about outdoor dining is, you can have spectacular scenery, but that doesn’t mean you will always have decent food to go with it. Often, the view trumps the meal: after all, it’s what you’re paying for. 130 / JULY 2009 / WWW.WESTCHESTERMAGAZINE.COM

Rochelle Municipal Marina. Sure, it’s a nofrills burger-and-a-beer kind of place, but the view alone (gorgeous yachts, ducks yapping below, folks fishing not far away) makes it a great escape. Order the beer bucket (five beers for the price of four) and a lobster tail and we swear you’ll feel far away. At first glance, Iannelli’s (359 Mamaroneck Ave,


Plains looks



like your average pizza joint with its displays of assorted pies, a bustling pizza oven, and a register in front. But head upstairs to the second floor rooftop terrace, and you’ll feel like you’re in a treehouse hideaway overlooking the city. For those of us of a certain age (meaning we like to hear our conversations with our meals), it’s a more mature alternative to the White Plains watering holes down the block where rowdy crowds spill onto the street. Up here, away from the exhaust and the elements, you’ll find your own “Tarhead Beach,” where gorgeous white platters of shrimp fra diavolo, baked ziti Siciliana, and Iannelli’s famous combo of chicken parmigiana, ravioli, meat lasagna, and eggplant rollatini are served alongside generous pours of Merlot. At Le Fontane (137 Rte 100, Katonah 914232-9619;, on the corner of Routes 100 and 139, you’ll find not only a gorgeous garden terrace with the feel of a spa oasis, but also a classic Italian experience: a small gem along the Somers/Katonah border. The two brothers who own this eatery specialize in authentic Southern Italian cuisine and believe in what their website boasts as “harvesting good taste.” Try the bruschetta amore (toasted homemade bread with arugula, mozzarella, and to-

mato) or one of the many homemade pastas (we like the handkerchief-shaped pasta with artichokes and pesto) with one of their recommended wines. Even in the sizzling heat, the umbrella-laden patio, with shady trees, and live music on select evenings, is cool and comfortable, with a view that will have you returning summer after summer.

A View to Come As of press time, plans weren’t firm for the rooftop deck at Tarry Lodge (18 Mill St, Port Chester 914-939-3111; but hopes (and plans!) are that it will be open later this summer, if not for a full bar menu than at least for cocktails. If it’s anything like the downstairs, you can be sure this place will be hopping, another coveted outdoor oasis for summer seekers looking for a bite and a view.

Molly Spillane’s (211 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck 914-899-3130; mollyspillanespub. com) has a few outdoor dining options: the

sidewalk tables in the front, or the quieter, backyard patio location, complete with outdoor fireplace and, come fall, heat lamps, extending the alfresco dining season. At its heart, Molly, sister to Mickey in Eastchester, is a sports bar. Inside, there are TVs blaring every kind of game imaginable, which works out nicely if you have a kid (or a husband) who needs to hear what’s going on at all times, as you’re never too far away from the action. As for the menu, you’ll find lot of salads (we like the light and tasty pear salad with candy roasted walnuts, Gorgonzola, and black olives), bar snacks, and burgers. A bocce court introduced this spring has added a fun vibe to the already cool Nessa (325 N Main St, Port Chester 914-939-0119;

We deserve both, so we scoured the county looking for spots that come with a dose of scenery, the freshest summer dishes, and alfresco dining for as long as the weather permits. The theme is nautical at this aptly named newcomer situated between a marina and a boat club. Expect a simple menu at The Boathouse (4 or 6 Westerly Rd, Ossining, 914-923-6466): salads, chicken, shrimp, and a delicious New England-style clam chowder, but, for us, it’s the views and the unpretentious atmosphere that have us returning. The setting is peaceful and pretty, making it easy to embrace the summer vibe as you sip a cold Corona and munch on fried calamari. The outdoor service is decidedly unhurried, offering time to unwind. Don’t be fooled by the rough exterior of Dudley’s (94 Hudson Park Rd, New Rochelle 914-235-4445); it looks like a biker bar from the outside. Walk through the back, though, and you’ll find a gem: a long plank of a restaurant with picnic tables right on the New, the popular—some would say sultry—restaurant across from the old Life Savers building in Port Chester. This slightly-off-the-beaten-track bistro, close to the Connecticut border, features an inviting side patio set back from the street, with assorted greenery and wrought-iron tables. We like its family vibe (it’s owned by a father and his two sons); it’s not unusual to see people table-hopping, air-kissing, and taking their quartinos of Chianti to the back to watch the bocce action. The newly introduced Sunday brunch also makes it easy for those with children, as the kids are easily entertained by the Old-World game (while you sip your mimosa and nibble on truffle egg toast or potato pancakes with spiced apples, whipped ricotta, and acacia honey. The history behind The Olde Stone Mill

(Above): Alfresco diners at Red Hat Bistro can choose either drinks on the rooftop deck or the ground-level patio. (Opposite page): The stone courtyard at Scalini Osteria—are you in Bronxville, or Tuscany?

(2 Scarsdale Rd, Tuckahoe, 914-7717661; should be





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Main Course

// By Jeanne Muchnick

Rooms With a View A summer guide to outdoor dining

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enough to entice you. After all, this circa1800s building started as a cotton mill, and remains remarkably unaltered, despite its transformations over the years to a rubber plant (it produced rubber rain coats for World War I soldiers) and later, to pharmaceutical manufacturing. That ancient charm is still here, but with a lively bar scene (there’s a martini lounge with a happy hour that features ladies’ half-price drinks and complimentary snacks), a warmly lit dining room and, our favorite space of all: the wide front veranda, where a handful of tables seat assorted couples, gal pals, and small groups. It’s the perfect vantage point for getting away from it all, listening to nature, and lingering over the chef’s own recipe of spicy calamari. Tucked behind the dining room, the back patio at Opus 465 (465 Main St, Armonk 914273-4676; practically doubles the restaurant’s first-floor seating. It’s covered and shady here, adding to the feeling of secrecy and offering an easy distraction from the summer’s humidity. Start with an icy beer and an individual pizza (delicate crust and gourmet toppings are a specialty), but you can go upscale with littleneck clams steamed in a butter-and-garlic broth with diced tomatoes and Parmesan crostini. The wide array of salads make for the ideal summer meal. On weekend nights, there is live music. Our favorite regular: Larchmont resident Michael Nappi ( Kick back with the crispy Peaky Toe crab cake (with wasabi and lime rémoulade sauce) and a cold glass of Riesling and take in the sweeping, nothing-but-water-between-youand-the-Hudson view at Red Hat on the River

wafting through the air. Weather permitting, there is often a reggae band jamming on the back patio, right next to a giant grill that churns out spicy rubs of steak and chicken. This is where you want to sit with a frosty Red Stripe and a plate of wood-smoked jerk chicken. The service is relaxed, the menu is small and fun (though be warned: it’s cash only) and the seafood linguine (called “rasta pasta”) and the Big-Ass Jerk Rib-Eye Steak that playfully dares you to finish it all (and compares it to a meal Fred Flintstone would eat) makes it feel like you’re sitting in a neighbor’s backyard with no worries, Mon. A casual, European atmosphere beckons diners at Scalini Osteria (65 Pondfield Rd,

(1 Bridge St, Irvington 914-591-5888;, one of the best scenes in the county.


ooking for a view while you lunch on lobster club sandwiches and sip iced tea? Food (and a chilled glass of Chardonnay) tastes better with a side of fresh air. Whether escaping a stuffy office or stepping out on a warm summer night, you’ll find dozens of Westchester restaurants at the ready with alfresco seating and more importantly, a scenic view. There are the well-known stalwarts—Harvest on Hudson in Hastings, Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry, and Monteverde in Cortlandt Manor, with their gorgeous panoramas of the river; Ebb Tide and F.I.S.H. in Port Chester with their nautical, New England vistas. But what about the lesser-known ones? Places where you can eat under a canopy of stars or munch on calamari on an airy patio? The thing about outdoor dining is, you can have spectacular scenery, but that doesn’t mean you will always have decent food to go with it. Often, the view trumps the meal: after all, it’s what you’re paying for. 130 / JULY 2009 / WWW.WESTCHESTERMAGAZINE.COM

We deserve both, so we scoured the county looking for spots that come with a dose of scenery, the freshest summer dishes, and alfresco dining for as long as the weather permits. The theme is nautical at this aptly named newcomer situated between a marina and a boat club. Expect a simple menu at The Boathouse (4 or 6 Westerly Rd, Ossining, 914-923-6466): salads, chicken, shrimp, and a delicious New England-style clam chowder, but, for us, it’s the views and the unpretentious atmosphere that have us returning. The setting is peaceful and pretty, making it easy to embrace the summer vibe as you sip a cold Corona and munch on fried calamari. The outdoor service is decidedly unhurried, offering time to unwind. Don’t be fooled by the rough exterior of Dudley’s (94 Hudson Park Rd, New Rochelle 914-235-4445); it looks like a biker bar from the outside. Walk through the back, though, and you’ll find a gem: a long plank of a restaurant with picnic tables right on the New 134 / JULY 2009 / WWW.WESTCHESTERMAGAZINE.COM

(Above): Alfresco diners at Red Hat Bistro can choose either drinks on the rooftop deck or the ground-level patio. (Opposite page): The stone courtyard at Scalini Osteria—are you in Bronxville, or Tuscany?

There are plenty of simple seafood preparations here to whet your summer appetite (think warm grilled shrimp and house-cured wild salmon), light and refined fare that’s an ideal match for the breezy vibe. We also like the choice of venues: an upstairs lounge in which you can enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, sit on cushioned sofas, and enjoy the “wow” rooftop view (as in, “Wow, I feel like I’m on a tropical vacation”), or the large patio that virtually hugs the Hudson. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll feel like you’ve found an authentic roadside jerk shack when you walk into Ripe Kitchen & Bar (151 W Sandford Blvd, Mount Vernon 914-665-7689;— though, first, you’ll have to find it. There’s no sign outside and directions on the restaurant’s website instruct you to “look for the little house with the colorful Japanese paper lanterns in the windows.” If it’s a weekend night, the clue might be the lively music, or the smell of grilled meat




with its cozy stone courtyard and oodles of charm. Here, climbing vines cling to the walls and the smell of fresh flowers puts you in happy “I’m glad it’s summer” mood. Add golden Tuscan bread, a homemade pasta dish, and a bottle of vino, and you’ll want to linger for hours, watch dusk turn into dark, and soak up the relaxing ambience. The whole scene is romantic enough for a cozy dinner à deux, but there’s plenty of space for larger groups to relax as well (just make a reservation and ask for this space). Appetizers on the Tuscanfocused menu are portioned to share and change seasonally: the formaggi misti cheese (cow, sheep, goat) plate trio served with acacia honey, fig compote, and water crackers are a meal in itself. Plates are wisely offered in both full and smaller portions—a boon for those whose appetites wane as the weather warms. Everything is pretty and charming at Vox Bar & Restaurant (721 Titicus Rd, North Salem 914-669-5450; where tempting platters of oysters and gorgeous views of the green lawn and fragrant gardens make you feel far, far away. Make a reservation at the stone terrace where the harvest from a small vegetable garden at the far end makes occasional appearances in the restaurant’s kitchen. Whimsically decorated with photos of film stars, movie posters and a popcorn machine at the bar, this French bistro, owned by Jean and Sophie Lebris, not only churns out sophisticated global cuisine (a mixture of French, Italian and African) but also has a wide assortment of fresh shellfish selections at the raw bar. Pick your passion: clams, shrimp, mussels, etc., then add a glass from the extensive wine list and—viola!—the perfect excuse to while away a summer day. W Writer Jeanne Muchnick is a self-professed alfresco hound who prefers the summer heat to an airconditioned office any day. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her on the beach (though which Westchester beach is a secret she refuses to give away…at least until her next assignment).

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american i

t sounds like a plum assignment: hit the road to find the best pizza in Westchester. But it’s not that easy. For one thing, people are passionate about their pizza. Some Sound Shorers swear by Sal’s in Mamaroneck, while others directed me to Johnny’s in Mount Vernon and to Sabatino’s in Hawthorne for “the real thing” (known as “apizza”). Still others insisted on Capriccio II in Croton where the “bruschetta pizza is to die for.” Another even gave me his Soprano-esque advice to try his favorite: Modern in New Rochelle. “I’m from the Bronx; I should know,” he emailed. Lest you think pizza is just pizza, think again. For those of us who love it (and according to statistics, we do: Americans eat around 350 slices of pizza each second), it’s not just dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings. It’s so ethereal, in fact, there are countless blogs and websites devoted to its virtues (check out pizza or Is it any wonder, then, that pizza is considered the ideal food? You can dress it up—remember Hilary Swank inhaling a slice after her big Oscar win, couture dress intact? And, of course, you can dress it down—as in jeans, t-shirt, or heck even a bathing suit cover-up and flip-flops. Like late-night meals at the diner, pizzerias are the great equalizer: where firemen coming off their shifts rub elbows with white-shirted investment bankers, and where socialites hobnob with soccer moms. Add a glass of Merlot and a salad, or a van full of middle-schoolers after a baseball game, and it’s dinner. Or lunch. Or a cold snack at 2 a.m. And so, with that in mind, I went in search of the ideal pie. Armed with a folder of recommendations— and Mapquest directions—my team of taste-testers (pizza-loving co-workers who pride themselves on their gourmet palates, not to mention my 12-year-old daughter Sydney, who practically considers tomato sauce a vegetable), I set off in search of perfection. Lucky for us (and Syd who could eat pizza every day, twice a day), there is no shortage of caringly baked, delicious pizzas in Westchester. The bottom line: There are good pies almost everywhere. But would I be more willing to drive out of my way for some over others? Most definitely. Though, as the old adage goes, “When pizza is great, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.” Follow my path and you’ll see.

90 intown westchester november 2007


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this perfect house Rockland homeowners are battling the buyer’s market with a new weapon: home staging. We go behind the curtain to see what it’s all about.


by jeanne muchnick • 115

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first coined the phrase “staged home” to the point of trademark) support this claim: According to statistics she’s compiled, staged homes, on average, sell 32 percent faster and at a higher price than un-staged homes with an average $38,000 difference. Plus, staged homes spend 50 percent less time on the market.

Owning the Market

Staging can add from $30,000 to $60,000 to the final sale of the home. In case you haven’t tried to sell your house recently, home staging is the business of making your house attractive enough to 116 • rockland magazine 2006

buy (think Pottery Barn catalog–esque). Just as makeup artists work their magic on fashion models, stagers are brought in, usually at the urging of a real-estate agent, to bring out a home’s best features. A stager might turn a barren front porch into an inviting veranda, complete with a set of matching wicker rockers, or transform a worn family room into a virtual entertainment center. Stagers often have a retinue of haulers, painters, and tile refinishers at the ready who are able to do the job quickly and efficiently. They also have a huge inventory of lampshades, plates, rugs, candles, and vases, that they can easily access. According to experts, such staging tricks can add from $30,000 to $60,000 (or more) to the final sale of the home. “The way you live isn’t necessarily how you’d prepare your house for sale,” explains Jennifer Stoltz of Ossining-based First Impressions Home Staging (fihomestaging. com), who has many clients in Rockland. “For the most part, buyers respond to a look which is tasteful and neutral.” And that means getting rid of your treasured collections and taking the photos of your adorable kids off the shelves and packing up at least half of your stuff and putting it in storage. The job of a stager includes paring down furniture, adding props (window treatments, florals, rugs, and lamps are big),

and often even shifting rooms around to show off their “true space” (e.g., changing a playroom back into a formal dining room; a family room into its original intention as a first-floor master bedroom). “You want each room to tell its own story without too many extra things getting in the way. And that requires a ruthless objectivity that the homeowner doesn’t have, and that the Realtor often can’t say (because of the relationship she’s built up with the homeowner),” adds Maureen Henry of Sparkill-based Rockland Home Staging. She says she recently broke the news to a family of six in Orangeburg that they’d need to start packing their stuff in order to show their four-bedroom Colonial. “It’s a gorgeous space but they have four kids and a dog, so they need to clear the clutter,” she says. “De-cluttering is key.” Indeed, in a competitive market like Rockland, staging a home to create the right mood is a phenomenon that’s catching on. The concept has been big in Northern California for seven years and has, within the past three, moved east (thanks also to the popularity of various home shows on TV). National statistics from Barb Schwarz, author of Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money and the president and CEO of, who’s been in the business for 20 years (and

Staged homes sell 32 percent faster and at a higher average price than un-staged homes. Patricia Williams, of West Nyack, also believes the money spent thanks to the suggestions of The Well-Staged Home, Inc. will help her with her investment. Her home was recently de-cluttered and new furniture was brought in. “It’s been great,” admits Williams, who says much of the rugs and furniture was so nice that she wishes she owned it herself. And, in fact, she has enjoyed the experience so much, she has already asked Fierstein and her partner, Donna Thomas, to help her with ideas for her new Blauvelt home. But don’t let expense deter you. Sheryl Vogel, a licensed associate broker with Clearing away the clutter was key for this Rockland home, says Jennifer Stoltz.



ita Auster likes watching homeand-design shows on TV. And the knowledge she gleans from them is about to pay off. So believes her husband, Arthur, who was convinced after watching them himself, that the couple needed to call in a home stager to sell their New City Cape Cod–style home. “We’re looking to retire,” he says. “And I have to tell you, after looking at a variety of homes, we were always most impressed with the one that looked spacious and pristine—much like a model home. We wanted ours to look the same—especially with the market tightening. We really needed to do something to make our house stand out.” And so, they cleaned out 98 percent of their clutter, moved furniture around (and out!), and put in some new (modern) accessories and props. “When I came home after the day the stager was there, my jaw dropped. It looked like a different house,” he says. And while it was still on the market at press time, he feels confident the new look will bring in the right bid.


Before and after photos of a Suffern living room recently staged by Ossining-based First Impressions Home Staging.

Granted, if you’re selling your home, you’ll need to spend money to make money. Though staging fees vary, depending on the range of services, you can typically expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 for a picture-perfect home (though consultations are much less: from $300 and up). According to Karen Fierstein of The Well-Staged Home, Inc. in Tenafly, New Jersey (, whose main clientele is in Rockland, total staging costs can go as high as $5,000 depending on the number of rooms that need staging and whether or not rental furniture is involved. Beau Roberts, who recently sold his condo in

Valley Cottage, says he spent about $2,000, when in reality, refusing to stage his condo could have robbed him of hundreds of thousands of dollars. “To stage your house costs much less than your first mark-down and helps moves the property faster,” he says. “I would definitely do it again if I had to.”

INVESTMENT RETURNS A 2003 HomeGain survey of 2,000 real-estate agents nationwide found that moderately priced homes yielded the highest returns when a house was sold. Here are some of the returns you can expect on various home improvements. Staging Typical cost: $212–$1,089 Increase in sales price: $2,275–$2,841 Average return: 169 percent Clean and de-clutter Typical cost: $305–$339 Increase in sales price: $2,093–$2,378 Average return: 594 percent Fix plumbing, electrical Typical cost: $338–$381 Increase in sales price: $922–$1,208 Average return: 196 percent Landscape and trim Typical cost: $432–$506 Increase in sales price: $1,594–$1,839 Average return: 299 percent Kitchen and bath upgrades Typical cost: $1,546–$2,120 Increase in sales price: $3,823–$4,885 Average return: 138 percent Repair flooring Typical cost: $1,531–$1,714 Increase in sales price: $2,267–$2,589 Average return: 50 percent Paint exterior walls Typical cost: $2,188–$2,381 Increase in sales price: $2,907–$3,233 Average return: 34 percent Replace carpeting Typical cost: $2,602–$2,765 Increase in sales price: $3,585–$3,900 Average return: 39 percent Source: Barb Schwarz, author Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money. • 117

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STAGE YOUR HOME Here, tips from Karen Fierstein and Donna Thomas at The Well-Staged Home, Inc. (

Rehang the artwork—most people hang them too high. In a room where you’re sitting most of the time, they should hang at eye level when you’re seated; put them a little higher in a hallway, where people will be walking past. Pick one focal point for the room, whether it’s a fireplace or a view. Group the furniture around it and play it up with accessories. Let there be light! Even if you have a ceiling fixture or track or recessed lighting, you still need a couple of lamps for more-focused work and ambiance. De-personalize your space. Potential buyers want to be able to picture their things in the house, not yours. Put away your family photos, cute collections, and your kids’ toys and drawings away.

118 • rockland magazine 2006

All the Home’s a Stage LEFT: The Williams

home post-staging in West Nyack. ABOVE: Karen Fierstein and Donna Thomas.

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New City and an accredited staging professional (, says staging doesn’t have to be expensive and can run in the hundreds, not thousands. “Basically I tell my clients to get a bunch of inexpensive baskets and put three-quarters of their stuff in storage,” she says. With one house she did in Chestnut Ridge, it took rearranging the furniture, taking leaves out of their dining room table and sprucing up the outside with pumpkins and a wagon to make it look autumn-cheery. She also changed a first-floor office into a playroom and moved the office to a bedroom upstairs. The house sold days later.

“The way you live isn’t necessarily how you’d prepare your house for sale,” explains Stoltz. “It (the staging process) is very variable,” adds Fierstein. “It honestly all depends on the size of the house and what needs to be staged.” (She and her partner have an alliance with Christopher’s Warehouse in Nyack, from whom they rent furniture.) Still, real-estate agents believe it’s worth

the expense, and some are even willing to split the bill with homeowners. For the past four years, the market was crazy, anything could sell—but now it’s different, stresses Vogel. The fact that rising interest rates and sticker shock have slowed the market down has made staging, which is particularly important in builderbuilt homes and those that are vacant, take on greater importance. “No home should be shown empty,” she says. “It makes it look too cold and impersonal.” At the same time, a house needs to look spacious, with clean lines that show off its assets. Vogel says she’ll often take photographs of the home’s interior and then show it to the seller on her computer monitor. “It gives them another view,” she says. “The truth is, we’re all oblivious to what we see every day, but when they see the inside of their house on a 17-inch monitor, they can finally see what the buyer sees.” “It’s all about first impressions,” she adds. “Think of those blind dates you used to go on. You gave the guy about two minutes, tops, just looking at his shoes, right? It’s the same thing with a house.” Many stagers liken the experience to detailing your car. You vacuum your car, paint it, and clean it out before you sell it, so why not do the same for your home?


Keep your furniture to scale, and feel free to break up a set. If your living room is too crowded, take one chair up to the master bedroom.

Before and after photos of a bedroom in Suffern, staged by First Impressions.


Pull furniture away from the walls to create more-convenient groupings. Homeowners tend to line up pieces along the walls of a room, and people end up too far apart to talk easily or set their drinks on the coffee table.

Staging works because not everyone has vision, explains Henry. “If people walk into a space that’s cluttered, they can’t see it for what it truly is—no matter how attractive it may be.” Julie Sovia, whose Center Hall Colonial in Orangeburg is currently being staged by Henry’s newly formed Rockland Home Staging, admits she needed help to make her home presentable. “When you move into your home, you personalize it and make it yours,” she says. “Which makes it hard to de-personalize it now, so others can imagine themselves living here.” Aside from removing clutter, it’s also important to keep your home up-to-date with today’s trends. Beau Roberts admits that his condo was “1970s dated” and didn’t appeal to today’s buyers until it was modernized. Changing the fixtures was a big part of the work there, according to Jennifer Stoltz, who consulted on the property. Of course not everyone agrees that home staging works. Naysayers argue that a staged home isn’t “real” and that such homes can look “too perfect.” “I’ve sold houses before and I know from my Realtor’s advice and basic common sense that I need to get rid of my clutter,” says a seller in Blauvelt who wished to remain anonymous. “I honestly don’t know much about home staging, but it’s never crossed my mind. I think if someone watched those home shows on HGTV, they could

get the advice they needed. I don’t see the reason to spend extra money.” Another anonymous seller said brokers constantly told her that her kitchen was too small and that it was a deterrent to selling. Once she took out her kitchen table, the house sold—“But obviously, you need a kitchen table,” she says. In another home she saw, thanks to stagers, the house didn’t even have a refrigerator—but the table with fresh lilies that replaced it made the kitchen look fabulous. In the end, it’s all about money. It comes down to what people want to fix and what they don’t, explains Maria Fleming of Joyce Realty in Nyack. A lot of folks don’t want to spend hundreds to paint their house and then not get back their investment. They’re afraid the staging effort will be for nothing. Others just haven’t been coached properly about the benefits of this technique. And still others feel that marketing their property “as is” will bring the necessary buyers. “The way I see it,” she says, “whatever works.” Williams agrees. “I don’t see a downside,” she says. “In fact, now that half my packing is done, I don’t have that much to do.” Though it’s premature to say if the hard work the Austers of New City have done will

bring in a higher bid for their Cape, Arthur says home staging makes a lot of sense. “The way I look at it,” he says, “especially with the way the market is now, it can’t hurt” (though in the same breath, he admits it’s tough keeping it in pristine condition while he and his wife are living there). Julie Sovia says the same thing about her home with four kids and a dog. “That’s one of the challenges of staging,” she says. “But hopefully you won’t have to do that for too long.”

STAGING RESOURCES First Impressions Home Staging, Inc.: 914-263-1267; Rockland Home Staging: 731-9510 The Well-Staged Home, Inc.: 201-5688917; Sheryl Vogel, Coldwell Banker: 638-1081; Decorating With Fabric: 352-5064; 1-800-GOT-JUNK? or • 119

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Travel Time: Two hours, driving. Why Go? You can stay in your robe all day! Everyone here (men included) mills about in white terry cloth and slippers– it’s actually more normal to wear robes than clothes! If that weren’t relaxing enough, you can enjoy afternoon tea, complete with scones and saucers, on the lounge chairs outside. This New England-style inn housed in a 1930 Georgian Colonial offers small, intimate B and B-style rooms–many with formal, antique furniture that make you feel as if you’re lazing about in your great aunt’s home. If your group needs more privacy, you can also opt for one of the villas behind the inn. The ambiance is more condo than B and B, the upside being the wood-burning fireplaces and balconies. As for activities, there’s plenty of spa treatments, exercise, hiking, and–if you dare to leave the

premises–shopping in nearby Mystic, where you can find one-of-a-kind historical shops and great souvenirs for the kids. Or, check out the Chardonnays of Stonington–the local vineyard is about 25 minutes away. And unlike other spas that take health-conscious themes all the way to the restaurant, here, there’s wine, coffee, even chocolate–but beware: the menu lists calorie counts. Girls Only: Expect to pay about $298 per person, per night (based on double occupancy) for the midweek “Personal Escape,” which includes two spa services (think lavender foot facial and hot-rocks massage), two fitness classes, a morning walk, and meditation. Call 800-275-4772, or visit

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Energy Drain #2 Clutter. Your desk is


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2: Give yourself a break. If someone or something upsets you, don’t exaggerate the problem by getting on your own case for reacting. Reactions are normal — it’s what we Antidote: Get organized! Break large tasks do with them that into smaller, more manageable ones. Think of counts. your energy drain as an invitation to recharge. Once you can see the calm after the storm, 3: Rise above: If you yourself can be calmer and have more someone frightened energy to deal. you (a driver who cut Energy Drain #3 Holding Onto Jealousy and Envy. When you compare

yourself to others, you sabotage your own individuality.

Antidote: Realize that everyone gets a turn to shine. Today it might be your friend, tomorrow it will be you. Everyone has buried treasure — cultivate your own uniqueness. Know what you specifically contribute to the table of life! Anna Maravelas, a licensed psychologist based in St. Paul, Minnesota and the author of How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress, says she turns this one inside out by turning her jealousy into admiration. She says she’s made some fabulous friends by practicing this. “Many talented, beautiful people are lonely because others can’t cope with their talent. They are grateful to be appreciated by someone who doesn’t compare themselves to them and come up short.”

Sometimes you can feel like your body is a vending machine, constantly dispensing money, offering advice, helping with homework, dealing with deadlines, and always — providing, giving, doing. There are days when you’re literally drained. Depleted. Zonked. But with all your responsibilities and obligations, it’s just not possible for to close down for a day or two and sleep it off. So you need to eliminate your energy drains and find a simpler way to recharge. First, look at what’s consuming you, say experts. Tops on the list: family commitments, work, aging parents, spousal demands, children, low self-esteem, lack of community, debt, clutter, chronic procrastination, jealousy/envy and constant worry. Here, our pick of the top seven energy drains — and how to solve them.

Energy Drain #1 Over Committing. You know the drill. The PTA president asks you to bake cupcakes on the day you have a presentation due for your boss. Meanwhile, it’s your husband’s birthday, and you promised him his favorite dinner. Over committing is the good little girl syndrome, explains Debbie Mandel, a life coach and author of Turn on Your Inner Light, “Saying yes, when you mean no — you become the martyr because you’re the only one who can do it right!”

Energy Drain #4 Chronic Frustration.

Research says we face about thirty “heart hassles” a day; mini-crises that short circuit our goals and increase the time we need to complete a task. Knowing that frustration is an integral part of living helps us respond in ways that maintain our momentum and mood. According to Maravelas, most individuals report having the least energy and the highest demands near 4:30 in the afternoon. That's when most of us face kids returning from school, commutes, day care, food preparation, mail, errands and evening schedules. This is also the peak time for food cravings, particularly chocolate.

Releasing Your Energy Drains

You’ve heard it before, but no doubt you need to hear it again: let go of the little things. They don’t matter! Here, some ideas from Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of It Ends with You: Grow up and Out of Dysfunction:

Antidote: Give up control and delegate, delegate, delegate. “When you say no to others, you say yes to yourself,”she stresses. 1: Put things in “Begin by saying no to small things, and it will perspective. Will they get real easy, real fast.” If you need help, be important an hour practice the fine art of politely yet firmly from now; fifteen saying “no” with telemarketers who call during

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minutes from now? Most of them won’t be.

overflowing with papers, there are dishes in your kitchen sink and you have a week’s worth of laundry calling from the bathroom floor. What’s a girl to do? According to Mandel, the answer is simple: Simplify! “Stress is directly proportional to complexity,” she says. By clearing your space, you can clear your mind.

6 Ways To Boost Your Energy Besides sleeping for two days, which most of us don’t have time for, we’ve got quick ways to refuel (no coffee required). By Jeanne

you off) then give a little prayer of thanks that you survived, bless the other driver (who probably needs it) and you’ll feel better.

4: Give the benefit of the doubt. If someone hurt your feelings, acknowledge that your feelings are hurt, then consider that the other person is probably more clumsy than intentionally hurtful. The world is full of emotional klutzes who don't realize the impact of their words and actions, and they create more problems for themselves than for you. 5: Consider the source. A neighbor or associate who is truly nasty may repeatedly hurt your feelings. Consider what must be going on inside that person's head, and be grateful that you're not hearing that. Even the meanest people are far nastier to themselves than they are to others. That person is trying to relieve his or her pain by inflicting some on you.

Antidote: Plan for this low point. Stock the car or kitchen with water, highquality chocolate and soothing tapes. If children are returning from school, stop everything for half an hour and do nothing but help them transition to home, have a light snack and enjoy an emotional or physical 'cuddle' with mom. Take time to

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Portfo lio Your Special DaY at a Special price SAVE up to $45,000 oN YouR WEDDING

By Jeanne Muchnick

Rebecca Thorpe, a wedding planner in Fairfield County, Connecticut,

(Above, left) Instead of a huge

wedding cake, serve an array of desserts: everything from flourless chocolate cake to lemon tartlets and heart-shaped cookies, these from New Rochelle caterer Dinner in Hand.

(Above, right) Kate Harrison, author of the Green Bride, saved money by using local seasonal flowers and wearing an heirloom necklace.

planned her own wedding in 2005 for 130 people at The Garrison Golf Club in Cold Spring and paid $28,000 total (with filet mignon and a full bar all night). Kimberly Ingersoll, who’s getting married in October at a church in her hometown of Valhalla (with a reception at the Canyon Club in Armonk) guestimates she’s spending about $35,000 total. Harrison resident Susan Squillante's reception at The Fountainhead will cost $30,000. And that’s economical! According to Condé Nast Bridal Media’s most recent American Wedding Study, the national average wedding cost is $28,082 (with $1,075 for a dress). But we live in Westchester, where a $2,000 wedding dress is considered “inexpensive,” and a wedding for less than $50,000 can be a real challenge. Many brides (and their parents) don’t like to discuss what it’s costing... but, believe us, it’s upwards of $50,000. (Check out and plug in your zip code for proof. We did. In Tarrytown, the cost is between $48,496 and $80,827; in Bedford, $54,463 to $90,771, and in Scarsdale, it’s anywhere from $87,660 to $146,101). But more and more couples (and their families) are looking for ways to create the affair of their dreams without going into debt. The good news? It can be done, as long as you’re willing to negotiate, compromise, and be creative. ”The easiest way to save money on your wedding is to limit the number of guests,” says Melisa Imberman, owner of Chappaqua-based The Event of a Lifetime ( That's a no-brainer. Here, more tips from local experts on how to save tons of money. | fall 2009/winter 2010 | 27

Portfo lio Your Special DaY at a Special price avoiD impulSe purchaSeS the best way to stay within budget is to control

your spending early in the planning process. Typically, couples spend the most on the venue, food, and drink (50 percent), the dress (2 percent), photography (5 to 10 percent), and music (10 to 15 percent), with flowers (10 to 20 percent), stationery (1 to 5 percent), rings (1 to 5 percent), cake, officiant, transportation, gifts, and beauty (1 to 5 percent) not far behind. “It’s very tempting to upgrade different aspects of your event in the final weeks,” says Thorpe, whose company, Girl Admiral (, specializes in creative approaches to wedding planning. “Avoid these impulse buys; when the bills come in, you’ll be happy you did.”

chooSe a NoNtraDitioNal DaY the most expensive time to get married is on a

Saturday evening, with the priciest months being May, June, September, October, July, and August (in that order). Booking something “offseason” or “off-night” like a Monday, Thursday, or Sunday can save you a lot of money. Take The Globe in Larchmont. Book on a Saturday night and expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000; book on a Saturday afternoon, and the entire space costs between $8,000 and $10,000 ( Being flexible is key to ensuring an economical wedding, stresses Imberman. Winter is the most economical time to get married. Consider a day other than a Saturday or a daytime rather than an evening wedding. Kathleen Ruscigno saved big bucks by getting married the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. “Because everyone has that Monday off from work, it was like having a Saturday wedding but for Sunday prices,” she says. Bride-to-be Susan Squillante is saving money by getting married in February, another off-peak time. She also cut her guest list to keep costs in the $30,000 range. (Sunday during a holiday is also a great time, say experts.) "Afternoons often can be a bargain,” says Imberman. Savings: $6,000 to $10,000

coNSiDer aN “all-iN-oNe” veNue find one location for your ceremony and reception

to avoid having to provide transportation between venues recommends Kate Harrison, author of The Green Bride and a newlywed herself (who says she saved thousands by going green). Consider, too, a venue that has all of your rental needs included in the base cost for renting the venue,says Harrison. And, if you don’t like the venue’s chairs or linens, negotiate. Also look for a place that doesn’t need a lot of décor, like a historical site, as this will save on flowers and other decorations. Savings: $5,000

Be creative with FooD skip the champagne and let guests toast with

Prosecco, often $10 to $20 less a bottle. Rosita Fichtel of Larchmont did this successfully for her daughter’s May wedding. Alcohol is a big expense, notes Leah Ingram, author of Tie the Knot on a Shoestring, which is why she suggests reducing the length of your reception and not announcing a last call for drinks. “This could cause a rush on the bar, which, if you’re paying for an open bar, can increase your alcohol bill significantly,” she says. Or, suggests wedding planner Thorpe, just use a signature drink as the main liquor drink and have beer and wine (billed on consumption) after the event. “This helps to reduce the cost of a full bar but still manages to be elegant and fun.”

28 | fall 2009/winter 2010 |

Other ideas: opt for a cocktail wedding rather than a five-course dinner, serving finger foods and passed hors d’ouevres. Another possibility: consider a brunch over an evening event. Savings: $1,000 to $5,000

Be creative with Your cake on average, 20 percent of guests don’t eat wedding

cake, which costs an average of $5 per slice. Many pros suggest buying a smaller decorated cake for wedding photos and having a plain sheet cake in the kitchen to serve guests, or simply buy a small cake (not necessarily a “wedding” cake) and serve an assortment of desserts for each table. Mother-of-the-bride Fichtel bought a $60 10-inch cake for the bride and groom (along with her own wedding toppers at the vintage store Carol Charney in Larchmont), then, on each table, she had an array of desserts—everything from flourless chocolate cake to lemon tartlets—served by New Rochelle caterer Dinner in Hand (dinnerinhand. com). She guestimates it saved her about $400. If you’re hell-bent on a large wedding cake, consider one with buttercream or cream-cheese frosting instead of expensive fondant and go with an independent baker who bakes out of his or her house rather than a full-fledged bakery. Savings: $200 to $1,000

Be a “Do-it-YourSelFer” print your own invitations. or snag an artist

friend like Kathleen Ruscigno did. When newlywed Rachael Diamond, who got married in Mamaroneck last October, was close to her budget, she designed her wedding program on her computer and printed the programs (pictured below) at Kinko’s. “I personally hole-punched 200 of them, bought the ribbons, and put them together. It saved me hundreds of dollars.” She and her fiancé (now husband) also drove around Westchester to various addresses that held importance to them, took photos of the numbers, uploaded them on Kodak Gallery, then printed them out in sepia and put them in frames she found at The Christmas Tree Shop for $1 each. She used those as her table markers—another expense saved. Rosita Fichtel also wrote out the cards for the tables for her daughter’s wedding in frames she found at a craft store. “I didn’t think it was necessary to spend money on those," she says. "Plus, I think it added a more personal touch." Savings: $200 to $600

aSk FrieNDS For help as soon as you get engaged, update your facebook status


to mention your upcoming nuptials, says Ingram. See if family members or friends might be able to help you save money. This is how Kathleen Ruscigno saved hundreds of dollars on her invitations; she asked her friend Katie, a graphic artist, to design the invites. Susan Squillante is saving about $1,500 having one friend do the video and $200 having another friend do her makeup. Savings: Approximately $1,000 to $2,000

Scale Back oN FlowerS conventional flowers for a typical wedding cost, on

average, $2,000 and are usually shipped in from South America, covered in pesticides, and sprayed with artificial scents, says eco-friendly bride Harrison. Local, organic flowers cost $200 to $400. Ingram suggests finding a wholesale flower company (e.g., Main Wholesale Florists,, or East Coast Wholesale Flowers in Norwalk, Connecticut, Usually a designer on-site will take on your event at a fraction of the cost of a more expensive florist. Monica Chimes of Monica Chimes Floral in West Harrison (914-428-7212; suggests using a large, inexpensive flower, such as a Gerbera daisy or sunflower, that takes up a good amount of table space. Another option: order from an online source, which cuts the middleman and saves brides about 30 percent off their floral costs. Chimes also suggests having your bridesmaids carry either one single lush or striking flower like a Peony or very small bouquet of Cymbidum Orchids or even Mini Calla Lilies. Savings: $500 to $1,600

BuY Your GowN oN eBaY the cost of an average wedding dress can be astronomical

($2,000 or more). That’s why experts suggest seeking alternative routes like eBay, donate and recycle websites, thrift shops, and plain old bargain hunting. Most of the big bridal shops have huge sales once a year. Check the local paper and websites (e.g.,,,, or our favorite, The Bridal Garden, a nonprofit bridal boutique with designer and couture wedding gowns for up to 75 percent off retail prices, Consider looking in unconventional places and off-season—after New Year’s Eve, for example. Rebecca Thorpe found her wedding dress “at a tiny boutique that looked like nothing special. I just popped in, looked in the discontinued styles, and found my dress. It was originally two thousand five hundred and I got it for eight hundred and fifty with minimal cost for alterations—around two hundred.” Kate Harrison, our green guru, found her dress in the sale rack at the back of an Asian boutique and was able to snag a gorgeous pair of Vera Wang heels for $50 on eBay, which, after the wedding, she resold to another bride for $50. Emily McCarthy, who recently moved from Tarrytown to Suffern, New York, got her Amsale dress on eBay for $1,500—less than half its $4,000 value—in mint condition. “Make sure you check the seller’s reputation by reading the feedback comments to avoid getting swindled,” she says. “Also, ask how it will be shipped and whether or not it will be insured.” Also, know if the photos on the site were taken after the wedding (to make sure there are no stains). Others swear by, a website on which you can buy and sell gently used wedding, prom, and special-occasion attire. Also popular:,,,, and, which feature pre-owned, “lightly loved” dresses at substantial savings, in all sizes, styles, and prices. The J. Crew website ( also has beautiful dresses, often in the $300 to $800 range. And if it doesn’t fit, you can return it to a brick-and-mortar store. Also check out


you can achieve similar looks at different price points. centerpieces courtesy of diana gould. | fall 2009/winter 2010 | 29

Portfo lio DaY Your Special DaY Your Specialat a Special price, a new website that offers online designer consignment for brides, maids, and moms. Sometimes, just venturing beyond your backyard (in our case: across the Tappan Zee to Rockland or up the Hutch to Connecticut) can be cheaper (and more fruitful) than staying within Westchester. Try Marie’s Bridal on Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield, Connecticut (about a 40-minute drive from Westchester; It has a great selection in all price ranges and its service is old-school. In Rockland, there's Bridal Accents in New City (845-638-3956). Also, don’t forget to check in with your local Goodwill or thrift store for affordable options. For great costume jewelry, check out Siren in Mamaroneck. You also can find affordable extras on websites like bridetobrideboutique. com and’s “trash to treasures” board. Or rent jewelry for the big day (think of it as Harry Winston meets Netflix) at Savings: from $200-$2,000.

Free tux For GroomS andrea most gottschall and elyssa feldman most, owners of the

wedding-planning company A Most Creative Affair in Tarrytown, suggest saving money by having the groom and groomsmen wear dark suits. Of, if you prefer black-tie, have the groomsmen rent their tuxes; often, the groom gets his free of charge. For instance, for every five tuxes rented at Men’s Wearhouse (, which has locations in Yorktown Heights, Scarsdale, and White Plains, you get the sixth one free. Savings: $500-$1,500

uSe leSS paper invitations may be gorgeous, but

think of the trees felled and the money wasted. Use Evite ( instead. Don’t want to offend the older generation with virtual invitations? Choose a company with inexpensive options, like VistaPrint, ( to print your invitations. Then save even more money by using a postcard for RSVPs and having your directions online for your guests to print. “Avoid oversized or bulky invitations, since this greatly increases your postage costs,” says Leah Ingram. “Save postage and additional paper cost on your wedding invitations by forgoing the inner-envelope reply card and asking guests to reply online or by phone. Skip ordering reception cards, and have the reception information printed on the bottom of the invitation instead.” Finally, don’t pay extra for your invitations to arrive assembled. Rather, buy a few bottles of wine, gather friends,

at a

Special price

and have an invitation assembly party! Savings: $2,000 to $5,000

coNSiDer a photojourNaliSt newspaper photographers are often cheaper—about $2,000 to $3,000 on average— than regular wedding photographers. Ask the photographers of your local newspaper if they freelance as wedding photographers. The caveat here is that you will be the one putting together your album. It was due to all the compliments he got on his own wedding album five years ago that Sleepy Hollow resident Mark Liflander (; 914-552-0802), who works in Yorktown for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, began freelancing for weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. Many area brides also swear by Port Chesterbased Leslye Smith of Smith Studio (; 914-939-6500), who packages photos in gorgeous boxes and, if you like, gives you the disk to make your own album. If you’re really feeling frugal, ask friends and family to bring their cameras and snap away. Many online sites offer Photoshop Elements ( so you can airbrush photos, whiten teeth, get rid of zits, even digi-tan. You even can make your photos into a movie for as low as $99.99 for 75 photos and $174.99 for one tape and 50 photos. Go to Savings: $1,000 to $5,000.

Be clever with Your ceNterpieceS lots of candles always work, pros

say, as do blooming plants, potted orchids, or vases filled with fruits (lemons, limes, apples). Aisle markers used in the ceremony can double as centerpieces at the reception. Or, do something fun and multi-functional, like filling inexpensive glasses with Hershey Kisses—and having them double as your favors. Another option: buy a few extra roses and scatter red petals on the tables. Savings: $500 to $2,000

Favor FruGal FavorS don’t forget about freecyle and

Goodwill. Depending on what you need for your wedding—from ribbons to tablecloths—you just might be able to find it for free from your local Freecycle list. Kathleen Ruscigno says she and her husband, Anthony, handed out lucky bamboo plants (two stalks symbolizing man and wife) in square glass vases with river rocks. “Our florist was able to provide these at four dollars fifty cents apiece,” she says. Kathleen also handwrote her own thank-you tags on rice paper, which were

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Your Special DaY continued from page 31 attached to a ribbon tied around the stalks as a way to not only save money but to make them more personal. Melisa Imberman suggests edible favors, Maria Valente at Chocolations in Mamaroneck (914-777-3600; is happy to work within any budget. You can also buy bulk candy, e.g., jelly beans in assorted wedding colors and place in a pretty pouch with a ribbon. Or skip favors altogether. If people really enjoy the wedding, they’ll never notice. Savings: $200 to $1,000

uSe Your ipoD thanks to the ipod, a fancy band

or DJ doesn’t have to factor into your budget— you can have your wedding coordinator or helper manage the music. Or, hire a student quartet to play at your wedding. Check with local colleges and schools like Hoff Barthelson in Scarsdale (914-723-1169) or the PAVE (Performing And Visual Arts Education) program at New Rochelle High School (914576-5643) to see if a professor can recommend a group you can use. Also, try Eliot Magaziner, an incredible 86-year-old violinist who conducts the Manhantanville College Community orchestra and coaches piano and string quartets, or Flora Kuan, an accomplished pianist who teaches the college’s most advanced piano students (914-694-2200). You may also have luck with artists. Hastings resident Alyssa Cooper (914-552-4115; alyssaanjelicajames. com) not only sings beautiful tunes (a mixture of jazz, gospel, pop, and folk) but can get together a duo of three or four for a negotiable price. Also check out Sarah Jane Inc. (, a New York City-based small music agency with a database of more than 1,000+ musicians at negotiable prices. Savings: $500 to $5,000.

Be thaNkFul For what You have in the end, the fact that you and

your guy love each other is most important. Getting married surrounded by family and friends is what matters most. Savings: Priceless.


Jeanne Muchnick is the former editor of The Bridal Guide Magazine and has written for numerous national and local publications including Brides, Modern Bride, and the New York Times. | fall 2009/winter 2010 | 31


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