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aPRIl 25, 2014

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pLAnninG youR GARden: Small spaces, big opportunities


GoinG GReen: Natural solutions to weed problems


CompoStinG 101: Discover a valuable resource


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aPRIl 25, 2014



k Garden

b pLantIng SeaSon: Containers, veggies & herbs



f you have good soil, you can plant anywhere, no matter how small the space. In fact, gardening in small spaces is a bit of an art form that has gained in popularity. In addition to a regular flower garden or a vegetable garden, Mary Ann Amodio of Amodio’s Garden Center, Nursery & Flower Shop in White Plains said that planting in containers — pots, hanging baskets and window boxes — is a great way to keep your property looking and feeling great. “I think contained gardening is the big thing now, as well as people putting these containers IN their gardens,” Amodio said. “They have the garden already, but they want some color there, so they’ll plant the container up and they’ll set it in the middle of the garden where they want the color. They can change it from season to season or they can move it around to different parts of the yard if they want to add something of interest in an area that’s just green and they want some colors in there.” Of course soil alone does not make for successful gardening — other factors like sun/shade and drainage come into play. “First you have to know how much sun or shade you have where you’re going to be putting these,” Amodio said. “You have to make sure you have a pot with drainage. You have to use a good potting soil, not just

regular top soil. If you’re growing herbs and vegetables and you want to stay organic there are organic potting soils.” In addition to flowers, window boxes are great for herbs and some vegetables. Hanging baskets are perfect for porches and are



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also good for herb gardens and flowering plants. Flower pots of all sizes can, again, be good for herbs, but also for blooming gardens and even shrubbery to bring the garden onto the patio. “If people have small areas for planting in,

there’s a whole world of smaller-sized plants that are propagated now for small places,” Amodio said. “For example, you can buy hydrangea that doesn’t grow very large — it stays small, pixie-sized. Or you can buy an andromeda in a small size. It doesn’t grow big, it stays small. You can buy a butterfly bush in a pixie size where it stays very short and full, doesn’t get big. “If you’re relegated to small areas these are things that require a little maintenance, but give greenery in your garden and come back every year. Some of them are evergreens that stay green all winter.” It’s a popular time of year at Amodio’s and Mary Ann Amodio is getting questions now mostly about lawns and making them green again and reversing winter damage to grass and shrubberies. Soon enough the talk will turn to gardening. “In May people usually start talking about actually planting in the ground outside, like what’s appropriate, how much sun they get, how much shade they get, what the pH of their soil is,” she said. “If it’s conducive to growing certain types of plants. How to test your pH to make sure it’s not alkaline, not acid, depending on what you want to plant there. People are always asking about a certain area of land they have, like 15x20 feet and how may plants can they actually put in there without it being crowded and overgrowing each other.” She does have all the answers.


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April 25, 2014

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b your garden: Small spaces, big opportunities trumpet vine or trumpet honeysuckle. Know that to fully enjoy your garden, you’ll benefit from a path and a seating area, so integrate them into your design. If you’re feeling really ambitious, think about a water feature, such as a recirculating fountain.



hen designing a new garden large or small, the first important step is to catalog characteristics of the bed area: amount of sun it receives (how shady?), amount of moisture it receives (how dry?), quality and drainage of soil (sandy, clayey, loamy?), how exposed it is to wind, and what activity normally goes on around/near the bed (do kids or animals play there? Does the area get a lot of foot traffic?). Of course, in this area, you also have to think about deer. Small planting areas offer a great opportunity for beginning or advanced gardeners to experiment without investing huge amounts of money or time. Let’s consider several examples of how you might design a smaller bed area: 1) A sunny area along the entry walk to your house: Here’s a place to try a bright patch of welcoming color. Think about a joyful plant palette of perennials, ferns and grasses rather than woody shrubs, and plan a selection that blooms continually from spring to fall. Start your blooming season with spring bulbs (daffodils if you have deer around, tulips and hyacinths if you don’t) and then select perennials with a range of bloom times. For example, peonies bloom fairly early, then iris, followed by a wide range of June-July bloomers. Late summer palette might include black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), asters and monarda. Finally, plant a clump of ornamental grass — a small variety like Miscanthus “Morning Light” — to provide fall into winter interest. 2) A full-sun bed for vegetables or herbs: There are many guides to “square foot” gardening that can help in planning a small vegetable garden. Of great importance is ensuring a lot of sun (eight hours preferred) and rich, well-draining soil. (Sometimes, raised beds or container planting offer the best alternatives for square foot beds.) Bear in mind that vegetables use a lot of nutrients, so you’ll want to prepare your planting bed with rich compost every year. Always keep larger plants such as tomato vines to the rear (north side) of the bed so all plants can get their share of sunlight. A small bed is also fantastic for planting a “kitchen garden” with a wide range of fresh herbs. Unlike veggies, herbs do not benefit from a lot of soil enrichment, and need soil that drains quickly.


Rules of green thumb

No matter what type bed you have, before planting, consider your soil. Fertilizing new plants is not generally recommended, however, augmenting your soil with compost before you plant is always beneficial. This can be done simply by top-dressing your new bed with 2-3 inches of rich compost before planting. As you dig holes for the plants, some of the compost will get mixed into the soil, providing a better root zone for your new plants. Remember to take into account deer browsing if that is an issue in your yard. Many authorities publish lists of plants deer don’t like, such as the list from Rutgers University ( There are few bushes deer won’t eat if they’re hungry enough: three are pieris japonica (Andromeda), spirea and boxwood. One rule of thumb for deer-safe perennial gardening is to select plants with fuzzy silver leaves such as catmint (Nepita) or lambs ear (Stachys). Another rule of thumb is to select plants with a strong herbal scent, especially in the mint family, such as bee balm (Monarda). Other families of perennials that are typically immune to deer browsing include peonies, iris and ligularia. And don’t forget ferns and grasses! Be kind to nature

3) A shady bed under large trees: This is one of the most difficult areas to plant because of root competition and a general lack of sun. Note that to protect your trees, you need to minimize disturbance of their feeding roots, which live in the top 12 inches of the soil. Thus, your top choices will be shallow rooting plants and younger plants in small containers. Before deer damage became such an issue, the “go-to” plant might have been hosta. Now, the wise gardener will rely upon a palette of ferns and shadetolerant grasses such as carex and Japanese mountain grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’). Variegated leaves add extra “light” to a densely shaded bed. 4) A bed under the eaves of the house: Typically, the area under eaves is a “death


zone” due to lack of water. But you can work with dry soil if you plant things that can handle it. If the bed area is mainly sunny, try drought-resistant, silver-leafed Mediterraneans such as artemesia. If the bed is mainly shady, try yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), which is an extremely tough, spreading groundcover that sports bright yellow blossoms in spring. 5) A small townhouse backyard with mixed sun and shade areas: This presents an opportunity to try all kinds of plants. Consider adding both height and winter interest by means of a small flowering tree, such as cherry, dogwood, amelanchier, Japanese maple or crabapple. In addition, if you have privacy fencing, try some summer-flowering vines to attract hummingbirds, such as

Make sure at least half of the plants you select are New York natives. This helps bolster and support our local food web, and protects our populations of birds, bees and butterflies. A good source of guidance, in addition to your local nursery, is the Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College ( the-native-plant-center/). Finally, don’t forget to water! The first summer’s heat wave and/or drought can be a killer of new plants that have not yet established their full spread of roots. Mark Gilliland is proprietor and certified landscape designer at Garden Artistry in Irvington. Contact him via

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April 25, 2014


Container Gardening Continued from page 3A A veggie garden

Al Krautter has put together his life’s work into an oversized 336-page book called “12 Steps to Natural Gardening.” There is even a 12-month companion calendar. The book is available at Sprain Brook Nursery in Greenburgh, as is Krautter. The book features recipes for soil mixtures for different types of conditions and plantings, and that’s the first step. “What you want to do in small space gardening is intensify the yield for the soil,” Krautter said. “The greater the mix, the greater the nutrient value for the plant. It’s a mixture of a lot of different organic materials mixed into your existing soil and it’s a formula we’ve tested and been using in this area for the last nine or 10 years. We’ve been able to report fantastic results.” One of Krautter’s areas of expertise is organic vegetable gardens. “Edible gardening is becoming more popular and it’s about being more organic,” Krautter said. “You can grow these different plants on different parts of your property and it helps the landscaping.” The choices are endless, so the decision of what to plant really depends on the taste of the gardener. “You want to grow the plants that you like to eat, so you pick that variety,” Krautter said. “You can get some unique types and get the seeds and start harvesting. Then you harvest them year after year. Some people like hot peppers, some like green peppers. You grow the things that you like the best and may be the most difficult to get in the market place.”

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There is a learning curve for new gardeners and much of the success depends on the challenges from your property and wildlife. But for those sticking with it, the process eventually gets sorted out and becomes enjoyable, not stressful. “You always have to worry about your environment,” Krautter said. “You kind of learn what your problems are after you’ve done it for a year or two.” Herbs at home

Bedford gardening expert Varner Redmon said that herb gardens are popular. Redmon recommends enclosing the plantings with a fence, trellis, shrubs and/or vines. That will not only protect the herbs, but look good, too, without having to focus on flowers. “A variety of foliage color, size and texture is the secret to a beautiful garden,” Redmon said. “Try feathery bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) with soft silver lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) for instance, or three colors of lettuce (Sea of Red, Black Seeded Simpson and the heirloom Freckles) or spiky gray cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) surrounded by purple sage (Salvia officinalis Purpurascens).” Small spaces and fragrant gardens go hand in hand. “Scented geraniums are easy to grow and come in wonderful varieties: peppermint, nutmeg, orange, lemon,” Redmon said. “One could grow Lavender, night-blooming Nicotiana sylvestris, tender Jasminum polyanthum or a Meyer Lemon tree grown in a pot… so many choices.” Perhaps as important as doing the planting, according to Redmon, is to “include a place to sit and enjoy your creation.”


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April 25, 2014

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b Go green: Natural solutions to weed problems By ANTHONY R. MANCINI


ith growing awareness of the toxicity and persistence of herbicides in soil, landscapers and experts are recommending alternative measures of eliminating weeds in ways that are more friendly to the environment. Luckily, the use of herbicides on a piece of property is not recommended in most circumstances and often a less expensive method may be used. Dr. Diane Lewis, the chairwoman of environmental nonprofit Bedford 2020’s water and land use task force, gave a simple argument against the use of pesticides: “When you use herbicides in your yard, they wash into your drinking water.” Bedford 2020, an organization that advocates sustainable policies in the town of Bedford, has a goal to have at least 60 percent of the town’s land managed without synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers by the year 2020 to help protect the area’s drinking water. The first step in sustainable weed management is to pick which plants are right for your garden or yard. The plants that are usually recommended are native to the area, picked to thrive in the location they are planted in.

If a gardener is thorough enough in planting native species, they will outcompete any invasive weeds. Lewis said that any bare spots in a yard are prime candidates for weed growth and must be filled in. “If you have a bare spot in your lawn you want to put some grass seed down before weeds get a foothold,” she said. The Westchester Native Plant Center, which is established at Westchester Community College, publishes a list available online of recommended native plants for landscaping, which area landscapers often point homeowners to. The list includes trees, shrubs, ferns, flowering plants and grasses. It describes when included plants bloom, their bloom color, their importance to surrounding wildlife, plants’ preferences for sun or shade and amount of soil moisture, their height, and other significant characteristics. Charles King Sadler, the founder of King Garden Designs, a landscaping company based in Irvington, cited the Native Plant Center’s list and said that a potential site for plantings has to be carefully considered before anything is established. “Assess your site for sun, shade, soil type, moisture, exposure and deer browsing. With this site profile match up the best native plants,” he said. “If a native plant does not match your site or the choices don’t appeal

to you, choose a noninvasive choice, one that will not become a weed even if it is not native.” As a native candidate for replacing invasive weeds, Lewis recommended bayberry for wooded settings because it is resilient to deer, which can easily decimate many types of plants very quickly. Northern bayberry blooms in May through July, prefers sunny areas and soil on the moist to dry scale and can grow to 10 feet. She said after an initial period of watering and maintenance after the shrub is established, it would need no care, due to the fact that native species are naturally acclimated to the area’s environment. Sadler said that paying attention to the time of year when planting can also deter weed growth. “Herbaceous weeds generally grow more quickly in spring than cultivated or nursery plants,” he said. “So sites must be checked for weeds every several days in spring, with new weeds being removed before they become established. Fall planting of new lawn and other plants can be a benefit due to reduced weed competition in fall.” Sadler also said to be cautious when adding soil to a garden or yard when planting, as soil could contain weed seeds. There are particular invasive weeds that

have become common problems throughout Westchester, to the point where the county government publishes a list of plants that it recommends property owners remove or avoid planting. Sadler said Norway maple is a problem invasive tree when setting up a planting site, because it is aggressive and will establish seedlings in the area around it. The tree is very similar to the native sugar maple, a major difference being the milky sap that flows from the tree when it is cut rather than the clear sap of a sugar maple. Norway maples also emit a chemical that prevents other plants from growing around them. He said that other invasive plants pose a problem such as Japanese barberry and winged euonymus, aka burning bush, non-native shrubs that easily escape to the surrounding wilderness and other landscaped areas. Japanese barberry is particularly harsh on the environment. It secretes a chemical that harms surrounding vegetation, it firmly anchors itself in soil and it provides an ideal habitat for ticks. The best way to deal with these invasives is to remove them by the roots and continue to monitor where they were growing to make sure Continued on next page


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Continued from previous page they do not grow back, according to Sadler. “Once the whole plant is removed and disposed of the site may still have residual seeds in soil or roots that were not located,” he said. “The site ought to be surveyed at least annually to remove seedlings or root stock that returns.” Lewis warned against the proliferation of invasive vines such as porcelain-berry, Oriental bittersweet and mile-a-minute vine, which grow very quickly and climb their way up existing vegetation, eventually smothering trees and shrubs in competition for sunlight. Glenn Ticehurst, a member of Bedford 2020’s water and land use task force and a landscape architect at Benedek & Ticehurst of Bedford Village, said that Japanese stilt grass and garlic mustard are two especially prolific types of weeds. Japanese stilt grass is an annual grass that tends to form dense mats and is adapted to low-light conditions. Garlic mustard is a biennial herb with small white flowers that thrives in moist and shady areas. He said that he usually removes these types of weeds by hand, but that this technique is very labor intensive. “The biggest problem I had with weeds is this Japanese stilt grass and even on my property I remove it by hand,” he said. “It grows in almost any condition — dry, shade, light — but it comes down to if the property is a manageable size. Then you can do that


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to the best of your ability, but really keep an eye on it, same with garlic mustard, another invasive weed.” Besides hand pulling, frequent mowing can keep invasive weeds at bay. “Weeds generally don’t like frequent mowing or shade, thus effective elimination can generally be achieved with regularly mowing, hand-pulling weeds and with new plantings which shade out weeds and grow vigorously,” Sadler said. There are also entirely natural herbicides that can be used, which work very simply. Lewis said two of these natural herbicides are boiling water, which scalds a plant to death, and vinegar, its main ingredient being acetic acid, a mild acid great for weed killing. She said one substance that works well to deter the growth of Japanese stilt grass is corn gluten. Corn gluten works by drying out a seed as soon as it cracks open to spout. “If you’d like to outcompete that early in your lawn, you can use corn gluten as a preemergent weed inhibitor and then in the fall put down extra grass seed,” she said. Ticehurst said that mulch is an integral part of preventing weed growth. “Pretty much on every project there is, there’s mulch involved to help maintain and control the amount of weeds,” he said. “It also will help with holding moisture around the plants. Mulch is sort of the first line of defense.” In more extreme circumstances when dealing with larger tracts of land, Ticehurst said

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sometimes it is necessary to turn soil over it and cover it with black plastic, which resembles trash bags, to kill any weeds and seedlings underneath. Sadler also said this method could be used in an area where weeds are well established. “Sun will heat the black plastic making soil beneath untenable for weeds,” Sadler said. “This black covering may need to remain in place all season to ensure eradication.” Lewis said that newspaper covered with mulch could be used for the same purpose as the black plastic tarp. Ticehurst, though, said usually placing tarps over a meadow is not necessary. “They’re all pretty drastic measures,” he said. “With the meadows today, most of it’s controlled by mowing. What will happen is when you see a meadow, there’s a prescribed mowing schedule that prevents any of these woody invasive plants from coming up.” Ticehurst said that chemical herbicide treatment should be reserved for large problem properties. He said professional spraying does not blanket an area, but instead targets specific weeds, meaning it is no easier than many of the more environmentally friendly weed control measures. “That’s pretty much a last resort, although in certain circumstances sometimes it is the only way to really effectively do it in big areas,” Ticehurst said. “That’s also painstaking because a lot of time it’s treating each individual plant almost with an eyedropper so you’re


not getting it into the soil, but focusing right on the plants and that’s very labor intensive.” Sadler said organic herbicides are around 60 percent effective at killing weeds when weeds are less than two weeks old. He said when they begin to near a month in age, organic herbicides drop to an effectiveness of 40 percent, even if higher qualities are used. He said if used, overall they should be applied early and relatively heavily to have a moderate effect. Lewis said not to go overboard when eliminating weeds, as many plants that are commonly labeled as weeds are in fact native species that perform a key role in the environment. “You can replace weeds with native plants to create habitat for local birds and wildlife and that’s a good thing, but many plants that we call weeds are in fact native plants that might be where we don’t want them,” she said. “While people call dandelions weeds, dandelion is actually not a bad flower. Monarch butterflies need dandelions and clover in the spring before milkweed opens to provide nutrients. Bedford 2020 recommends leaving some clover and dandelions to support pollinators in the early spring before milkweed and butterfly weed emerge.” For more information about what native plants work in Westchester and invasive weeds to avoid planting or eliminate, visit sunywcc. edu/about/the-native-plant-center.



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April 25, 2014

b Composting 101 : Discover a valuable resource



y now most of us are familiar with composting at some level — the whys, the how-tos. Information about composting is widely broadcast. You can turn to government agencies, scientific and technical organizations, industry, educational institutions, civic and community groups, and publications to research and learn about composting. It’s an important issue and a concept that is at the very foundation of ensuring a sustainable future. Reducing our use of and reliance on the world’s natural resources, while working to restore the same, are the tenets of sustainability. Composting accomplishes both of these goals. A United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report published in 2009 noted that the U.S. generated 243 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW). This includes everyday items such as product packaging, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, batteries, furniture, clothes and grass clippings. The number almost doubles when you add other items not considered to be MSW, but which may also end up in landfills, such as construction and demolition materials, municipal wastewater treatment sludge and nonhazardous industrial wastes. On a per capita basis, the 243 million tons of MSW equate to 4.34 pounds per person per day. These statistics are astounding and have been steadily increasing since 1960. The good news, however, is that t he rate of recovery — that is the products removed from the waste stream for the purposes of recycling or composting — is also increasing. According to the EPA, the recovery rate as of 2009 was almost 34 percent. The message is simple: every little bit helps. Do not let these statistics overwhelm you into inaction. Composting is essential and valuable. While the optimal goal is to reduce the waste stream, we can also balance the equation by composting and increasing the recovery rate. Using the product of composting, the compost itself, is also important and valuable. Compost is worth its weight in gold. In fact it is often referred to as black gold. Adding compost to our soil improves the texture, structure, aeration, moisture level, drainage and utility of the soil. Compost balances the pH of soil and improves the electrical conductivity which helps plants access nutrients

in the soil. The result is a better quality plant. One that thrives and is better equipped to ward off pests and disease, and, with respect to edible crops, one that has higher nutrient levels and tastes better. Use of compost also reduces and/or eliminates the need to purchase and use chemical fertilizers. Topdressing lawns with compost improves the look of the lawn over time without using a chemical fertilizer. There are very simple methods of composting and others that require more intensive management. Once you decide on a method it quickly becomes routine at which point you may incorporate several methods into your household. Holding Units… are plastic, enclosed, but aerated containers available at hardware stores, garden centers and online. They can be used to collect yard waste and kitchen scraps. Chopping and shredding waste will speed up the composting process and you will need to manually mix the contents. It is best to locate these near the home for convenience, especially during winter months. Turning Units… are also plastic, enclosed and aerated containers. However, these are barrel-shaped tumblers that allow you to easily spin the drum for more complete mixing. Compost is produced quicker as a result. Some turning units collect liquid at the base of the unit which can be used for compost tea, an organic, high-nutrient based fertilizer. Stock Pile Bins… are holding bins made out of wood or wire. These are specifically used for yard waste such as leaves, twigs and grass clippings. These can be purchased, but are also easily made. A three-bin system can be made by nailing wooden pallets together

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to create three separate compartments, each open to the front. Fresh waste goes into the first compartment. Once it’s mostly composted you move it to the second bin to let it finish “cooking.” The third compartment holds finished and ready-to-use compost. Piles… this is the simplest method of composting yard waste. Leaves, grass and garden clippings can just be piled up in an uncontained heap about 4 feet wide and tall. This provides enough surface area and heat to fuel the composting process. Vermicomposting… is small-scale composting and is done inside. It is an especially useful way to manage kitchen waste. Vermicomposting uses the red wiggler worm (Eisenia fetida), which can be purchased online. It is important to note that this type of worm is not native to our soil and is very efficient at breaking down waste, so careful measures should be taken to ensure that they are not added to the landscape. Worm box “condos” can be purchased or a simple worm box can be created using two plastic bins, one that fits snuggly inside the other. Holes are punctured on the lid to provide air to the worms and composting process. Add the worms, some shredded newspaper or brown bag and a small amount of soil. Next add kitchen waste (no meats, bones, fats, oils) and the worms do the rest. The worms digest the waste and produce worm castings, which are actually pure humus, the fundamental element of compost. The liquid generated makes for excellent compost tea, and the humus itself can be used. Carefully separate out the worms (this is where the compartmented worm “condos” come in handy) and then letting the humus

dry out, it is then combined with soil to use in the garden. Whatever method you choose, the basic ingredients of compost, i.e., what you put into the bins, is a simple formula: brown (carbonrich) + green (nitrogen-rich) + water = compost. The ideal carbon-nitrogen ratio for an active pile is 30:1, plus just enough water to maintain the pile moist but not soggy. • Kitchen greens: includes fruit and vegetable scraps, houseplant cuttings, coffee grounds, rice, pasta, eggshells and tea bags. Never any meat, bones, sauces, fats or oils, or pet waste. • Yard greens: includes flowers, vegetables, plant trimmings, hedge clippings and grass clippings. Careful to not include any clippings that appear to be diseased. • Kitchen browns: includes coffee filters, stale bread, paper napkins, dryer lint and hair. Do not include ashes. • Yard browns: includes leaves, straw or hay, small twigs, wood chips, dried grass and weeds. However, do not include any mature weeds with seeds that you do not want to appear in your lawn or garden. It is also helpful to think of the process in terms of seasons: 1) Spring is a good time to dig out any finished compost from the bottom of the bin, then add some soil to what’s left to kick-start the composting process. 2) During summer, make sure to stir the pile frequently and add water should it appear dry. Be sure to cover freshly added waste with leaves to keep smells from developing in the summertime heat. 3) Dress your garden beds and lawn in the fall with the finished compost that was produced during the spring and summer. Fallen leaves can be added to the pile to provide the brown needed during the winter months. 4) Keep filling the bin with kitchen scraps during the winter. The decomposition process will slow during the colder temperature, but will pick up again in the spring. Xenia D’Ambrosi of Sweet Earth Co. designs, installs and maintains edible and ornamental landscapes, kitchen and herb gardens, meadows and rain gardens. Sweet Earth can help expand, renovate and revitalize your existing garden in a sustainable way. Sweet Earth provides horticultural services and coaching should you need help with site location, design suggestions, soil testing, plant selections, planting and harvesting schedules, composting, insect identification and management or general troubleshooting advice.

April 25, 2014


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b Seven reasons to love your lawn


s summer approaches and your thoughts turn to home improvement and the outdoors, you’re probably considering a variety of ways to make your home more comfortable, more attractive and more environmentally sustainable — while hopefully increasing its value as well. One feature that can achieve all these goals is a healthy lawn. Perhaps surprisingly, installing and maintaining a natural turf lawn is one of the best home improvement investments a homeowner can make. If you’re weighing your options and wondering whether a lawn is worth the effort, consider the following 10 benefits. 1) Outdoor recreation: An inviting, lowmaintenance outdoor space can provide a significant boost to your quality of life. From picnics and games to lounging in the shade with a drink and a good book, a lawn offers the perfect setting for outdoor entertainment and relaxation. 2) Increased home value: Grass makes a home more appealing. A well-maintained lawn is recognized as such a desirable feature to potential homebuyers that it can boost a home’s value by as much as 15 percent, according to a Gallup survey. 3) Excellent return on investment: When it comes time to sell your home, good landscaping can give you a much higher return on your investment than many other home improvement projects. According to a Gallup survey, you can generally expect to recover 40 to 70 percent of the cost of building a deck or patio, while landscaping can offer a 100 to 200 percent return. 4) Stress relief: Grass areas are naturally calming and stress relieving, and the visual

appeal contributes to improved mental health and better quality of life. 5) Cooling: On hot days, grass is much cooler than cement, asphalt and dirt, which trap heat. And grass doesn’t just stay cool to the touch — it cools the atmosphere as well. Each blade acts as an evaporative cooler, and by transpiring water to cool itself, grass also cools the environment, reducing the energy requirements for air-conditioning in buildings surrounded by lawns. According to the academic professionals with Grass Seed USA, the front lawns of eight average-size homes have the same cooling effect as the air-conditioning systems of about 20 homes. 6) Natural weed control: If you want a relatively low-maintenance landscaping option for an area of bare ground, try grass. A healthy lawn discourages the growth of weeds, and grass will easily outcompete other plants when you create the conditions that favor it. 7) Erosion prevention: Grass is one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to prevent erosion caused by wind and water. A thick lawn absorbs rainfall, virtually eliminating any runoff, and the extensive root systems of the individual grass plants bind the soil more effectively than many other ground covers. “There are many reasons to love your lawn,” said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists. “Whether you want a safe place for the kids to play or a welcoming outdoor space for a barbecue, grass fits the bill. It’s a remarkably easy and budgetfriendly way to add aesthetic, recreational and economic value to your home.” — BPT

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April 25, 2014

k Garden

b Green and permeable alternatives to hardscaping



omeowners who are planning to enlarge a driveway or install a patio are often surprised to find that their town limits the amount of paved or “impervious” surfaces allowed on their property. That’s because when there are hard surfaces in the way, stormwater isn’t absorbed where it falls and that causes major headaches for property owners, neighbors whose basements are suddenly flooding because of new hardscaping on an adjacent property, and municipalities whose drainage systems are overburdened. The building department may suggest that the homeowner look into some sort of permeable pavement option instead of the usual asphalt, concrete or slate. Hastingson-Hudson recently passed a green building code that limits the amount of runoff properties can produce, and encourages using permeable surfaces instead of blacktop or concrete. Cities have had stormwater problems for years, but now suburban areas are getting very serious about too much water with no place to go. Areas with high building density, combined with paved roads, parking lots, sidewalks and patios, tend to have water management problems because when it rains, the water that can’t be absorbed directly into the ground runs out into the street where it heads for the storm drains. In neighborhoods with a large amount of paved surfaces, it’s not unusual to see rainwater cascading off driveways and along the roadside, heading for the storm drains in a rushing torrent. Along the way to the storm drains, the water picks up residue from whatever is on the roadway, including road salt, oil and other chemicals from cars. Ultimately, this polluted water ends up in streams, rivers and even saltwater inlets, depending on where the stormwater system finally empties out. But when there’s a significant amount of rain during a major event such as a hurricane, the storm drains just can’t handle the amount of runoff. That’s when you see the drains backing up into the street and flooding occurring in the neighborhood. If it’s autumn and there are leaves already clogging the storm drains, they can back up frequently. The storm drain systems in most towns just weren’t built to handle the high volume of runoff that is occurring nowadays.

Some people have drains installed in their driveways to keep water away from the house. If these drains also lead to the town’s storm drain system, the y may be effective in keeping your basement or garage dry, but they will also add to the pollution that gets into waterways, and they can back up just like the drains out by the roadside. Another reason homeowners are looking into permeable pavements is that they can reduce the “heat island” effect. When there are large expanses of impervious surfaces such as pavements or roofs, the surfaces absorb heat from the sun and then release the heat into the surrounding areas. The more impervious surfaces in an area, the higher the ambient temperature becomes. Planting more trees can reduce the heat island effect. If you’re adventurous and have a house with a flat or very slightly sloped roofline, your home may be a candidate for a vegetated or “green” roof (this is something that can be installed by an experienced contractor only). For most people, changing the paving material is a more practical solution than installing a “living” roof. There are a number of permeable paving alternatives, from the low-tech to the high tech. Environmental horticulturist Kim Eierman, founder of EcoBeneficial! in Bronx-

ville, said the first choice in terms of water absorption is a gravel driveway. But those are only practical when the driveway is not on an incline, since heavy rains will wash the gravel into the street. Gravel is also a good solution for walkways on the property. In coastal areas, walkways made of crushed seashells are equally absorbent and attractive. “If you have a steep grade on your driveway, your choices will be more limited because the systems that are installed by contractors involve underground piping for runoff and those types, which are typically PVC, have to be cleaned out periodically because you have to have good flow.” Eierman said keeping the water onsite “requires quite a bit of thinking and engineering.” She recommended that anyone considering installing such a system should have a contractor come out during a rain event to assess the volume of rain that’s coming off the roofline and coming down the driveway. “If you don’t know the magnitude that the solution should be, or if you don’t have a level driveway where you can’t just plunk in the gravel, find a contractor who understands this, or you might end up with an expensive option that fails,” she said. Homeowners should be wary of contrac-

tors who promise that simply installing permeable pavement without an underground drainage system will be sufficient, Eierman warned. There’s no way of knowing whether that is true without measuring the volume of water running off during a rainstorm. Some of the permeable pavement systems are more suitable for areas with automobile traffic and others are more appropriate for foot traffic. Open grid paving systems feature a diamond-shaped grid with spaces in between that allow grass to grow between the paving material and rain to be absorbed into the ground. These can be quite decorative, although they do require installation by a specialized contractor and they call for more maintenance to keep the length of the grass under control. Permeable interlocking concrete pavers are almost like a tile floor, in that the paving stones are available in different shapes, sizes and colors. But instead of grout in between, there is sand, allowing water to flow through and reach the subsoil. There are also new forms of continuous porous pavement with the appearance of asphalt or gravel. All these systems have complex layers of gravel and geotextiles underneath the surface to enhance water absorption while keeping the surface material stable.

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April 25, 2014


k Garden

Deck staining secrets for success


fter one of the toughest winters on record, your backyard deck may be looking worse for wear. And spring showers will just bring more potential damage to unprotected wood. Water is your deck’s worst enemy. It causes ugly and expensive cracking and splitting. Luckily, restoring your deck’s beauty and protecting it from further damage can be relatively easy and affordable. HGTV/DIY Network star and seasoned deck builder Jeff Wilson shares his six essential tips for success for this popular project. • Coming clean: “Cleaning the deck first is critical — even new wood,” Wilson said. “You wouldn’t wax a dirty car, so don’t stain a dirty deck. Good prep means a better finished look and can help the stain last longer.” The new line of Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain, available exclusively at The Home Depot, can be applied to damp wood, so application of the stain can start just hours after cleaning. • Take the temperature: Apply stain when the thermometer reads 50 to 90 degrees. Make sure there is no rain in the forecast for 24 to 48 hours and do not apply the stain in direct sunlight if it can be avoided. • Choose the right color and look: Homeowners have a few options when it comes to choosing the right color for their deck. A clear coating is best to show off wood’s natural beauty. Transparent stain shows the most wood grain with minimum color. Semi-transparent stain shows medium wood grain with more color. Solid stain shows the least wood grain with the most color. (Every can of Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain has a sliding scale to

show you exactly which look you’re getting.) “When applying waterproofing stain, always test the stain first in an inconspicuous corner to be sure you like the color,” Wilson advised. • More is not always better: When it’s time to stain, use a paint pad on a long pole for application. This will ensure an even distribution of the stain and a smooth finish — and it’s easier on your back. One coat is enough to get the job done and the stain dries to the touch in a few hours. • Set boundaries: Many homeowners find themselves staining more than just their deck. Be sure to add painter’s tape where the top of the deck and the exterior wall meet. This ensures the deck stain stays on the deck. Work from top to bottom or side to side in areas small enough to allow the leading edge to remain wet at all times during application. Use natural breaks, such as windows and doors, as boundaries to divide large areas into more manageable work areas. • Protect from water damage: Many people ask if they need to put a clear waterproofer on top of a deck stain for added protection. “Definitely not,” Wilson said. “An exterior stain will provide color and waterproofing protection, all in one coat.” “Tackle your deck makeover project at the beginning of the season, and you can enjoy the deck worry-free for the rest of the year,” Wilson suggested. Watch step-by-step videos demonstrating deck cleaning and staining that can be seen at or www. — BPT











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k Garden

Courtesy of B Fein Interiors

An oriental rug layered over a sisal rug gives this room a grand feel.

Hardwood + Area Carpet=Flawless



ardwood floors or carpet? The answer is a win-win — both! First you’ve got to start with hardwood flooring, the area of expertise of Frank Savino of Savino Brothers Hardwood Flooring Contractors in Ardsley. “The traditional unfinished oak flooring sanded and stained has stood the test of time,” Savino said. “Also, prefinished oak flooring such as the brand called Mirage is a very good product that is milled to perfection with a 25-year warranty on wear. The Cadillac of prefinished. The consumer should be aware of many prefinished hardwood flooring products with cheap prices. The price may sound good at first, but the milling is inferior and the protective coating will not hold.” Prefinished hardwood flooring — even good quality — has its drawbacks. While it can be easily installed, nailed right down and it has no odor since the urethane is already on it, Savino is not a big fan of the “micro v” groove on all four sides that could trap dirt and grime. “In my opinion, it also looks fake, almost plastic-looking,” Savino said. “Nothing can compare to installing an unfinished oak floor, sanded and stained. That’s where the craftsmanship comes in. The tag line from the National Wood Flooring Association, of which we are members, and which is a great source of information for the consumer, is

Dark grey carpet with hardwood floor vs. fuchsia pop on pillows, and white, white, white.

‘Real wood floors, beauty that lasts a lifetime.’” Savino Brothers uses a truck-mounted Dust Containment System to eliminate about 95 percent of refinishing dust. The Vermont Natural Coatings urethane they use is also environmentally friendly. “You want quality in the product and fine workmanship in the installation or refinishing,” Savino said. “Price is important, but quality is priceless. The consumer should do their homework in researching the product and hiring a contractor. Check with the department of consumer protection, the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, referrals from

April 25, 2014

Courtesy of Margaret Wilson & Company Inc.

neighbors or friends.” For hardwood fans it’s a great time to make a bold choice, according to Donna Kanter of Kanter’s Carpet & Design in White Plains. “The hardwood is amazing now,” Kanter said. “They have not only your oak and maple and your regular woods, but now they have exotic woods, woods from Africa. Tigerwood, too. Your floor isn’t just a regular wood anymore — people are doing these exotic woods that almost give a design in your floor.” Another option for your floors is luxury vinyl tiles or LVTs. “They’re very big now, especially with all

Flooring the flooding that’s been happening in people’s basements,” Kanter said. “These LVTs go down, they can take water. Instead of people putting carpeting in their basements like they used to, if they got wet you dry it out a little, but this is so much nicer. It’s a nicer look. The finishes are what’s hot, especially for the younger people. The brushed concrete look, the stone look. That’s hot.” While you have the option to leave your floor bare and beautiful, you can also add accent with carpeting of all sizes and styles throughout your house. For Kanter, wall-towall is a popular choice for bedrooms for her customers who like to get out of bed onto a “soft, cushy carpet.” Of course, every room is different and so are the patterns, colors and sizes of the carpets. “In your living room or dining room area since it’s all these big, open floor plans, people like to do the area rugs and maybe have a different design in your dining room, which looks into your den, which looks into your living room,” Kanter said. Area rugs are a big part of the industry now. “The colors are amazing and the wools are great with dying — they take the dye well, so the colors are very vibrant,” Kanter said. It’s not just the walls and the furniture giving the look of each room a boost. “Flooring has become a statement,” Kanter said. Two weeks ago Barbara Feinstein of B Fein Interiors in Scarsdale spent time with several rug vendors at the 2014 Spring High Point Furniture Market. “Some of the trends on the horizon for rugs are rugs from natural materials — felted Continued on next page

April 25, 2014


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Courtesy of Kanter’s Carpet & Design Center

An area rug on top of luxury vinyl tiles offers just enough covering for the LVTs to be the center of attention.

Neutrals in sisals add to the many patterns in the chairs, pillows and windows.

Courtesy of Margaret Wilson & Company Inc.

Continued from previous page wool, hand-spun jute, hemp, pieced hair-on hides and leather rugs, alpaca rugs, sheepskin rugs,” Feinstein said. “Textures — especially chunky textures in natural materials — are looking fresh. Flat weaves are coming back and are quite different from the Dhurries most of us associate with this type of construction. Layering of rugs is also a trend coming on strong. Rugs pieced from floor tiles (FLOR is the leader in this area) are also an ongoing trend.” Certain things to pay attention to are: 1) if you have dogs, you don’t want a carpet with a loop; 2) felted wool is tough to clean; and 3) “Beater bars and fine rugs are often a bad equation.” She also recommends “fool proof ” floor tiles for places like kids’ rooms, playrooms and mudrooms. The tiles can be picked up to be cleaned and put right back in place with no hassle. A designer’s perspective

Margaret Wilson’s message about wood floors is clear: “Floors don’t have to be brown.” “I’ll do a lot with custom finishes, painting the floors with a faux finish and doing a design on the floor, adding a piece of color or an entire border,” said Wilson of Margaret Wilson & Co. Interior Design and Decoration in Bedford. “The other thing is that there is a company out of New York that is actually doing colored floors — red floors, yellow floors, green floors, blue floors, that are absolutely spectacularly gorgeous.” The PID Floors InLove Collection has

Area rugs are a big part of the industry now. “The colors are amazing and the wools are great with dying — they take the dye well, so the colors are very vibrant.” — Donna Kanter of Kanter’s Carpet & Design in White Plains

caught Wilson’s eye. “Gone is the oak floor of the 1960s, 1970s — that golden oak is gone,” Wilson said. “You can walk into a house and know that it’s really dated. If you’re going to go with woods, probably more fruit woods, the medium to darker tone floors, giving you more of a modern, hipper look. I’m really excited about the colored floors. It’s a spectacular innovation. It opens itself up to great playrooms, great kids’ rooms, detailing sports areas in side houses. Things like that.” Wilson said that while these are more often being used commercially, they are perfect for any type of theme room or a summer or vacation home where you might want some


Courtesy of B Fein Interiors

Custom rug made from FLOR floor tiles.

Luxury vinyl tiles combined with carpet offer a fresh looks and a great design.

blues to accent the water or some creams or grays in the flooring as if you’re in the Caribbean. “Color is coming into wood flooring in a very special way,” Wilson said. “The processes are a lot different. They’re prefinished so you can just install them. They can be installed over existing wood floors. These are mostly for new installations, but the old floors take two or three sandings and they’re done. “Same with the rugs, it’s an exciting time to be looking at floors a lot differently than we’ve been looking at them. By the time somebody moves into a house up here unless they are building a house, they’re probably not installing the floors. They’re probably going in and saying, ‘Oh, we want carpet.’ In that case the carpet options are tremendous.” Like the hardwood flooring companies, the carpet companies are making something old and making it new — literally. Overstocked with colors that people aren’t buying anymore, like burgundy, navy blue and dark green, the rug companies are over-dying the existing rugs to re-energize their stock. “They will put in turquoise, they will put in yellows, they will put in hot pinks,” Wilson said. “It’s almost like a tie-dye over the top of these older colored carpets. They are so exciting, it’s unbelievable. We’re coming out of a very dark period and colors are being allowed to be much more present inside room settings.” Sisal carpets are popular, though they aren’t easy to clean, so you want to keep that in mind. Also you don’t want them where you might have an issue with water. The natural fibers that make up the carpets add

Courtesy of Kanter’s Carpet & Design Center

“wonderful texture to a room. There are different weaves — 40 or 50 in the sisals — different colors from spectacular grays to really deep chocolates to light neutrals. The sisal has not gone into bright colors, staying very natural based. I use those a lot also.” The flooring, whether the wood or LVTs alone or in combination with the rug, works with the wall color, the details in the ceiling and the fabrics throughout the room to create a perfect picture. “As an interior designer, what we try to do is link in all the pieces,” Wilson said. “It’s not just a matter of putting in one piece to pop. Sometimes it is, but it’s a matter of coordinating some of the details that also make it relate to other components of the room.” For Wilson, wall-to-wall carpeting is not an option — well, only in a bedroom if she’s not given the option by a client. Her preference is to have a 4- or 5-inch border of floor showing around the border of the room. It gives the appearance of having the rug “float.” “The nice thing about that is the rug sort of stretches out to try to reach the wall, but it’s not touching the wall,” Wilson said. “The wall-to-wall is a very ’60s, ’70s thing. Shrinking it to the perimeter of the room gives it a really wonderful statement.” Even with carpet going up stairs, including curved staircases, Wilson likes a 2- or 3-inch strip of wood on each side. “A broad runner is much more architectural,” she said. And while there is a movement away from the browns, whether they are covered by a carpet or not, some of today’s browns have style and detail never before imagined. You’ll definitely be floored by the progress.



k Garden

April 25, 2014

Spring facelift & beyond

Transform your outside from tired to terrific! By LAURIE SULLIVAN Spring is here and after a brutally cold and snowy winter, it’s time to give the outside of your house the facelift it deserves. Architectural and decorative touches can go a long way to improve your house’s appearance — and add to its curb appeal. Think new paint or siding, new shutters or paint the ones you have. Add a new front door or paint the one you have in a fun, bright, bold color. Have an overhang on your front porch? Adding columns, a pergola or an awning (and window awnings while you’re at it) will give it a finished look. Or enlarge it and fence it in and add seating or even a glider. For a home without a porch, why not add one and maybe add built-in benches? Think about adding paving stones in the driveway, a new walkway, resurfacing steps and porch surfaces, or new lighting. Take it up another notch and think about a total makeover of your façade. Do as little or as much as you want, but an opinion from a skilled designer or architect is the perfect starting point. Say hello to spring with flowers

Nothing says spring more than flowers. Anything and everything can be used to make a splash with them. A planter placed on an antique wrought iron chair or flowers inside a copper wash bin on a front porch or your front lawn can add your own personal

touch. Window boxes stuffed to overflowing with geraniums or other annuals add color and say hello to spring. Planters painted the color of your home or a bold color to match your front door bursting with pansies add color and dimension. A skilled carpenter can make a pair to your specs. For a more formal look, flower-filled tall urns add drama. Spring solutions

Architect Mark Behr works with his father Richard at Richard Behr Architects in Scarsdale and also heads up the firm’s Burlington, Vt., office, where he lives. He commutes from Vermont to Scarsdale two or three times a month to work on projects here. Behr Architects build new homes, do renovations, and “a little bit of everything.” Behr explained that clients have to figure out what they want. “If a house is tired, fix it,” he said. “See what is lacking as far as curb appeal goes.” At this time of year before the garden and landscaping is in full bloom, Behr said it’s easier to make a recommendation if the client can describe how the house looks at its best. First they look at the style of the house and see if there’s a type of front door overhang that would be aesthetically pleasing. He said it helps when the client has a budget. The process begins with priorities and budget. “It starts here and then we see where it goes from there,” Behr explained.

Courtesy Cal Petrescu AIA, Cal Petrescu Architecture and Design Above and below, before and after photos of a remodeled home respectful of the initial Tudor style. The project expresses the owner’s desire to increase the size of the house, as it preserves the carefully detailed “jewel cottage” scale in this park-like setting.

Continued on page 16A

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April 25, 2014


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Trim adds dimension in and out


hen people think of home trim, they often picture the beauty it brings to exteriors — but the right trim products can add arrestingly elegant and bold decorative elements throughout home interiors, too. High-quality cellular PVC trim from Kleer Lumber, a division of The Tapco Group, is an innovative, versatile solution that can do exactly that. All homeowners need is their imagination for creative, eye-catching and even unexpected applications. From beadboard for beautiful wainscoting to moldings for stunning cornices and valances, the possibilities are unlimited. Kleer trimboard, moldings and sheets offer the rich authentic style you desire. Apply these products anywhere you would traditionally use wood throughout the interior — without concerns about moisture or insect damage because Kleer’s cellular PVC material is impervious. The trim, moldings and sheets are available in a range of thicknesses, widths and lengths. Dimensionally stable and easy to cut, route and machine, all Kleer products are ideal for creating complex custom details, such as fluted pilasters for regal-looking rooms. Heatbending can be used for elegant curves, such as door and ceiling arches and winding staircases. Available in pure white, the trimboard, moldings and sheets retain their fresh appearance for decades with just soap and water. While Kleer products never need paint to add beauty, they can be painted to complement, match or contrast other interior elements. They enliven and grace any interior space, from dining and living rooms to foyers and staircases. Of course, this trim works especially well in moisture-prone spaces such as baths, laundry rooms and finished basements.

Kleer trimboard has a natural wood grain finish and is also available with a two-sided smooth finish. From warm, inviting applications around door frames and archways to even more sophisticated elements, such as stylish cornices, robust box beams, built-in bookcases and dramatic window valences and aprons. Trimboard also provides the ideal solution for hard-to-finish curved walls, arches and staircases. Kleer’s finely crafted crown moldings create elegant transitions between walls and ceilings, and perfectly finished ceiling beams. Moldings can also be installed as cozy-looking chair rails in dining rooms and other areas where walls require protection. For a sophisticated finishing touch, the moldings can be paired with warm wainscoting made from sheets and trim. Since all moldings come in standard 16-foot lengths, there are few finger joints on longer trim runs. In addition, you don’t have to worry about the finger joints showing through the paint. Available in smooth and grain finishes, these sheets are easily cut to desired sizes and can be used as solid panels, such as for wainscoting or square-panels in box-beam ceilings. They can cover drywall and clad bare or worn areas to create finished, low-maintenance surfaces. The versatile sheets add alluring focal points to dining rooms, living rooms or other entertaining spaces, too — they’re a particularly stunning decorative asset when installed as raised panels for a multi-dimensional look. With unmatched quality, aesthetics, durability and versatility, Kleer gives homeowners newfound freedom when it comes to interior trim applications. For more information, visit — BPT

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Spring FAcelift Continued from page 14A Window treatments are a part of a larger job. When a client comes who just bought a house, and maybe it’s a house that hasn’t been updated since the 1920s, “They typically want to update kitchens and master bedrooms,” Behr said. It’s typical to do a renovation job over the years. Behr added that when the owner has the desire to freshen up the look of home, it also adds to its curb appeal — and adds to its value. “We don’t have limits of what we do or don’t do; every project is unique,” Behr said. “We get to know the client and find out what they want. If they want a smaller job — a facelift — we make recommendations maybe by replacing the storm windows that have gotten old to make it pop, or on a bigger job replacing windows with new and get rid of the old triple track storms on the outside. No job is standard. It really depends on what the client is looking for. They may say their house is tired. They may just want to do some changes and we recommend a contractor. There may not be any architectural changes — we just spend a couple of hours in the field meeting with the client.” Behr emphasized that there are no stock recommendations for doing a facelift. Every project is unique and depends on what a client is looking for. “Our job is to help them figure that out,” he said. “If a roof needs to be replaced, it may have some structural issues. On an old house windows may be broken.” When asked what he would recommend as a spring makeover, Behr said, “It’s hard

A full service interior design firm, located in Scarsdale and owned by Barbara Feinstein, Allied ASID


April 25, 2014

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to answer. In your own house it’s always so individual.” One of his recommendations is to look at whether you’re going to power wash siding to clean off the winter grime, which he said is always a quick fix, especially if it’s vinyl siding, which a lot of homes have. Repainting is another way to spruce up your home. By May it’s warm enough. Behr said that a front porch can be added very easily, which is something his firm does. “A wraparound porch has to meet zoning requirements — it has to have a certain amount of setback,” he noted. Plus there has to be space available as well and must suit the style of house. Behr advised, “When in doubt before you want to build anything check with the planning board.” Design meets architecture

Scarsdale-based architect Cal Petrescu works all over Westchester and Greenwich and has done apartments in Manhattan. His unique résumé also includes what he described as design and real estate construction experience working in-house as director of design for Tiffany and Brooks Brothers, jobs that took him all over the world expanding the chains. Asked his thoughts on doing a spring home makeover, he said that new windows can be changed at any time. “To put your home’s best foot forward,” he suggested to at least start with windows on the front of your home “so you get to enjoy it more in spring and summer” and do the others at a later time. New windows also have better insulating qualities, are more energy efficient and add to the value of your home. He also stressed that good windows last longer. Ac-

Courtesy Tom Dieck, TRD Designs, Ltd.

Above, before and below, after of exterior home renovation showing a new portico, renovated landscaping, new masonry entry to the house along with landscape lighting.

Continued on next page

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Continued from previous page cording to Petrescu, replacing old windows with new frames and windows stops the rain from penetrating into the house. To give the appearance of taller windows he suggests adding transoms made of glass or a combination of wood and glass on top, in the middle or on the bottom of the windows. Petrescu explained that transoms extend a window’s visual appearance. In fact, window changes affect the impact of the house. Petrescu also suggested using window boxes combined with a new window design. He highly recommends that homeowners work with a professional architect. For replacing windows in kind you don’t have to go to the village for approval, but you do for making changes, i.e. larger ones. “I always listen to my clients and incorporate their lifestyle into the design — it could have a lot of windows,” Petrescu said. “Some people want to be very private. A lot of the landscaping can provide a lot of privacy. “When possible it’s excellent practice and supported by the village guidelines to hide the garage from the façade. It should be at the side. [This design is] always recommended by most architectural review boards in Westchester. It’s the most important improvement you can make. [Of course] you have to have the land.” Petrescu went on to say that fencing and screening from the neighbors is important and can be very effective using the right landscaping that includes evergreens, which he said “are very nice — and are the lowest cost. It’s important to be sensitive to the neighbors.” Remodeling an existing front porch can be done many ways. If the property allows, it can be enlarged — “doubled and tripled in size to have more impact.” On an old house,

The RIVeRTOWNS eNTeRPRISe | Page 17a

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he recommends upgrading rotting porch railings. To take it to a better design level he suggested adding a copper roof on a porch or on bay windows. “Sometimes you can add a screen porch; if it’s large enough you can add seating, flowers and lighting, sconces,” Petrescu said. “The entire façade can be reinvigorated with external lighting like directional lights that light up the exterior. It can be done very inexpensively — add just a few. Lights that show the entire façade of the house, lights you put on the top of a tree.” Lighting can be extended into the landscaping. Mushroom or low lights along a path add to the safety of climbing steps and getting to the garage. Low lights have small solar panels so it doesn’t have to be wired and therefore doesn’t use electricity. These lights provide safety, add to the look of the house and are environmentally responsible. And don’t forget gutters, which need to be cleaned and may in fact need to be replaced. Petrescu said people change gutters from aluminum to copper, depending on their budget. “It all has to do with the style of the house,” he noted. “You really have to go to an architect to have a prettier house, to find out what’s most economical and environmentally responsible,” Petrescu said. “And get a schedule. Anything major, if you want it in April, you have to start in October. Windows can be changed at any time.”


Window transoms, along with other clearly defined window shapes help flood the house with natural light.

outdoor environments

In business since 1986, Tom Dieck is the owner of TRD Designs in Katonah. TRD designs outdoor environments and does project management on a variety of indoor construction in Westchester and Fairfield counties. Projects run the gamut from decks,

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example of imaginative use of windows at rear of home. Transom windows above regular windows offer vertical visual extension and increased natural light.

patios and fire pits to landscape lighting and landscape design. TRD power washes decks, garages and house siding to remove winter gunk. They clean gutters or add new ones and design new landscaping. Dieck’s firm builds stone walls and walkways and does permeable walkways so water can run off driveways to storm sewers. This type of walkway adds a catch area that reduces water surface runoff. “If you have a well it’s good to get as much water back into the ground,” Dieck said, referring to it as rainwater harvesting or stormwater management, storing water underground. “It’s sustainable and good for the environment. It’s a win-win situation and maintains the beauty of the property, allowing you to reuse water around your home and garden.” Dieck said they also extend driveways to accommodate guest cars and can redesign the front of a house. TRD uses computer imaging for its design work. TRD Designs has added pergolas and porticos outside front doors, which “changes the focal point of the front door, either adding onto the existing footprint or keeping one that’s there.” TRD also does LED lighting to add drama to a home’s façade and to add curb appeal. In terms of spring makeover, Dieck said, “Primarily people are looking to do spring cleanups, which we do, but we’re booked up.” TRD will make suggestions for painting the color of a house to take it from drab to fabulous. They also do project management and act as the general contractor, hiring contractors, painters, etc. for indoor projects. If a client has their own people in mind, then TRD will act as the GC overseeing the job; otherwise they act as consultants. According to their website, “you may never want to leave home again.”

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Page 18a | The RIVeRTOWNS eNTeRPRISe


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fAuCetS, tiLe, toiLetS: Bathroom choices are plenty



hen you walk into a bathroom you can tell by the color of the tiles alone what decade it was last updated. If you have things like glass tiles, wallmounted toilets, custom stone and vessel sinks, heated towel bars and radiant floor mats, you know you’re no longer in a time warp — you’re in the 21st century. And for those who truly want to make a statement, try a mirror that incorporates a television. Wall-mounted faucets have become extremely popular, as are vessel sinks, which sit atop the countertop. And the options and styles are endless, according to Barbara Piazza of Euphoria Kitchen & Bath in Bedford Hills. “They can be glass, they can be metal, they can go as elaborate as being handcrafted stone, granite or onyx or marble, which are at the higher end and quite a bit more expensive,” Piazza said of the sinks. “Those are certainly unusual and one-of-a-kind pieces.” Piazza recommends Stone Forest for the handcrafted stones and Native Trails for “unusual” vanities and bath furniture. “I think people are looking for sinks and vanities that are a little unique that look more like furniture rather than kitchen cabinets that you’re plopping into your bathroom,” Piazza said. “They also don’t want to go totally custom, so they’re looking for unusual things that aren’t totally custom.” Of course the more space you have in your bathroom, the more options you can include,



“there are great ways to create storage in the bathroom, to customize it for unique situations, such as towel storage or hampers or integrating televisions into mirrors, which is a lot of fun.” – BarBara piaZZa of eUphoria KitChen & Bath

but these products work well in the given space whether it’s a master bath or a powder room. “You don’t have to increase the size of the room to get this kind of an impact,” Piazza said. “You can get a lot of impact even in a small footprint. Many people don’t have the luxury of enlarging their bath to achieve something unusual so you have to work within the confines. A lot of these companies are developing really interesting, more mass-produced items that are really good looking.” When it comes to your toilet, the popular Continued on next page

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Continued from previous page choice is not only a wall-mounted potty, but one that is customized to your height preference. In addition, low flush is an option to save water, and there are even dual flush toilets with the option for a solid or liquid flush depending on the need. Eco-friendly is certainly a priority these days. Kohler, Duravit and Toto all do wallmounted toilets and are all good choices for style and function, according to Piazza. Radiant floor heat avoids having to walk on cold floor tiles. “If the budget allows that’s a really nice bonus,” Piazza said. “It warms up the floor and it doesn’t have to be extravagant. They have great economical floor mats that you can build into the space and meet most everybody’s budget. That just creates a level of warmth so you’re not walking on the cold floor from the bedroom at night. It’s really nice.” Heated towel bars are just another piece of the puzzle to provide a more comfortable experience. With master baths, in addition to your extravagant shower and luxury tub, there is no wasted space. “There are great ways to create storage in the bathroom, to customize it for unique situations, such as towel storage or hampers or integrating televisions into mirrors, which is a lot of fun,” Piazza said. “You don’t even realize you have a TV behind your mirror. If you have a Whirlpool or a soaking tub you can have your media integrated without it looking like a media room and still keep that spa vibe, which a lot of clients are going for. They want tranquility in the spaces they’re in.” (Those TV options can be seen at

The best of the bathroom Dreamworks Kitchens, Bathrooms & Fine Cabinetry offered these trends for 2014: • Contemporary style has replaced transitional, and traditional design moves to third place. Shaker style cabinetry still going strong. Declining styles: rustic, Tuscan, provincial. • Colors: Grays fastest growing color in tile, paint and cabinetry, however, beige and bone will still be No. 1. • Sinks and faucets: Still satin nickel and polished chrome. Vessel sinks are losing ground, replaced by more functional undermount sinks (beige and bone). • Vanity tops: Quartz is overtaking marble and granite — it’s nonporous and companies have found a way to duplicate the “movement” of real stone. • Flooring: Tile still most popular. Wood floors gaining popularity. — Paul Bookbinder

Seeing is believing and so is mood, so the right lighting also plays a role in the bathroom. “That’s an important part of the design picture when you’re selecting fixtures and furniture, you’re also dealing with lighting, whether it be wall-mounted sconces and certainly some overhead light to create mood,” Piazza said. “Certainly dimmers and different controls like that are really important.” Renovate or invigorate

Lenco Tile in Irvington offers two services for bathrooms — complete renovation and restoration. The first option as described on their website: “Bathroom Renovation — Lenco Tile will completely renovate your entire bathroom all the way down to the studs of the walls. We replace the old walls with new water resistant sheet rock, re-tile the floor walls and

floor, grout the tiles, paint the walls and replace light fixtures & vanities. We will also coordinate with a licensed plumber if you want to replace the old pipes, toilet and/or tub.” That full-service treatment isn’t always possible, and not always necessary, hence Lenco Tile’s restoration, which can include regrouting, recoloring and recaulking. “It’s really a good service for people who don’t want to spend money renovating and they like what they have and everything is in good condition,” Lenco’s Lenny Capuano said. “We clean everything up and make it new again without having to spend so much money in renovation costs. It gives everything a little more shelf life.” Tile is a specialty for Capuano. “A lot of people like the glass tiles, especially for backsplashes, with mosaics, a bunch of different colors other than just plain old squares,” Capuano said. “You can do differ-

ent shapes, different colors. There’s porcelain, metal, stone, glass all mixed in. They’re a little expensive, but they really do look nice. We do a lot of that in the city.” Giant 12x24-inch and 6x24-inch tiles are gaining popularity and subway tiles can also stand out. “We recently did a bathroom for one of our clients out of subway tile, but instead of going side by side it’s going up and down,” Capuano said. “You take a standard subway tile and turn it 90 degrees and it’s pretty cool.” Tile can also be used for an entryway to a house “because it’s lower maintenance and doesn’t get damaged as much as wood floors do. Kitchen, bathroom, a lot of basement floors, too.” Capuano finds clients to be more educated about options, colors and styles these days thanks to house-based television channels and programming, and, of course, the Internet.

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Cabinet refacing a viable alternative, professionals say



t took over 20 years, but refacing has finally been recognized by the kitchen and bath industry as a legitimate remodeling solution for the consumer. In the January issue of Professional Remodeler magazine, for the first time ever, refacing is not only mentioned, but included as the fourth item in their list of “Kitchen and Bath Design Trends for 2014.” So what made the kitchen industry leaders finally accept this alternative remodeling technique? Apparently, so many people are choosing to reface, rather than replace their cabinets, they didn’t have much choice. Especially since the results are not only beautiful, but with additional accessories, rival the functionality of an all new kitchen. The process couldn’t just be ignored any more. Granted, in the past, refacing (or resurfacing as it is also called) used to conjure up a less-than-beautiful kitchen, where the material covering the cabinets and doors didn’t look real and would peel off in a few years. While this may have been true 20 years ago, the materials and adhesives used for refacing have improved dramatically. Most contractors who offer this service now replace the door and drawer fronts and cover the cabinet with the same material the new fronts are made of. Today, a custom refacing job, if done properly, looks just like a new kitchen and lasts just as long. The selection of replacement fronts has expanded exponentially over the past few years. You can now get real wood and select from ma-


After DreamWork Kitchens Photos

ple, cherry, alder, birch, pine and exotic woods. If you want to go with laminate fronts there are close to a hundred colors to choose from, and now the laminates can be hand-crafted with a glazed finish or Italian high gloss lacquer, just like real wood. Add to this all the modern internal conveniences that you find in new kitchen cabinets and refacing becomes a viable alternative. Over the past two decades, I’ve found that the two most popular reasons for refacing cabinets, rather than replacing them, are convenience and cost. With our hectic schedules, many people don’t want to have their lifestyles disrupted any longer than necessary. It’s hard enough getting everything done that we’re supposed to each day without having construction going on for several weeks. Refacing takes

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much less time than replacing a kitchen and is much less stressful than a total renovation. And in most cases it’s usually much more economical than a new kitchen. I say “usually much more economical” because there are factors that can increase the costs of refacing. When you select thermofoil replacement fronts the cost is about 50 percent less than buying and installing new, all-wood cabinets. However, if you choose special shapes or wood fronts the savings begins to diminish. Another factor that can add to the expense of refacing is changing the layout of your kitchen. You realize the greatest saving when no alterations are made to the floor plan. If you intend on changing more than 10 percent of the cabinets in the kitchen it makes more sense to think about replacing all of them.


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If you are thinking about renovating your kitchen, bath or wall unit, it certainly would be worthwhile to investigate all the possibilities. Especially now that the taboo associated with refacing has been lifted, it’s a good idea to visit showrooms that offer both new cabinets and refacing. And, with the wide range of replacement fronts available you may be pleasantly surprised. Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R., is president of DreamWork Kitchens Inc. in Mamaroneck. A Master of Design (Pratt Institute) and E.P.A. Certified Remodeler, he serves on the Advisory Panel of Remodeling Magazine. A member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, he is also a contributor to Do It Yourself magazine. Call 7770437 or visit

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Designing Spaces

Creating a bedroom for peace, restoration


Over 40 years ago, Scarsdale’s bedrooms were never given much attention, design or otherwise. Usually on the second or third floor, these spaces were not for public use unless the coat closet was too crowded. The bedroom was a utilitarian space. The downstairs or public rooms, on the other hand, were gussied up and we shared them with friends and family alike.


ur bedrooms are the place where we prepare for the next day, restore our bodies and our souls, while we seek to maintain a sense of privacy, “far from the madding crowd.” But we want comfort, too. As an interior designer, I first ask my clients if they have a comfortable place to sit and read with good lighting and adequate support for their back and legs. More often than not, my clients say, “No.” Next, I think about color. It is color that immediately sparks awe, pleasure and joy in most places, but it is color, too, that will most affect the spirit and refresh the mind.

Attitudes shift

A dozen or so years ago the importance of creature comforts for just us and our private lives became relevant. That’s when I enlarged my own master bath and bedroom, influenced by the proliferation of spas, superb bathing fixtures and the abundance of beautiful tiles, stones and glass on the market. Historically, we went from almost ignoring our bedrooms to creating truly wonderful private and personal spaces.

Subtle is not for every place

Teenagers most often respond to bright color and trendy patterns in their private spaces. This seems appropriate for their raging hormones — but most adults do not feel the same way. As strange as it seems, to create a sense of harmony colors should be both soft and strong at once. For instance, repeat soft, smoky grays, beiges and tan colors to produce a mellow and understated bedroom. Or use pale creams, whites and sand colors with, perhaps, a blue ceiling to remind us of the sky — and dream away.

Yin and yang

It’s no longer a new story. Fusing a combination of cool, calming colors has become a habit for designers who want to establish a place of rest and renewal for their clients. The roots of this philosophy can be found in Asian lore. To quote from my book, “Design Sense,” “Public rooms (yang rooms) like living and dining rooms, libraries and foyers, Courtesy of Linda Blair

Continued on page 22A

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Bedroom design Continued from page 21A

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respond well to warm colors like yellow, red and orange which elicit upbeat emotions … These colors stimulate conversation, intellectual activity and laughter. “Bedrooms and bathrooms (yin rooms) are places of serenity, introspection, selfindulgence, and rest; they require calming coloration …” such as the background colors found in nature, not the tropics but the places by the sea, mountains and plains. Balancing energy

Every single aspect of the bedrooms I design for clients takes into consideration their health and their comfort — with emphasis

on storage capacity, convenience of reaching at a night table for instance, sleeping, reading, resting, watching television, dressing, even romancing. The final secret element needed is lighting. It affects the tones and colors of every space. It’s the subtle weapon for making the overall ambiance really work. Blairstyle tips

Edit carefully, pay attention to the color wheel and don’t forget to emphasize a monochromatic scheme. Here’s to harmony and a boost of energy from restful days and nights. Linda Blair, ASID is an award-winning local interior designer and author of “Design Sense: A Guide to Getting the Most From Your Interior Design Investment” (John Wiley & Sons, 1996).

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Designing Spaces designer’s touch for an inviting Dining room


in white or light creamy silk or grasscloth wallpaper. The furniture should be light and airy combinations of glass and wood. Hints of color can be achieved through artwork and rugs. One of my favorite dining rooms that I designed for a client is the dining room pictured here. I designed this room some years ago. At the time my client asked me to make the room strong, warm and inviting. Since she is a fan of the color raspberry, I used that color for the tone on tone damask Colefax & Fowler wallpaper. Because the wallpaper was applied from ceiling to floor — not broken up by wainscoting or chair rail — I visually broke up the redness of the room by doing gold silk draperies with small raspberry flowers. This combination brings in the wallpaper while breaking up the color. Custom cherry wood furniture and black chairs complete the room’s warm look. Because I am a fan of reds for dining rooms, there is a Benjamin Moore paint color that I always go to when my client wants to stay in this palette, but does not want to use wallpaper or upholstery on the walls. That color is Raspberry Truffle. Raspberry truffle is the perfect combination of red with brown and produces a very rich tone on the walls. I pair this color with Benjamin Moore Mayonnaise for the trims and ceiling for a truly elegant dining room.


dining room is one of the most important rooms in a home. It is the gathering place for special occasions — or for that intimate dinner with that special someone. When designing a dining room, it is important to keep in mind the effect colors have on us. For example, blues and greens are soothing and peaceful, yellows and golds are vibrant, while black and white energize us. When clients ask me what colors I prefer to do in dining rooms, I always say in the family of reds or raspberries coupled with creams or golds. The combination of these color tones sets the stage for a warm and inviting dining room that makes you feel enveloped and wanting to eat, relax and have a nice time. The style of furniture also plays an important role in a room because modern furniture can be edgy, crisp and clean, while classic English or French furniture softens a dining room’s feel. Because of the important role the dining room plays in the overall appeal of a house, it should be designed to relate to the home’s architecture. For example, a Georgian colonial should have a dining room that has strong crown moldings, wainscoting or a chair rail. The walls should be done in classic wallpapers, faux finishes or upholstered in rich silks, and the furniture should be classic English or French in rich wood tones such as cherry or mahogany. A contemporary home, on the other hand, should have clean light colored walls painted or dressed

Courtesy of Nancy Almeida

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k Garden

Designing Spaces

CoLoR SetS mood foR An eLeGAnt LiVinG Room


By MaRINa COlella

lue and purple, once thought of as color schemes for nurseries or Easter baskets, are now being used as permanent features in sophisticated homes. Infusing a room with color is not always easy. Clients are sometimes wary of committing to a color on an investment piece such as a sofa or side chairs. This is understandable, but often making the commitment to a color scheme really brings a room together on a higher level. If the starting piece of the design is a neutral sofa, an excellent way to commit to color is to choose wall covering. Wall covering has really made a comeback. It is now so easy to apply and, more importantly, to remove when you want to change the look of a room. Nothing gives more pop and sophistication than wallpaper. Covering even just one wall can make a dramatic statement in a room, and really show a commitment to a color. The blue and purple pairing works well together because both colors are on the cool side of the color wheel. Blue is a more traditional design color, but purple is seeing a resurgence in 2014. In fact, radiant orchid was selected as one of the Pantone Colors of the Year by the Pantone Color Institute, which designates annual color palettes that crosses all areas of design and is an expression of a global mood or attitude. Purple accents can have a range of hues in them from pink to red. The purple pillows are pink-infused, which adds a lighter touch to a traditional setting. The deeper, royal purples as seen in the chairs are confidence-inspiring and really create a wow factor. Blue, now one of the most popular colors in design, is a color that can’t really be pinned down. A traditional navy can

COURTeSy Of MaRINa COlella

evoke a timeless seriousness, while a teal shade can be anything from a sea and sky landscape to retro. It’s a really interesting color to design with. It can be used in every shade, in every room in the house, and yet not feel like you’re overdoing it. The key is layering and balance. Blues and purples are a natural fit with cooler, silver or pewter accents. But gold can also play nicely with them, by balancing with warmth and depth.

Whether going for the bold statement that deep colors can make in a room or the soothing effect of adding pastels or muted tones, the blue and purple pairing will be a choice that will stand well together over time. Marina Colella of Decorating Den Interiors can find your perfect design solution with over 40 years decorating houses and businesses throughout the United States and Canada.


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Rivertowns Enterprise Home 2014  

Explore our annual look trends, tips and news for your home and garden. Articles on small gardens, flawless flooring and renovating your bat...

Rivertowns Enterprise Home 2014  

Explore our annual look trends, tips and news for your home and garden. Articles on small gardens, flawless flooring and renovating your bat...