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October 21, 2009

From LoHud.com

by Bill Cary

For a change of pace - and to draw attention to New Rochelle's fancy-pants new downtown - this year "Accent on New Rochelle," the annual house tour sponsored by Sound Shore Medical Center, will feature two showcase apartments in the new 40-story Avalon on the Sound East. The one-day tour, which takes place Oct. 25, also lets you into five private homes throughout the city, including one once owned by Monty Hall, of "Let's Make a Deal" fame. (And yes, the home has three front entrances, as in Door No. 1, 2 or 3.)

Last year, the tour took place in May and raised $50,000 for the medical center's Solomon Katz Breast Center. This year, in order to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, organizers moved the event to October. As always, proceeds will benefit the breast center.

The Avalon apartments have been expertly decorated as part of the New Rochelle Business Improvement District's Downtown Showcase, a series of promotional events organized by Ralph DiBart, executive director of the BID. House tour organizers thought the apartments would be a good fit for the tour.

"Our goal is to publicize urban downtown living, the idea that you can get all you need right outside your door, all within walking distance," says DiBart.

To prove his point, DiBart set a few ground rules for the six local designers who staged the apartments. First, everything they used - furniture, artwork, wall mirrors, even throw pillows - had to come from downtown New Rochelle businesses. A huge challenge given that the city is not exactly a design mecca known for furniture shops and fancy boutiques.

"They did it - we were able to be 100 percent local, even the painters," he says.

Second, they could only make minor changes to the rental apartments, and finally, they had to design units for imaginary client families, which DiBart created for them.

For example, for three-bedroom unit 23K, four designers had to create a home for Rob and Laura Lawton, an imaginary couple who grew up in New Rochelle and then moved to New York City. They are renting so that their teenage son and 5-year-old daughter can go to New Rochelle schools while they look for a home to buy. The imaginary couple in 24A, the two-bedroom unit on the tour, are a little younger and hipper. They don't have children.

Both apartments offer breathtaking views of Long Island Sound and much of lower Westchester, with floor-to-ceiling windows in nearly every room. That fantastic view of the water served as the initial inspiration for Venera Evanko and Lynn Breindel, who teamed up in 23K to decorate the foyer, kitchen, dining area and living room.

To echo the water view, they chose a serene robin's egg blue for the walls. A large abstract sunset by Robert Meyers from the Backstreet Gallery on Lawton Street, serves as the centerpiece for the living-room wall. They filled the rest of the rooms with a mix of new furniture from TF Andrew Carpet One on Main Street and old pieces from Consign It on Main, a high-end used-furniture and antique shop on Main Street.

The designers felt like the imaginary Lawtons, who are sophisticated opera lovers, would already have several old pieces, perhaps from their families, and would just need to fill in with a few new items. For the house tour, the kitchen and dining room will be set up for a post-opera supper.

Evanko and Breindel turned to Lumia Decorators on Main Street for accent pillows and the Curtain Shop, also on Main, for sheer draperies. They weren't allowed to remove the blinds from the windows so they cleverly wrapped them in fabric.

Four antique chandeliers from Consign It on Main add a classy feel to the apartment and help to unify the spaces.

Like the other designers, Evanko says she was "pleasantly surprised" by what they were able to find in local stores once they started shopping.

Of course, a little creativity helps, especially given the apartments' small quarters: The three-bedroom unit is just 1,315 square feet, and the two-bedroom unit measures 1,090 square feet.

"You can't fit a queen-size bed in the master bedroom," says designer Tim McVey, referring to the three-bedroom unit. So instead he chose a full-size bed and limited the other furniture to a few small tables, a Victorian side chair from Consign It on Main and a new dark-brown wooden dresser from TF Andrew Carpet One.

"I liked the feel of it because it doesn't feel new," he says. "New tends to have less character."

For the overall feel of the room, "I was going for a little eclectic, a little Asian, a little beachy," McVey says.

Designer Michelle Sanchez-Boyce created a completely different atmosphere for the children's rooms. To set a playful tone, she chose vivid colors for the walls - hot pink with coral undertones for Olivia's room, a rich medium blue for her brother's.

"I wanted a really bold, magical, fun feel for her room," Sanchez-Boyce says.

A huge stuffed zebra hanging in one of the windows adds a whimsical touch. "It looks magical at night," she says.

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