Long Island remodeler brings Vanderbilt estate up to date

Lorich Construction Management undoes misguided renovations to restore historic home

April 18, 2012

Lorich Construction Management’s complete renovation of Idle Hour, the former Long Island estate of Cornelius Vanderbilt, could almost be called a do-it-yourself project. That’s because Lorich owner and president Paul Tagliaferri and his wife are the owners of the 4,700-square-foot residence.

Originally constructed by Vanderbilt himself in the 1880s on a small inland island in Oakdale, N.Y., the home has changed hands a number of times since then. Tagliaferri and his wife Laura bought it from the previous owners — who had resided there 19 years, and done extensive renovation themselves — in mid-2010.

The couple knew right away they wanted work done; in fact, Paul had the blueprints drawn up before they closed on the house. “We really wanted to open the floor plan,” Tagliaferri says. “The way the interior was set up, it was very boxy.” They also wanted to add water views in every room – a condition surprisingly not met despite being on an island.

The project hit a hurdle right from the beginning: the bridge connecting the island to the mainland was just shy of 10 feet wide, making it hard, if not impossible, to get trucks and dumpsters over. The majority of supplies had to be manually walked across, no easy feat in some cases. Lorich’s supplier did have one forklift small enough to cross, so much of the schedule was formed around its availability.

A glimpse into the past  

Crews quickly discovered how extensively previous projects left their mark; in fact, the entire flooring system between the first and second floors was compromised. “Previous people working on the house had their way with it,” Tagliaferri says, “so we ended up having to rip the whole second floor system out and replace it.”

Laura selected new hand-scraped teak flooring to be put in throughout the house. Steel beams were brought in to shore up the flooring system, but getting the beams in was tricky enough; crews ended up cutting holes in the Jeld-Wen garage door to get the beams inside, where they were then hoisted up using come-along winches.

At the rear, Tagliaferri and crews found evidence of an exterior porch that had been encapsulated; up in the attic, they found part of the old roof that previous workers had simply built over. They ended up removing the old rear wall and reframing the entire back wall of the house.

Moving the kitchen from one side to the other was one of the other big-ticket projects. The existing one was small and shoved into a corner; Lorich removed that and installed a much larger, gourmet kitchen on the east side of the house. A 12-foot x 5-foot island with an Egyptian marble farmhouse sink stands at the center; Bosch, GE and Wolf supplied the kitchen appliances, which included an indoor barbeque grill.

“When we entertain, everyone just seems to be in the kitchen,” Tagliaferri says, “We have a great view and a bunch of skylights in that area, so we figured let’s just make that area the kitchen.”

The front sitting room needed a lot of reworking too, largely thanks to the staircase that blocked any water view. The team solved the problem by raising the ceiling and creating a 22-foot foyer with a curved staircase up to the second floor.

In their own little corner

Most couples would likely vacate the premises during a whole-house remodel, but not Paul and Laura. They sectioned off a corner of the second floor as their own, creating a makeshift apartment out of two rooms.

“It was a pain having them [construction crews] around, but the house is large, so we were able to tuck ourselves away,” he says.

Despite staying on-site, Tagliaferri did not micromanage the project, trusting his superintendent to keep things running smoothly. “Having the right management team involved is huge,” he says.

While preserving the historic aspects of the house, Paul and Laura also helped bring it into the modern age. A full home Nuvo audio system was installed, with wirelessly controlled speakers in every room; the system provides access to satellite and Internet radio, as well as standard AM/FM stations.

A state-of-the-art Ademco security system includes 11 cameras throughout the property and infrared alarms on the bridge that beep when a presence is detected. To top it off, camera feeds can be viewed on any TV in the house. As an example, Paul says, “There’s a 40-inch flatscreen TV built into the wall in the kitchen. So if my wife is in there and she hears the little beep, she can pull up the cameras right there and see who’s coming over.”

Paul and Laura couldn’t be happier with the end results. “When we first moved in, everyone thought we were crazy,” he says. “Six months later, it blows away our other house. The interior is just as nice as the views. It really is a dreamy house.”

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