Eight Sides To One Story
The Journal News,
Real Estate Home section,
April 24-25, 2004.
By Noreen Seebacher

            Sylvain Côté and his wife Tisa knew they had to have the South Salem lakefront house the minute they walked through the door.  “Was it the house of our dreams? Not exactly.  But with a vision, a plan and a lot of work, it would be,” he said.

            Côté, owner of Absolute Remodeling Corp. in Yorktown Heights, said he could sense its potential: a house he could take from dated to state of art. The 20-year-old octagon-shaped house was a perfect fit for his family and his professional aspirations.

            For Tisa Côté, it came close to the round house she dreamed of owning.  Her husband, meanwhile, focused on what it could become.

            “It’s a family home, a home primarily built with the family as the center stage.  I see it as a place where even teenagers want to spend as much time as possible,” he said.

            The house, however, was in need of total transformation.

            The remodeled house will be the personal residence of the Côté's and their three children, ages 12, 15, and 20.  It will also be a showcase for new products and services especially those related to ecologically sound building practices, he said.

            “When I saw this house, I knew it was just right.  It’s not too big, not too small.  For our family, it’s the ideal home.  It’s going to become our little resort on the water and at the same time, promote the latest in building methods, materials and design.”

            Besides full architectural revitalization, Côté plans to turn the house green.

            Green or sustainable buildings use resources like energy, water, materials and land more efficiently than those just built to code.  They also create healthier indoor environments.  Green buildings have more natural light and better air quality, and typically contribute to improved health, comfort and productivity, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.  The group is a building industry coalition designed to promote the development of environmentally friendly buildings.

            “A green house is a blueprint for healthy, comfortable, affordable homes that cut energy and water bills and protect the environment,” Côté said.  “Building and remodeling green costs a little more  up front.  But the combined savings in lower monthly utility and maintenance more than make up for it over time.  In the long run, homeowners are likely to have lower operating costs, lower repair costs, and lower health costs.”

            As originally designed in 1983, the house is interesting but a bit impractical, he said.  “The floor plan is awkward, and there is a lot of wasted space.”  The reborn house will feature a completely open floor plan on three levels.

            The most significant element is a revolutionary design that eliminates all load bearing walls on the main floor.  “Without walls to block the flow of light, the house will be drenched in sunlight,” he said.

            “As you walk in, you’ll notice the brightness, openness, and absence of walls.  Your eye will be drawn to the abundance of doors and windows, the 10-foot ceiling adorned with structural hand hewn beams tied to the massive chimney with its two-sided fireplace.”

            The main floor includes a study area for the couple’s children, complete with wireless computer network, a rolling ladder over the library and concealed printers and scanners.  “There’s no TV on this floor, only the astonishing view of the lake to distract you,” he said.

            There will be plenty of TVs on the lower level, which will feature nine-foot ceilings and radiant heat under wide plank flooring.  The area will be equipped with three plasma TVs, all of them mounted on the massive center chimney.  Two of the TVs will be placed over the fireplaces, and all of them will be within view of a pool table, pinball machines, and a refreshment center.  There will also be a workout area, a “multi-use” room, and a full bath with a steam shower.

            The second floor, open to foyer below, will feature the bedrooms, two bathrooms, and the laundry room.  The master suite will overlook the lake and have a private balcony.   “Natural light will pour in from the widow’s watch, and hot air in the summer will escape from the remote controlled windows,” Côté said.

            “The entire home will feel very airy, spacious, but cozy.  There’s no McMansion here.” Although many homes are too small, Côté said just as many are too big. “Is “bigger better?” Sure. That’s the easiest way to impress your friends.  Is “easiest the best? Rarely,” he added.

            Although the look of the house will be dramatic, Côté said the key to the remodel will be the use of only state-of-the art materials. “The house will be a showcase for the best and most innovative building materials.  It will comply with every conceivable environmental program, including Energy Star and Green Homes, and have a fully ‘maintenance free’ exterior.  It is the prototype home of the future: Everything the family of today will need well beyond tomorrow,” he said.

            The exterior will be maintenance free, he said.  It will be made of engineered building materials that look like traditional wood but never require repainting or staining.

            Côté is just getting started with the project.  He concedes much of his plans are subject to change, part of a learning process that involves meetings with manufacturers and sales representatives.  “There are so many new products on the market.  We are determined to find out what the best ones are and put the latest innovations to the test.  If we can do that, then we’ll create a quality home that other owners will be able to learn from too,” he said.

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