Tom Kaufman

Tom Kaufman

Richard B. Arnold Real Estate

55 Summit: A Beacon of History in Downtown Sea Cliff

John and Laura Russo purchased their home at 55 Summit Ave in Sea Cliff, NY knowing they were starting a project - a journey. They embraced the opportunity to restore a Victorian-era home that didn’t come with an instruction manual.

However, when John and Laura unexpectedly learned that their new home had landmarked status in Sea Cliff, their project got a lot bigger.  Bigger, though, was exciting.

At the final walk-through before the purchase of the home, John & Laura debated whether they would remove a full bathroom on the first floor to accommodate a breakfast nook, a priority on their wish list.  Constructing the nook would leave the first floor without a bathroom.

 “During the final walk-through, John and I explored the area by the side door,” Laura recalls as they were about to make the first of many exciting discoveries in the house.

“The area was closed off with what looked like a storage area.  When we opened it from the outside and saw the space, we immediately knew there was room for a half bath.  That allowed us to build our breakfast nook without sacrificing a first-floor bathroom.”

John and Laura were comfortable with making all of the design decisions inside the house.  The design for the outside, however, posed a different challenge.

“I needed guidance with the exterior paint because there are design standards & principles specific to the period & the style,” Laura said.  “I did not want to own the house directly across from Sea Cliff Village Hall – the home of the Sea Cliff Architectural Review Board & the Landmarks Commission – that didn’t have the correct style of paint.  My house is literally across the street from Village Hall!” 

One of the unique elements of Sea Cliff culture is how architecture and design are baked into the community’s character.  A long-time resident of Sea Cliff, Laura wanted to incorporate the color Tiffany Blue into the exterior paint design for her ornate, Victorian-era home.  Her plan was to follow detailed Victorian patterns & principles. She didn’t, however, plan on what emerged beneath the outdated asbestos shingles.

“I did not want to own the house directly across from Sea Cliff Village Hall that didn’t have the correct style of paint.

“I was still working on Wall St. when we were removing the asbestos shingles and deciding on the type of siding,” John recalls.  “Laura texted me a picture of the original cedar-shake shingles underneath the asbestos shingles. I immediately sensed that we might have gotten very lucky.”  

The asbestos shingles preserved the original cedar-shake shingles on the house.  This discovery was incredibly exciting. It would be a defining detail that helps to characterize 55 Summit Ave as one of the most unique properties in Sea Cliff.

“Usually when you pull down shingles or demo a house, surprises are not welcomed.  In this case, it was the opposite. We couldn’t believe how good the original shingles looked after all the years,” John said.  After the final coat of paint was applied to the preserved shingles, the house could return to its original glory.


John & Laura welcomed the unexpected exterior surprise and got back to work on the interior design.  Recalling a humorous twist in the renovation process, Laura tells the story about the non-existent clawfoot tub.

“The original listing sheet indicated that there was a clawfoot tub in the third floor master bathroom.  Well, that did not exist,” Laura recalls with a laugh. “However, that error inspired me to make use of an awkwardly small space.  One of the only things we could do with the alcove in the master bathroom was to fit a clawfoot tub under the two skylights. As you can tell, that nook has become one of the best features in the house!”

The third floor master bathroom is part of a three room master suite, punctuated with a stunning view of Hempstead Harbor and Sea Cliff Beach from the bedroom window.

“Every night when I walk into the bedroom and see this view, I can’t believe this is our home!” says John. “We love this house.”

With the installation of the stone patio in the backyard, the renovation of 55 Summit Ave is now complete.  This house is truly an entertainer’s dream. In late July 2018, John & Laura hosted their first party after the complete restoration of their home.

“Laura and I love to host parties, so we couldn’t wait to finish the backyard. The 2018 Richard B. Arnold Summer Soiree was the perfect way for us to celebrate the completion of our home!” said John.

Reflecting on the renovation process, Laura and John value the role that the Sea Cliff Landmark Preservation Commission played in the renovation of their home.
“The Landmarks commission was incredibly helpful in our renovation.  We viewed Sea Cliff’s regulations as a guide to our renovation.  While we originally thought there was no roadmap, we realized there was indeed a map.  The insight and expertise of the Landmarks group was invaluable and certainly saved us commission fees for interior and exterior design consultations,” Laura explains.
Based on their incredible experience with Sea Cliff Village Hall, John decided to become a Board Member of Sea Cliff’s Landmark Preservation Commission.In addition, the public can tour 55 Summit Ave during the Sea Cliff Landmark Preservation house tour.
John & Laura invested a tremendous amount of time to preserve the character & design of their Victorian-era home.  Beyond the style, however, is a house that strikes a perfect balance between formal style, historical preservation, & functional living space.  This is a very hard balance to find, and John & Laura have done it wonderfully!
“Every night when I walk into the bedroom and see this view, I can’t believe this is our home!” says John. “We love this house.”
Tom Kaufman

Tom Kaufman

As a life-long resident of Long Island, Tom appreciates the unique personalities of Long Island's diverse communities. Tom’s insight into Long Island’s North & South Shores uniquely positions him to find the best home for you and your family.

Lisa Anselmo

Lisa Anselmo

"Photos are my hobby. Photos are my work. Photos are my love." Lisa captures many of the beautiful images that appear on Simply North Shore's website and social media. Lisa lives on the North Shore with her husband and two sons. Click on Lisa's picture to view her work and to see the photography services she provides.

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