Real Estate: Peek inside a waterfront mansion in Aquebogue

09/12/2011 4:49 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Victor Ozeri at the front door of his Aquebogue home with his cherished 10-ton stone lions which came from China. The granite steps to the door are inscribed with the lyrics to the Bob Dylan song 'Forever Young'.

If Victor Ozeri had to sell one of his houses — a situation the handbag magnate will likely never face — it would be his four-bedroom Manhattan penthouse.

His nearly-finished 6,000-square-foot Aquebogue mansion on the water is the Ozeri family’s for keeps.

And that’s no secret.

“May this place serve as a sanctuary for our children’s children and their many descendents,” reads a plaque near the house’s front door, flanked on either side by 1 1/2-ton Chinese lions. He named each of the three structures that make up Victorville by the Sea for his biological children, and christened a 1967 Airstream land yacht called “Lawgaw’s Lair” for his adopted Ethiopian son. His adopted Ethiopian daughter has her own houseboat, made from a FEMA trailer.

There was a road that was long and winding that led to Victorville by the Sea, and one that was obstructed by red tape — Mr. Ozeri went through a lengthy permitting process after buying the property in 2006.

But the quest for a place to truly call home was longer than that for the international businessman and philanthropist.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO| The pool out back.

Mr. Ozeri, who dropped out of high school, has been on the move since he was a cabbie in Manhattan — and one of his fares helped launch his business career.

In pursuit of a hefty $20 tip in 1981, he drove the largest handbag and schoolbag maker in the U.S. to John F. Kennedy airport. Mr. Ozeri got his big tip, but also an offer to become the man’s driver. Six months later, the fare-turned-employer asked Mr. Ozeri to travel to China for two months to investigate handbag factories.

The Brooklyn native stayed in the communist country for 10 years.

After returning to the U.S., Mr. Ozeri started his own handbag design and manufacturing company, Interasian Resources. He served as CEO until he sold it three years ago to spend more time with his family. He currently sits on the company’s board of directors.

In his travels he amassed an enormous collection of art and historical artifacts that now help adorn his Aquebogue property, including a zinc frieze from Coney Island, a winged cherub from the Drake Hotel in Manhattan and posters and pig-barn doors from China. Before building Victorville, Mr. Ozeri kept the pieces in warehouses in New York City and China.

“I put together an extraordinary collection,” Mr. Ozeri said. “I knew I would build my own home.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | In the 'China Club' in the Cabana, a Chinese wedding bedroom.

Five years ago, waiting in line for bagels, he saw a real estate listing for what appeared to be the perfect spot for his dream house. The advertisement described a one-acre property with 11 boat slips in Aquebogue.

But he was skeptical about making the transition from the Hamptons to the North Fork.

“It may as well have been Vermont,” he said.

A drive along Main Road showed him the North Fork could indeed be his new home. The property, which already had a small one-story house and guesthouse for a total of 2,200 square feet, suited his purposes.

He started construction on Victorville on Oct. 15, 2010, acting as general contractor for the project and hiring only local labor. With the help of framer Kevin Danowski of Intune Construction, Mr. Ozeri built up from the pre-existing structure.

Mr. Ozeri said Mr. Danowski transformed the architect’s layout of the second story in one afternoon, and on the back of a napkin.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The dock out back.

“There was too much wasted space,” Mr. Danowski said of the first design for Victorville. “We made sure it was structurally sound.”

Allen Tooker, who owns Masonry Consulting Services, worked on the elaborate Colorado ledge stone siding.

“It was very large, of course,” Mr. Tooker said about the project. “It was very trying with a lot of logistics, and numbers, but it was rewarding. It came out pretty good.”

None of the three buildings is square, but Mr. Tooker said his masonry work makes them appear that way.

“He instilled a vision in me and led the effort to create a house that felt like it came out of Tuscany,” Mr. Ozeri said.

Mr. Ozeri designed much of Victorville’s interior, too. The idea for a striped kitchen ceiling wall came to him during a dream about the circus, and the “Summer of Love” room, complete with waterbed, features pictures of a bearded Mr. Ozeri at Woodstock.

Victorville’s foyer features a chandelier on a “genie lift,” said Mr. Ozeri’s electrician, Allen Hubbard, of Allen Hubbard Electrical Contracting. The lift allows the chandelier to be lowered to the ground for cleaning.

“It’s not something you do every day,” Mr. Hubbard said. “I’ve been in business 17 years, and this is the fifth I’ve installed.”

Victorville may be nearing completion, but Mr. Ozeri dreams of expanding his seaside empire with a champagne and oyster bar. He is considering buying a nearby waterfront property and setting up 14 aqua-lodges in FEMA trailers, houseboats similar to Dumoze’s Den. He would name it the “Flotel.”

“It’s a fantasy,” Mr. Ozeri said.

But, like the Victorville vision Mr. Ozeri harbored for so many years, the “Flotel” could become reality, too.

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