In the 25 or so years I’ve known my brother-in-law, Phil Rabinowitz, principal of The Architectural Group, Paterson, NJ, he and his wife Bobbie have renovated three houses in Franklin Lakes. Renovated is not the right word. Completely transformed is more like it. Last Saturday evening, Phil and Bobbie threw a moving-away-from-home party for their older daughter, Paige, 26, who’s starting legal assistant school in Ontario. The food and drink were plentiful and the crowd was Jersey-licious. But the house and grounds were also stars of the show.

Ten years ago this was a typical sixties ranch. Now it’s a modernist showplace. The back of the house has been opened up with a loft-like addition of new living areas and kitchen with a wall of industrial windows overlooking grounds that are too elegant to be called a back yard.

“The only things this yard had when we moved in were a horrible shed and a chain-link fence,” said Bobbie. “We bought an additional wooded quarter-acre from our neighbor, cleared it, and put in terraces and a pool,” added Phil. Over time, Phil designed an outdoor kitchen with what he calls a bistro area — tall tables and bar stools — and a fireplace. There are several water features including a fountain in the pool with dramatic multicolored lighting at night.

The Rabinowitz pool with spa and water feature, which is lit with multicolored lights at night.

Phil is a master of making big, big statements with palms, monstera, birds of paradise, and other tropical plants. Doesn’t that get a little extravagant? “I bring them indoors in the fall,” he explains.

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint,, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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