A man’s home is his castle. But some Middle Village homeowners are taking that old saying literally. They’ve built one. A castle that is, some large, some small but castles nonetheless. The new trend may have started with Tino Zulj and his wife Laura Talbot’s house on 71st Street on the corner of 66th Drive. We haven’t noticed any moats and we hope there aren’t any dungeons but there are definitely castles in Middle Village. And the idea seems to be taking off.

The Biggest: 71st Street
Tino Zulj emigrated from Slovenia 25 years ago and opened an electrical design business called ATZ Enterprise. In his travels throughout Europe, he loved the Bavarian architecture and was particularly interested in castles. He met Laura on a blind date in 1999 and they were married a year later. Laura was from Arizona and accustomed to large open spaces. After renting a home on 77th Street near Juniper Valley Park, Tino and Laura purchased a small brown corner house on 71st Street, two blocks north of Metropolitan Avenue in 2000.

Tino started building his dream home or castle in early 2001. He visited an architect who asked for a drawing but Tino said he couldn’t draw but he could build a model of his idea. When Tino brought in the model the architect quipped, “is this for Middle Village or Disneyland?”

But Tino was quite serious and a few years later, Middle Village had a castle. Almost 9 years later, Tino still has to complete the finishing touches. As for Laura, she said the house is magnificent but she still isn’t convinced that it was worth the many years of dust and mess and disruption to their lives. But with 5 state-of-the-art bathrooms, a cavernous living room, fireplaces and great sunlight streaming in, life should be easier for Tino, Laura and their two boys.

Whimsical & Charming: 79th St.
For Anthony and Kim Ballato, their dream house on 79th Street near Metropolitan Avenue didn’t take quite as long to see their dream come true. Anthony and Kim are lifelong residents of Middle Village and both wanted to stay. They love our small town feeling and proximity to Manhattan. Anthony owns a successful construction company called KNS, specializing in landmark restoration. Their renovation project took from July 5 to October 31 (2007) to complete. Married in 2000, the couple, looking to find more space for their growing family, moved out of their first home on 75th Place near Eliot Avenue and bought an old house on 79th Street. Kim did the research for the restoration project. She loved the tudors in Forest Hills Gardens and wanted to incorporate their best features. She took photos and paid close attention to detail. The result is a marvelous and whimsical house that’s part gingerbread, part tudor and part castle. Their garden-like backyard, complete with in-ground pool and gargoyles, is perfect to relax after a hard day or just watch their two boys, 4 cats and dog interact.

Exquisite 74th Street
Louisa Gennari always loved Victorian homes. She was born in Middle Village in 1956 and lived in the same house when it was a Cape and owned by her parents.

Sergio met Louisa in 1975 when he was a mail clerk and she was a receptionist. They were married in 1977 and eventually would settle in a two-family house on 79th Street with Sergio’s parents. Sergio retired from the NYPD in 2001 working in the ballistics division and is now Director of Security for a Manhattan based jewelry company. Louisa is a personal assistant also working in Manhattan. But they both love Middle Village for its ease of commuting and proximity to everything.

In 2001 when Louisa’s parents passed away she wanted to move back there and build the dream house she always wanted. And of course if the Gennari’s were going to remodel the home, there wouldn’t be any doubt what style Louisa would choose. They hired Howard Beach architect Jerry Belfiore and his father Paul did the construction. The project to renovate the 74th Street cape took two years. Louisa, who studied Interior Design in school, got busy furnishing the spacious Victorian-style house with antiques and her exquisite sense of style and design is evident throughout the house. The house even has a peaceful backyard with an in-ground pool and small fountain that resembles a brook.

All of the families that took on the very elaborate and expensive renovation have a deep sense of community and all care very much about the well-being of Middle Village. We thank them for allowing us to show a very unique side of Middle Village.