Rooms that go very far out

Bizarre: Exotic rooms are becoming popular, whether they contain a swimming pool, bowling alley or a jungle.

January 09, 2000|By Adele Evans | Adele Evans,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bill and Dot Sheleheda have always loved living near the water. When they finally retired in Lusby, they not only built on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay -- they built a "lighthouse" to see it better.

The octagonal room is three flights up from the main floor, reached by a set of cedar steps that come from a loft above the living room of their contemporary home. Complete with outdoor walk-around, the "beacon room" features a large compass rose embedded in the tile floor.

"It's dynamite. I go there twice a day to look at the bay and the beach," Mr. Sheleheda said. "We have outside lights that make it glow."

On clear days, the Shelehedas can see the Cove Point Lighthouse. And the beacon room, built by Bob Davis and Associates, sits above the tops of trees that otherwise would have blocked their view of the water. (The trees can't be removed because of zoning ordinances.)

Exotic rooms like the beacon room are a booming niche in architecture, whether they be a roof-top lighthouse or a lap pool, a bowling alley or a private art gallery or even an indoor jungle.

"Customers come from all walks of life," architect David H. Gleason said about those who love unusual rooms. "It's something people just like to have."

The exotic room isn't just showmanship. People are designing these rooms to mirror their lives and tastes.

John Lauer and his family were tired of trekking from their Davidsonville home to their summer residence in Ocean City. The rough surf usually forced them to retreat to a pool for the weekend.

Going to the ocean seemed silly if you're going to swim in a pool. Their answer was a $250,000 indoor-outdoor pool-sauna complex alongside their Colonial in Davidsonville.

"For eight years we've used it seven days a week. It's a great way to spend the weekend together," Lauer said.

Lauer's Edgewater construction company has built four other indoor pools -- some for exercising, others for recreation.

"In custom homes you'll pay on an upward scale, anyway, so cost is a moot point. If you have the budget, go for it," said Gleason, the builder.

Architect Charles Alexander has designed some exotica, including a barn that was turned into offices and a music recording studio.

A recent trend he's noticed is that clients want rooms to have more than one purpose, particularly kitchens. One of his American Institute of Architects' award-winning designs was a kitchen-dining room-office combination. Many homeowners want the kitchen, the hearth, to become the hub of the household wheel.

"The kitchen is the primary space," Alexander explained. "It expands. There's a trend toward the entertainment kitchen. It's not just to prepare meals. It takes you back to the hearth -- in the days when people lived in huts. The meal can be the primary social event of the day. We celebrate that."

Lauer, who does about 150 remodeling jobs a year, has also built several of these dominant, multipurpose kitchens. Lauer is particularly proud of one kitchen that opens up to the family room which, in turn, overlooks the bay.

"If you enter through the front door, the water is the focal point in front of you," Lauer said. "Things are more flowing. There aren't as many formal dining rooms. People entertain in the great room; the country kitchen. It's spectacular."

"It's less formal, but people want thoughtfulness," Gleason said.

Architect Patrick Sutton designed a kitchen large enough to include an alcove for a sofa, computers and television, plus a comfortable breakfast nook.

Many families have computers close at hand, allowing parents to keep an eye on their e-mail and the Web sites their children are surfing.

"You can generate a shopping list or surf [the Web] or get your e-mail in the kitchen," Sutton said. "Or the kids can be on the Net while mom's cooking."

Frank Ellis, president of Fountainhead Builders in New Market, designed his kitchen so that it flows into a triangular, informal dining area. Window walls that meet at an angle, plus a smoked-glass angular table give guests the impression they're eating breakfast at the bow of a sailboat. Built-in bench seats save space, while complementing the room's angular design.

"Though it's a small space, there's a high level of function," Ellis said of the galley-like kitchen in his home in the Eaglehead development. "It's less than 30 square feet, but it can sit eight people, and you feel fine."

During the 1980s, Dwight Griffith of Griffith-Brilhart Builders converted a basement into a private, one-lane, air-conditioned bowling alley. The oak flooring came from the old Hillendale Lanes.

Home gyms are still popular, but people today are often choosing more intimate systems. Instead of expansive gyms in a basement or an addition, many clients want the equipment in the boudoir.

"A lot of people have a routine. They want to roll out of bed onto the treadmill," Sutton said.

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