Tour a Field House Tricked Out for Family Fun
If you subscribe to the theory “the family that plays together stays together,” then one Connecticut couple and their three boys are likely to be tight for a good long time. When their children showed an interest in baseball, the idea for a separate structure to house an indoor batting cage was hatched. Architect Louise Brooks, who designed the couple’s main home, was tapped to make the concept a reality, and by her own account, it wasn’t long before the new building, aptly dubbed the “Field House,” started taking on a life of its own.
“Pretty soon there was talk of a squash court. Then we thought, the batting cage is the same length as a bowling alley, so why not add a couple of lanes?” shares Brooks, who along with project manager Howard Kelly, also tackled a design for a fitness center, a 16-by-9-foot endless pool, a changing room and a massage space. And thanks to mindful planning, the activity offerings expanded even further. “The batting cage has a turf floor and retractable net so it converts into the perfect surface for soccer, lacrosse and can even be an indoor running track,” adds Brooks, noting there is also a net for shooting hoops in the squash court.
But before there was a recreational center with enough activities to rival a summer camp roster, there was just a stretch of land located down a 30-foot slope from a brick Georgian Colonial. The owners, who wanted the Field House to have a more casual flavor, also requested that the structure not dominate the landscape. So rather than mimic the traditional architectural lines of the main house, Brooks responded with a modern farmhouse designed in a pinwheel pattern meant to minimize the scale of the building. “It’s three stories high, but thanks to the slope and the pinwheel design, at any given angle, you can only see 50 percent of the building,” explains Brooks.
On approach, the farmhouse references, such as traditional horse stall doors and the pitched metal roof, are evident, and typical materials, like stone and wood, are employed but with a modern interpretation. “The stone veneer on the front porch is a contemporary linear bluestone, and the siding is a smooth tongue-and-groove vertical board as opposed to more textured clapboard,” notes Brooks. The expanses of charcoal windows that enclose the batting cage are another contemporary interjection. “The high contrast of the white siding, gray metal roof and dark windows give it a very modern feel,” adds Kelly.
Once inside, there’s a cavalcade of commotion visible from the central stair, where it’s possible to glimpse the squash court, bowling alley and indoor pool all at once. And after a rigorous evening of baseball, squash, table tennis, or what have you, where do three exhausted boys and their pack of friends head? To the locker room, of course, where a bay of showers and lockers precede the guestroom, which, thanks to five bunk beds, sleeps 10. “Each bed is outfitted with a reading light and has a cubby for stowing cellphones and books,” says Brooks about the custom design.
While the indigo tones on the painted custom bunks seem to mimic the blue turf of the batting cage, the rest of the home’s interiors are largely defined by a neutral palette and a blend of wood, stone and metal. The lower level floor is polished concrete, and on the main level, the wide-plank bleached oak flows directly into the kitchen, where it’s a deliberate match for the travertine island backsplash and countertops.
Throughout, furnishings and accessories take a back seat, with the possible exception of the decorative lighting. “The spaces didn’t warrant much furniture, so we used lighting to fill the volume and pull the look together,” says Brooks, pointing to the sculptural metal chandelier scaled to make a statement above the stairway and glass globes on the Lindsey Adelman fixture that soften the kitchen’s hard edges. But little things like the table tennis paddle rail and leather backsplash in the bar area (the material repeats on the bowling alley walls), deserve a shout-out as well. On close inspection, it should come as no surprise that the stitching on the latter is reminiscent of a baseball.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Do You Want to Play?