Vermonters do a pretty good job of getting outside in the winter, despite the inhospitable weather. However, there are some windy, gray, subzero days that even the hardiest among us find difficult to embrace. For times like this, it's nice to have an indoor space devoted solely to fun.
David and Lisa Howe included one — a finished basement — in the Fairfield house they built 15 years ago. Their daughters, Lauren, 17, and Claire, 16, have used it to escape from brutally cold days since they were toddlers.
A pool table takes up one side of the main room. Other large items include a hockey foosball table, a pinball machine and a game table used for everything from puzzles to Texas Hold'em. Built-in shelving provides storage for books and games. A shelf along the entire length of one wall supports a train track with an old toy train.
A smaller room sports a big-screen TV and a wall of DVDs. A split-level viewing area gives the space a movie-theater feel. An old leather couch is both dog- and food-friendly.
Lisa says that when her daughters were little, fear of "the general bogeyman" kept them from venturing downstairs unless accompanied by a gaggle of girlfriends. "[And] the noise from the hot-water heater coming on in the utility room helped fuel their imagination," she remembers.
As the girls got over their fears, however, they started using the space for birthdays, Halloween parties and sleepovers. These days, Lauren likes to spread out her homework on the large game table. Both teens usually end up in the movie room on weekend nights.
"Now that our kids are teenagers, they can do things with their friends right at home," says Lisa. "They have some space [away from the adults], and we don't have to worry about them going out."
In Lisa's estimation, finishing the basement has been a good investment for the whole family. "Our kids have enjoyed it," she says, "and so have we."
- Triple wall sconces offer plenty of light in the carpeted, 1,500-square-foot space.
- Lisa and David found the Space Odyssey Sky Lab pinball machine — a classic game from their childhood — on eBay.
- The model train is currently just a decoration, but David has plans to bring it back to life with more models and track — perhaps for future grandchildren.
- A corner filled with trophies, ribbons, personal photos and prints of Mount Mansfield and Lake Champlain give the space a homey feel.