A family room built for fun
One smart addition turns a narrow, high-ceilinged room into a play space for both parents and kids.
Soaring ceilings and a wall of windows are ordinarily coveted architectural attributes. But for Laura and Jordan Frank, they were impediments to creating a cohesive, functional family room. That’s not to say they didn’t love the airy, light-filled — albeit oddly shaped — space on the second floor of their contemporary house on the east side of Providence. They did, but they knew they weren’t making the most of it.
The couple hired interior architect Lisa Foster of Providence-based Reconstructure to create a family gathering place that would take advantage of the room’s height. In addition to accommodating a pool table, TV/lounge area, and the usual cache of children’s toys, they hoped to incorporate playground-like elements to make lengthy winters more fun.
“The goal was to create a place where children and adults could coexist, engaging in separate activities simultaneously,” Foster says.
Her solution was to design an asymmetric, cantilevered loft that stretches from one end of the almost 30-foot-long room to the other, stopping just short of the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows. The steel support beams — one inside the wall, one visible underneath the fir deck — eliminated the need for columns, so the loft floats at the top of the room. The steel and the exposed bolts lend a look reminiscent of actual playground equipment.
The lack of columns leaves the main level wide open, essential for the pool table to fit comfortably. There’s ample room for a built-in entertainment center and cozy seating area for movie nights and Guitar Hero duels. Inexpensive plumbing pipes are tucked into the underside of the loft to create a row of monkey bars, and two pod-shaped chairs from IKEA hang from opposite ends of the structure.
Fittingly, the fort-like 180-square-foot loft is accessible only by a ladder that Foster likens to a secret staircase. At the top there’s a trap door that is ingeniously counterweighted with an 8-pound kettlebell to ensure it opens and closes gently. On the other end of the platform is a built-in winch rigged with a bucket that the couple’s two kids, now 8 and 10, can use to hoist toy cars and tea sets up to their play area. “It’s probably strong enough to lift the kids, but we haven’t mentioned that!” says Jordan.
The arrangement will evolve as the kids grow and their interests shift. Lately karaoke booms down from the deck. Thankfully the floating platform has greatly improved the room’s acoustics, so sounds are dampened. Everyone is eager to spend time there, though Jordan recently encountered a “No Parents Allowed” message on the magnetic blackboard that hangs in the loft area.
“Never in my wildest imagination could I have conceptualized what Lisa designed for us,” says Laura. “It’s nice to have such a fun destination in your own house.”