May 27, 2012

Open House: Home court advantage

The Simonds home in Falmouth boasts stunning features throughout – not to mention a basketball court.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH - Most people can't walk into Ruby Simonds' house without saying "wow."

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The basketball court, below, is in a barn near the home’s attached garage, above.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Additional Photos Below


LOCATION: Falmouth

STYLE: Contemporary two-story with a Shingle-style feel on the exterior and a contemporary look on the inside

OWNERS: Ruby and Michael Simonds

HISTORY: Built in 2005 for previous owners and designed by Yarmouth architect Kevin Browne. The Simonds bought it about two years ago when they were looking for a bigger house for their growing family -- four boys between the ages of 6 and 15. The house has five bedrooms, six bathrooms and 10-foot-high ceilings.

WHAT MAKES IT STAND OUT: On the outside, a low-sloping roof and many dormers and gables make the house seem like it's from an earlier time; inside, a massive flying staircase (with no visible support underneath) catches visitors' attention as soon as they walk through the front door.

SURPRISING FEATURES: A basketball court, with full-size hoop and wooden gym floor, hidden in a barn building at the end of the driveway; a chandelier in one of the bathrooms.


"OPEN HOUSE" is a monthly series in Home & Garden profiling eye-catching, historic or innovative homes around Maine.

TO SUBMIT a home for this series, contact Ray Routhier at rrouthier@ or at 791-6454.

Right away.

Just inside the front door is a massive curved flying staircase like something out of a Colonial mansion or a movie about the Old South.

The staircase, seemingly unsupported, rises from a black-and-white floor to a spacious second-floor landing. The dark woodwork and stainless steel spindles between the steps and railing give it an even more distinctive look.

"Everybody says something about the staircase," said Simonds. "The whole entryway, really, is breathtaking."

Simonds says that while the staircase is a showstopper, when she first saw the house, she saw something she really liked in every room.

Built in 2005, it's a large, rambling two-story with a Shingle look on the outside and lots of unique, eye-catching contemporary features inside. Simonds and her husband, Michael, bought it about two years ago.

"We looked at a lot of houses, but this was the only one where every little thing was just right," said Simonds.

Yarmouth architect Kevin Browne designed the home with many of the more prominent features suggested by the home's first owners.

Those features include the flying staircase as well as two arched doorways on either end of a hallway connecting the main upstairs bedroom area with a two-room suite over the garage. The arches give the hallway the appearance of a tunnel, and frame the views of each end of the second-story interior.

Also eye-catching are the dark wood floors, which were treated with a process that makes them look slightly burnt and darker than most. Then there are smaller details that stand out, like a chandelier in a downstairs bathroom. "I'm the only girl in the house, so that's for me," says Simonds.

There's also a butler's pantry with an extra dishwasher.

One of the main things the Simonds were looking for when they found this house was space for a growing family -- four sons ages 6 to 15. So they wanted lots of rooms -- big rooms, with open spaces.

The house has that, with five bedrooms and six bathrooms. It has a two-story entryway and ceilings about 10 feet high. Doors and windows are extra wide.

The living room and kitchen are both large, and open to each other. The living room has three sets of double glass doors leading to the backyard to make it feel even more open.

The kitchen has an island bigger than most formal dining tables and a large eat-in area with a large dining table. There's also a formal dining room, a downstairs den and an upstairs family room.

Although the house looks formal -- especially the entry -- Simonds says her sons and their many friends run around in it with ease. And because it's so big with so many rooms, it doesn't easily feel crowded.

"It's a great house for hide and seek," says Simonds, pointing under the flying staircase.

Another definite "wow" factor is a basketball court in a barn building at the end of the driveway. It wasn't part of the original house; it was designed by Browne specifically for the Simonds family.

The court gets plenty of use by the family and their friends, especially in the winter and on rainy days.

From the outside, the basketball court's building looks like a barn or carriage house with a style and roof slope that matches the house.

One of the challenges of designing it was making the interior tall enough for looping three-point shots without making the exterior roof higher than the roof of the house, said Browne. So the floor of the gym was sunk three feet into the ground, keeping the roof a reasonable height while helping to make the place cool in summer.

When you first enter the court building, there's a little elevated viewing area with a bench and a water bubbler.

"We don't ski, so we're here on the weekends, and this place has somebody in it every day," said Simonds.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: RayRouthier


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Additional Photos

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The grand entryway with its gorgeous flying staircase.

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A dining nook off the main kitchen.

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An upstairs hallway connecting bedrooms on either side of the house.

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The living room reflects the contemporary style of the home’s interior. French doors lead out to the backyard patio.

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The kitchen boasts a massive island. Gleaming wood floors throughout the home were specially treated, giving them an eye-catching dark hue.

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A chandelier brings bling to one of the bathrooms.

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Another lighting choice adds dazzle to the decor of the contemporary-style formal dining room.


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