New Canaan barn is a haven

Structure boasts basketball court, movie theater, elevator

By Susan Nova
Special Correspondent
The Advocate/Greenwich Time
January 13, 2006

Set on a woodsy property in New Canaan is an award-winning barn, a fantasy land with a rustic but sophisticated aura. It’s a magical world for the younger set and their parents.
Rough-hewn rock steps blend into a stone path that leads from the main house past a grove of white clump birches to the barn. The barn entry has adze-cut beams, and front door sidelights feature frosted trees etched into the glass.

The 10,000-square-foot barn was built for Beverly and Rodney Hawes, designed for sports, recreation and shelter for visiting family members, including the owners’ six married children and the Hawes’ grandchildren.

Hawes was chairman and chief executive officer of Life Re, a life and health reinsurance company formerly based in Stamford.

Among its facilities are a half-size NBA basketball court, with a regulation scoreboard and a cupola above. The chandelier in the cupola descends at the press of a button for bulb changing and cleaning, and its soft lights gleam through the woods at night.

On tap is disco lighting to add the appropriate ambiance for teen dance nights.

Beyond the basketball court is a stage for family performances, with curtains of deep red velvet, professional lighting and sound equipment controlled from above.

Off to each side is a catwalk, and a smoke machine can provide a dramatic aura. Beneath the stage is garaging for young visitors’ miniature ride-around cars, and behind are special racks to store the folding audience chairs.

Built by Peter Schlubach of Peter Schlubach Custom Builders Inc. in Trumbull, the barn was designed, from the owner’s “sketch and dream,” by Laurent “Rink” Dupont, whose New Canaan-based architectural firm carries his name. The DuPont project architect was Bill Earls.

“They came to us with a dream and asked us to create a design that fulfilled their vision,” DuPont said. “The exterior was created in the spirit of an old New England barn, and the interior reflected an atmosphere attractive to younger members of the family. It was a pleasure working with clients who were so closely involved in their project.”

The owners, the architects, and builder and interior designers Sally Jo and Robert Winebrenner from Nantucket and Pittsford, N.Y., were involved in decisions as the project progressed.

A gym and exercise room is furnished with a ballet barre, mirrored walls and exercise equipment. Nearby is a changing room, with a steam shower and a separate powder room.
On the barn’s uppermost level are three bedrooms and three full baths, one for a set of parent-chaperones, referred to as the “short-straw room” by the owners.

For the 20 grandchildren, who range in age from 1 to 19, there are two bedrooms, each boasting 10 bunks. The children’s separate-by-sex baths have double sinks, shower and tub.

The boys’ tub is surrounded by riverstone, the girls’ by white-painted beadboard. A laundry room on this level has two sets of stacked washers and dryers and a deep sink, suitable for the hand-washing of delicate clothing.

Should boredom set in, a virtual impossibility here, there are family rooms with televisions and fieldstone fireplaces on two levels. There’s also a 25-seat movie theater whose plush leather chairs have a niche for a drink or the output of the nearby popcorn machine. One room has arcade games and a billiard table with a country motif, brought from Idaho.

A room for virtual golf allows a round at any of 50 renowned courses, from Pebble Beach in California to St. Andrews in Scotland.

An artist’s mural on the entrance walls surrounds the golfer with woodland scenes of the Greenbrier in West Virginia and Augusta National, where the PGA Masters tournament is played. A child-sized, single-lane bowling alley has appropriately-sized pins and balls.

A unique, multiflight spiral staircase was hand-made of logs in Colorado and shipped east, along with a crew, to be reassembled on site. Tucked beneath the winding steps is a curved ice cream bar whose onyx counters glow in tawny colors from the lights installed below.

There’s a full kitchen as well, with stucco walls, a limestone farmer’s sink echoing the countertops and a six-burner Viking stove. Reflecting the French Country motif, the chandelier has an around-the-rim procession of rabbits, ducks and chickens.

The kitchen opens to a dining area, with a walnut table, 14 feet in length, that was carved from a single tree. Additional tables pop open to seat the entire crowd. Beyond is a walk-in pantry to house the necessarily sizable complement of china and glassware.

There was no skimping in this fairy-tale setting.

Schlubach said the finest hardware, “worth more than gold,” was used throughout the four-level barn. Much of the material is chestnut-salvaged from antique barns. The main and lower levels have chestnut wainscoting, and hand-hewn chestnut beams cross ceilings here and there.

There’s an elevator stopping at all levels and a full-house generator. The latest addition is a chocolate fondue fountain, just waiting for a sweet tooth to arrive.

“The building was awarded to me, because I had previously done work on the main house,” said Schlubach, who completed the entire barn in just 16 months and won a 2005 HOBI award from the Homebuilders Association of Connecticut for the barn in the category of “best accessory building.”

©2006 Southern Conn. Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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