By Cindy Hoedel
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Bucking a trend, my retired dad and stepmom have upsized.
They recently moved into a new, custom home in Clinton, Mo. On Easter, three of their five kids, their spouses and nine grandkids descended on the place.
In no time flat, a patio door handle broke off in the overeager grasp of a child. My unflappable stepmom commented: "It's good to put the house through its paces like this, so we can see how it stands up to heavy use."
She meant it, too. The house was designed for heavy use by relatives.
For example, there's a self-contained "mother-in-law" suite in case my grandmother ever wants to come for an extended stay.
An elevator and 36-inch-wide doorways will give my uncle, who has multiple sclerosis, easy access to all parts of the home.
Between the formal dining room and the eat-in kitchen, 17 people were able to sit down at once to a holiday meal of ham and lamb.
The finished basement is Entertainment Central. There's a full bar, home theater with high-definition TV, fireplace, pool table, air hockey table, exercise room, ping-pong room (very small so you don't have to chase the balls around) and sauna.
In addition, the second floor houses a lilac-painted Granddaughters' Room and an attic play space for the grandsons. Having play areas upstairs and in the basement has the effect of driving kids from the main level as effectively as asking them to help clear the table. So the living room and sunroom remain blissfully calm grownup zones.
Putting the master bedroom on the quiet floor and massing the guest rooms upstairs will ensure quiet nights for the hosts even with a full house. Smart move!
Outdoors, a patio with a built-in fire pit and a two-story deck with a hot tub are around the corner from each other. That way, different generations can relax together or separately.
For intrafamilial athletics, there's a basketball goal that would not look out of place in Allen Fieldhouse. It took three men three hours to mount the backboard.
But for the youngsters, basketball takes a backseat to the golf cart. Since kids aren't allowed on the golf course that abuts the back yard, they drive the cart around the streets of the subdivision very slowly or very fast, depending on whom you ask.
The concept of a family compound, with one large house where the bulk of family life takes place and several smaller dwellings used mainly for sleeping, is usually associated with the very rich, thanks to Hyannis Port, where the Kennedys play in summer.
But I know from the Josefina series of my daughter's American Girl books that haciendas in New Mexico were once organized this way, as well.
As an owner of what would be considered one of the satellite dwellings a mere hour's drive away, I think the family-oriented Big House is a smashing idea.
For my dad and stepmom the only drawback is that if they want any alone time, they may have to leave town.
© 2004, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.