The Grownup Playroom

For the rush of scaling a rugged crag, most rock climbers head for the hills. Waban home-owner Keith Prue simply heads for his attic, which he has transformed into a full-room rock climbing gym. Designed by Prue and built by Boston-based Brewer’s Ledge, the space offers a series of 45-degree gradients, with a peak height of almost 9 feet. The attic walls are loaded with arêtes and overhanging corners that might just make it the most lavish private rock wall in the world, says Brewer’s Ledge co-owner Jeff Brewer. "Most climbers don’t have a lot of money, and Keith did," Brewer adds. "They just take plywood panels and nail them up. But [Keith] got totally into making something very cool-looking."
Estimated Cost $30,000 for all the equipment and extra framing, as well as a padded floor—just in case someone slips.
Want Your Own? Brewer’s Ledge provides the paneling, but you’ll need a contractor to install and frame the wall. The company also offers (and installs) a variety of freestanding walls. Brewer’s Ledge, 34 Brookley Rd., Boston, 800-707-9616,

Entertaining a horde of guests can really put a strain on space, but one Nantucket family has figured out the remedy: Buy a 30-acre property once owned by the Vanderbilts and turn it into party central. The estate boasts a 48-person dining room and a full-size baseball field, but the bulk of the revelry takes place at the 1,500-square-foot "party barn." Architect and contractor Chip Webster built this structure to include a grand stage that opens up to an 18-foot mahogany bar with a stainless steel sink, ice machine, and wine refrigerator. Above, a suspended loft offers a prime perch for people-watching. For more-casual occasions, there’s a basement-level Irish pub with a full bar, dartboards, stained glass windows, and authentic tavern tables.
Estimated Cost $2.5 million.
Want Your Own? Chip Webster & Associates, 123 Beach St., Boston; 9 Amelia Dr., Nantucket; 888-218-7200,

For serious suds fans, the college-style "beer run" just doesn’t cut it. Wakefield resident Alastair Hewitt, an award-winning brewer, built a basement brewery that yields 20 batches of beer and New England–style cider annually—roughly a thousand bottles. A 12-by-20-foot below-ground storage room offered plenty of space for the entire setup, which includes a carbon dioxide tank, a propane burner, a tubular copper cooling system, and 5-gallon kegs.
Estimated Cost $1,000.
Want Your Own? Modern Homebrew Emporium, 2304 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-498-0400,

Weary of lugging heavy bowling balls to and from the crowded alleys, one Orleans couple decided enough was enough. They hired Los Angeles–based Murrey Bowling Equipment to build a bowling alley right in their basement, complete with two 60-foot regulation lanes and a rack for bowling shoes.
Estimated Cost Between $115,000 and $145,000.
Want Your Own? Murrey Bowling Equipment, 14150 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA, 310-532-6091,


The planetarium at the Museum of Science provides more than enough nightscape for the casual stargazer. But for devoted amateur astronomers, an at-home observatory is absolutely de rigueur. Stephen LaFlamme, self-styled "astro geek," hired Maryland-based Technical Innovations to build a fiberglass dome–crowned observation tower in his Bridgewater backyard. The body of the tower houses what LaFlamme calls "mission control," the position from which he steers the specially designed telescope. Underground wiring links the observatory to the viewing center, where LaFlamme can manipulate digital images and videos of all manner of celestial dazzlers.
Estimated Cost A 10-foot dome like LaFlamme’s costs roughly $10,000.
Want Your Own? Technical Innovations, 7851 Cessna Ave., Gaithersburg, MD, 301-977-9000,


Flowers are a nice way to spruce up a room, but if you’ve got thousands of blooms, you’ll need a separate, dedicated space. One orchid-loving Cape Cod couple built a 1,600-square-foot aluminum and glass greenhouse, designed by Larry Reynolds of Framingham-based Glass Structures. Orchids thrive in a cool but moist environment, so to maintain optimal climate, Reynolds installed evaporated coolers (air conditioners that put water into the air instead of taking it out), automatic ridge vents to let warm air escape, and several humidifiers. The greenhouse, which can grow up to 3,000 flowers, also has four 12-inch fans, artificial lighting, and automated watering systems.
Estimated Cost $1.2 million.
Want Your Own? Glass Structures, Framingham, 508-877-6457,


Something fishy’s going on in the home of a Swampscott poultry-industry kingpin. Specifically, exotic fish—housed in a saltwater aquarium so large it had to be installed by crane while the home was still under construction (just before the roof was finished). The freestanding 1,800-gallon aquarium is flanked by a beverage bar—a must for thirsty ichthyologists—and highlights include the hard-to-collect conspiculatus angel fish and a 2-foot-long Napoleon wrasse.
Estimated Cost $150,000.
Want Your Own? Gibbons Aquaria, 55 Purdon Ave., Lynn, 781-760-7219,

Fitness junkies aching to tone their calves at home can get by with a run-of-the-mill treadmill. But one health-conscious Cambridge family instead opted to build a full-scale home gym. The studio holds three exercise machines on a carpeted floor in a 12-by-16-foot space, adorned with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and intricate wood paneling.
Estimated Cost $40,000.
Want Your Own? S+H Construction, 26 New St., Cambridge, 617-876-8286,