It all started with the bowling alley. Its long expanse of professional-grade lanes fills the lower level of a sprawling, custom stone house in Woodbridge, Virginia—a dream fulfilled for the owners, who built their home with this beloved sport in mind.
The couple shares the hospitable, 13,000-square-foot house with their dog, Sarge, and a regular stream of visiting family and friends. “We wanted the house to hold everyone,” says one of the owners. “We knew, with the bowling alley, it would have to be big, but we wanted it to feel lived in, not like a museum.”
After purchasing a 10-acre site that curves down to the Occoquan River, they assembled a team that started with builder Mike Garcia, who sold them the land. Architect Sandhya Gorur, tapped to design the home, was given a wish list that went beyond the bowling alley to include an indoor swimming pool, screened and covered porches, five bedrooms, and seven baths. “The challenge was to keep the house from being too long and narrow because of the bowling alley,” Gorur recalls. “I didn’t want long corridors and too many rooms.”
The couple hired interior designer Lorna Gross-Bryant before they broke ground. “Involving Lorna from the start was essential,” observes one homeowner. “We didn’t want to wait to the end to hire a designer when there were so many decisions to be made.”
By dint of a 70-foot retaining wall, the house was positioned to straddle a deep ravine bordered by woods that reveal river views in the winter. Wood and stone surfaces throughout convey an organic sensibility and the floor plan is open, “but with divisions that allow you to define the spaces,” says Gross-Bryant. For example, Gorur delineated the living and dining areas to either side of the entry with pillars and arches, while Gross-Bryant used sisal rugs under decorative area rugs to differentiate spaces, grouping furniture atop them to encourage gathering and conversation.
I understood the owners’ personalities. They’re relaxed, not pretentious. A bowling alley means you want to have fun, right?
After getting to know the owners, Gross-Bryant decided on a look that would be warm and inviting in spite of the home’s size. “I understood their personalities right away,” she observes. “They’re relaxed—not pretentious. A bowling alley means you want to have fun, right?”
A refined mix of fabrics and finishes gives each room a sophisticated presence, while comfortable seating throughout allows visitors to relax. Hand-scraped hardwood floors add a casual, rustic touch, but are stained dark for a hint of elegance.
As per the owners’ request, the curving staircase is hidden from the foyer, positioned instead in the great room, which lies straight ahead from the entry. Beyond the stairs, the spacious kitchen flows into a breakfast area and family room; Gorur designed the kitchen so guests can be seated nearby—but out of the way—when cooking was in progress. The indoor pool is visible from the family room through a wall of windows. “We wanted to highlight the pool area and have it relate to the house,” explains one owner. Chairs beside the windows swivel so guests can observe the action in the pool from a comfortable perch.
Also adjacent to the family room is a three-season screened porch that can be closed off from the elements by glass panes that draw down over the screens. The porch leads to an expansive patio, beyond which lies another porch—this one covered but not screened. It features archways that frame views of the backyard.
Downstairs, the bowling alley beckons. The lanes are clad in the same laminated flooring found in professional alleys, and the elaborate operating system is concealed in its very own room. Vintage game boards and posters adorn the walls.
The bowling alley is part of an open-plan space that includes a media center, a full bar decorated with original Guinness ads from the 1920s and an alcove that holds a game table and custom banquette. A workout space occupies an adjacent room.
“I refer to this house as a ‘staycation home,’” Gross-Bryant says. “The owners like to spend time at home, and this house offers everything they need. Other than an occasional trip to the grocery store, they never have to leave!” v
Photographer Angie Seckinger splits her time between Potomac, Maryland, and Spain.
ARCHITECTURE: SANDHYA GORUR, Associate AIA, Another Angle Design Services, Centreville, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: LORNA GROSS-BRYANT, ASID, Lorna Gross Interior Design, Bethesda, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: MIKE GARCIA, Mike Garcia Construction, Inc., Woodbridge, Virginia.