Secret in the Cellar

About five years ago I realized that I was missing something very important from my life. At first I thought that I needed a great career. Eventually I bagged the career thing and decided that I needed passion about something like French antiques or guinea pigs. I wanted a "Honk if you Love Clogging" sticker on my bumper.

I have always envied the people who can immerse themselves completely in their hobbies. You know the type - they read American Square Dance Journal; they have wood-burned plaques that say "Swing your Partner;" photos scattered throughout the house show them at various square dancing functions; they travel around the country to go to square dancing conventions, they wear tiny gold square dancers around their necks, and just in case you somehow miss that they are into square dancing they throw words like "Allemande" into the conversation.

The most important clue to a true hobbyist's level of dedication is his or her basement. The basement seems to be the dark womb-like place where the hobby can flourish, its master undisturbed, as it grows into a true obsession for some and at least a preoccupation for others.

My basement contains boxes that I have never unpacked from the last time I moved (as well as a stinky tray of cat litter) because I am reasonably, but not especially good at a couple of things, yet not passionate enough about anything to make a life of it. I can cook pretty well, but I have watched the masters and I rank as a bench warmer in the bush leagues compared to them. I also enjoy throwing parties, and I am reasonably good at it, but I'd rather just go to my friend Laura's house - she always throws a great party AND sends her guests home with some wonderful baked goods.

Mostly I like to boss people around and I read really, really fast. I had never thought that these, my only two skills/interests, could possibly be parlayed into a worthwhile hobby but I read recently that the Queen of England is a very fast reader also. She said it came in quite handy for her, as she has to read reams of important paperwork. Furthermore, I'm certain she absolutely loves to tell people what to do. While her job looks pretty fun (I love a good hat and matching handbag), I'm not sure I want to make such a huge commitment. I do wonder, however, if there is any conceivable way that being Queen could be my hobby. I could keep my diadem in the basement beside my ermine-trimmed robe and 1400 hatboxes. I would lay my tiaras on a card table and build cement block and pine board bookcases to hold all my Figurehead Journals.

Rick and Melanie Johnson built a whole house around their passions - their children and music.

As she walked across the gleaming maple floors of her very grown-up looking house off Brannon Road in Jessamine county, Melanie said, "This house was built to accommodate small children."

The open floor plan of the public spaces allows one to look through the house, past the back of the one-and-a-half acre lot to the farm beyond.

Melanie adapted the plan from a purchased design and rearranged the rooms and doors in this way so the adults could keep an eye on the children while they play. She designed arched windows in the wall between the den and living room because she imagined that her three daughters (now 10, 13, 16) would be able to have puppet shows there and use the windows and their ledges as stages.

Because the master bedroom is on the first floor while the two additional bedrooms are up a flight of stairs, the Johnson's installed lighting along the stairs so if the children needed them at night they could find their parents' room.

Upstairs, a catwalk connects the two bedrooms. Melanie, a self-described "worry wart," envisioned one of the children jumping over the railing into either the living room on one side or the dining room on the other so she installed a wood grid from the top of the rail to the ceiling on both sides. Painted gray, it becomes a design element as well as a safety feature. Each of the bedrooms has two closets with lots of built-ins. The huge upstairs bathroom accommodates multiple bathers and has a private water closet.

The plan to make this house safe and fun for children, in fact, allows a wonderful house with efficient use of space and many elements of visual interest.

Melanie and Rick, while being obviously doting parents, also share a love of music. Melanie, a writer and singer, needed a place to record her music while her husband (a physician in real life), "Dr. Rick" as he is know in Lexington's music circles, wanted to create a place to create a high quality sound studio to record his wife's work as well as the work of friends who are in the business Thus, they built a state-of-the-art sound studio - in the basement.

I don't know a great deal about recording studios but this seems to have it all. Complete with control room, main room, drum and vocal booths, all soundproofed from the upstairs, this place looks like the real thing.

I've seen the basements of many hobbyists but this one pretty much beats them all - the walls are filled with sand for goodness sake.


109 Song Sparrow


2500 square feet; plus 1500 in basement

3 bedrooms; 2 and one half baths

1 and one half acres

2-car garage

Contact Fred Kamdar 276-4811

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.