Play Grounds

Sarah Hill has to stifle a smile when people ask how many children she has. She names Jack, 8; Max, 5; and Sydney, 1, but in the back of her mind, she's adding her eternally youthful husband, Dan, to the total. So when it came time to build their Timberlake home, it was no surprise they designed it to maximize fun.

Timesavers: Who wants to clean house when you have the lake in your backyard? Everything about the Hills' home is low maintenance. An outdoor shower makes rinsing off sand easy. Any grains that make it inside are captured by the central vacuum system integrated into the toe kicks. Custom-built lockers in the mud room make locating belongings a snap.

Open-door policy: Friends and family have a 365-day-a-year standing invite. The only rules: "You don't have to take your shoes off" and "After your first visit, you help yourself to whatever is in the fridge," Dan says. Bonfires, scavenger hunts, and pizza and movie nights (the Viking oven can bake eight pizzas at once) are common occurrences.

For the kids:
A 600-square-foot playroom over the garage houses tables full of crafts plus air hockey, foosball, pingpong and a Wii system. And though the kids know not to run in the house, the Hills opted for rounded wall edges — just in case.

For the adults: Dan and Sarah's lifestyle revolves around outdoor activities, so the portico (with built-in grill and outdoor TV for sporting events) and large tiered deck offer plenty of outdoor living space. When it rains, there's the heated garage with food and beverage storage, a recycling area and a bathroom.

Who needs GPS? A compass design created from exotic woods was incorporated into the foyer's bamboo floor. Dan bought a real compass so the design would face true magnetic north.

Most discussed feature: The interior doors. The Hills were celebrating their 10th anniversary in Thailand when they discovered the century-old, hand-carved doors. Dan thought they were a steal at $90 apiece. After shipping them home and restoring them, he found out the builder would have to construct unique framing for all 12. The solid teak and mahogany doors also needed custom doorjambs and hardware. Not quite a steal, but certainly a good story.

Old souls: The Hills told their architect, Gary Brown, they wanted their new home to "look as if it had been there forever."
Year built: 2009

Style: Contemporary

Size: 4,000 square feet

The lot: Almost an acre with 70 feet of lakefront

Baths: 4.5

Bedrooms: 4, plus an office/guest suite 
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