Originally created 08/31/99

House bowls over visitors

Tom and Sandy Herring's West Lake subdivision home seems to have little in common with a bowling alley.

With a 20-foot-high, stained-glass window greeting visitors at the front door, the home may seem more like a church or museum than a recreation center.

However, with a quick step inside and then down a flight of stairs to the basement, the atmosphere changes as the sound of crashing bowling pins fills the air from two professional-size lanes.

"Any time we feel like bowling, we come downstairs, turn the switch on and start the balls rolling," Mrs. Herring said. "Usually, my son and his friends are down here just about every day. I try my luck about twice a week.

"I shoot 190 right now, which really isn't all that great. But it's getting a little bit better all the time."

David Miles, the original owner, had the bowling alley included when the home was built three years ago, Mrs. Herring said. The Herrings, who have two children -- 25-year-old Stephanie and 16-year-old Matthew -- had the alley sound-proofed after purchasing the home a year ago.

"I've really never heard exactly why the builder put a bowling alley in. But, I'll tell you this much, my kids are sure glad he did," Mrs. Herring said.

The bowling alley has kept the Herrings busy with church youth group bowling parties. Lanes run automatically, but the Herrings have to call for help from Brunswick National Lanes to remove balls that have become stuck and to keep the lanes' wooden floors waxed.

Besides parties, the alley has also kept the Herrings' doorbell constantly ringing with curious visitors.

"We have people come up all the time ringing our doorbell wanting to know if we're the people with the bowling alley," Mrs. Herring said. "I always say, `We sure are. Come on in. You want to see?"'

Once inside, however, visitors often find themselves impressed not only with the alley but with the home. With 10,000 square feet, the Herrings' home has six bedrooms and eight baths -- one of which has a television that drops down from a hidden compartment in the ceiling. The home even has a separate apartment wing for a live-in nanny.

"I always loved the house, myself, because of the space, and it just happened to have a bowling alley, too," Mrs. Herring said.

The Herrings own Refractory Services Inc., which is based in Augusta and provides insulation for incinerators at companies like International Paper.

People enjoy the home so much, Mrs. Herring said, because it creates a comfortable atmosphere. In most of the rooms, Mrs. Herring has incorporated a theme.

"A lot of the time, people feel intimidated by our house when they see it on the outside. They think of it like a museum. But once inside, people always feel comfortable."

Items that recall the 1950s and '60s are displayed in the basement, including a poster from the movie Grease, an old-fashioned Coke machine and two mannequins dressed in '50s clothing.

Upstairs on the first level, there's a 1920s color scheme to the dining room and what Mrs. Herring calls the "bomber jacket room." The walls of the "bomber jacket room," which has a baby grand piano in it, resemble the color of leather. The dining room walls are black with gold trim.

There's a sports-themed bedroom, which has curtains made out of canvas material with hand paintings of Joe Montana and Wayne Gretzky on them. There's a Romantic-era bedroom, which has flowers painted on its walls, and an upstairs bedroom filled with 1920s antique lamps and dressers. Mrs. Herring jokingly calls it the "bordello room."

"Anytime our children have their friends stay over they always want to pick a different themed room to stay in," Mrs. Herring said. "The Romantic-era room is usually everybody's favorite."

Mrs. Herring, however, said her favorite is one of two sun rooms in the house. She calls the one on the first floor the bird room because birds have been hand-painted on the walls and because she often watches birds in her back yard from it.

"This is where I like to read books a lot, too," she said. "It's really peaceful."

She also enjoys taking a walk in her back yard. Before the Herrings bought the house, there was only a pool in the back yard. They have since added several angel statues, a fish pond, a gazebo, a brick wall enclosing the property line, a small flower garden and an outdoor dance floor for summer parties. Recently, they've had five trees brought in by crane from a tree farm in Orangeburg, S.C. to spruce up the yard.

"We have a lot of parties out here," said Mrs. Herring while maneuvering around her pool. "It's just a really pretty place to come out to because you can just kick back and relax. It's really nice."

And with a quick glance back to her house while still in the back yard, Mrs. Herring can't help but laugh.

"It's actually kind of funny, because with all of this peacefulness, you'd never know that a bowling alley is just right over there."

To nominate an interesting or unusual home for a Today's Home profile, call Features Editor Elizabeth Adams at (706) 823-3348.

Preston Sparks can be reached at 868-1222, 110 or preston.sparks@groupz.net


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