Entertainment Central in Orono by Gordon James

A family with two young boys aimed to build the house where all the kids—and their parents—want to hang out. The house also needed defined office spaces for both grownups, who work from home, and a casual, livable environment for guests and residents of all ages.

This Orono home offers ample settings for entertaining, including a spacious kitchen/great room combination and lower level. But the highlight is its outdoor living space. Builder Gordon James brings indoor functionality to the outside with an open-air kitchen and living room, featuring a wood-burning fire pit and seating designed for comfortable dining and relaxing. If it’s drizzling or mosquitoes descend, the entire space can be enclosed by retractable screens that emerge from surrounding pillars.

The lushly landscaped backyard also includes a swimming pool, hot tub, large pool deck, and an outdoor fireplace with lounge seating. Situated on a 2.5-acre, previously undeveloped lot that was filled with trees and vegetation, the home retains its wooded, private feel. Stands of mature trees and vegetation frame the entire backyard, lending the space a sense of seclusion.


Since easy entertaining was top of mind for the owners, John Quinlivan, president of Maple Plain-based Gordon James, responded with solutions like a three-quarter bath adjacent to the outdoor entertaining space. A drain in the bathroom’s tiled floor, a shower, and laundry facilities nearby make it easy to rinse off sun-screened kids with dirty feet, throw wet towels into the washing machine, and confine any pool mess to this part of the home.

The 5,600-square-foot Craftsman-style home, with five bedrooms and five bathrooms, offers numerous spaces for the family to gather, including the basement theater area with a wet bar and an exercise room. The main-floor owners’ suite features a coved nook for reading and French doors that open to a balcony overlooking the backyard. Upstairs, the boys share an open bonus room for play, homework, and media right outside their bedrooms, which also feature covered balconies in the front and back of the house.

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