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Beautiful Basements: Game, Set, Match

When your children love to play tennis, adding a basement sport court is a winning decision.

In the Rales family’s basement sport court, the children’s grandfather appears in the mural as a referee. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

If You Want to Install a Sport Court

Be specific
“When someone asks for a multipurpose court, we tend to be conservative with space and height so the sport court doesn’t overwhelm the lower level,” says builder Jim Gibson. But when a homeowner is specific about its use—whether squash, basketball, or tennis—the designer can create a court that suits that sport well.

Take the long view
If you’re putting in a court when your kids are young, you might be thinking about play areas for rainy days or play dates with friends. But think long-term: When the kids are teenagers, they’ll likely use the area to listen to music or perhaps even practice with a band—and it’s always easier to add soundproofing during construction.

When Lyn Rales built her home in Bethesda, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with the basement. Her two teenage children both loved and were good at tennis. “My kids were always hitting balls against the wall of our previous home’s basement, and it was loud upstairs,” says Rales. “I wanted to do this for them, but with some sound buffer.”

Jim Gibson of Gibson Builders constructed a basement that would have ten-foot ceilings through most of the spaces, such as the exercise room, storage area, and playroom. But in one area, he excavated deeper to provide 14-foot ceilings—a good height for a modest sport court. “It was important for the ceiling to be high enough for them to practice their serve,” says Gibson, “even if it wasn’t going to be a regulation-size court.”

Gibson installed a rubberized DecoTurf surface like the one at the US Open, which is easy on the joints and gives the ball a nice bounce. A large laminated window between the court and the family room lets adults socialize or watch TV while still seeing the kids practice. That view also came in handy when the teenagers used the court for parties.

A mural incorporates the children’s tennis bags and some of their favorite players. Guests can spot Stefan Edberg, Thomas Muster, Steffi Graf, and Anna Kournikova in the stands, plus the kids’ grandfather as the referee.

Net result: excellent. Both Rales kids played college tennis.

Explore More Beautiful Basements ››

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

  • Anonymous

    That mural and credit for design belongs to artist Ron Hutchinson
    Who painted under the the name Dr. Doodle. No other persons may have that credit and it deserves proper recognition!
    For other later works by this artist. You can visit :

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