The combination wine room-pool room at a home in Manhasset....

The combination wine room-pool room at a home in Manhasset. (April 2, 2011) Credit: John Dunn

What can you put in a basement? Whaddaya got?

The Persians used basements to store wine, water and food. Wealthy Romans placed wood-fired ovens there to heat their homes and used them as bathing areas. Venetian architect Andrea Palladio designed them to house the kitchen staff, an idea copied by Thomas Jefferson, who added a wine cellar and a beer brewing area at Monticello.

Probably no other section of the home is as flexible as a basement.

It can be a home theater, a reading nook, a sports lounge or a model railroad-builder's universe. And what better place to put your regulation-size racquetball court?

"It was a gift from my husband, George," Stacy Fakiris says of the facility that dominates the basement of their Old Brookville home, which is for sale for $5.795 million.

Fakiris, 50, who owns a private commercial mortgage lending firm, grew up playing paddleball in Queens. She spends much of her downstairs time on the court, she says. Her real estate developer husband prefers the rest of the basement, with its exercise area, pool table and media room. "It's where he can hang out with his friends and drink Scotch," Stacy says.

The owners of a Head of the Harbor home being sold by Nancy Ann Rizzo with Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty turned their basement into a "children's paradise," Rizzo says. Their main focus was the bowling alley, where they held neighborhood tournaments. "It was like a clubhouse," she says.

Actually, elaborate basements usually don't add much value to a home, says Dave Schrock, a builder and author of the 2001 self-published book "Basement Ideas." "I wouldn't finish a basement to make money on it, but it does increase your quality of life."

That makes sense to Rich Sasto, owner of Town and Country Remodeling in Ronkonkoma. "It's creating more living space at an affordable cost rather than extending the house. And the space is already there," he says.

Maybe the best thing about a basement kingdom is that down there you are a monarch. Like Stacy Fakiris -- queen of her court. She and George play each other sometimes, she says, but tennis is his game.

"I don't think he'll ever beat me," she says.


$5.995 million

ADDRESS. 42 Walter Lane

WHY IT'S A KINGDOM. This 2,000-square-foot-plus basement comes with a gym, a sauna, a wet bar, a card-playing area and a guest room with a full bathroom. The billiard room has a wine-storage section. One part of the basement contains a batting cage.

THE REST OF THE HOUSE. This is a six-bedroom, 6½-bath Colonial on a cul-de-sac. It has an eat-in kitchen with a breakfast room, a formal dining room, a den and a family room, four fireplaces and a five-car garage. There is a two-story entry foyer with a double-bridal staircase. Outside is a pool with an attached hot tub and a full outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven and fire pit.

LISTING HISTORY. On the market since mid-January with no price changes


LISTING AGENT. Jack Rossinsky, Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes & Estates, 516-606-2451



LOCATION. 4920 South Express Dr.

WHY IT'S A KINGDOM. This 1,128-square-foot basement was an entertaining mecca for the current owners. It features an old-fashioned, pub-style wet bar, a pool table and a home office.

THE REST OF THE HOUSE.  It's a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch with vaulted ceilings, four skylights, an eat-in kitchen, a living room, a formal dining room, a den with a fireplace and a three-season room with a hot tub. This property is a short sale.

LISTING HISTORY. On the market for a year with three price changes


LISTING AGENT. Christine Brunette at 631-881-5158 and Jodi Fein at 631-881-5170 with Realty Connect USA Llc


$849,000 to $879,000

LOCATION. 9 Rolling Wood Court

WHY IT'S A KINGDOM. This 1,200-square-foot basement features a 300-gallon fish tank with adjoining rooms painted in bright sea colors. One is used as a media room with a flat-screen television. The owners also use space with a wet bar as a general entertainment area with a card table, a music room and a billiard room.

THE REST OF THE HOUSE. It is a five-bedroom, four-bath Colonial with a 2½-story center entrance hall on a cul-de-sac. The home has a banquet dining room. On the first floor is a master guest suite. The main master suite, which has surround sound, a therapeutic soaking tub with extra jets and three walk-in closets, is on the second floor. This floor is an open loft design with large windows that look out at the front entry. There also is a 2½-car garage.

LISTING HISTORY. On the market a year and a half with no price changes.

ANNUAL TAXES. $11,075.

LISTING AGENT. William Tarantola, Coach Realtors Christie's International Realtors, 516-236-6178 

Old Brookville


ADDRESS. 3 Valentine Farm Ct.

WHY IT'S A KINGDOM. This 4,000-square-foot basement has a media area with theater chairs, a massage room, a pool table, a gym and a full kitchen. The gym has a window looking into the subbasement, which has a regulation-size racquetball court.

THE REST OF THE HOUSE.  A seven-bedroom, 8½-bath Colonial on 3.1 acres next to a nature preserve. The home has an elevator, a formal dining room, a den and family room, two offices and three fireplaces. There is a separate guest wing with a full bath, bedroom and living room. The master suite has a dressing room and makeup area. The master bedroom and one other bedroom have balconies overlooking the pool, which has waterfalls and a wet bar. The poolside cabana has its own kitchen and laundry room. There is a three-car garage.

LISTING HISTORY. On the market for five months with one price change

ANNUAL TAXES. $81,000.

LISTING AGENT. Janine Fakiris, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-492-1480 

Head of the Harbor


ADDRESS. 9 Watercrest Ct.

WHY IT'S A KINGDOM. This 3,000-square-foot basement was a favorite of local children because of its regulation-size bowling alley. The family kept bowling balls and shoes on hand for players. In addition, the basement has a media center, a pool table, a wet bar, an exercise room and several video arcade games, such as Pac-Man.

THE REST OF THE HOUSE.  The seven-bedroom, 6½-bath contemporary home on two wooded acres has a large eat-in kitchen, a formal dining room, a den, a family room and an office. It also has two fireplaces, five skylights, a heated in-ground pool and a 3½-car garage. There is a separate guest wing above the garage. The home is handicapped- accessible.

LISTING HISTORY. On the market for eight months with three price changes

ANNUAL TAXES. $26,492.

LISTING AGENT. Nancy Ann Rizzo, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-729-6990

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