Beginning in the 18th century, English country houses had glass-paned orangeries where exotic plants, flowers and citrus trees flourished throughout the cooler months, providing a haven from the elements for their inhabitants and spaces for entertaining in summer. Their popularity surged during the 19th century when new construction techniques allowed for ever more fantastical structures, but they pretty much disappeared as tastes and styles changed in more modern times. At Tanglewood Conservatories, on the Eastern Shore area of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, Alan Stein, Nancy Virts and co. aim to recreate some of that bygone elegance. The company designs and builds bespoke turn-of-the-century domes, conservatories, greenhouses and swimming pool enclosures in high style.
Every structure is made by hand at the Tanglewood atelier, and the prices, starting at $175,000, reflect the time, attention and high quality materials that goes into their construction. They can be added to existing houses and mansions or built as part of brand new estates, like this incredible spread in Washington. Some of their well-known clients include Eddie Murphy, director / producer Ron Howard, the Dallas Cowboys' Don Abbey, late Lazard Freres CEO Bruce Wasserstein and interior designer Mario Buatta. Each creation is totally unique; Tanglewood never repeats the same design twice. The fit and finish of a Tanglewood conservatory has more in common with fine furniture than carpentry. Usually constructed of solid mahogany, these are intricate, complex, highly detailed structures, some large enough to hold fully-grown trees. The company also constructs glass and copper domes, roof lanterns and skylights in virtually any size, shape and design.
Gallery: Tanglewood Conservatories
The Victorians regarded the conservatory as nothing short of a triumph of architecture over nature. Swimming pool enclosures might seem a more modern innovation, but in fact the tradition of building extraordinary structures to enclose both public and private swimming pools is in even older, dating to the great Roman balnea or thermae. Most Roman cities had at least one such building, which was central to the public life of its citizens. Most private villas also included a bath house. The opulent pool enclosure pictured above was constructed for an estate in Kentucky. Tanglewood's sensitivity to form, proportion, materials and detail is evident in its pleasing lines. Their craftsmen are heirs to a 300-year-old craft and woodworking tradition, especially in an area with a long history in boatbuilding. See the gallery for more examples of Tanglewood's high-end designs in various styles.