Visualize a Space That Creates and Supports Your Passions

Posted October 20th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Client Stories, Conservatory Projects, Steel Structures
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cast ironThe love affair between steel and the arts was birthed during the industrial revolution with the development of decorative cast iron. The malleability of first cast iron and then steel entranced designers who delighted in creating romantic flourishes including leaves, stars and even fanciful animals. As glass became affordable, it was coupled with both structural and decorative cast iron for the charming glass conservatories we know of from 18th century.

The manufacturing of steel and other metals has improved over time, giving them properties that allow our own ability to use them to also evolve. The result is new possibilities transforming conservatory design into thoroughly modern and special rooms with the old world flare that is so charming and desirable.

Storytelling in Steel

We love our clients! Their imagination gives us new challenges and takes us to new heights.

sequence-drawingOne client led us to a new discovery in the future of steel structure.  He dreamed of a glass conservatory that would have the charm and feel of mahogany yet constructed using steel to reflect his love of mathematics!

We puzzled over a few renderings but one late night drawing captured it all. To incorporate his passions we cut the Fibonacci sequence in the supporting steel beams! He loved the concept!

You may know it from The Da Vinci Code – either the book or the movie. A Fibonacci Sequence can be defined as a series of numbers in which each number ( Fibonacci number ) is the sum of the two preceding numbers.  The simplest is the series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, etc.

Charmed with our rendering, our client immediately saw his passions coming alive in his new glass conservatory.  Using laser cut steel we were able to create a pattern of circles using the sequence. Note elbows the elbow of each support is the largest circle. The three circles moving out from the biggest circle decrease in size according to their Fibonacci number. When it was built, he was thrilled at how we met and exceeded his expectations. It is now his favorite room
in his home!

bronze-deckAnother client envisioned a glass conservatory on a stone observation deck. The goal was to create it out of steel and bronze while retaining all possible old world charm. At the top, he suggested, should be a bronze roof-lantern-style cap that would cover the home’s elevator.

Our solution was to engineer a bronze exterior shell to contain the glass. Inside steel ribs emphasize the architecture and blend with the interior of the home.

In Partnership

One of the reasons our designs are so well loved is we partner with other craftspeople. To give our clients the best experience and quality, we are now the exclusive Mid-Atlantic dealer of Brombal Products. Brombal is well known for beautifully handcrafted Italian door and window systems. Carefully chosen partnerships like this one expand what we are able to offer our clients while maintaining our commitment to quality of materials and design.

The Art of the Glass Conservatory

We are more than just another conservatory manufacturer. The artistry that comes with designing and building glass conservatories with modern materials in the charming style of yore is what makes us America’s Premier Conservatory Designer and Manufacturer. We are truly artists, in love with our craft.

Connect with our Project Manager, Andrew Ruf, to begin the discussion of how your conservatory can inspire and reflect your passions – 410.479.4700




Modern Conservatories – The Great New Look of the Traditional Glass Palace

Posted February 28th, 2013 by Alan Stein and filed in General
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Gardens by the Bay, Singapore 2012Palm House Kew Gardens, London

         Gardens by the Bay, Singapore 2012                              The Palm House Kew Gardens, London 1844-1848


While traditionally styled conservatories make up the bulk of Tanglewood’s portfolio, the relevance of the conservatory as a building type and function is validated by the many “modern” conservatories still being built around the world today.

In fact, the conservatory is as relevant today, perhaps more so, than it was 150 years ago when it made its debut in Victorian England.

The conservatory was at the cutting edge of building technology. The major issues to be solved: 1) how to design and construct a structure that was absolutely minimal so that the maximum amount of light would be available to the flora within. 2) How to design the glass “skin” to be the most efficient at letting light in and yet keep the weather out and the heat in. 3) What to make such a structure look like, since it was a completely new type of building and there were no precedents available.

The designers of the day used all their ingenuity and took advantage of every technological advance to solve these and many other issues. These are the some of the same challenges that confront designers of today’s conservatories and the purposes for erecting such buildings are similar as well.

For example, the two striking conservatories that make up the “Gardens by the Bay” project in Singapore which opened last year were conceived as key ingredients to a strategy to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”. The stated aim was “… to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city”.

Not so different from the aim of Victorian era planners who included urban parks and grand conservatories for the public use much for the same purpose. The massively profitable Industrial Revolution had polluted and denigrated the quality of life in all major cities.

Read below about these amazing structures that have attracted so much attention and hosted over one million visitors since opening six months ago.

The largest climate-controlled conservatories in the world exist side-by-side in Singapore. These two greenhouses were named World Building of the Year in October 2012 at the World Architecture Festival. The two, known as the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, are part of a Gardens by the Bay project by the city of Singapore to create a “City in a Garden.” To get this project underway, the city held an international master plan design competition in January 2006. Over 70 entries from 170 companies in over 24 countries were received, 35 from Singapore alone. In September 2006, Grant Associates and Gustafson Porter, both from the United Kingdom, won the competition. Grant Associates broke ground for Bay South and Gustafson Porter started Bay East in November 2007. Bay East was completed first and opened to the public in October 2011.

Bay South, which contains both of the cooled conservatories, opened for a special preview in November 2011. It officially opened to the public in June 2012. The project, in addition to Grant Associates, was also developed by several other architectural firms: Wilkinson Eyre, Atelier One, Atelier Ten, Land Design and Davis Langdon and Seah. The Flower Dome is a “cool dry conservatory, and the Cloud Forest is a “cool moist conservatory.” Both are designed to show how horticulture can thrive and how it is affected by climate change.

Both greenhouses have a dual-system gridshell structure containing arches that allow as much light as possible in to allow the plant displays inside to flourish, as well as to showcase energy efficient sustainable building technologies. The gridshell portion of the structure is fragile but it was designed to support its own weight plus the weight of the glass. The arches are “set away from the surface of the envelope [glass panels] and arranged radially in line with the geometry of the gridshell.”

The cooled conservatories use a passive means of environmental controls as well as a highly efficient and active system control; they are carbon neutral because of the low-energy, renewable systems that they use. Sophisticated systems had to be designed to operate the greenhouses efficiently. The glass panels, known as envelopes, let in light but at the same time, lower solar heat gain. The panels only allow about 65% of daylight, and only about 35% of solar heat, in. Dry air is cooled in chilled water pipes at the bottom of the conservatory buildings’ ground slabs. As the air warms and rises, it is either directed back into the system for other processes (dehumidifying for example) or allowed to drift out of the structures. Solar trees are used as vents to remove the hot air and to generate hot water and electricity for both buildings. When it rains, the water is collected and stored, then used for irrigation.

These amazing buildings are made of varying shapes and sizes of glass panels. The Flower Dome has 3,332 panels consisting of 42 different shapes and sizes; the Cloud Forest has 2,577 panels, consisting of 690 shapes and sizes! The Flower Dome is the world’s biggest column-less greenhouse. The steel grid of the conservatory acts like an eggshell, and the panes of glass fit together like a huge jigsaw puzzle. The Cloud Forest building’s height is 58 meters (190.3 feet) tall, while the Flower Dome’s highest point measures 38 meters (124.7 feet) tall. The footprint of the Flower Dome is just over two football fields (1.2 hectares) long and the Cloud Forest is .8 hectares or approximately one and a half football fields long.

The cooled conservatories are open year-‘round, however, there are scheduled maintenance days. The Gardens by the Bay web site has a list showing which days each building is closed, so planning your visit shouldn’t be too difficult. The conservatories offer guided tours, audio tours, a self-guided trail, and children’s and school programs.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve been to the Gardens by the Bay and the Cooled Conservatories or if you are planning a visit. Please leave your comments below.

Progress on Steel & Glass Conservatory

Posted September 27th, 2009 by Alan Stein and filed in Conservatory Projects
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installation crew on roof
Tanglewood installation team enjoying a sunny break atop the cupola of the large steel and glass pool house conservatory under construction.

top of the world
They are on top of the world, the job is going well!

The old-world, steel and glass pool enclosure that we are constructing is coming along quite well. Last week, the cupola was completed on our custom conservatory and the finish coat of paint put on to protect it from the fast approaching cold northern weather.

pool house conservatory

roof structure
The dark bronze/grey color was chosen for the conservatory roof because it will blend well with the slate roof that will go onto the main house. Originally, copper was under consideration however costs and the desire for it to blend dictated the choice of a specially colored, powder coated aluminum.

Next week, the glazing of the lower main roof will begin in earnest. The large glass panels will arrive on site in wood crates the day before the work is to begin. The next day, a large crane will hoist each piece of glass, some weighing almost 300 pounds, into place on the roof using special equipment designed to set large pieces of glass high up.

The special lifting mechanism is a steel frame fitted with a small battery operated vacuum pump which sucks the air out of special rubber “cups” which are also attached to the frame, then “stick” to the glass panel allowing it to be hoisted up by the crane without danger.

The process usually proceeds remarkable quickly and safely though it can be a bit disconcerting to watch these large pieces of glass sailing through the air!

I will get some pictures of the process and post them for everyone to see. It is very interesting.

Though the room looks quite unfinished at this point, It is actually nearing completion. Once the glass roof panels are in place and sealed, the main level windows and doors will be installed and then the final trimwork put up for a finished project.

One of the great features of this particular room is the custom designed stained glass panels that will ornament the windows and doors. The intricate designs were created by us working closely with the owners and their designer. There are subtle patterns of color throughout which will add a magical effect to the overall atmosphere. I will post images of these as well as soon as they get installed.

Though sun and t-shirts prevail for the moment, we are actually racing to get the project completely weather tight before the cold weather sets in. On a large job such as this, there can be some anxious moments if everything doesn’t go just right at this time of year in the north. Metals become hard to handle in the cold and the special sealants used to make the glass roof weather tight cannot be applied below certain temperatures.

For now, it looks very good though. I will keep everyone posted on our progress.


Antique Steel and Glass Conservatory Pool Enclosure

Posted July 25th, 2009 by Alan Stein and filed in Conservatory Projects
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hoisting steelStructural steel part being hoisted into place on for old world conservatory replica.

In addition to discussing the changes that have been taking place at Tanglewood over the past year which I began to do in my last blog, I also want to chronicle a really amazing project we’ve been working on for about the same amount of time.

It is one of the most challenging and unique project we’ve ever undertaken and it is now in the early stages of it’s on site installation.

The design challenge was to come up with a way of making the steel structure look authentically old – as if it were “found” somewhere in Europe and brought over and refurbished. Once we figured out how to design the building, we then had to figure out how to build it!

The room is to decorate a very substantial new home in the Midwest and enclose a large swimming pool, spa and lounge area. The unique feature of this conservatory pool enclosure is that from the beginning, the design was to mimic a true nineteenth century steel and glass greenhouse conservatory.

The building is supported by a decorative steel and cast iron structure which is then clad with glass. The owners fell in love with the great glass conservatory at Syon Park in London. They were enamored of the way the delicately detailed cast iron structure sits in distinct contrast to the heavier stone structure that encloses it and they wanted Tanglewood’s design to follow this concept.

What emerged is a truly remarkable building, as I think you’ll see.

Here is truck #4 of 6 (large flatbeds), steel and glass conservatory ready for shipment. Pictured is most of the team that has been working on the project.

A team

Pictured below is the steel structure taking shape piece by piece. It was an elaborate jigsaw puzzle that was fabricated over a thousand miles away from the jobsite by several different fabricators working in tandem under Tanglewood’s direction.


steel structure

steel corner

The picture on the left is a picture of Nancy and myself with the project architect, the project manager and the owner of the construction company that is building the massive new house.

Those big round openings in the steel trusses are to accommodate a huge HVAC duct that will condition the entire space.

At the time of this writing, the steel structure is complete and we are just beginning the next phase of the erection, the wall and roof framing which will be the subject of my next report.


Tiny Tanglewood Conservatory

Posted February 22nd, 2009 by Alan Stein and filed in General
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I just noticed that Sarah Kinbar, editor of Garden Design Magazine included Tanglewood Conservatories in her blog post last Friday. Sarah says of one of our projects, “I love This: Tiny Tanglewood Conservatory”. You can read Sarah’s blog at:

Sarah writes about interesting subjects ranging from gardening tips to background information on varieties of new flowers to interviews with landscape designers.

One such entry caught my eye regarding the “Chiluly: The Nature of Glass” exhibit that has been making the botanical garden tour. It is now at the Phoenix Dessert Botanical Garden having been moved from prior installations in New York and Missouri. I believe this is similar to the exhibit I viewed in Chicago at the Garfield Park Conservatory years ago which I mentioned in my blog last month. I was surprised to learn it is still going. I was very happy to see that Mr. Chiluly shares the same affinity for the gardens, botanical landscapes and glass houses that we do.


Steel and Glass Conservatory Pool House

Posted October 21st, 2008 by Alan Stein and filed in Conservatory Projects
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steel and glass conservatoryThis is a picture of Tanglewood shop personnel starting to load steel roof trusses onto a flatbed truck for shipment to a jobsite in Mississippi.

The project is a very interesting swimming pool enclosure; it is entirely made of steel, glass and aluminum on both the exterior and the interior. The steel part going onto the truck will be exposed on the inside of the room. The architect wanted a completely authentic steel and glass conservatory for his client and did not want any woodwork in it at all.

We have recently designed and built several of these steel and glass conservatories as well as a number of other pool enclosures. The challenge is to find ways of detailing the structure so that it doesn’t look like the contemporary aluminum frame pool buildings seen everywhere that are—well, just plain really ugly.

Just as with a wood building, it is the sensitivity to proportion, scale and the details which make the difference between the mundane, thoughtless buildings everywhere around us and the unique, creative and well crafted forms of the talented and thoughtful designer.

The challenge with working with steel is that it is much more difficult to add the details. Working with wood, it is easy to use a shaper or other cutter to make the forms you want however working with steel requires much more creativity and foresight.

Steel also offers a different aesthetic. A steel and glass conservatory can be much lighter feeling. The window sash and door parts are usually much narrower which if properly used, can give the room an elegant, gossamer effect.

We’re anxiously waiting to see how this one comes out when finished. I’ll keep everyone posted with more pictures as it progresses.


Restaurant with Conservatory Roof

Posted April 22nd, 2008 by Alan Stein and filed in Travels
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Since I was last showing images of my trip to Germany and some of the great copper domes and lanterns that I find an inspiration for our work, I thought I’d show another source of inspiration for our woodworking skills.


These beautiful mahogany “taxi cabs” are everywhere in Venice, probably more prolific that the fabled gondolas. Every time I saw a really great example of one going by, I vowed to expand our business into this new area of production!

Here’s another interesting sight. This was the dining room of a very upscale restaurant in Germany with a glass conservatory roof. Notice the live tree growing right through the glass ceiling. What a flashing nightmare!!!

tree through roof