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Rooms With A View – Chesapeake Life

Chesapeake LifeThe custom creations of Tanglewood Conservatories bring the outdoors in with grand style.

By Kathy H. Ely

Conservatory. The very word evokes afternoon tea, sun streaming over fine furniture, and elegant ladies and gentlemen wrapped by verdant views. Who knew that those ladies and gentlemen could have their very own glass houses made in the small Chesapeake town of Denton, MD?

In 1997, the owners of Tanglewood Conservatories, Alan and wife/business partner Nancy Virts, left their headquarters in bustling Silver Spring to relocate to the quiet Caroline County seat. Here they were fortunate to find a plethora of talented woodworkers, some who were former furniture makers and boat builders. “Working in this small town has its advantages,” says Alan, a carpenter and architect by trade.

Each of Tanglewood’s conservatories, which are entirely built on the company’s site, takes an average of nine months to a year to complete. They are rife with handmade details: ornate dentils and pilasters, frilled window frames, and arched ceilings of beveled glass. And no request is too difficult. When one client wanted copper roofing (a celebrity Alan doesn’t care to name), they became coppersmiths. Frustrated by standard door and window sizes (not to mention delivery delays), they decided to make their own doors. Last year, unhappy with the quality of the insulated glass they were finding, they decided to set up their own glass shop. One couple had the designers create a conservatory around antique stained-glass windows they found in England. It’s this custom-make detail that justifies their price, from $75,000 for a small nook to more than $1 million for palatial creations.

The collaboration comes to satisfying completion when the clients are invited to the Denton factory to stand in their new room, still in the process of creation. Most take them up on the offer, taking advantage of the opportunity to make changes before the pieces are broken down, wrapped carefully, and shipped by truck to the home to be reassembled onsite. But, Alan says, “mostly they are just speechless, blown away.”

Since moving to Denton, Tanglewood’s business has tripled in size. The company now employs twenty-five, including two designers and sixteen builders, who have taken on projects for the likes of rock stars, movie stars, TV personalities, business icons, and sports team owners. “We pick our clients just as much as they pick us,” says Alan. “The distinguishing feature of the people we work for is that they are looking for someone to create a work of art as opposed to a product.”