Cathy Klein and her dog, Bowser, lounge on the back patio of her home in Howard County.
Cathy Klein and her dog, Bowser, lounge on the back patio of her home in Howard County. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

On a country lane in Howard County, the letterbox for Cathy and Steve Klein sits directly at the driveway's edge for easy mail delivery right off the carrier's truck.

Its position is similar to others along the way, but the difference is that the Kleins' driveway is nine-tenths of a mile long, ambling past a deserted antebellum stone house and a barn, flanked by corn fields and fallow fields.

By the time a visitor begins to wonder how a snow blower makes it up the narrow incline in winter, two chunky stone posts topped with concrete urns full of flowers herald the approach to the Klein home. An imposing, one-story structure of stone and redwood siding stands by landscaped circular driveway, paved in stone, that is also the walkway to the entrance.

Inside the spacious entrance hall, it is clear that the great outdoors was not left behind.

The home's open layout is emphasized by an entire back wall of glass sliders and windows. Curved interior walls lead down long halls to the left and right. Walls of stone rise to angled ceilings, and where there is no stone or plaster, rich cherry paneling covers the lower walls. There is an abundance of cherry built-in shelving and closets. Spike-leafed floor plants resting on natural cork and ceramic flooring and a variety of live orchids placed inside slate-topped niches present a decidedly Southwestern feel. Set pieces are artisan-crafted from a variety of metals, ceramic and clay. Lamps feature soldered metal shades holding colored glass pieces.

The design leaves no room for surprise when Cathy Klein, seated at her Mission-style dining room table with her Bernese mountain dog, Bowser, at her feet, explains that the house was designed by a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The house — the original 3,500 square feet of it — was designed by Thomas Babbitt of Litchfield, Conn., and built in 1957 as a summer home for a prominent Washington family.

"The family had no heirs, so they placed the property in trust to the Nature Conservancy," said Cathy Klein. "The Conservancy contacted a landscaping company to clean up [the land] and they called my husband."

Steve Klein, 59, and his wife, are owners of River Hill Garden Center in Clarksville. While doing the work, he fell in love with the house and a 25-acre swath of property behind it. The year was 1988. The original owners also put an easement on house and property to the Maryland Environmental Trust. The Kleins may never subdivide their 25 acres, and while it makes the property less financially profitable, the couple enjoys the beauty of the home and setting.

The rest of the land along the driveway is farmed by another family.

"Our nearest neighbor is 265 acres away," said Cathy Klein, 58. "And behind us is the Triadelphia Reservoir."

The original house had three bedrooms, a workroom, three bathrooms, a powder room, a great room and a kitchen. In 1999 the couple, who had two children and lots of out-of town company, decided on a more than 3,000-square-foot addition, which, along with a new kitchen, included a complete in-law apartment and garage.

"We also added a basement by not changing the grade of the land, and the home's original carport became a family room," Cathy Klein said.

Mike Butler, an architect from Clarksville who designed the addition, was able to consult the plans from Babbitt's original blueprint. He angled windows to match the existing ones and built the large kitchen island with a black granite countertop.

Cathy Klein decorated the home in the Mission style, and other furnishings are reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's handiwork, including the cork flooring throughout the house, the lead glass windows and a chevron-shaped light fixture with stained glass.

Over the years, the Kleins added decking to the back of the house along with landscaping that included two ponds and a waterfall.

"Right now we say this is too much house for us, but you never know what the kids might do. They might take it; they might not," Cathy Klein said. "We've grown to love it. It's casual and comfortable and with lots of family, it still fits the bill."

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Making the dream

Dream element: The Kleins' 7,000-square-foot Arts and Crafts home sits on acreage that will never be developed and yet is just a few miles from Interstate 70 in Howard County.

Dream exterior: The one-level structure includes a flat roof, sharp angles and redwood siding with redwood trim.

Dream interior: The spacious, open and angular design is unfussy and uncluttered, following the Mission-style of interior architecture. Natural woods are used throughout in shelving and wall paneling. Colors are muted, yet rich in earthiness. Fabrics are textured and neutral, combining well with leather set pieces and American Indian-style fabrics. True to the Frank Lloyd Wright precedent, the interior is a blend of practicality and style.