THEIR HOME IS THEIR GARDEN Howard County nursery owners wanted 'to be outdoors a lot'


John and Dotty Metzler of Columbia increased their living space recently by "going outdoors," so to speak.

They built an addition that doubled the size of their home under roof, then added an elaborate deck and garden. "We wanted to be outdoors a lot," says Mr. Metzler, operator of one of the area's largest professional nurseries.

Nicholas Klopp, a Howard County architect who is a native of South America, educated at the University of Michigan, came up with a design for the addition that manages to be both contemporary and yet traditional, linking an older, four-square dwelling of 1903 with a dramatic new deck and garden area. Space in the original dwelling (1,800 square feet) was almost doubled by the addition, which had to be fitted between two magnificent American red maples, each about 50 feet high and quite close together.

The Metzlers wanted it to offer more privacy and recreation space. Their one-acre tract immediately adjoins the family's busy and big, six-acre nursery, Howard County's largest, but the elaborate plantings and fencing mean that the nursery is virtually invisible from the house.

"I much prefer natural air," says John Metzler of his idea of a home. As a result, though the house is now completely air-conditioned, it is also fitted with numerous ceiling fans and electrified ceiling transoms that can be opened to the breezes and to vent hot air.

The addition had to be multifunctional but had to harmonize with the nostalgic, original farmhouse, with its sprawling Victorian porch and shuttered double-hung windows. At the same time the addition faces the opposite direction from the main nursery area and fronts on adjoining woods.

The design of architect Klopp gives main rooms in the new addition a sort of story-and-a-half effect by employing large transoms over the doors between rooms and lighted wells that flash illumination upward to ceilings.

The architect fused the new wing with the old building by extending the old kitchen 2 feet and building a new entrance between the old house's east wall and a once-detached garage, now linked with the main house. Because traditional materials were used in the design, the addition looks like anything but an add-on. Outdoors, there's a continuation of this natural feeling. Shoulder-high stockade fencing helped make the yard areas private on three sides. Dense woods shelter the fourth side of the lot.

Inside the home, the Metzlers keyed furnishings and mood to Mrs. Metzler's affinity for country styling and American antiques. "She's early American," says her husband.

The couple's antique-hunting trips have yielded major pieces that often are recycled. An old butter press in natural wood serves as a coffee table in the home's new living room, while nearby an antique woodbox serves to house periodicals. One of the house's many setbacks near the ceiling line houses a large collection of old milk bottles, many from the 1930s and earlier, some with the bulge of a traditional cream well at the top. In the old house's living room another collection, mainly of Hummel pieces, is displayed in a mid-19th century cabinet.

Perhaps the most unusual adaptation of an antique in the home is the use of an old buggy wheel, found in Ellicott City, that has been hung decoratively below a ceiling fan. "The breeze comes right through the wheel," notes John Metzler, but the wheel also disguises the fan somewhat.

Many of the antiques in the home, including a 19th century dry sink and a spectacularly well-preserved 1840s spinning wheel, are in or near the new informal living room, where a floor-to-ceiling fireplace in startlingly real-looking stone rises up to a skylight. John Metzler says the fireplace's fake stone looks so real that it fooled a veteran stonemason, who asked, "Where did you get your stone?" when he toured the home.

The spa room, equipped with a hot tub, features two attractive exposures to the Metzler's elaborate garden through glass doors and windows. Part of its space is equipped with a table and chairs for relaxed dining, and a small dining area overlooks the broad terrace.

The addition includes a den-office at the back of the house, with its own entrance. With interior shuttering on the windows and old-fashioned tongue-and-groove wainscoting around the walls, the room adds a 19th century touch to the new area of the home, a sort of suggestive Victorian link to the older section.

The keynote of the house is, however, the broad, two-level treatment of the new addition's terrace and balcony. It gives the Metzlers relaxing overlooks of the garden from both a secluded second-floor master bedroom and from the larger sweep of first-floor decking, which was used recently for a wedding reception for the couple's daughter, Katrina.

"We have about 75 perennials planted in the garden," says nurseryman Metzler. To this are added annuals from time to time, including impatiens as well as portable plantings of things like mums and fuchsia. Hosta, canula, pachysandra and 45 azalea plants make up other decorative elements in the garden.

Fronting the main section of the garden is an 800-gallon, 1/3 -horsepower circulating waterfall tumbling over rocks into a pool. Birds and squirrels drink there regularly, says the homeowner. There is even a squirrel-feeding station nearby, installed to distract their attention and keep the animals out of the bird feeders.

From time to time, four dogs and four cats of the household enjoy outings in the area.

The Metzlers have places at both the beach and the mountains but "we don't have to go there anymore," John Metzler reports. From his point of view, the best thing about their updated house is: "I can hear the waterfall from the bedroom."

"Remember 'This is Your Life' on television? This is my life," Mr. Metzler says as he stands on the long, shady deck and looks at the home's garden front. "My home is the same as my profession."

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