Gardens with grace and drama can be found inside the Beltway

COMMUNING WITH NATURE

May 15, 1994|By Joe Surkiewicz

Conventional wisdom dictates that inside-the-Beltway livin means doing without the lush greenery that is taken for granted beyond the Beltway. Conventional wisdom sometimes errs. Here are two examples of inside-the-Beltway properties designed to help their owners celebrate nature's beauty. The two take different approaches to gardening -- and do it with flair.

Palm Trees in Ruxton

A Ruxton contemporary's architectural touches remind its owners of their Lebanese homeland: The centerpiece of the Mediterranean-style house is its 625-square-foot, plant-filled atrium. Ferns, gardenias, peace lilies and 20-foot palm trees thrive under light streaming in through the glass roof and in the humidity provided by a small stream running through the garden.

The interior garden serves as the entrance and the center court of the 8-year-old house. Living space is located around the atrium. Etched-glass panels separate it from the dining room. A large one-way mirror in the wall between the master bedroom and the atrium provides the owners a view of the garden -- without sacrificing privacy.

A large, airy sitting area is adjacent to the two-story atrium and a staircase winds through lush foliage to second-floor bedrooms overlooking the garden.

"The house was designed to have an exterior feeling," says Joe Bowers, an interior designer at Rita St. Clair Associates. "To accent that, we designed the interior using light colors, an accent wall in a faux, painted texture finish in beige, and travertine marble floors that are light in color and very durable."

At night the effect is dramatic; spotlights on the walls illuminate the tall palm trees, which are visible from most rooms in the house. And during the winter the atrium gives off the warmth of a tropical rain forest.

Versailles on the Harbor

High atop Scarlett Place, Jimmy Judd's 14th-floor penthouse condominium has a spectacular view that includes the Inner Harbor, Memorial Stadium to the north and the Key Bridge to the east -- and the garden. Mr. Judd's 1,500-square-foot balcony has been transformed into a garden that gives the elegant apartment a country-estate feel.

"My wife Barbara and I had a choice of buying a big house in the country or a big condo," the Baltimore antiques dealer recalls. "Our friends asked us, 'Why not buy a house in Greenspring Valley where you can see nature?' But here, we not only have nature, we have a view."

Filled with fountains, bronze sculpture, trees, flowers and wisteria-covered trellises, the garden blends in with the art- and antiques-filled apartment and evokes the formal gardens of Europe. It was planned that way.

"After Barbara and I were in France for two weeks, we told Henry Johnson, our designer, what we wanted was a Versailles," Mr. Judd explains. "When we found Scarlett Place with its balconies, Henry came up with the drawings."

Six French doors separate the apartment and garden, lending to the Continental ambience of the space. Six seating areas throughout the balcony can accommodate up to 100 people . . . and they get a lot of use.

"The Fourth of July -- oh, my God!" Mr. Judd says, laughing. "All my friends call and want to come up and see the fireworks from our balcony. But the whole apartment was designed for entertaining. It's fun -- we love people and we love entertaining."

Planning the apartment and garden took four years and required frequent forays beyond Baltimore to find the right decorative touches.

"We found 10-year-old ivy for sale in Philadelphia," Mr. Judd says. "It's old enough to cover the brick walls and makes the garden look 100 years old."

The best time to enjoy the garden is at night, Mr. Judd reports: More than 30 spotlights dramatically illuminate sculptures, fountains and artwork.

"Sitting inside the apartment and seeing the statuary lighted up outside, there's no way you feel like you're in a penthouse," says Mr. Judd.

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