Living in Towson for six years, Debi Jarrell felt
claustrophobic. She missed the open country of northwest
Baltimore County where she was raised. The decision to move back
to the small town of Trenton near Upperco would soon set her and
domestic partner, Tim Hopkins, on a life-altering adventure into
the realm of "green" construction coupled with elegant country
"Our primary goal was to build a one-story, 2,300-square-foot
home that didn't intrude on the historic look and feel of the
area," said Hopkins, 55 and co-owner of an information
consulting firm. "We wanted to prove that 'building green' could
be accomplished in a rural setting without 'building ugly.'"
The project, which began in 2007, would take two years of
research and design to get exactly what they wanted. The couple
purchased about an acre of land in Trenton with a stunning view
of horse farms, rolling hills and valleys. They paid $225,000
for the property and hired a builder, Bob Krieger of RHK
"This would be his first 'green' house," Hopkins said of the
finished product they moved into last December.
After spending $425,000 on their grand plan, the couple lives
in a cottage on a hill that boasts energy efficiencies like
solar panels and a geothermal air conditioning and heating
system and environmentally friendly design, including insulation
made from recycled newspaper.
More green features can be found in the interior. All of the
countertops are fashioned of a cement-based, recycled glass
called ice stone, while the gleaming hardwood floors are made
from recycled boards that once served as a horse fence. Perhaps
most notable is the use of recycled concrete to create the
exterior "stone" façade as well as the "stone" fireplace.
Hopkins helped the builder with all of the environmental,
energy-efficient aspects of the home. His goal was for the house
to meet the strict requirements for platinum certification from
LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, as
certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
While the home is cottage-designed, its interior decor is
relaxed country manor as opposed to country folksy.
"Debi was almost totally responsible for the design,
furnishing, decorating and personal feel of the home," Hopkins
Inside an arched wooden door reminiscent of a fairytale
cottage, an open floor plan defines the one-level home's great
room, dining room and the kitchen/breakfast area. Bedrooms and
baths are in wings on opposite sides of the central living
Noting that she likes working with a variety of textures,
Jarrell has combined woven banana-leaf armchairs, a huge leather
ottoman and a microfiber sofa of transitional design in a warm,
fashionable grouping under the great room's 12-foot cathedral
ceiling. A photograph of a buffalo taken in the snowy wilds of
Yellowstone Park commands attention above the massive fireplace,
giving a lodge-like appearance to the great room.
The breakfast room off of the kitchen features a cherry wood,
Queen Anne-style half-curio cabinet, a round table painted black
and matching chairs with wicker seats, all sitting on a woven
Their comfortable cottage is "all we need [and] all we ever
wanted," said Hopkins, who now assists the builder in marketing
the green building materials and technologies installed in his
"The final product has exceeded our wildest expectations," he
said, adding that the home also met their goal of a home that's
certified as environmentally friendly.
"We were [just] officially certified LEED Platinum, the first
home in Baltimore County to achieve that distinction," Hopkins
said. "This designation also got us three years of free
Baltimore County property taxes."
It's also allowed Jarrell, who grew up in that bucolic
setting enjoying the open spaces, to return to her roots.
"The Trenton Church bells are so charming. It's so nice to
come home after work, put stuff down, pick up a glass of wine,
go out on the deck and listen to the bells."
Making the dream
Dream element: The location. Tim Hopkins and Debi
Jarrell's "green" cottage sits on one of the highest points in
northwest Baltimore County and overlooks open land, valleys,
hills and a horse farm at the end of their property. From their
deck, they can enjoy what Hopkins calls "our million-dollar
Dream design: The one-story, custom-built cottage was
designed to be eco-friendly. The multi-gabled
cedar-shake-and-stone construction is recycled vinyl and cement,
respectively. "As we got into the building [process] we learned
so much about energy and environmental choices," Hopkins said
2010, The Baltimore Sun