Heather Parness: Right Woman, Right Job, Right Time

March 13, 2014

Everyone is talking about the dynamism
of Washington, D.C.; its new growth in
neglected neighborhoods, the influx of
the younger generation and of investors’ money.
There is opportunity all around, whether for
jobs, in politics — or in real estate.
Such an opportunity is why the largest
independent residential real estate company in
the United States hired Heather Parness in July.
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., went across the
country to get its regional senior vice president
for the Washington, D.C., market. It created that
new position for Parness.

The 40-year-old native of Greeley, Colorado,
now lives in a very Washingtonian place —
Washington Harbour in Georgetown — next to
very Washingtonian neighbors, such as House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Washington
Nationals’ owner Mark Lerner.

Parness, who began working in real estate
in 1992 at the age of 18, says the reason she
got into real estate was that she was raised by a
single mother and had to pay for college. “I got
a job in a real estate office and fell in love with
the industry.”

More specifically, she says, “I fell in love
with the entrepreneurial spirit of real estate
agents. … You can do what you want … how
you want to do it … and make as much as you
want. The sky’s the limit.”

“I am more personally drawn to the management
side of the company,” says Parness, who
adds she is methodical and loves the legal side
of the business. She has done everything in real
estate — “I have grown up in it,” she says — from
being an assistant to an agent, to doing office
technology and moving into management.
In Denver, she headed up Perry & Co. Real
Estate and then Fuller Sotheby’s International
Realty. As a number one, she got the attention
of Long & Foster.

“I have a huge amount for respect for Wes
Foster and the company he built,” Parness
said. Long & Foster Real Estate president Gary
Scott first contacted her. Then, she came to
Washington to meet him, Jeff Detwiler, president
of Long & Foster Companies, and Wes,

Parness is well aware of the “amazing
opportunity” to learn from them. “You don’t
get that opportunity very often,” she says. “You
do not often get access to a position like this.”
In the Washington, D.C., region, there are 13
offices, including W.C. & A.N. Miller Co. But
it is the Logan Circle office, which is about to
open, that has her excited. “There are amazing
parts of Washington, D.C.,” says Parness, who
sees smaller-scale offices opening down the line.
“After all, it is all about servicing the agent.”
There will be more luxury events via
Christie’s International Real Estate. It is also
about art, she says. Someone buying such an
expensive home will likely have quite an art collection.
Art shows, wine tastings and appraisal
events are planned for March or April and the
months ahead.

Meanwhile, Parness has adapted to East
Coast traffic, D.C.’s easily called snow days
and the pleasant surprise of “a diverse, educated

“D.C. is an exciting, growing town” — with
a younger crowd, too. “People are pleasant and
fun to talk to,” she says. “As you might expect,
there seem to be more political discussions here
than elsewhere.”

Parness is studying the changing and
improving demographics of D.C. — checking
out downtown, City Center, Capitol Riverfront
Business Improvement District and all the way
to Anacostia. She is part of the plan of growth
that Long & Foster perceives as being ahead of
the curve.

“There’s a lot of strategic pieces that we’re
putting into place right now,” she says. And
Parness seems like the perfect member of that
strategic team for Long & Foster, fitting in well
with its energy and ambition.

EastBanc to Reintroduce Key Bridge Exxon Condo Designs

It is back to the future for developer EastBanc and its proposed condos at the Key Bridge Exxon property on Canal Road. Expect a repeat performance of design questions and neighbors’ opposition.

With its 1055 Water condo project well on its way to completion, the developer will turn back to its condo plans for the gas station property, next to the “Exorcist” steps and the Car Barn. In April 2011, EastBanc’s plans called for a 35-unit building to rise to the height of Prospect Street properties above. With some neighborhood opposition and designs overly revised, EastBanc head Anthony Lanier sidelined the project.

Designs for the M Street-Canal Road condos at the site will be re-introduced at the March 3 meeting of the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E as well as the Old Georgetown Board meeting on March 6. According to EastBanc, plans call for 26 to 28 units, “averaging 2,500 square feet in size,” each with two parking spaces.

Mary Mottershead of EastBanc offered more details to the Georgetowner: “The latest plans for this project at 3601-3607 M St are fairly similar in massing to the previous studies we undertook several years ago as they also follow the C-2 A zoning guidelines for the site.  However, the new design is very different with the idea of being a quieter, more neutral design which does not compete with all the different very busy townhouse elevations above nor with the wedding cake design of the Arthur Cotton Moore building to the west nor with the massive and heavy design of the Car Barn to the east. …”

“As for the neighbors above,” she continued, “the roof height of our building is below the lowest levels of those townhouses.  However, our building needs space above for elevator overruns and stairwells and mechanical units and exhaust pipes and the like.  By zoning, buildings are allowed 18-foot penthouses to accommodate mechanical equipment, but in consideration of the sightlines of these neighbors, we have undertaken many studies to look at other options which limit the impact to the views of the neighbors.  Hence, we have spent a lot of time with our mechanical engineers and our landscape architects, OVS, to design a rooftop with equipment and penetrations that are lower in profile and also well screened with green roof areas where possible.”

And, as for those neighbors above on the 3600 block of Prospect Street, whose houses would overlook the condos, EastBanc met with some of them individually about two weeks ago to discuss the new designs.

According to one neighbor, who requested anonymity, they were “surprised by the three-week notice” before the public meetings. As for the new design, the person said: “We will be vocal in our opposition. … The proposed building is more of what was presented last time: a massive contemporary structure.”

The homeowner cited the five-story condo design’s lack of historic context, saying it is a highly visible gateway to Georgetown, vibrant with a historic wall and steps and the spires of Georgetown University in the distance. Add to the new view the obscuring of greenery along the hill. “Is this the kind of design we want all to see? It will be a huge statement.”

Acknowledging that some views from their homes and backyards would be obstructed, the homeowner also cited environmental issues. The hillside part of their back property is fill dirt from earlier construction at Georgetown University and requires some neighbors to re-enforce their house, back yards and walls: “Construction would jeopardize the stability of the hill, which holds up our property.” With the soft dirt on the hill, the homeowner said that one house on Prospect Street sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage because of the August 2011 earthquake.

Neighbors seek a four-story condo complex at 40 feet above street level. Prepare for some serious discussion at next week’s public meetings. [gallery ids="101649,145222" nav="thumbs"]

The Auction Block March 12, 2014

Doyle New York

The Forster Flag

Auction Date: April 9

Estimate: $1 million to $3 million

This important relic of our nation’s past is the earliest extant flag incorporating 13 white stripes to represent the 13 United Colonies. Prepared for militia use a full year before the Declaration of Independence, the Forster Flag was inspired by Liberty Flags flown in Boston in the years following the hugely unpopular Stamp Act (1765) and the Boston Tea Party (1773). Comprising a field of fine red silk, a canton of numerous stitched lengths of a differing red silk and 13 applied white stripes, the flag has never been restored and is in a remarkable state of preservation with fresh original color.


Child Hassam (1859-1935)

“The Norwegian Cottage,” 1909

Oil on canvas

Auction Date: March 30

Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000

This brilliant work of American Impressionism is part of the auction of the George D. Horst Collection of Fine Art. Tucked away in the depths of the Sheerlund Forest in Pennsylvania, a modest dwelling held an unknown cache of paintings. The collection includes fine examples of world-famous American and European painters such as Frank Weston Benson, Childe Hassam and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. The Horst collection is a beautiful time capsule, to be revealed for the first time later this month.


John James Audubon and John Bachman

“The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America,” 1845-48

Auction Date: April 1

Estimate: $200,000 to $400,000

Sotheby’s will auction copies of John James Audubon’s two masterworks, consigned by the Indiana Historical Society. In four monumental volumes, “The Birds of America” of 1827-38 preserves 435 hand-colored aquatint plates depicting all the species of birds then known in the United States. Commonly known as the “Double-Elephant Folio” – after the size of the paper that had to be specially made for the publication – “The Birds of America” has long been recognized as a towering achievement of both book illustration and natural history. Smaller in size and reputation, though perhaps not in significance, is Audubon’s “The Viviparous Quadrupeds of America,” which contains 150 hand-colored lithographs of American mammals, on many of which Audubon was assisted by his son John Wodehouse Audubon.

Sloans and Kenyon

Early 20th-Century Carved and Painted Carousel Horse

with Glass Eyes and Metal Horse Shoes, Mounted on Brass Pole.

Auction Dates: April 12-13

This piece of early 20th-century Americana will be sold as part of the April Estate Catalogue Auction at Sloans and Kenyon. The rustic, well-preserved painting is reminiscent of the early French style of old-fashioned carousels. The mechanical carousel was an innovation at a crucial time in American culture, when increased prosperity meant that more people had time and money for leisure pursuits. The principal novelty of the modern fairground was the carousel, delighting thousands of pleasure seekers at home and abroad. To view all of the auction items, download the free Sloans and Kenyon iPad catalogue app.

Bringing the Hammer Down

Final selling prices for last month’s featured Auction Block items:

Doyle New York

Set of Six Russian Gilt and Polychrome Decorated Porcelain Dessert Plates

Auction Date: Feb. 19

Estimate: $15,000 to $20,000

Final Selling Price: $34,375

[gallery ids="101668,144667" nav="thumbs"]

Martha Stewart’s American Made Gets Local

February 27, 2014

As a community publication and local media outlet, Georgetown Media Group believes that small companies can make a big difference. We understand the importance of local and regional companies to the fabric of our country, from our culture and identity to the national job market. A small, local company is often more flexible, more personal, and frequently better tailored to the individual customer than larger, national enterprises.

That said, big business is nothing to be demonized or belittled—we believe they work hand-in-hand with local enterprises to define our national economy and identity. When our country functions on a local and national level together, that is when America is functioning at its best.

Martha Stewart’s American Made Workshop is a wonderful bridge between the local and national market. Long since working as one of our country’s most beloved homemakers, Martha Stewart has made a lasting impression on our American lifestyle. From her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, to her frequent holiday specials and television appearances, she has touched the lives of millions across the country, championing an eternal American warmth that is at once intimate and all-encompassing.

Her American Made Workshop gives small businesses throughout the country the opportunity to have their voices heard. From gardening to crafts, from custom-built furniture to food, technology and community organizations, these homespun enterprises are selected by Martha Stewart’s team at American Made and the public to forge ahead with the spirit of “made-in-America.”

As part of the American Made Workshop’s annual Audience Choice Awards, craftsmen are free to nominate themselves and be nominated by the public. If you are a small-time creative entrepreneur, this is an opportunity to get yourself onto a national stage for a chance at $10,000 to further your business.

Nominations for this year’s competition began last June, and it continues through to when the voting begins on Aug. 26. On Oct. 16 – 17, the winners will be announced at the annual American Made Workshop event in New York City.

Go check out www.MarthaStewart.com/AmericanMade, and see for yourself all the amazing enterprises around the country. From a sculpture studio in Madison, Wis. that forges custom cast-iron skillets in the shape of every state, to a Chicago-based organization that creates organic urban agricultural environments, you will be blown away by what you find.

And keep an eye out for Doug Deluca with Reclaimed America, a Washington area local who uses reclaimed wood and recycled materials to create everything from heritage tables to custom-made beds, as well as some of the nice kitchens.

American Made spotlights the maker, supports the local and celebrates the handmade. This is your chance to join the editors of Martha Stewart Living at the American Made Workshop, whether you’re discovering new makers, sharing your latest local finds, or voting for the Audience Choice winner.

Be a part of the movement. [gallery ids="119008,119004" nav="thumbs"]

Kitchen Chic

Kitchen Chic. [gallery ids="101370,153195,153182,153191,153188" nav="thumbs"]

Interior Designer Zoe Feldman Updates the Classics

his summer, interior designer Zoe Feldman moved into a loft space above The Georgetowner’s office at 1054 Potomac Street from her office at 28th and M St. Her old office was only 200 square feet, barely enough space for a designer and two employees working on projects up and down the east coast.

The new office has more than enough room for the three of them to stretch out, but Feldman has only just settled on what color to paint the walls—a beige color with a hint of pink—after three previous choices.

“You know, like, the shoemaker has no shoes,” she said.

Feldman began her design career at Mark Hampton, working under the famed designer’s daughter, Alexa, who now runs the firm. She began her own company in 2003, and soon moved to Washington, a midpoint between New York and Florida, where she grew up.

Feldman has a very approachable style. She often brings in pieces of midcentury modern furniture and contemporary art to accent more traditional spaces—fun, but elegant.

“I think I’m classic enough that I think it’s relatable, but, like, fresh enough that it’s new or maybe a little inventive,” she said.

When she was a child, Feldman’s parent and grandparents ran their own art gallery, sparking her interest in fine art. She finds pieces for her clients all over, but often goes to in Georgetown at Addison Ripley Fine art on Wisconsin Ave. Her other love, mid-century modern furniture, comes from having grown up in a home filled with it.

“I guess the reason I like it is because it has become so classic,” she said. “It definitely makes a space more chic. Pop art, the same. I think really good design has tension.”

Interestingly, though, Feldman does not want to be known for a signature look.

“I tend not to follow formulas,” she said. “It really maintains the client’s personality, a canvas to show off who they are, as opposed to showing off who I am.”

Even as an alumna of Mark Hampton, Feldman did not always embrace more traditional style.
“One of the things I learned at Mark Hampton is how to design in a traditional environment,” she said. “This is a little hyperbolic, but I had never seen, like, a curtain. It was so not my style, but it became my style. Anything done well can be really beautiful. I had no problem getting into that environment and making it really beautiful for them and truly liking it, also.”

Taking inspiration from everywhere, Feldman recalls one recent client who pushed her in a new direction. “I have a client who is more globally influenced. They travel. They collect things. It was really fun, because it was a smaller project, but I hadn’t had a client like that ever.”

“That’s the other reason I don’t want to get pigeonholed in one specific style,” she said. “That would just bore me.” [gallery ids="100960,130767,130761,130743,130755,130750" nav="thumbs"]

The Auction Block & Bringing the Hammer Down

February 13, 2014


A Child and Nurse in the Foyer of an Elegant Townhouse, the Parents Beyond

Jacob Ochtervelt (1634-1682)


Auction Date: January 30

Estimate: $3 – 4 million

Sotheby’s sale of Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture will be held during their annual Old Masters Week auctions. The sale is highlighted this year by a number of major paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, particularly this exciting rediscovery of Jacob Ochtervelt’s painting seen here, a previously unrecorded painting. This piece is tied to his series of “entrance hall paintings,” universally considered to be among the artist’s most innovative and interesting pictures. www.Sothebys.com


Allegory of Poverty and Vengeance

Northern Italian School

ca. 2nd half of the 16th Century

Auction Date: January 28

Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000

Part of their European Art & Old Masters auction, Freeman’s is featuring this Italian tempera on panel painting, originally from a private collection in Milan. Painted in the lunette in the second half of the 16th century, the painting features three large form figures in a manner that suggests it previously hung in a church spandrel. With its period frame of carved, gessoed and gilded wood, this is a remarkable piece for any historic collection. www.FreemansAuction.com


Schooners from the New York Yacht Club Racing in the Narrows

By James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894)

ca. 1870

Auction Date: January 24

Estimate: $70,000 – $100,000

Bonhams will offer the distinguished maritime paintings of noted connoisseur Alfred “Fritz” Gold, a WWII veteran who received a Purple Heart for bravery, in the Important Maritime Paintings and Decorative Arts. The auction will feature more than a dozen pieces from Gold’s collection, including James Edward Buttersworth’s ‘Schooners from the New York Yacht Club Racing in the Narrows,’ which shows Fort Wadsworth in the distance. A matching Buttersworth composition, ‘Schooners from the New York Yacht Club Reefing off Sandy Hook,’ will also be offered.

Doyle New York

Saint John the Baptist

Roman School

17th Century

Auction Date: January 29

Estimate: $6,000 – $10,000

Exemplified by this painting from the Roman School, Doyle New York will offer paintings from the Collection of Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), an important figure in the struggle for Civil Rights and one of the main organizers of the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin was recently in the news again when he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in November 2013. Part of their Auction of Important English and Continental Furniture and Decorations, the auction will feature a broad selection of furniture, porcelain, Georgian silver, tapestries and fine art encompassing the 17th to the early 19th centuries. www.DoyleNewYork.com

Quinn’s Auction Galleries

Confederate General Robert E. Lee letter and personal items, including lock of hair

Auction Date: Jan. 18

Estimate: $20,000-$30,000.

Quinn’s, a local auction gallery in Falls Church,Va., will be auctioning a hand-written letter, together with a lock of Lee’s hair, his penknife and a Baltimore Sun newspaper article about the mementos, all of which Lee donated to a Baltimore orphanage in January of 1867. The items have been on loan to Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, for the past 18 years.

Bringing the Hammer Down

Final Selling Prices for last month’s featured Auction Block items

Doyle New York

Platinum Very Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond, emerald and diamond ring

Auction Date: December 12, 2013

Estimate: $80,000 – 120,000

Final Selling Price: $365,000


Diamond-set engraved and enameled gold singing bird snuffbox with musical movement and watch

Auction Date: December 12, 2013

Estimate: $120,000 – 180,000

Final Selling Price: $233,000


Egyptian Revival faience and jeweled brooch from Cartier

Auction Date: December 11, 2013

Estimate: $300,000 – $500,000

Final Selling Price: $1,025,000


Lemuel Everett Wilmarth (American, 1835 – 1918)

Still Life with Wrapped Orange

1893, oil on canvas

Auction Date: December 8, 2013

Estimate: $50,000 – $80,000

Final Selling Price: $53,125
[gallery ids="101604,147105,147095,147101,147108" nav="thumbs"]

The Georgetowner’s March Through History . . . and Georgetown

January 29, 2014

As The Georgetowner newspaper
closes in on its 60th Anniversary, it
seems fitting that your town crier
will be relocating to new digs, of
course, in Georgetown. Unlike other newspapers
that call Georgetown theirs, this is the only
newspaper that makes its home in Georgetown
— and has for six decades, albeit at 14 different
locations in the community.

The Georgetowner newspaper was the brainchild
of Ami C. Stewart, who at the age of 66,
began publishing it on Oct. 7, 1954. She knew
the newspaper business; she was a longtime
advertising representative for the Washington
Evening Star. Her sales territory was Georgetown
and its surrounding environs. She dreamed of
starting a newspaper for Georgetown for several
years when, with great encouragement from the
Randolph sisters, owners of Little Caledonia, a
small department store of delightful surprises at
1419 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. It was on the second
floor in Little Caledonia, where Ami Stewart created
Volume 1, Number 1, of the newspaper. It
was The Georgetowner’s first address.

Some of us still cannot get used to the idea that
there is no Little Caledonia in Georgetown. Then
again, most of the shops that existed here in 1954
are long gone: Neam’s Market, Dorcas Hardin,
Dorothy Stead, Baylor Furniture, Little Flower
Shop, Doc Dalinsky’s Georgetown Pharmacy,
Chez Odette, Rive Gauche, the French Market,
the Food Mart, Magruder’s, Muriel Mafrige, the
Georgetown University Shop and on and on. All
have left us. But The Georgetowner marches on.

Soon after its founding, Stewart moved
into 1204 Wisconsin Ave., NW. The building
was headquarters for the National Bank
of Washington. The Georgetowner occupied a
small room in the back, one desk, two chairs,
one window. Riggs Farmers & Mechanics Bank
was across the street. Both banks are long gone.
Our third location was 3019 M St., NW. We were
next to a funeral home. We, however, lived on.

Stewart finally found an office more to her
liking. It was situated at 1610 Wisconsin Ave.,
NW. Ami and her right-hand gal Sue Buffalo
ran the newspaper from these premises for close
to eight years. The staff also included Carol
Watson, a wonderful artist; Marilyn Houston,
who wrote many articles of historic interest;
and a young man, fresh out of the army, Randy
Roffman, my older brother. It was he who drew
me into the wonderful world of Ami C. Stewart.
I never would have guessed at the time that I
would spend the next 42 years with the newspaper,
but it happened.

In the early 1970s, with Ami’s health failing,
we moved to 1201 28th St., N.W. The lone brick
building at that corner was our home for the next
8 years. From our second floor windows, we
watched the construction of the Four Seasons
Hotel across M Street. We also witnessed the
mass arrest of the yippees who tried to shut down
the government in May 1971, protesting the
Vietnam War. They marched en masse down M
Street from Key Bridge. They were arrested and
put in huge detaining trucks right below our windows.
I remember a National Guardsman yelling
at us to get away from our window and quit taking
photographs. Protestors who were rounded
up were transported to RFK Stadium where
they were held for processing. (The May Day
1971 protests in Washington, D.C., provoked the
largest-ever mass arrest in American history with
more 12,000 individuals detained.)

Our sixth location was on the third floor
above Crumpet’s, a pastry shop in the 1200 block
of Wisconsin Avenue. John and Carol Wright
were the owners. This was when writer Gary
Tischler joined the staff. Britches of Georgetown
was a few doors away. Billy Martin’s Tavern
was across the street, as was Swensen’s Ice
Cream Parlor. (There was formerly Stohlman’s
Ice Cream Parlor, now memorialized at the
Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.)
Climbing those three flights of stairs was rough,
especially when balancing two cups of coffee
and four Danish. We survived.

A few years later, we moved across the street
to 1254 Wisconsin Ave., NW, to the third floor
above Swensen’s. It was the final years of disco,
and Michael O’Harro’s Tramp’s Discotheque
was closing. The Key Theatre, next to Roy
Rogers at the corner of Prospect and Wisconsin,
had them lined up around the block each weekend
night for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
After several years high atop Swensen’s, we had
to move again.

You might be asking yourself at this point,
why did you move so often? Usually, it had to
do with the landlord renting out the entire building
to a new tenant. Because we were second- or
third-floor occupants on short leases, well, we
had to go.

Our next location was Hamilton Court, the
beautiful courtyard developed by Al Voorhees.
The courtyard was fronted by a row of new
storefronts which included the Old Print Gallery,
Cliff and Michelle Kranick’s gallery, an antiquarian
book store, and Ann Brinkley’s antiques
store. Behind it was a series of spacious offices,
of which we occupied one at the rear of the
courtyard. We enjoyed our stay here, the setting
was in the heart of Georgetown across the street
from our beloved, landmark post office. But we
had to leave when the architectural firm above us
had to expand … into our space.

We next occupied the top floor of the
Georgetown Electric shop on M Street, next to
Old Glory restaurant. Spacious quarters indeed,
and once again we climbed a lot of stairs every
day. But we were close to Harold’s Deli, the
Food Mart and Nathans. What more could we
ask for?

While running the newspaper from
these quarters, we also founded and ran the
Georgetown Visitor’s Center in Georgetown
Court off Prospect Street. Robert Elliott, owner
and landlord of the courtyard, gave us the space
rent free, the merchants chipped in and afforded
us the opportunity to publish brochures and pamphlets.
Robert Devaney joined our staff at this
point in the early 1990s.

When Duke Rohr closed the GE shop, we
moved once again. This time we returned to
familiar digs at 1610 Wisconsin Ave., NW, way
up the hill. We felt so removed from everything.
The block had changed drastically. There was a
7-Eleven at the corner of Que and Wisconsin,
the legendary French Market was gone and
Appalachian Spring crafts had moved down the
street. We felt like strangers up there.

We moved after five years, down to 1410
Wisconsin, another empty upper floor spacious
room, with no wiring. It dawned on us that we
had probably wired half the second and third
floor buildings on M or Wisconsin by this time.
Thank goodness for Randy Reed Electric.

While at 1410, Sonya Bernhardt joined the
staff at The Georgetowner. In 1998, Sonya
became the third publisher and owner of The
Georgetowner. Many offices, few publishers:
Ami C. Stewart, David Roffman and Sonya

The Georgetowner moved to its 13th location
in 2001. The building at 1054 Potomac St., NW,
had once been the home of Georgetown’s first
mayor. Now it housed “the newspaper whose
influence far exceeds its size” – as well as the
Georgetown Media Group, which publishes The
Georgetowner and The Downtowner newspapers
and their websites. From late 2001 until this
week, the offices were at this address.

Now, as we near our 60th anniversary, we are
in the process of moving once again, to the northwest
corner of 28th and M, the building which
once housed American Needlework and then
Schrader Sound — not to mention the Bryn Mawr
Bookshop and the office of Captain Peter Belin,
famed president of the Citizens Association of
Georgetown. Lots of history here. We hope to
see you there and all around town when we set
up our business office in February.

Find us at our new address:
Georgetown Media Group, Inc.
2801 M Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
202-338-4834 (fax)
[advertising@georgetowner.com](mailto:advertising@georgetowner.com) [gallery ids="117064,117059" nav="thumbs"]

Mortgage:Bad News Is Good News

Bad news for stocks can be good news
for mortgage rates. Spurred by slower
growth in China and unease in emerging
markets, the stock market has been in a correction

When the stock markets tank, bond markets
are often one of the safe-havens. Ten-Year
Treasury notes closely mirror movement in the
mortgage backed securities markets and often
sends mortgage rates lower. This has translated
into good news for mortgage interest rates.

Current mortgage interest rates are at the
lowest they have been for a few
months. The trend appears to be
that rates are drifting even lower.

If a borrower has locked in a
loan over the last several weeks
and the loan is not closing immediately,
they should go back to
their lender and ask if they have a
price renegotiation policy. Most banks do have
a policy which allows a one-time rate change. It
doesn’t cost anything to ask.

In recent weeks Ten-Year Treasury notes
reached a high of 3%. Currently Ten-Year
Treasury notes are around 2.72%, a drop of over
twenty-five basis points in the first part of the
year. This is a large move.

The new Dodd-Frank rules have kicked in
for the banking industry. These rules have put
further limits on the institutions and how they
must qualify a borrower for a mortgage. No
one seemed to think the rules were easy in 2013,
and now the new rules are tougher. Ratios have
been contracted to a total allowable debt ratio of
43%. Credit lines now must be counted against
a borrower even if they are untouched. A lot of
homeowners do have lines of credit which have
no balances which may be a determent to their
ability to refinance or buy a second home.

The Dodd-Frank rules pose a downside risk
for the housing market. If these regulations
restrict the supply of credit, some households
looking to purchase a home could find themselves
shut out of the market, which would
weaken demand. A lot of observers
think the Dodd-Frank rules
may slow the recovery in the housing

Time will tell if the current
downturn in the equities markets
persists or moves to the sidelines.
If it becomes sustained for a period
of time, it will tamp down economic growth
prospects for 2014. This would potentially help
keep mortgages lower.

One of the most important reports around
the corner is the employment report on February
7. Most expect a strong report in January and
revised (higher) numbers for December. The
report will be the foundation for the near term.

Bill Starrels lives in Georgetown. He specializes in
residential mortgages. He can be reached at 703-625-
7355 or bill.starrels@gmail.com NMLS#485021

The Rixey Scale: Design Mix of Modern and Classic

January 17, 2014

It’s a gut renovation, costing upwards of $1.5 million dollars. The windows are covered in plywood and the whine of power drills makes it hard to think, but neither Victoria nor Douglas Rixey seem to notice. Well-dressed and thoughtful amidst the dust and clatter, they are comfortable here. Until the client moves in in March, this is their space.

And this house on Q Street in Georgetown will be quite a space. It is Victoria’s project. She’s putting in geothermal heating and air conditioning via three wells 320 feet deep in the backyard, solar panels and LED lights. Victoria says she expects the house’s owner will be able to sell excess electricity back to Pepco. The floors have radiant heat built under them, and the hot water comes on demand. Gone are the energy-inefficient days of tanks holding gallons of hot water. The row house’s new owners are downsizing from a grander space elsewhere in the neighborhood, and they, like many of the Rixeys’ current clients, want to live in a green, sustainable house.

Rixey-Rixey Architects has been operating in Georgetown since 1985. They’ve been around for so long, Douglas jokes, that he sometimes works on houses he’s already renovated—three or four times. The firm’s staff consists of Victoria, Douglas and their Irish Jack Russell, Dex, whose main contributions include sniffing and walks to construction sites. Not all their work is in Georgetown, though. Victoria just finished a horse stable in Marshall, Va., and Douglas has built two new houses in Sanibel, Fla.
“We trusted Douglas enough to turn to him for sensible advice for our Little Compton [R.I.] and Concord [Mass.] houses,” says Kate Chartener, a former client in Georgetown. “His design for the back half of our [Georgetown] house was pitch-perfect, and we still felt that way 10 years later.”

The Rixeys, who work separately on their projects, says they’ve designed upwards of 100 houses in Georgetown. Their signatures include staircases and soap dishes. The house on Q Street boasts a three-story staircase, capped by a skylight, a way to bring light into tight Georgetown spaces. The soap dishes are a Victoria specialty, one that drains the soap properly and has a distinctive look.

The couple says that Douglas is the big-picture guy and Victoria best on details.

“Douglas gently presses clients to define what they truly like and need, and he has a great knack for delivering a product that shows style and design integrity,” says Robert Chartener, Kate’s husband. “He designed a 2001 extension that looked like an original part of our late 1890s house. Douglas Rixey is one those rare men who can drive a large motorcycle, while explaining the difference between Queen Anne and Georgian mullions.”

The houses are as diverse as the Rixeys’ clients. They’ve done work for a race car driver on N Street, for D.C.’s permanent ruling class of lawyers and for various government chiefs. One or two of the government honchos have requested elaborate security features that range from cameras, panic buttons and bullet-proof glass to doors bad guys can’t break down.

Aside from the elaborate security, the Rixeys have managed some interesting design requests. One client wanted leather walls and floors — for a library, Douglas says, not a bondage chamber. Another asked for sterling silver doorknobs, about 20, costing upwards of $2,000 each.

Business is pretty good, they say. Not quite up to pre-recession levels, but 2012 was one of the firm’s best years ever. Some years, they do four or five projects a year; other years, 20. They have a front-row seat on the latest fads and trends in architecture and design. Right now, master bedroom suites are in high demand, suites complete with fireplaces, big bathrooms and dressing rooms. The Rixeys, however, caution against taking out all the bedrooms. One huge bedroom and no others make for a tough re-sale, and they try to keep re-sale in mind as they work on current projects. Other trends for the master suite include mini-bars, vaulted ceilings and screened porches with sliding doors that can open up the whole room to the outside.
Other changes in luxurious living include a strong push for sustainability. The couple designed their own vacation house in Virginia’s Northern Neck.

“We set a budget for ourselves,” Victoria says. “But one of the really important things we just had to have was geothermal heat and air conditioning.” With solar panels, the whole house will be off the electrical grid, she says. More and more, they find themselves using recycled material in kitchen countertops and bathrooms and glass instead of marble. “We just used some glass on a lovely master bath in the East Village,” Victoria says. “The white glass tiles are a dead ringer for Thasos marble, a gorgeous clear all-white marble that’s becoming harder and harder to find because it has been over quarried.”

Technology has become a key part of designing a house now. Douglas describes a client who, he says, “can manage his house on his iPhone. The house is wired so that he can see who is at the front door, unlock it, turn on the air conditioning, play music in the kitchen and open the pool cover. From Paris.” A new idea is a swimming pool cover that disappears below that water level. “Every week, there’s something new,” Douglas says.

Some of the changing trends reflect a changing clientele. The Rixeys say more and more young families are moving into Georgetown, and often they ask for more casual, flowing spaces: houses where the kitchen, the living space and the backyard all melt into each other. Outdoor kitchens are hot. Formal dining rooms, Victoria says, are on their way out. The Rixeys have also noticed that more and more people are thinking about the future — and about “aging in place” — with some clients asking for elevators and wheelchair-accessible rooms.

Digging down has also been an important part of the Rixeys’ work in Georgetown. Because of a shortage of space and because of historic preservation rules, clients often can’t built out or up, so they go down. “Underpinning,” or taking basements lower and making them more livable, is part of many Georgetown renovations.

Finally, the Rixeys say the constraints of working in Georgetown make any project challenging. Yet, even with tight spaces, shared walls, nosy neighbors and tight parking, they say they’ve faced no more than one or two complaints over 25 plus years. And, though they moved out of Georgetown a couple of years ago, to renovate a house in Old Town, they’re looking at a new house in the East Village, figuring it might be time to move back home.

The Langhornes’ Contemporary on N Street, NW

Douglas Rixey began working with a son of past clients to begin a modest renovation. An international race car driver, the son had purchased a historically non-contributing house from his parents in the heart of Georgetown. Shortly after design work began, the eligible bachelor became engaged and — during the design process — married. What began as a very modest renovation turned into something much more, a high-tech modern house (shown in photos here) for a young family. It was completed just last year and was a star of the 2013 Georgetown House Tour. Recalls Rixey: “It was a tremendously dynamic design process, but also great fun, as the husband and wife were constantly bringing new ideas to the table.” The house has an in-home theater, smart-house wiring, geothermal heating and air conditioning and open living spaces that wrap a four-level floating stair, next to a glass elevator. [gallery ids="101448,153644,153650,153632,153636,153639,153647" nav="thumbs"]