Reviving Dead Space

The owners had lived in Europe and loved old buildings, their secrets and surprises. They decided that Georgetown was the perfect place to find the right convergence of a period architecture, space with good “bones” and character that would be a suitable canvas for their creation. Together with their architect, Christian Zapatka, a champion of and expert in period Georgetown buildings, they pursued their quarry. Their hunt took them through myriad clapboard row houses and brick Georgians until they happened upon their “crumbly cottage,” the dark, dowdy little 1810 Federal that they knew would unfurl into a spacious, light-filled beauty. The potential lay, in great part, in its semi-detached orientation, with three exposures. Zapatka, an expert in keeping the period aspects of a house intact while giving it a fresh 21st-century makeover, gutted the entire house and then carefully put it back together, weaving together traditional crown molding and woodwork and reclaimed hardwood flooring, with updated lighting and modern space planning. His greatest challenge was to create another entire level of livable space. Typically attics yield a treasure trove of reclaimable space, but in this case, it needed to be squeezed out from a four-foot earthen, windowless crawl space. His team dug deep, moving another five feet of earth, much of it by hand. Changing an earthen dungeon into a inviting living area is a challenge, and not every basement is a good candidate for finishing. Key considerations for conversion include controlling moisture, adding ventilation and light, and finding a way around hanging drain lines, ductwork and wiring. Added challenges stem from digging around what was once the original kitchen, judging from the huge masonry fireplace, of a 200-year-old building. Although many finished basements in old houses are musty, dinghy affairs, proper planning, new products and architectural expertise yielded an additional 600 square feet of living space that includes a gourmet kitchen/family room, an office/guest room, a new full bath and a landscaped yard. Walls of creamy curly maple cabinets hide a flat screen television and stereo equipment and provide plenty of storage. An open floor plan, a sparkling stainless steel mosaic backsplash, skylights, limestone floors and countertops and abundant high-efficiency windows make one forget that this was once a subterranean space. Michelle Galler is a realtor with TTR/Sotheby’s International Realty, an interior designer and antiques dealer who resides in Georgetown’s West Village. If you have resolved a George¬town design challenge that would be of inter¬est to our readers, contact Ms. Galler in care of The Georgetowner. Photographs by Amy Snyder Photography

State of the District’s Commercial Financing Real Estate Market

If you are a commercial property owner today looking for loan, good luck! Put lightly, today’s commercial lending environment would be described as difficult. There are several challenges landlords face in underwriting. One primary challenge has to do with their ability to repay the debt. Simply having a tenant, or evidence of income in owner occupied properties, is no longer enough. Lenders are skittish, and they have good reason to be — very few deals these days are all cash, and the vast majority of transactions require financing. Loans are underwritten today in a vastly different way than they have been in the past. Larger down payments, pristine credit, significant cash reserves, and an impressive track record of loan payment are examples of the highly scrutinized underwriting changes in the market place. Equally important as the repayment of debt is the secured amount of assets a borrower pledges in the event of default. As one lender told me recently, “In a loan committee we ask not if, but when, a loan will have problems.” To hedge their risk, banks are requiring huge amounts of security and reserve funds so the lender can be reassured when the tenant or owner struggles, they can still make payments to the bank for a certain period of time. Most banks prefer to lend to owner-occupied properties versus investment properties. As a result, loan terms and underwriting can be more favorable for the owner occupants. Another area of financing that has become increasingly scrutinized is credit. Banks want tenants and borrowers with sterling credit. A borrower or tenant with less-than-excellent credit is problematic. And the rules on this have changed for everyone. The companies in the past who were considered to have high credit, low default risk and reputations for paying rent on time are looked at and underwritten more diligently today. Gone are the days of showing a lender a lease with a tenant like American Eagle, Gap, Pottery Barn or Ralph Lauren and being guaranteed a loan. The once impeccable reputation and credit of traditionally stable tenants has diminished. Same goes for the owners and borrowers themselves. As the market has worsened, so have many of the relationships between lenders and their clientele. The concept of relationship banking seems to be a thing of the past. Recently, I assisted a client with refinancing their commercial property and we approached their current lender with what we believed were favorable borrowing terms, i.e. good credit, decent income, and plenty of equity in the property. My client’s lender refused to even entertain the borrower after an almost 20-year relationship. Compounding things for borrowers is the fact there are fewer banks lending today. Many banks have either closed, been absorbed or bogged down with government regulators due to their participation in TARP. Lenders are distracted either cleaning up their toxic commercial loans or auditing their books to ensure their next visit from the Feds runs smoother than the last. This added layer of scrutiny requires tremendous resources from the banks — resources that would be better served originating, facilitating and closing of loans in their systems. Perhaps the most onerous change put on borrowers today in underwriting has been the loan-to-value (LTV) amount. This is the figure that represents the percentage of a property’s value a bank is willing to lend a borrower. Historically, LTV values for commercial real estate properties have been in 80 to 90 percent range. Today the maximum is generally 75 percent for owner-occupied properties (unless you qualify for an SBA loan) and perhaps only 60 to 70 percent for investment properties. This is a particularly tough change if the borrower’s money for the down payment had been in the stock market, or even worse, equity in another piece of real estate. It is likely the values of those stocks, real estate, or other equities have decreased. Undoubtedly, the rules of the game have changed and navigating through the process, at lease in the short term, appear to be getting not any easier. O’Neill Realty Advisors, LLC is a full service commercial real estate brokerage and advisory company focusing on Georgetown and upper Northwest D.C. Contact Andrew O'Neill at 202-741-9405 or

Home Improvement

  -Dear Darrell: I am going to be putting my house up for sale pretty soon, and I know it could use some sprucing up. What improvements will bring me the best payback on the cost of the work? (I'm planning on doing most of the work myself.) -Norma T., Tenleytown Dear Norma: I know you didn't ask, but I'll give you an answer anyway: if there is any way you can swing it, don't do the work yourself, unless you are particularly skilled at what you will be doing. Nothing turns off a buyer faster than going through a house and seeing that repair and touch up work has been done by an amateur. Not only does the work not look as appealing, it also raises questions in the buyer's mind (and that of the buyer agent) as to what unseen things might be problematic in the house. Even if the buyer can't quite put his or her finger on the uncertainty about the property, a succession of even small issues accumulates into major doubt about buying the property. So to your actual question: there is no hard and fast rule about what things bring the best return when fixing up a property, but these are the most likely areas: kitchens, bathrooms, decks (or the like), paint, landscaping. You might say to yourself, "I can paint! I'll go to the store, get some paint and brushes and have a painting party." Hopefully you would respond with, "Didn't you read Darrell's advice above?" (Of course, if you find yourself talking to yourself, you may be under a lot of stress, and this may not be the best time in your life to sell a property!) In any case, yes you could have a painting party, and the walls would get covered in paint, but the finer points of a paint job would be missing. And most prospective buyers would notice. This is not to mention someone stepping in the paint tray and tracking paint on your hardwood floors, the drips on your toe molding, the purchasing and cleanup time, and so on. If you are going to do it yourself, it's important to select a neutral but appealing color (not all white, or all tan), and apply it very carefully, giving attention to the details. Only you will know if you have the patience for that. If you can hang in there for another week, I'll write more about the other fix-ups I mentioned above. Good luck! Dear Darrell: My house in Northwest has been on the market for a long time — three months — and no one has even made an offer. It’s in a great location and it’s in great condition. The problem is that it is an unusual design. I keep thinking there is something I should be doing to it to make someone like it. -Maureen S., Cleveland Park Dear Maureen: First of all, three months is not so unusual these days, depending on the price of your property. I’m assuming yours is towards the upper end of the price range in D.C. Secondly, once you have dealt with location and condition, the only other thing to do (besides renovating) is to take a hard look at the price. Third, one of the things which makes our area so appealing is the variety of choices the buyers have. Think of a piece of music. It’s made up of many different notes, e.g. eighth, quarter, half, whole. If a symphony had only whole notes or only quarter notes it would be pretty boring. As one of the notes in the symphony known as D.C., your property may be one that jazzes us up a bit. That may not appeal to the majority of buyers, but there will be a buyer who will resonate with your “note.” Of course, if all else fails, reduce the price! Dear Darrell: I’m thinking of putting my house on the market. I’ve talked to a number of friends about it, and have gotten a variety of responses about how their process was, and about agents they know of. How do I know if an agent is going to be the “right” one for my house? -Michael C., Glover Park Dear Michael: I think you are on the right track by talking with friends who have had recent experience with this. It’s a great place to start. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you visit several different Sunday open houses so you can get a feel for the style of the particular agent at the open house. For instance, is the agent quiet, dramatic, intense, laid-back, funny, seemingly uninterested, etc.? I suggest this approach because you and your chosen agent will be spending a lot of time together. Style is a very important part of the success of that relationship. The experience of friends is good information, because it puts potential listing agents in a known context. But it’s also important for you to experience the agent for yourself. As I mentioned, open houses is a good way to do that. Next, I would focus on “substance.” Is the agent knowledgeable, responsive, skillful, creative, thoughtful, energetic, confident, smart, communicative? Finally, I would talk with them about their track record. I don’t put this first on the list, because I don’t think it is the most important aspect of the process. Insofar as agents can point to success in the past, it is a measure of their skill. But you are presumably interviewing several skilled agents, each of which is likely to have a different style. The better your communication with your listing agent, the easier it will be for you to trust one another, be open with one another, and make the sale of your property a team effort. Darrell Parsons is the managing broker of the Georgetown Long and Foster office and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity regulations. Have a real estate question? E-mail him at He blogs at

What About My Artifacts?

  -Dear Darrell: I will be selling my house soon. I’ve lived here for a long time and have collected artifacts from my extensive travels over these many years. I think these things enhance the beauty of my house, but I’ve heard stories about real estate people coming in and telling owners to get rid of everything. Do I need to worry about that? - Craig B., Logan Circle Dear Craig: I don’t think you need to worry about it, but it is an important thing to think about. Nearly everyone, having lived in a house long enough, has collected “stuff.” Sometimes the collections are fine art, some are frogs from around the world, and one that I saw recently was a house with stuffed animal heads on the walls. Those three very different collections are precious to the people who live in those houses. However, it’s not difficult to imagine that what one person finds precious, another person doesn’t. Even extraordinary art work can affect the way any given potential buyer might respond emotionally to a property. In general, it is best to pare things down. I encourage you to find a real estate agent whom you like, and to ask that person to give you specific feedback about this issue. The feedback in some instances is hard to hear, but what the agent tells you is meant well, and is meant to help you sell your house in a reasonable time at a good price. I read an article recently in the New York Times by Dominique Browning, titled “What I Lost When I Lost My Job.” In it she beautifully and touchingly describes the process she went through in selling her own house. She talks a little bit about your question, so that might be helpful, but her other comments about moving from a long-time residence are also meaningful. Darrell Parsons is the managing broker of the Georgetown Long and Foster office and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity regulations. Have a real estate question? E-mail him at He blogs at

Tricia Messerschmitt, Realtor

Q: Where do you live? And why did you pick that area? I live in Cleveland Park, and I picked the area because it’s the essence of Washington, the best of all worlds. It’s so close to Georgetown, but it provides the nicely balanced mix of urban and residential with good walkability. Q: What is the highest ticket you have closed yet? Well, it was above $5 million. And I’m on a team of team of realtors, the Mcfadden group, whose tickets are even higher. I can’t even guesstimate. But personally, $5 million. Q: Any memorable closing celebrations? There have been. A closing is a very joyous time. Often times it includes champagne. Sometimes it’s a multiple-day celebration. But it’s always a very happy occasion for people and it is a good reason to celebrate. It’s an important achievement, buying home. Q: Do you have a favorite area in Georgetown? A street, or a block? I love Montrose Park, at the very top at R street. When I first arrived in Washington nearly 20 years ago, it was one of the first places that I went to. I was sitting there having a picnic, being rained on by these beautiful, little, delicate pink blossoms. It was my first experience with the cherry blossoms, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I just fell in love the place at that moment. I just thought, “How can you not love this place?” I also have an affinity for the Four Seasons hotel. I was their public relations director for ten years. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Q: Have you ever treated yourself to anything special upon closing a deal? With my very first commission in real estate, which was only five years ago, I treated myself to a new set of golf clubs. That was a nice splurge. Q: Where you golf around the area? I golf around many different places. Whiskey Creek, Osprey’s. I’ve played in probably most of the courses around the area. Q: Are you single or married? I’ve been going steady with the same guy for nearly twenty years, Chris Plante, and he probably doesn’t want me to say his name, but he’s a radio personality around here. His father is a forty-year Georgetowner. Q: What would be your dream home in the District? I have been looking for it, trust me. Every time I look into a home, I think, is this my home? And I haven’t found it yet. But I’ve found the location, and I want to build it there. And it’s close to Georgetown. And that’s all I’ll say right now. Q: What is your favorite thing about being an agent/in the business? I love the fact that every single day I meet new and interesting people. It really is the part of the job I thought I was going to be the worst at. I thought I was going to sort of struggle most in dealing with people who are going through what could be the most stressful and challenging purchase of their lives. And it turns out to be the part of the job I absolutely relish. I like helping them through the process and coming out the other end. It’s the part of the job I get up every morning and look the most forward to. Q: How do you get your face out there do you use advertising, marketing, charities, or community involvement? I try to be as active in my community as I can be. Not necessarily for business reasons, but because we have a dynamite community. It’s such an interesting, smart dynamic community. I support the arts, I’m involved in the Cleveland Park Association and getting involved with the trust fort the National Mall. Finding ways to meet more people and learning things about the city. The joy of this business is that I’ve come to know Washington really well, and I love that we have a fascinating city here. It’s also fun to introduce people to Washington. They often have preconceived notions of what Washington is; federal buildings, marble, bureaucracy. But when they see Georgetown and neighborhoods with true communities, they’re often very surprised. It’s a fun part of the job to watch newcomers discover what a livable community this city is.

Jennie Mann, Realtor

Jennie Mann is a rising star in real estate sales and works for McWilliams/Ballard. She is the sales manager for Yale Steam Laundry, an up-and-comer in the condo world located in the exciting tip of Penn Quarter, right next to the new Urban Safeway. What is the most memorable property you have closed yet? My most memorable property was an amazing 1200-square-foot open space loft in the Yale Historic Building with 16-foot-high ceilings, exposed brick, big arching window — the works. It was beautiful! How do you like to celebrate with your clients after you have closed a sale? For general brokerage clients you can't go wrong with a nice bottle of Champagne and a gift card to their favorite furniture store. Have you sold to or worked with any local celebrities on a deal? And if so whom might we know? I have, but I never kiss and tell. What was the first thing you bought with your commission money besides paying bills? The first thing I purchased with my commission was a quality handbag — a big quality handbag! I needed one that would fit my laptop and files. Are you single or married? If single, do you date other agents ever or have you? If married, what does your spouse do? I'm engaged to a wonderful man who is the co-founder and creative director of a branding agency located in Georgetown. What is your dream home in the District to live in (on or off the market)? In the District I would love to live in my good friends’ condo. They own a super modern penthouse unit [near Thomas Circle]. I admire their great taste, from their choice of artwork to their well-designed terrace. However, thanks to my Estonian fiancé’s influence, my ultimate dream home would have to be a pre-fab home. Pre-fab homes can be custom-designed to fit the homeowners’ lifestyle, plus they reduce waste and save on energy. I value function over wasted space. Less is definitely more. I think people add clutter and spend too much money on unnecessary decorations for their home. Who needs 15 vases and 20 decorative pillows? For example, someone once gave me a teddy bear for Valentine’s Day and I kept thinking to myself, “where the hell am I going to put this?” I sent it to Goodwill the next day. What is your favorite thing about being an agent in the business? The best thing about my job is that every day is different. I learn something new every day. I meet people from all different walks of life and having a flexible schedule doesn't hurt. How do you get your face out there? Do you use advertising, marketing, charities, or community involvement? I used to attend a lot of networking parties and events. However, these days I find that the best way to generate business is through referrals from friends and family. What are some trends you see in the market? Being environmentally responsible is a big trend. We have a more conscious buyer these days. People are actively seeking out green buildings with LEED certification and using sustainable materials for their homes. It's a trend that I hope will stay around for good.

The State of Mortgages

  -Mortgage rates remain in a narrow and favorable range. In recent days, rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages as gauged by Freddie Mac averaged below 5% percent again. This means for a primary house mortgage with at least 20 percent down and very good credit, rates are quite attractive. Interest rates on government insured FHA and VA mortgages were slightly higher. Fifteen-year mortgage rates typically carry rates that are around a half to three-eighths lower then typical 30-year rates. Interest rates on adjustable rate mortgages that have fixed terms of three, five and seven years were approaching a rate of 4 percent. The turmoil in the European markets produced instability in stock markets worldwide. When stock markets falter, investors put money into safer investments, which include the bond market. When bonds do well, so do interest rates. The yield on the 10-Year Treasuries was testing the 4 percent level before the turmoil in the stock markets. The yield for 10-Year Treasuries is now in the 3.5 percent range. The “flight to safety” should continue for at least the short term. Inflation or the fear of inflation is the major driving force for a rise in interest rates. There is little fear of inflation, nationally or globally. Some economists state that the long-term trend in inflation globally is titled in the direction of less inflation or even deflation. In the short term, there is no doubt that inflation is well under control and there is no fear of inflation rearing its head. If the European Union slides towards recession, then there will be no chance of interest rate rises by the Federal Reserve in the foreseeable future. Employment is starting the long road back to recovery. Jobs are starting to increase. However, more people are coming back into the job market, looking for jobs. That is why the unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent, even though there was healthy job growth. There is a lot of work yet to be done. Underwriting standards remain strict. This means a loan has to be well documented with all the income and asset statements. If there is a gray area on a loan, the underwriter will cast doubt instead of giving the benefit of the situation. Mortgage loans are available, but the client has to be well qualified. If you are in the market for a mortgage, this can be a good time for you. Rates are low and as long as you can meet the underwriting criteria, you should end up with an excellent mortgage. Bill Starrels lives in Georgetown, specializing in residential mortgages. He can be reached at 703-625-7355 or

Tax Credit for First-Time Homebuyers

Dear Darrell: I was looking for a condo to buy, and since I am a first-time buyer, wanted to buy something before April 30 so I could get the $8000 tax credit. Now that program has expired. Do you know if it will be reinstated any time soon? — Jay L, Foggy Bottom Dear Jay: I’m sorry you didn’t make it under the wire. I haven’t heard any specific rumblings about the $8000 tax credit being offered again. Everything I have read about it seems to indicate that it will not be offered again. However, that program did offer a great opportunity for many, many buyers, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a strong push to bring it back. In the meantime, however, buyers in D.C. still have the opportunity to use the $5000 D.C. tax credit. This federal tax credit is available to first-time homebuyers in the District of Columbia. There are more restrictions related to this credit than to the $8000 credit, but it is still a good deal for those just getting started. Additionally, you should look into the D.C. Homestead Exemption, and the D.C. Tax Abatement Program. These are other programs specific to D.C. which can help you as you purchase your first property. I encourage you to speak with a loan officer who can explain the specifics of how these programs work. You can also go to the District Web site (, which has a lot of information. I find this site somewhat difficult to search, so you may want to call the phone number given on the site to get specific direction. Darrell Parsons is the managing broker of the Georgetown Long and Foster office and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity regulations. Have a real estate question? E-mail him at He blogs at

Is MRIS Worth It?

  -Dear Darrell: I recently interviewed a couple of agents about selling my house. Both agents told me about the realtor listing system, the MRIS. That’s the system they use to let other agents know about the sale of property. One thing about it was confusing, though: one agent said that I should put it in the MRIS immediately to get the widest exposure. The other agent suggested marketing it privately for a period of time and then putting it in the MRIS later on if it didn’t sell right away. They explained the advantages of their different approaches. What do you think are the pros and cons? Carol E. Woodley Park Dear Carol: I definitely come down on the side of listing the property in the MRIS immediately. Here’s why: houses are subject to the same competitive market forces as any other marketable commodity. The buyers are comparing my house to other houses in myriad ways. This will happen with your home, too. Through this process, potential buyers become highly educated about the comparative value of properties. In the end, it is these potential buyers who largely define the market price of a given property. The truth is, none of us knows what a buyer will pay for a house until it is offered for sale. If a seller has underpriced her house, the buyers will bid against each other for the right to buy it. Likewise, if the house is over-priced, buyers will turn away from it in favor of a house they know will be a better value for them. The only way to get this kind of feedback is to disseminate the information about one’s house to the widest possible pool of potential buyers. And nothing comes close to the MRIS in that regard. There are isolated instances where offering a property as a “private” or “quiet” sale is necessary or desired. But the vast majority of houses benefits by being in the MRIS. One of the supposed appeals of having a private sale is that it seems that one can control who comes to see the property. The downside to this is that it automatically eliminates a wide swath of potential buyers, and regardless of the intent, could be perceived as discriminatory. I recommend opting for the MRIS route so you can get the most exposure and, consequently, the best sale price. Darrell Parsons is the managing broker of the Georgetown Long and Foster office and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity regulations. Have a real estate question? E-mail him at He blogs at

Designing House

What happens when you gather the greatest minds in the Washington design world and sic them on a newly built home? You end up with the Washington Design Center’s 2010 Design House, a glittering amalgam of styles new and old tied together by some of the freshest design thinking around. John Blee sits down with a few of the Design House’s featured decorators to get their perspective. How did you accessorize your section of the house? NESTOR SANTA-CRUZ [STUDY]: I used mostly my own personal accessories, paintings, vases, etc. I wanted it to be a very personal look, something that matches my work and meets the style of Elle Decor. I wanted a sense of abstraction, but also a realism in the actual pieces I selected. Mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. I use objects, textiles, carpets and furniture as pieces of an interior architectural vocabulary. Objects must talk to each other. The design language is the same even when mixing styles/periods. It’s a Latin and an American mixed way of looking at European precedents. MELINDA NETTELBECK, ADAMSTEIN & DEMETRIOU ARCHITECTS [MASTER BEDROOM]: To accentuate the cosmopolitan feel of the space, we collected photography and ceramics from local galleries in black, white, and neutral shades. The sensual lines of the pieces add a feminine touch to an otherwise masculine space. The rich colors in the photography above the bed and unique lighting bring a playful element to the room. FRANK RANDOLPH [PORTICO]: I put classic furniture that can stay there in all seasons. The entrance and exit of a home should look as good as the interior. I was thinking of classical Tuscany. Porticos go back to the Greeks and Romans. Are there any aspects of your way of decorating a room that have changed in the last few years? RANDOLPH: Yes, I am using more color, including shades of lavender and mauve and periwinkle blue. They make me happy. I bought a periwinkle shirt at Brooks Brothers the other day and it made me feel the same. SANTA-CRUZ: That’s really a good question. I really think my work evolves, but if I had to say something, my work is more edited, more sophisticated, because I know the reference to the history of design, yet I want to provide a point of view, a personal quality, and both visual and physical comfort. It’s more edited than ever. Did you have an imaginary client in mind when you designed the room? KELLEY PROXMIRE: I imagined that a young female New York socialite living on Park Avenue lived in this space. RITA AT. CLAIR [FAMILY ROOM]: I had an imaginary client: a family that enjoyed being together. An active family that enjoys sports, travel and art. That uses this room for family planning of their activities. A family that enjoys television, as well as the use of a fireplace. This family is also aware of design, perhaps not the trendy styles but good design in both antiques, art and contemporary styling. SANTA-CRUZ: Yes, in a way. I really looked for inspiration to French decorator Madeleine Castaing. I wanted to use blue, her favorite color, and combine it the way she did: with yellows, reds, greens and dark furniture. But, I also wanted to fit the Elle Décor style: personal, designed and yet very today, very eclectic. I also do not like rooms to be only masculine or feminine. I like it to be able to be both. Do you coordinate with other designers when you do a show house? SANTA CRUZ: No, I never do that. That’s of no interest to me. I think a show house needs to be like haute couture: present a point of view, a moment, yet send a message that design is important in our lives, regardless of cost. I have items in my room that cost very little when I bought them. The point is that I explore ideas that I have been “floating” in my mind for a while, and a show house can test those. With all the respect to my Hall of Fame colleagues, and I truly respect them, I am doing this to inspire: other designers, students and amateurs of design, manufacturers and editors, the public in general. I hope when visiting this room, one takes an idea or two, good or bad, like it or not. I want people to question why I did what I did, even if they wouldn’t do it with my vision. If a show house is not used by the designers as way to teach or inspire, or confront other ways, then we are not doing our jobs as designers. I can tell you that I don’t want it to look like a high-end hotel room or a show room. ST. CLAIR: Yes, I coordinate with two or three people on my projects; however, the showhouses we do are few. This particular showhouse has my personal name on it. Therefore, it is my design concept, selections and oversight. However, like in all my personally designed spaces, two designers on my staff, Brian Thim and Polly Bartlett, have not only coordinated my ideas but they have made the room happen. What are you happiest with about your effort? PROXMIRE: Scale. The space is very large for a foyer (approximately 18.5 by 27 feet) with very low ceilings. I wanted to make the space be welcoming and not too cavernous. I accomplished this by using dining room table bases for console tables, large round skirted table in the middle and adding a window to break up one long sidewall. NETTELBECK: Because the architecture was about sculpting the walls, the faux finish was instrumental in creating a dark and seductive foundation. We used a simple crosshatch finish that provided the elegance of wall covering without the seams. In contrast, the light polished marble and luminous wall covering helped to define focal points, creating zones of activity within the large room. ST. CLAIR: I am most happy with the room because it is as I wanted it. A family room is a very special place in a home. It must first be expressive of the taste and character of its occupants. A designer's role is to organize the room with the necessary furnishings, personal objects and the usual family chaos that the family comes with, and form a functional and an aesthetically pleasing space. If that is accomplished, we have a successful design project. [gallery ids="99137,102719,102740,102736,102732,102729" nav="thumbs"]