Great Home Design: 72 Top Remodelers

Good architects, design/build firms, and general contractors—all chosen by their peers—who can get a job done right.

By: Kate Nerenberg, Lynne Shallcross

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Architects: Top Vote Getters

Cunningham Quill Architects, Northwest DC; 202-337-0090; cunninghamquill.com. This 13-year-old firm has won awards for ultramodern designs as well as historic preservation. Principals Ralph Cunningham and Lee Quill have a team of 20 architects who are currently working on two carbon-neutral houses.

David Jameson Architect, Alexandria; 703-739-3840; davidjamesonarchitect.com. David Jameson’s modern designs have won awards locally, nationally, and internationally. His small firm typically uses a mix of natural stone, glass, and steel to design spaces that are contemporary but inviting. One peer calls his work “exciting, innovative, and intellectually rigorous.”

David Jones Architect, Northwest DC; 202-332-1200; davidjonesarchitects.com. Thirty-year veteran David Jones and his firm of six architects lean toward traditional styles. Their high-end work incorporates eco-friendly materials and practices.

McInturff Architects, Bethesda; 301-229-3705; mcinturffarchitects.com. One of the area’s premier architects, Mark McInturff does modern, detailed design that embodies what one peer calls “classic calmness.” The eight-person firm includes two people accredited in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Muse Architects, Bethesda; 301-718-8118; musearchitects.com. At this 26-year-old firm, Stephen Muse requires associates to have LEED accreditation. The 18-member team is best known for its work on older houses but can also work on modern projects.

Neumann Lewis Buchanan Architects, Northwest DC; 202-775-4881; also in Middleburg; nlbarchitects.com. The architects in this award-winning firm use materials such as brick, stone, slate, and tin to create new houses that “appear to have been in place for a very long time,” says David Neumann. Along with Andy Lewis and Mark Buchanan, he heads a team that also works on renovations and additions to older homes.

Richard Williams Architects, Northwest DC; 202-387-4500; richardwilliamsarchitects.com. Richard Williams specializes in restoration of historic houses but also designs modern, new homes in rural areas, which one fellow architect calls “fresh and original.” Says Williams: “We can do clean and contemporary plans and interiors, dealing sensitively with historic structures.”

Robert M. Gurney, Alexandria; 703-739-3843; robertgurneyarchitect.com. Winner of many American Institute of Architects awards, modernist Robert Gurney recently designed a house in Lake Anna, Virginia, that was recognized as one of the 30 best in the world. His staff of six architects is highly regarded by peers.

Wiedemann Architects, Bethesda; 301-652-4022; wiedemannarchitects.com. Long known for traditional work with older houses, Greg Wiedemann and his nine architects are taking on more modern projects—a recent design of a modern Bethesda house won several AIA awards.

More Good Architects

Ahmann Architects, University Park; 301-864-1334; ahmannarchitects.com. Most of Thomas Ahmann’s work is traditional renovations and additions, although his three-architect firm also designs new homes. He recently transformed an early-20th-century cabin into a four-bedroom bungalow.

Amestudio, Alexandria; 703-549-2948; amestudio.com. Ben Ames designs Zen-like homes, renovations, and additions and uses eco-friendly materials such as bamboo and recycled metals.

Barnes Vanze Architects, Northwest DC; 202-337-7255; also in Middleburg; barnesvanze.com. Entering their 21st year in business, Anthony Barnes and Stephen Vanze design new houses as well as additions and renovations in both traditional and modern styles. With five LEED-accredited architects, the firm has created a list of more than 100 ways that clients can go green.

Bennett Frank McCarthy, Silver Spring; 301-585-2222; bfmarch.com. In their 20th year of business, Ralph Bennett, Larry Frank, and Brian McCarthy do a wide range of projects, mostly in Montgomery County. “Our projects,” says Frank, “have traditional attributes with contemporary design and structure.”

Broadhurst Architects, Rockville; 301-309-8900; broadhurstarchitects.com. Jeffery Broadhurst says he learned how to create “thoughtful, respectful designs” while working under Stephen Muse and Gregory Wiedemann. On his own since 2001, Broadhurst “strives to make comfortable spaces” when he renovates and adds on to old homes.

Cole Prévost, Northwest DC; 202-234-1090; coleprevost.com. Architects Robert Cole and Sophie Prévost, who also has a degree in interior design, see both disciplines as one entity. Their five-person firm produces mostly colorful, modern results.

Division1 Architects, Northwest DC; 202-333-4604; division1architects.com. Partners Ali Honarkar and Mustafa Nouri, who work with two other architects, are “pure modernists,” says Honarkar. They recently completed a two-level unit in DC’s Dupont Circle that included a bathroom suspended from the ceiling and featured materials they often use—concrete, steel, and glass.

Donald Lococo Architects, Northwest DC; 202-337-4422; donaldlococoarchitects.com. Donald Lococo’s firm just finished renovating Bill and Hillary Clinton’s DC home and is in talks to work on their house in Chappaqua, New York. A former apprentice of David Jones, Lococo is best known for his traditional work but is also comfortable with modern styles.

Dynerman Architects, Northwest DC; 202-337-1290; dwarchitects.com. When designing a renovation, Alan Dynerman says, “we try to respect the original house.” His three-architect firm has done projects in a variety of styles from ultramodern to classically traditional.

Franck & Lohsen Architects, Northwest DC; 202-223-9449; francklohsen.com. Michael Franck and Arthur Lohsen, who is LEED-accredited, head a small firm that specializes in classic, traditional architecture. They’ve worked on a wide variety of projects including the renovation of an 18th-century house and the redesign of an English-manor-style home.

Hamilton Snowber Architects, Northwest DC; 202-332-5416; hamiltonsnowber.com. Cynthia Hamilton and Chris Snowber, who used to work for David Jones, renovate lots of historic houses in upper Northwest DC. Their seven-architect firm designs clean spaces that feel inviting, with touches such as crown molding and wainscoting.

Kube Architecture, Northwest DC; 202-986-0573; kube-arch.com. Just four years old, this small firm stays on the cutting edge of modern design by experimenting with green materials such as Viroc, a Portuguese concrete-like board. The firm’s 2008 design of Tangysweet, a frozen-yogurt shop in Dupont Circle and Penn Quarter, has received international recognition.

Lawlor Architects, Capitol Hill; 202-543-4446; lawlorarchitects.com. Steve Lawlor calls his six-year-old firm’s work transitional: “It’s not hard-edge modern or slavish historic.” The three-architect team works in many of Washington’s historic neighborhoods and often uses brick, stone, glass, and bamboo.

McCartney Architects, Northwest DC; 202-328-0200. Jack McCartney has been renovating historic homes for more than 30 years. His three-member firm is currently restoring a Charles Goodman–designed house from the 1950s.

Meditch Murphey, Bethesda; 301-657-9400; meditchmurphey.com. Marcie Meditch and her husband, John Dennis Murphey, use lots of natural wood and stone to create striking, modern designs. With two LEED-accredited architects, the firm is currently working on a net-zero-energy home in Bethesda and does only environmentally friendly projects. Their sole requirement for taking on a project? “That it’s unique and interesting,” says Meditch.

Moore Architects, Alexandria; 703-837-0080; moorearch.com. Well known for historic preservation, Charles Moore’s 18-year-old, eight-person firm often works on houses that are more than 100 years old. Projects are usually defined by simple lines and an early-1900s, Arts and Crafts style.

MW Architecture, Northwest DC; 202-667-3012; mw-architecture.com. Meghan Walsh, who has a fine-arts background, often uses salvaged materials including discarded countertops, stained-glass windows, and marble. Her modern designs include bursts of color.

Outerbridge Horsey Associates, Northwest DC; 202-337-7334; outerbridgehorsey.com. Although this five-person firm focuses on high-end, traditional work, it also takes on modern projects. Principal Outerbridge Horsey’s designs range from simple to ornate.

Randall Mars Architects, McLean; 703-749-0431; randallmarsarchitects.com. For 20 years, Randall Mars has been blending traditional with contemporary. More recently, he’s been experimenting with innovative materials such as vertical mahogany siding and prairie stone.

Reader & Swartz Architects, Winchester; 540-665-0212; readerswartz.com. Husband-and-wife architects Chuck Swartz and Beth Reader do new houses and renovations mostly in rural Virginia and West Virginia. Their seven-person firm includes three LEED-accredited architects.

Reena Racki Associates, Northwest DC; 202-363-4739; reenaracki.com. Trained in South Africa, Racki does modern design with an international tilt. She orients houses to maximize natural light and cross-ventilation and uses trellises and pergolas for a natural feel.

Rill & Decker Architects, Bethesda; 301-652-2484; rilldecker.com. Jim Rill and Anne Decker, who have worked together since 1995, design projects that are largely traditional with hints of modernism. They won an award for their work on Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Farm.

Rixey-Rixey Architects, Georgetown; 202-333-2626; rixeyrixeyarchitects.com. Husband-and-wife architects Douglas and Victoria Rixey specialize in renovations and additions and can work in a wide range of styles. They recently combined two rowhouses in Georgetown into one large home.

Russell Versaci Architecture, Middleburg; 540-687-8777; russellversaci.com. Russell Versaci is a leader in the “new old house” design movement, which uses classic, traditional styles in high-end new homes. He tailors his designs to the region’s architecture; in Washington, that translates to Chesapeake Tidewater and Southern Piedmont.

Studio27 Architecture, Northwest DC; 202-939-0027; studio27arch.com. At this ten-year-old firm, Todd Ray and John Burke head a team of 14 architects who design very modern projects. Their residential work includes lots of innovative green materials.

Suzane Reatig Architecture, Northwest DC; 202-518-0260; reatig.com. Reatig’s modern designs include lots of glass and concrete. Her projects—she specializes in apartments and condos—were noted by one peer as “wonderfully quiet, spare, serene, and economical.” All three architects in the firm are LEED-accredited.

Treacy & Eagleburger Architects, Northwest DC; 202-362-5226; treacyeagleburger.com. Jane Treacy and Phil Eagleburger design renovations and additions in Washington as well as new vacation homes for their Washington clientele, often in New England. “We take a contemporary approach to plan layouts,” says Eagleburger. “But oftentimes they’re disguised in more traditional clothing.” Other architects praise the clearness and simplicity of their work.

Van Dusen Architects, Northwest DC; 202-332-3890; vandusenarchitects.com. This six-architect firm, in business since 1987, is led by Ben Van Dusen, who specializes in new homes and large renovations. Many of his projects include wood and stone. “We like to use natural materials in a modern context,” he says.

Top Design/Build Firms and General Contractors

Acadia Contractors, Bethesda; 301-320-6702. Highly recommended by architects, Paul Jeffs and his team have done high-end remodeling and additions for 26 years.

Accent General Contracting, Rockville; 301-294-9295; accentgc.com. In business 40 years, this firm takes on kitchens, additions, whole-house renovations, and other large projects, creating open spaces in traditional or modern styles.

Added Dimensions, Takoma Park; 301-270-0935; addeddimensionsinc.com. Engineer Richard Hazboun and lawyer Alan Kanner teamed up in 1997 to form this firm, which specializes in contemporary residential architecture, mostly in DC and Montgomery County. Recent projects include the complete renovation of a semicircular rowhouse on R Street, adding a five-story elevator tower to a another DC residence, and building a 550-square-foot glass deck for a home in Cleveland Park.

Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Cabin John; 301-907-0100; anthonywilder.com. Wilder’s 14-year-old firm does everything from whole-house renovations to interior design and landscaping. It has five staff architects and specializes in creative, whimsical architecture; one memorable project was an adult tree house.

Bethesda Contracting, Chevy Chase; 301-656-9020; bethesdacontracting.com. Brothers Mike and George Thiede started the company in 1986; Mike Jr. joined in 2006. They’ll take on remodeling projects of all sizes, and they offer green materials ranging from tile and cabinets to electrical fixtures.

Block Builders, Bethesda; 301-652-8566; blockbuilders.com. Anthony Paulos worked in construction for a decade before founding this ten-person firm, which works mostly on traditionally designed custom homes, major additions, and renovations. While the firm builds lots of new residences that are at least 6,000 square feet, it has also done projects as small as 1,500-square-foot guesthouses.

Bowa Builders, McLean; 703-734-9050; also in Middleburg; bowa.com. Bowa specializes in large renovations, custom houses, and condo remodeling, with a project minimum of $150,000. In business more than 20 years, Bowa recently launched a rebate program to minimize costs for green upgrades. The firm also has a division to work on small and midsize projects.

Brenneman & Pagenstecher, Kensington; 301-933-9305; brenpag.com. Architect Dean Brenneman and builder Peter Pagenstecher teamed up more than a decade ago to do high-end additions, renovations, and historic preservation, mostly in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Northwest DC, North Arlington, McLean, and Great Falls.

Case Design/Remodeling, Bethesda; 301-229-4600; casedesign.com. The country’s largest full-service remodeling company, Case has three offices in Washington and about 50 franchises across the country. The 48-year-old firm has staff architects and, in Washington, 30 Green Advantage–certified remodelers; it does everything from whole-house renovations to smaller projects out of its handyman division.

Commonwealth Home Remodelers, Vienna; 703-255-9861; commonwealthhome.com. Owned by aerospace engineer Kelvin Pierce and wife Susan, a LEED-accredited architect, this design/build firm does large remodeling projects, mostly in Fairfax County. It recently restored and merged two log cabins into one house that uses a geothermal heating system and harvests and treats rainwater for home use.

DeMarne & Day, Potomac; 301-299-6500. In business almost 60 years, this construction firm focuses on midsize to large remodeling in styles ranging from traditional to modern. The 30-person team works mostly in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Northwest DC, Arlington, and McLean.

Gibson Builders, Northwest DC; 202-364-1555; gibsonbuilders.com. Primarily a custom-home builder, Jim Gibson’s firm also does renovations. Highly recommended by peers, it also has an office on the Eastern Shore. There’s a $500,000 project minimum.

Gilday Renovations, Silver Spring; 301-565-4600; gilday.com. Cousins Kevin and Thomas Gilday’s 30-person team includes architects, interior designers, and builders who work in both contemporary and traditional styles.

Glass Construction, Northwest DC; 202-362-6012; gcidc.com. Tom Glass works mostly in Georgetown and Cleveland Park and specializes in historic renovations in Federal-era, Georgian, and Italianate styles. He recently restored a 19th-century Georgetown rowhouse, in the process installing geothermal heating and cooling.

Hopkins & Porter Construction, Potomac; 301-840-9121; www.hopkinsandporter.com. Guy Hopkins Semmes and Michael Porter Denker founded Hopkins & Porter more than 30 years ago. The design/build firm has one architect on staff and offers handyman services for smaller jobs. It recently renovated a 100-year-old cabin in Potomac, adding a floor-to-ceiling glass wall overlooking the river.

Horizon Builders, Crofton; 301-261-6706; horizonbuildersinc.net. Our top vote getter, this construction firm does renovation and historic preservation in addition to new-home construction. Its sister company, Horizon Houseworks, handles handyman work.

Ilex Construction & Woodworking, Northwest DC; 202-360-4387; other locations in Baltimore, Easton, Middleburg, and Hot Springs, Va.; ilexconstruction.com. Doug Croker leads this company, whose staff of more than 150 craftspeople specializes in historic renovation.

Landis Construction Corporation, Northwest DC; 202-726-3777; landisconstruction.com. The Landis brothers—Ethan, an MBA, and Chris, an architect—do high-end additions and facelifts. They have one LEED-accredited designer on staff and are working on a LEED Platinum residential project in Georgetown with solar electricity, solar heating, and sustainable landscaping.

Levine Group Architects & Builders, Silver Spring; 301-585-4848; thelevinegroup.com. Jerry Levine has more than 30 years of experience as a builder and remodeler. His design/build firm specializes in midsize to large projects and provides architectural, construction, and interior-design services. The firm is renovating the historic embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Lofgren Construction, Laytonsville; 301-948-3277; lofgrenconstruction.com. In business more than 20 years, Mike Lofgren’s eight-person firm specializes in high-end construction of both modern and traditional houses. In 2007, the company started its House Husband program, a service designed to provide seasonal, preventive-care maintenance.

Madden Corporation, Rockville; 301-881-6669; maddencci.com. Mike Madden, a carpenter and cabinetmaker, started his firm in 1981; it’s grown to a 15-person operation with an average job of $500,000. Madden’s team does everything from ultra-contemporary to traditional, mostly in Arlington, Northwest DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Potomac.

Mark IV Builders, Bethesda; 240-395-0400; markivbuilders.com. Engineer Mark Scott, who is a NARI green-certified professional, and his ten-person team work mostly in Montgomery County, upper Northwest DC, and Arlington. The design/build firm does lots of “contempolonials,” or Colonial exteriors paired with contemporary interiors. The firm strives for efficiency—its average project is $350,000 and is completed in 13 weeks.

Mauck, Zantzinger & Associates, Northwest DC; 202-363-8501; mauckzantzinger.com. Michael Mauck and Richard Zantzinger teamed up in 1991 to form a company specializing in large- and medium-size renovations and additions as well as custom homes in Northwest DC, Chevy Chase, and Bethesda. They recently renovated a Georgetown Federal-style home in which they merged the kitchen into a 600-square-foot greenhouse.

McNamara Brothers, Silver Spring; 301-589-3767. Robert and Michael McNamara work closely with architects on high-end renovations and additions mostly in Northwest DC, Bethesda, and Chevy Chase. In business more than 25 years, the firm also does historic preservation; instead of tearing down a historic Chevy Chase house to make way for a larger one, they moved and restored it.

Merrick Design and Build, Kensington; 301-946-2356; remodelwithmerrick.com. David Merrick, who has an architecture degree and has worked in construction and engineering, founded this company 20 years ago. He says his 11-person team is very conscious of working within a client’s budget.

M.T. Puskar Construction Company, Flint Hill; 540-675-1510; mtpuskar.com. Michael Puskar and Christopher Stanton formed this design/build firm in 1990. Their 15-person team specializes in custom homes and residential renovations and additions. Their renovation of a farmhouse in Washington, Virginia, won five AIA awards and was featured on HGTV.

O’Neill Development, Gaithersburg; 301-840-9310; oneilldev.com. Brendan O’Neill’s 34-year-old contracting firm takes on everything from small renovations to new construction, working mostly in Northwest DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Potomac and on the Eastern Shore. The 18-member staff includes a LEED-accredited project manager and a Green Advantage–certified estimator. O’Neill’s team recently reassembled a 150-year-old barn from Pennsylvania on the Eastern Shore.

Peterson and Collins, Northwest DC; 202-234-4500; petersonandcollins.com. Ted Peterson and George Collins teamed up more than 30 years ago; their 28-person team, which comes highly recommended by area architects, specializes in high-end houses, renovations, and additions in styles from traditional to ultramodern.

Potomac Valley Builders, Bethesda; 301-656-9422; potomacvalleybuilders.com. With more than 50 years of experience between them, Daryl Landis and Gerald Witmer lead a team that does work in Montgomery County, Northwest DC, and Northern Virginia. Recent projects have included adding a rounded metal barrel roof to a house in Bethesda and completely renovating a 90-year-old farmhouse in Middleburg that retained its original roof and stone walls.

SBR Construction Company, Silver Spring; 301-388-2320. In business 35 years, Mike Baker specializes in high-end remodeling for medium and large projects in Montgomery County, Northwest DC, and Fairfax County. Last spring, Baker’s team built an addition that included an octagonal home theater.

Schroeder Design/Build, Fairfax; 703-449-1700; schroederdesignbuild.com. This family-run design/build firm specializes in additions—including kitchens, baths, and family rooms—in Northern Virginia.

Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, Burke; 703-425-5588; sundesigninc.com. In business 21 years, this design/build firm works in Northern Virginia and specializes in additions and major remodeling of kitchens, baths, basements, master suites, and outdoor spaces. It recently built an indoor soccer court in a finished basement in Haymarket, a project that won a national award.

We Design Build, McLean, 703-288-3090; Northwest DC, 202-333-3422; wedb.com. Owner Kaya Biron, an architect, leads a team of 20 that specializes in high-end traditional houses. The 19-year-old company also has three other architects on staff.

Wentworth, Chevy Chase; 240-395-0705; wentworthstudio.com. Architect Bruce Wentworth specializes in remodeling older urban homes. His 23-year-old design/build firm won six local and one national 2009 Contractor of the Year awards from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Winchester Construction Company, Millersville; 410-987-5905; winchesterconstruction.net. Bert Winchester works on custom homes and renovations mostly in Chevy Chase and Northwest DC as well as on the Eastern Shore and in Annapolis. The company’s 70-person staff includes one LEED-accredited project manager.

Good Resources

American Institute of Architects, 800-242-3837; aia.org. This organization’s Web site has a searchable database of architects and sample contracts; the sub-site, howdesignworks.aia.org, provides guidelines on finding an architect, negotiating an agreement, and maintaining a good relationship, as well as video case studies. The three local chapters—AIA DC (aiadc.com), AIA Northern Virginia (aianova.org), and AIA Maryland (aiamd.org)—also provide information on finding and hiring architects.

Angie’s List, angieslist.com. This consumer-networking Web site gives member reviews of home-improvement companies—not just remodelers—across the country, rating them on price, quality, responsiveness, and professionalism. Membership is $67 a year or $8.75 a month (plus a $15 initiation fee).

National Association of the Remodeling Industry, 800-611-6274; nari.org. Provides referrals to contractors, carpenters, kitchen-and-bath designers, and other remodeling specialists by Zip code. The homeowners section includes tips on living through a remodeling project and warning signs of fly-by-night operators. NARI’s “green” site, greenremodeling.org, offers green-certification programs for remodelers and tips for eco-conscious homeowners.

National Kitchen & Bath Association, 800-843-6522; nkba.org. This association certifies kitchen and bath designers. The Web site offers a searchable database of designers plus project photos, a remodeling guide, and tips on sticking to a budget.

Referral services. Three services offer free referrals to home-improvement businesses that they’ve screened. Urban Referrals (urbanreferrals.com) and Home Connections (homeconnections.com) serve the Washington area; Home Solutions Connection (homesolutionsconnection.com) focuses on Northern Virginia, Montgomery County, and DC.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, checkbook.org. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor section of this Web site (accessible only to Checkbook magazine subscribers) contains homeowners’ recommendations of remodeling specialists.