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For those who need a whole room devoted to wrapping gifts. By Michelle Thomas
Photographs by Fusion Photography for HomeVisit.

This McLean estate is one of those mega-pricey mansions that takes luxe living to its utmost levels—the place is loaded with only the fanciest of finishes, from the herringbone hardwood floors in the entryway and hand-painted and silver-leaf wallpapers in the dining room to the ornate decorative millwork and coffered ceilings. Also on the laundry list of extravagant amenities: a gourmet kitchen with two Carrera marble islands, stainless steel counters, two double sinks outfitted to dispense “reverse osmosis drinking water,” and a limestone tile range; a mahogany library—that’s in addition to the office and the study on other levels of the home—with wainscoting, built-in shelving, a carved mantel fireplace, grasscloth wallpaper, and a Vaughn chandelier; and an expansive master suite that includes a private patio, a bay-window sitting room with a mini fridge and morning bar, and a decadent master bath that features marble floors, a rock crystal chandelier, two marble vanities, and custom double walk-in closets. Elsewhere, there’s an in-law suite, rec room, gym/dance studio, and, of course, a room set aside just for wrapping gifts. Guess that’s just what you do when you have 12,000 square feet of living space. 

The five-bedroom, seven-bath home is listed for $5.625 million. Take a peek below, then go to Washington Fine Properties for the complete tour.


Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.

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Posted at 03:17 PM/ET, 08/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
My beagle, rescued from an animal testing lab a year ago, isn’t the only one who has undergone a transformation. By Melanie D.G. Kaplan
The DC7 beagles—and an eighth dog belonging to one of the families—during their reunion this summer. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Last summer, a beagle with a blue tattoo in his left ear dropped into my home as if from another planet. He was underweight, and when I lowered him onto a dog bed, it was clear he’d never, in his four years of life, encountered anything so squishy and soft. He clung to that bed as if it were a life raft.

Among the few things I knew about this creature: His vocal cords had been cut, and he had probably never seen stairs, so I didn’t bother blocking off the second level of my Capitol Hill rowhouse. When he dared to leave, he did so guardedly. Catching his reflection in the side of a car was enough to send him pulling me home, frantically. His anxiety drove him to several escape attempts, once maneuvering through my balcony railing onto a neighbor’s roof.

In a way, this dog did arrive from another world—one in which breeders send their puppies to laboratories to become testing animals, each identified by a tattooed tracking number. My beagle was rescued with six others from a Virginia lab by a nonprofit organization called the Beagle Freedom Project. On the day these hounds left the only life they’d known, it was clear that even the most basic canine experiences—walking on grass and touching humans—were alien.

Each of the DC7, as they became known, was named after a Founding Father. Six weeks after I began fostering Alexander Hamilton, his personality was still clouded by fear and I didn’t know how much he would change. After all, labs claim that these dogs—with their lack of exposure to the real world—don’t make suitable pets. Freeing them only draws public attention to the 70,000 dogs still in testing facilities (many of which are beagles, because they’re so docile). According to the Beagle Freedom Project, this is how labs justify killing them as standard practice, discarding Hamiltons as if they were test tubes.

I told Hammy that if I adopted him, every day would be an adventure. “You’ll have to be very brave,” I said. He looked at me with his quiet brown eyes. We struck a deal.

As summer turned to fall, Hammy relaxed enough to walk around the block. I remember the first time I saw his tail wag in his sleep, and I imagined his dreams about running free. His veterinarian told me that his vocal cords—which had been cut so lab techs wouldn’t be disturbed by howling—could grow back. Before long, he was barking at the mailman. My neighbor quipped, “He’s like Pinocchio! He’s turning into a real dog.”

Hammy wasn’t the only one who’d been transformed. Sitting with him for hours upon hours, trying to fill his early silences with comforting words, had changed me, too. I started to boycott products tested on animals, buying laundry detergent and mascara from “cruelty-free” companies such as Method and Lush. Uncharacteristically, I took on a cause, telling my beagle’s story to all who would listen and showing them the tattoo in his ear.

This past spring, Minnesota became the first state to require that dogs and cats in taxpayer-funded laboratories be made available for adoption after testing rather than put to death. Around the same time, Hammy went for a 50-mile ride in his bike trailer, camped, joined me on a standup paddleboard, and visited his 16th state.

This summer, the DC7 returned to Washington to celebrate a year of freedom. As the families and dogs walked around the Capitol grounds, tourists asked if a beagle convention was under way. I looked at all the wagging tails and marveled at the difference a year of love and patience can make.

These days, Hammy’s need for human touch is profound. When he’s sleeping, I watch little pffts of breath leak out of his cheeks. I run my hand over his soft face and floppy ears and wonder what they did to him on the other planet. He wakes, stretches, and looks at me with sleepy eyes. Then he paws me insistently, wanting affection. And I oblige.

The Dogs After Their Rescue in 2013

Washington writer Melanie D.G. Kaplan’s website is This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 08/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This $1.299 million condo offers floor-to-ceiling windows and a private roof deck. By Michelle Thomas

Though the District may harbor its fair share of converted schoolhouses, the renovated industrial buildings of urban loft fantasies prove to be much harder to come by. This building—Georgetown's Sheridan Lofts, a former 1920s garage that was converted into residential lofts in 2008—is one of the city's few.

This particular unit sits as the building's penthouse, and it offers plenty of loft design signatures, including an open layout and walls of windows, plus some special add-ons such as built-in shelving, a sleek fireplace, and a cool spiral staircase that leads to the upper-level loft and a private roof deck. Bonus: There's a main-level balcony, too, and the place comes with two parking spots to boot.

It's listed at $1.299 million. Check it out below, then go to Washington Fine Properties for the full tour.

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Posted at 11:06 AM/ET, 08/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
That skylight! By Michelle Thomas
Photography by Fusion Photography for HomeVisit.

This renovated townhouse on Constitution Avenue in Capitol Hill hits that perfect fusion of contemporary warmth, pairing expansive windows, crisp white, and airy open spaces with a measured dose of white oak for a hint of organic, Scandinavian-inspired design. A collaborative project between one of our favorite development firms, Ditto Residential, and architecture group Dep Designs, the rowhome stands out for its abundance of light and atypical layout. The pièce de résistance? An amazing rooftop skylight beaming through the center of a wooden spiral staircase.

“We wanted to do something different from just the typical rowhouse diagram of a single loaded corridor down the length of the house,” said Dep Design’s Chuong Cao in a press release. “All floors are visually connected, where light becomes the focus and the organizing element of the house; it’s the center of circulation, spatial programming, and social and celebratory activities.” 

Beyond the stairwell, luxe design choices abound. A short list of the highlights: an open kitchen with white quartz counters and custom cabinetry, 11-foot ceilings, and accordion doors that open the family room to the terraced back patio. Smart-home technology includes a custom audio system that connects to the first floor, roof deck, and patio.

The four-bedroom, four-bath rowhouse is listed at $1.2999 million (as is a mirror-image twin, next door). Take a peek inside this stunning home below—then go to Washington Fine Properties for the complete details.

Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.

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Posted at 01:08 PM/ET, 08/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A wave of home stores have opened in the last several months—each catering to a different style. By Michelle Thomas
Lauren Liess & Co. offers new items and unusual estate-sale finds plus a solid selection of textiles, including samples of Liess's own collection. Photograph by Dan Chung.

For Rustic Beauty

Lauren Liess & Co.

776-A Walker Rd., Great Falls; 571-926-7825

The studio/boutique of interior designer and blogger Lauren Liess reflects her clean, restrained aesthetic. Bright with rustic beamed ceilings and creaky wooden floors, the store stocks a mixture of estate-sale scores and new pieces. We found an antique camera tripod turned lamp next to a midcentury Belgian leather-and-wood armchair, while other nooks housed nature-inspired pieces such as cowhide rugs and baskets of turtle shells. A solid selection of textiles includes throw pillows fashioned from antique grain sacks, a wall of neutral bed linens, and samples of Liess’s own patterned textile collection.

$165, Recycled-cotton throw at Regan & Meaghan | Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

For Big Spenders and Label Lovers

Nest 301

11416 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda; 301-231-5600

This airy showroom is the only local store to carry such chichi brands as Fendi Casa (the Italian home-decor line is sold at just four stores nationwide), Matsuoka, Turri, Selva, and Giorgio Collection. Pieces range from traditional to modern, though most are large-scale (oversize pendant lamps, dining-room tables for eight)—and come with large-scale prices. We saw a glass-top dining table for $10,000 and a leather-and-lacquered-wood sofa for $26,000.

$9,264, Matsuoka Origami chest at Nest 301.

For Midcentury Fanatics

Peg Leg Vintage

9600 Baltimore Ave., College Park; 301-477-3423

Peg Leg Vintage stands out—and not only because it’s painted lime green and orange. The store’s focus on affordable, authentic midcentury-modern housewares means bargain shoppers on their way to Ikea, a mile up the road, are regularly U-turning to see if they can find the real thing here instead. Husband-and-wife owners Chad and Krisi Hora scour estate sales and auctions for the retro goodies that fill their shop—on a recent visit we saw a tomato-red Adrian Pearsall gondola-sofa-and-armchair set, a Svend Madsen teak desk, and a mahogany bar, handmade in Honduras in the early 1960s.

$395, Pair of chrome-and-cork lamps at Peg Leg Vintage | $125, 1960s barware set at Peg Leg Vintage | Photographs by Jeff Elkins.

For Tasteful Elegance

Victoria at Home

1125 King St., Alexandria; 703-836-1960

Opening this Old Town shop was a lifelong dream for Victoria Sanchez. The interior designer had spent years working from a nearby studio; when the space became available, she pounced. The store is filled with classic-glam furniture and accessories such as gilded accent tables, mirrored serving trays, chinoiserie-style garden stools, and dramatic gold lamps from Aerin Lauder. In back, a small staircase leads to a mezzanine where Sanchez works on her design projects—it’s carpeted in leopard print, of course.

The designer who owns Victoria at Home stocks the store with glam pieces perfect for adding a bit of drama. Photograph by Dan Chung.

For Preppy Types

Regan & Meaghan

4216-B Howard Ave., Kensington; 301-509-1098

While this design shop may lack curbside charm—a neon-pink stripe and painted ga-rage door point you to its entrance, in an alley off Kensington’s warehouse district—the sprightly collection makes up for it in spades. Furniture rehabber Meaghan McNamara and interior designer Regan Billingsley put every inch of the space to use as a workshop, studio, boutique, and entertaining space (they host private events and “wine and design” classes). Preppy patterns abound: ikat, polka dots, lobster prints, and plenty of chevrons. Mixed in are fair-trade knit children’s toys, pop art, and McNamara’s cheerfully refurbished furnishings.

$115, Lacquered box set at Regan & Meaghan | $60, Hand-painted pitcher at Regan & Meaghan | Photographs by Jeff Elkins.

This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:15 AM/ET, 08/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The place includes nine rentable lofts in addition to the über-custom, two-story owner’s penthouse. By Michelle Thomas

Offering an income-generating rental alongside an owner’s home isn’t exactly novel for the Washington real estate market. But this place? It has nine. English basements, these are not.

After Pierce School fell into disuse and later, disrepair, the building was purchased from the city—for a bargain price of just $275,000 in 2000—and has since been transformed into a set of large loft rentals, with a massive owner’s unit taking the crown penthouse position. Said owner’s unit holds court as one of Northeast DC’s most unusual properties, taking up more than 9,000 square feet and reincarnating classrooms as living areas, a huge gourmet kitchen, and a giant office, plus four guest bedrooms and a 14-person theater complete with seats from an old airplane. The building’s former life peeks out via chalkboards and lockers incorporated into the design, and hints of the original architecture take the spotlight in the soaring ceilings, oversize windows, exposed brick, and hardwood floors. A sprawling 800-square-foot private deck and glass-walled sun room offer panoramic views on the rooftop. And beyond the nine rental apartments, the rest of the building offers up a community fitness center and a secluded, sanctuary-like 38,000-gallon pool. 

The entire building went on the market in the fall of 2013, and has since dropped $750,000 to sit at its current price of $6.5 million. Check out photos of the industrial-luxe penthouse below, then head to TTR Sotheby's for the complete details.


Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.


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Posted at 02:32 PM/ET, 08/13/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This trio of townhomes is part of the Edmonds School renovation. By Michelle Thomas

We’re already on record as fans of the Edmonds School renovation, a project of restored lofts at Ninth and N streets in Capitol Hill that started selling in the spring. Now, the final piece—a trio of brand-new townhouses adjacent to the school—has been completed and hit the market last week. While the townhouses may not have all of the lofts’s historic schoolhouse detailing, there’s still plenty to admire, from the dark-stained oak floors and contemporary lines to the elegant wall paneling and dropped tray ceiling detail in the dining area. Other highlights: The modern kitchen features custom-painted maple cabinetry, black granite waterfall counters, and high-end appliances from the likes of Liebherr, Bosch, Grohe, and Viking. Upstairs, the master suite includes a bath decked out in marble, with a custom millwork vanity, a soaking tub, and a frameless glass walk-in shower. On the third floor, the wet bar and study are offset by French doors that open to a 150-square-foot terrace, and above that there’s a 400-square-foot private rooftop deck overlooking prime views of the Capitol dome and Washington Monument. Plus the whole place is outfitted with some key high-tech hook-ups—think Nest thermostats, LyriQ audio systems throughout the home, and USB outlets for direct in-wall charging.

The three units are each four levels with four to five bedrooms and as many as six baths, and they’re listed at $1.649, $1.689, and $1.749 million. Take a peek at the photos below, then go to TTR Sotheby’s for more.

Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.

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Posted at 10:45 AM/ET, 08/12/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This Dumbarton Street home spotlights tons of original ornamentation. By Michelle Thomas
Photographs by Fusion Photography for HomeVisit.

This Dumbarton Street home, just off Wisconsin Avenue in the heart of Georgetown, was originally built in 1875—and it still retains many of the era’s most beautiful historic architectural flourishes, from the soaring ceilings and double doors to the gorgeous moldings. Our favorite room: A large double-size parlor, decked out with a charming bay window, built-in display shelving, two fireplaces, and a pair of crystal chandeliers. Upstairs, the master suite opens to a lovely upper-level screened porch, and in back, there’s a secluded, lush terrace garden space. 

The five-bedroom, six-bath home is listed at $3.295 million. Take a look below, then go to Washington Fine Properties for a full tour.

Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.

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Posted at 01:45 PM/ET, 08/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Check out this four-bedroom, five-bath at the Ritz-Carlton Residences. By Michelle Thomas
Photographs by Fusion Photography via HomeVisit.

This isn’t the first time a penthouse at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown has listed at this price level—in April, this one went on the market for $7.995 million, gold-leafed powder room and all—but that doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive. Four bedrooms and five baths are contained within the condo’s 5,664 square feet of living space. A large foyer leads into a gallery and open layout living area, a kitchen with its own breakfast area, a library, and a huge master suite with custom closets, a sitting room, and a private balcony. Some of the highlights? The gorgeous herringbone Brazilian wood floors, decorative moldings, rich mahogany detailing in the library, and a sleek kitchen to add to the service entrance and garage parking.

It’s listed at $7.95 million. Take a look below, then go to Washington Fine Properties for the complete tour.

Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 08/06/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
It includes an 800-square-foot terrace. By Michelle Thomas

When it comes to prime real-estate locations, it’s hard to beat this condo—sitting at the corner of 14th and Q streets, Northwest, right in the heart of the trendy 14th Street corridor. The contemporary top-floor loft features two bedrooms, a den, and two and a half baths across its two levels and 1,700 square feet of living space. Huge expanses of windows, double-height ceilings, and a giant 800-square-foot outdoor terrace offer up awesome views of the neighborhood, and the condo boasts a bevy of luxe upgrades, including custom automatic window shades, an indoor-outdoor audio system, custom lighting and irrigation on the terrace, a Nest thermostat, and hardwood floors. Plus it comes with two garage parking spaces—quite the valuable commodity in this bustling neighborhood.

The property is listed at $1.799 million. Check it out below, then go to Redfin for the details or call listing agent Anthony Riguzzi at DCRE Residential.

Find Michelle Thomas on Twitter at @michellethomas4.

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Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 08/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()