2015 Hot Talent

This annual feature spotlights a handful of gifted designers now making their mark in the region. We photographed the group shot outside of Room & Board in DC while their individual portraits were taken as they tried out the showroom’s latest furniture collections. Link to their Hot Talent Portfolios below.
Kate Ballou click hereCharles Almonte click hereLiza Holder click hereSuzanne Manlove click hereNicole Lanteri click here
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Très Chic

There is nothing pretentious about Joe Ireland’s apartment, located in a 1917 building near DC’s bustling U Street. Its sunny, playful attitude is a spot-on reflection of the designer himself, with his preppy look, boyish smile and boundless energy.
On a steamy Washington morning in May, Ireland kept his cool while hosting a photo shoot in his home, orchestrating a pop-up shop his firm was launching at Union Market and trying, unsuccessfully, to locate his cat. “I haven’t seen Moo all morning,” he remarks while genially offering a tour of his place.
Ireland acquired the one-bedroom residence 13 years ago, “when everyone was scurrying to buy,” he recalls. “The apartment’s laid out nicely and I like the pre-War formality of it. Plus, my office is only a 10-minute walk away.”
As a principal of J. D. Ireland Interior Architecture + Design, Ireland keeps busy working on projects ranging from urban condos to estates on the Eastern Shore. Recently, he also found time to update his own home, which he now shares with his spouse, journalist Richard Jordan.
With its mix of Mid-Century finds, antiques and art, the interiors blend periods and styles with a healthy dose of whimsy. Ireland took inspiration from a Paris pied-à-terre where he and Jordan have stayed. “Our home is happy. It’s unique. It’s collected,” he says.
Ireland has a way of injecting a space with humor without becoming trite. For example, he remedied the foyer’s lack of symmetry by hand-painting yellow panels rimmed by paint-pen “molding” to trick the eye. A signed Jules Leleu light fixture in chrome from the 1930s and Franz Kraus illustrations from the same era lend the space gravitas.
A paint treatment in the dining room also makes a statement. “The walls needed some life,” explains Ireland, who stresses that design is all about working with the space at hand. He devised a pattern of free-form dashes rimmed in gold, then enlisted Jordan to start painting. “It’s random, free-hand and completely unique to the space. It breathes,” the designer says. “And because it’s a pre-War building with all these beams and random columns, it gives the idea of a more squared-off space.”
Though Jordan is also happy with the outcome, he quips, “After this project, I retired.”
The dining room opens to a small game room, which Ireland assumes was once a smoking porch. With walls in vibrant Light Mint by Behr and vintage wire-mesh chairs painted blue, it conveys a Caribbean vibe. Throughout the home, the designer had the original floors painted white.
But some aspects of the recent update involved more than paint. Ireland widened doorways, overhauled the kitchen and bathroom and knocked out a panel in the wall between the dining and living rooms to relate the spaces visually. “I didn’t want to rip out all the walls and create a loft-style apartment,” he explains. “This is just enough of a detail to open the space up without destroying the architecture.”
Most of the home’s vintage furniture was sourced through locally owned shops such as Good Wood, Miss Pixie’s and Off The Beaten Track. According to Jordan, Ireland can’t resist buying pieces he loves and figuring out a home for them later. “Our home is always evolving,” Jordan says. “I think the only thing that limits Joe now is that we don’t have that much space.”
On the lookout for larger digs, Ireland and Jordan are eyeing a row house in Northeast DC. But in the meantime, they’re enjoying the latest iteration of their current abode. “Everyone’s so serious in DC,” Ireland concludes. “Our house is a reflection of where I’d like to take some of our projects. A house should be a reflection of you, but it should also be something you can play with.”
Angie Seckinger splits her time between Potomac, Maryland, and Spain.
INTERIOR DESIGN: JOE IRELAND, J. D. Ireland Interior Architecture + Design, Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: P.A. Portner, Gaithersburg, Maryland.
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Labor of Love

Bethesda designer Diane Clements was finishing major projects for two couples when they suggested she meet their husbands’ boss, Bill Shaw, who was then president and CEO of Marriott International. The subsequent blind date changed her life: Then single and dedicated to work and her now-grown family, Diane was astonished by their mutual delight in each other. They fell in love, married in 2005 and started planning a home together. “Our lives changed for the better that night,” she recalls. “I vowed that the home we made would reflect our unique happiness.”
With 20-plus years of design experience, the exuberant Mrs. Shaw had no trouble envisioning their dream home. She found a house in a leafy Potomac neighborhood 12 minutes from Marriott headquarters that, with a renovation, would meet her requirements—the most important of which was a master suite on the first floor. “It was a priority because we intended to stay here,” she says. “Our house needed to grow old with us.” But after discovering that the 1950s Colonial on the property had major issues, they decided it would be more cost-effective to tear down the original structure rather than tackle its problems, and build anew on the two-acre lot, which is crowned at the back with towering, irreplaceable old trees.
Diane relates another serendipitous encounter when she was considering how the new house should look. “I was driving on MacArthur Boulevard when I saw a stone house with Georgian architectural features,” she recalls. “The stone gave it a sense of place and dignity.” After some research, she found its architect, Geri Yantis of Sutton Yantis. Once she hired him, they toured the residence, noting the relationship of the architecture to the interiors. It was a perfect segue to what would become a close-knit working relationship.
Yantis’s plans for the new house included major massing in back so as not to overwhelm the front façade. Using a U-shaped configuration to embrace a rear courtyard with a water feature was Diane’s idea. “Views across the courtyard and into the rooms personalize the grand architecture,” she explains.
“Diane concentrated on bringing the classical elements of the architecture inside,” adds Yantis. “She wanted to integrate a coherent design for the whole house.”
The scale of the rooms affected Diane’s approach to decorating them. “I challenged myself to bring intimacy and comfort to the grandness,” she says. “The colors, fabrics and things I love had to be well-orchestrated, not overdone.” She used the subtle architectural motif of reeding (a fluted look borrowed from the detailing on her antique Swedish furniture) to set the mood. “Its simplicity is beautiful, and I wanted to incorporate it anywhere I could—so it became part of the crown molding and cabinetry in most rooms.”
A calming palette of soft blues, greens, rusts and neutrals references a landscape painting the designer found at Jean Pierre Antiques in Georgetown. The limpid riverbank scene hangs in the living room, and the deft coordination of the colors from it allows chairs to be moved between rooms—no small matter when extra seating is required during holidays for an extended family numbering 22 (she and Bill, who’s now retired, have five grown children and seven grandchildren, combined).
When it came time to choose the furniture, Diane set aside 90 percent of the objects the couple had previously owned in favor of “design sources and antiques that are different and not expected,” she says. A first glimpse into the living room reveals her success. A John Saladino sofa was chosen for its asymmetrical arms; its blue matches the walls for an enveloping effect.
Preferring an eclectic look, Diane furnished the first-floor living, dining and family rooms in a range of periods and styles. A pair of 1960s metal wall sculptures keeps company with an 18th-century French monastery table in the dining room, where wine refrigerators are concealed behind sleek, mirrored doors. Harmonizing furniture from disparate eras are such details as the barley-twist riff on the table legs, sculptural lamps from Marston Luce Antiques and modern silver candlesticks by Ralph Lauren Home.
When she started to design her own home, Diane focused on two differing philosophies, both of which she lives by: Buy only what you need as you go, or buy what you love and find a place for it. It’s no surprise that her art imitates her life. “Creating this house from scratch was a gigantic puzzle,” she says. “I worked with what I love because that will always find a place in my life.”
Writer Susan Stiles Dowell is based in Monkton, Maryland. John Magor is a Stafford, Virginia, photographer.
ARCHITECTURE: GERI YANTIS, Sutton Yantis Associates Architects, Vienna, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: DIANE SHAW, Diane Shaw Interiors, Potomac, Maryland. BUILDER: Horizon Builders, Inc., Crofton, Maryland. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: AMY MILLS and GUY WILLIAMS, DCA Landscape Architects Inc., Washington, DC. LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR: Chapel Valley Landscape Company, Woodbine, Maryland.
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A Hands-On Approach

When partners Ben Esh and Daniel Glick founded B&D Builders in 2000, their goal was to create a hassle-free experience for their clients. “We interact with clients from start to finish, offering one-on-one service,” says Glick. “From the beginning, we’ve never had any desire to be a big builder with lots of jobs going on at once. We like a more hands-on approach.”
B&D Builders emphasizes the importance of high-quality materials, relying on timber-frame construction characterized by trusses, joinery and pegs. “Special sidings are our preference,” Glick observes. “We use cedar rather than materials like vinyl, for example.”
In 2011, the firm spawned a sister company, Mid-Atlantic Timberframes, that supplies its beams and mortise-and-tenon structures. Early this year, a steel division was launched that provides hardware and custom steel components. An on-site millworking shop does all the woodwork except kitchen cabinetry. Thus, B&D Builders is able to keep almost all aspects of the building process in-house, “to control quality and scheduling,” says Glick.
Providing a streamlined process is also a priority. “We make it more visual by doing all the designs in 3-D so the client can see what the house will look like,” Glick says. “We try to help people avoid painful surprises.”
B&D Builders completes about three homes a year, and a typical project lasts about nine months. The beginning and the end are Glick’s favorite parts. “I like going into a big empty field at the start and figuring out how we can make it work,” he says. “And handing the keys to the clients and seeing them smile is pretty good too!”

B&D Builders has a staff of 25, including four draftsmen, but also works with outside architects.
Specialties B&D Builders specializes in timber-frame barns and custom homes with an average size of 6,000 square feet; most of their work is in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Inquiries B&D Builders, 14 North Ronks Road, Ronks, Pennsylvania 17572; 717-687-0292;; Email:;
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Furniture Finds

WELL MODULATED Designed by Piero Lissoni, Cassina’s sleek, modular Miloe seating collection combines two-person sofas, end units, ottomans and additional back cushions in various configurations. Complementary coffee and side tables come with dark-stained oak or glass tops. Available in fabric or leather.
ASIAN INSPIRATION A serpentine design in relief embellishes the Madura Hall Chest from Tommy Bahama’s Asian-inspired Island Fusion collection. The four-drawer chest is paired here with the Kobe Round Mirror, which features irregular slats in a dark hickory frame. Available at Belfort Furniture.
CHIC & ELEGANT The Alexa Chair by Carter Furniture is characterized by its chic, elegant lines. Handcrafted in the contemporary furniture company’s North Carolina factory, the chair combines a wood base with a choice of 400 fabric options and is fully customizable. Available in DC through J Lambeth.
COASTAL CASUAL Lexington Home Brands’ Oyster Bay Collection was inspired by a casual yet sophisticated Hamptons vibe. The Hidden Lake Bistro table boasts custom antique-pewter hardware; a distressed, light wood base; and a stainless-steel top. Paired with Merrick Swivel Stools made of metal, wood and rush. Available at IMI Furniture.
Designer Favorite: “Windsor Smith’s new collection for Arteriors mixes urban and old to create a great look.” —Kristin Peake, Kristin Peake Interiors, LLC
UNUSUAL INSPIRATION The wingspread of an ostrich was the unusual inspiration for Sebastian Herkner’s Banjooli Collection for Moroso. Implemented by African artisans and woven of yarn used for fishing nets, the collection includes sofas, chairs and coffee tables in a range of vibrant colors. Available through Apartment Zero.
VERY VERSATILE Minotti’s versatile Collar sofa features technology developed by Minotti Studio that allows the armrests and seatbacks to be adjusted to three different positions: horizontal for a table-like surface, vertical for sitting upright and at a slant for reclining. Available at Contemporaria.
HAND CRAFTED Designed by Andrea Lucatello for Cattelan Italia, the handcrafted SKORPIO dining table is defined by its distinctive base, which comes in transparent varnished metal, embossed lacquered steel, or white, black or eye-popping orange. The glass surface has a beveled edge. Available in numerous sizes through Theodores in Upper Georgetown.
LOCAL TALENT Signature Grace, a line of furniture, rugs and accessories by Ashburn, Virginia, designer Paula Grace Halewski, showcases timeless, classic pieces handcrafted using inlaid wood and wood veneers. The Path Side Table is made from walnut, veneers and polished brass; shown here in ebony, it’s also available in an array of finishes and paint options.
READY FOR BED The inviting Aurora Due bedstead was designed by Tito Agnoli for Poltrona Frau with a plush, leather-upholstered headboard. A solid or hollowed-out trapezoidal base is available in black-painted wood or metal that has been chrome-plated or finished in black or gunmetal.
Designer Favorite: “I love the mix of metal with glass or acrylic in the accent tables by Lucy Smith Designs.”—Andrea Houck, A Houck Designs, Inc.
CLASSIC DESIGN The New Traditionalists, a boutique furniture company, designs its collections in New York City and handcrafts them in New England using classic joinery construction. The Bar Cart no. One, which boasts a removable oil-rubbed walnut tray and comes in black walnut or red lacquer.
SIMPLE LINES The simple lines of a sawhorse are made elegant in DC designer Michael Hampton’s Bamboo Desk, part of his new collection for Salvations Architectural Furnishings. The base is made of blacksmith-forged metal with a glass top. Available through AmericanEye in DC.
Designer Favorite: “This A. Rudin customizable sofa rests naturally on its clean-lined base, displaying a perfect example of tailoring and contour.”—Joanne Rodríguez, Allied ASID, Joanne Rodríguez Interior Design
INDIAN INFLUENCE The intricate jali fretwork found in Indian furniture—and adorning the country’s architecture—inspired the Marble Fret Cocktail Table from Global Views. Made of carved marble with a solid marble top.
NAP TIME Smaller than a sofa bed and more versatile than a regular sofa, Marcel Wanders’s new Power Nap for Moooi has a back that reclines for easy relaxation. The sofa comes in charcoal or bright orange, with a powder-coated steel or chrome frame.
Designer Favorite: “Bold color and classic lines make this leather-wrapped desk from Theodore Alexander my favorite piece with a twist.” —Courtney Griffin, Interior Concepts, Inc.
STORAGE SPACE Entertaining is easy with the Stickley Gathering Island, which boasts storage and serving space for food and drinks. Counter stools tucked underneath provide extra seating, while a power strip with USB keeps you connected. Available through Sheffield Furniture & Interiors.
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Rooftop Retreat

At the new Kaufman Cancer Center in Bel Air, Maryland’s Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, patients and their loved ones can find respite on the hospital’s rooftop, where a 13,000-square-foot healing garden provides sanctuary and peace. According to lead project designer Steve Kelly of Mahan Rykiel Associates, the main goal was “the creation of a healing environment and a place for stress reduction.”
The multi-functional garden offers myriad ways for patients to recharge. Secluded fountains promote contemplation, and a labyrinth is a reflective space for people to walk through. Adjacent to it, a water wall of smooth granite and rough, tactile fieldstone provides a focal point. Small, themed gathering spaces include a shade garden, a grotto and a sensory garden with plants specifically chosen for their scents and textures. An open lawn can be used for classes and special events.
“The challenge was providing flexibility to meet different people’s needs,” says Kelly. “The garden allows people to be together or alone, as they prefer.”
For Live Green Landscape Associates, which implemented the garden, the rooftop location was the tough part. “With no conventional access, everything was hard to get to,” recalls Live Green president Michael Martin. Some 1,200 tons of soil had to be transported, plantings were craned onto the roof and free-floating concrete forms were employed to pour concrete.
The healing garden has received numerous awards, including a Landscape Contractor of the Year grand award and a Planet Award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: Steve Kelly, PLA, lead project designer, Mahan Rykiel Associates, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland. LANDSCAPE INSTALLATION: Michael Martin, Live Green Landscape Associates, Owings Mills, Maryland.
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Distinctive Designs

Ikat textiles, with their distinctively rich, saturated hues and blurred, softened lines, have dominated fabric design for some time. The vibrant, abstract patterns lend themselves to rugs, upholstery, drapes and pillows. Now, legendary French textile boutique Hermès has translated ikats to porcelain with its Voyage en Ikat dinner service.
Designed by Benoit-Pierre Emery for Hermès, this delicate collection encompasses hues of emerald, sapphire, ruby and gold. Applied singly or in combination, these colors grace plates, platters, bowls and much more. The shapes of the pieces reflect an Asian influence—when stacked, the plates resemble a lotus flower—but the collection is French in terms of function and includes a vase, soup tureen and other classic pieces. Made in Limoges, France, the white porcelain is decorated by Hermès craftsmen.
The Voyage en Ikat dinner service was unveiled at this year’s Maison & Objet in Paris, and is currently available at the Hermès boutique that opened recently at CityCenterDC. 202-789-4341;
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Beach Party

The beach comes to downtown DC from July 4 through September 7, courtesy of the National Building Museum. Made of white-painted scaffolding, wood panels and perforated mesh, “The BEACH” is a 10,000-square-foot, interactive architectural installation that will span the museum’s Great Hall, containing an “ocean” of nearly one million recyclable, translucent plastic balls. Monochromatic beach chairs and umbrellas will dot the 50-foot-wide “shoreline,” with a mirrored wall creating the effect of an infinite expanse. Kids looking for fun may “swim” in the ocean, play beach games like paddleball, enjoy the snack bar or just dangle their feet off the “pier.”
The BEACH is part of the museum’s annual Summer Block Party, with programs, exhibits and events for all ages. It was created in conjunction with Snarkitecture, an experimental Brooklyn practice that blends art and architecture in installations that allow people to engage directly with their environment. For more information, visit
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And the Winner Is…

Conceived by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the National Design Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in American design. First launched at the White House in 2000, the annual awards were established to promote design as a tool in shaping the world; winners are selected based on the level of impact their body of work has had on the public. The awards recognize excellence and innovation across every avenue—from architecture, interiors and landscape design to fashion, graphics and interactive design.
The 2015 recipients in home-design categories include the late architect and designer Michael Graves for lifetime achievement; New York-based textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, who won the Director’s Award (chosen for outstanding support and patronage within the design community); Heath Ceramics for corporate and institutional achievement; New York-based MOS Architects for architecture design; L.A.-based commercial, residential and graphic design firm Commune for interior design; and Minneapolis-based Coen + Partners for landscape architecture.
National Design Award winners were chosen by a jury of design leaders and educators nationwide, who reviewed submissions resulting from nominations submitted by the general public. Winners will be honored at a gala dinner on October 15, held at Pier 60 in Manhattan. Proceeds from the gala benefit Cooper-Hewitt.
In conjunction with the National Design Awards program, Cooper-Hewitt sponsors National Design Week, October 10 through 18, a series of free public programs in New York and Washington, DC, that promotes an understanding of the role design plays in all aspects of life. Launched in 2006, this initiative includes interactive events for students, teachers, corporate professionals and designers. For information on the awards festivities and National Design Week, visit
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Hot Talent: Charles Almonte

As a child growing up in the Philippines, Charles Almonte kept his Lego and crayon collections close at hand. “I always knew I was going into the creative field,” he explains.
He studied architecture in Manila and earned a master’s degree in historic preservation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Almonte then landed in DC at an architectural firm, where he specialized in preservation as well as interiors.
“I guess my boss saw something in me,” he recalls. “I kept getting interiors work from her, so I figured I should take exams for architecture and interior design.”
After a stint at Thomas Pheasant, in 2008 Almonte decided to venture out on his own. He says that in his practice today, most projects involve both interior design and construction.
Almonte sees his role as design arbiter. “People know what they like,” he says. “It’s a matter of us helping them execute it. I tell clients, ‘We’re here to guide you and apply principles of design—color, symmetry and balance—but you have to tell us what you like. Because in the end, you’re going to be living here, not me.’”
Interior Design: Charles Almonte, AIA, ASID, Silver Spring, Maryland.
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