The range of unique residences in Washington DC is astounding, and produces a great desire for folks to find the best residential architects and designers to produce amazing homes. From historic DC rowhouses to charming colonial country retreats in the surrounding suburban areas, the DC metro area boasts some beautiful homes. Many top residential architects in this area are intrigued by the introduction of modern elements in historic structures. There are even a few who are passionate fans of classical architecture. The architects on this list enjoy working with homeowners who have a vision, and they work to collaborate with them to bring that vision to life. This list of the best residential architects and designers in Washington DC is comprised of top firms that are winning awards for their ability to transform unique homes.
This list includes both licensed architects and residential designers who can both design stunning homes but differ in other services offered. Architects are trained in design, engineering, and project management and have passed a licensing exam. Residential designers typically don’t manage projects and plans will need to be approved by a structural engineer. Whether you choose to hire an architect or a residential designer will depend on your project needs and complexity.
Barnes Vanze Architects
Traditional Building’s Palladio Awards,
DC Chapter AIA Awards for Excellence
1000 Potomac Street NW, Suite L-2, Washington, DC 20007
About Barnes Vanze Architects
Barnes Vanze Architects was established in 1989 by Anthony “Ankie” Barnes and Stephen Vanze. Barnes received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and his Master of Architecture from Yale University. Vanze, on the other hand, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University and his Master of Architecture from the University of Virginia. They are both Fellows within the AIA. The firm, specializing in the traditional style prominent in the DC area, has won several awards, including the Traditional Building’s Palladio awards and the DC Chapter of the AIA’s Awards for Excellence. Barnes Vanze Architects has also been published in many print and online publications. The firm is composed of a group of 23 members which includes six principals and its very own talented studio team. The firm does not limit itself to residential architecture—it has also taken on a variety of commercial, institutional, and ecclesiastic projects. The firm has also had the opportunity of completing projects both nationwide and abroad, with some of its most notable work found everywhere from Canada to the Caribbean.
An eye-catching design by Barnes Vanze is their “A Modern Treatment of Traditional Form” Washington, DC residence. The steel-framed windows and doors add clean lines to the design. The design allows for the formal spaces in front of the house, while the casual spaces are in the back. An interesting detail is an exterior brick treated with a pigmented cement wash, which allows for more shine and a muted brick texture. Another standout project is their Isle de France Townhouse. Inspired by Parisian townhouses, the front facade is natural stucco with limestone trim. Because of the L-shaped plan, nature around the house was preserved and allows for several views from the rooms and plenty of natural light. The French doors are a beautiful added touch.
Cunningham Quill Architects
1054 31st St. NW Suite #315, Washington, DC 20007
About Cunningham Quill Architects
Established in 1996, Cunningham Quill Architects operates out of its headquarters at Canal Square in historic Georgetown. It offers a full and comprehensive range of architecture, community planning, and urban design and has a rich portfolio of diverse homes to further showcase its skill and expertise. It provides fresh and innovative techniques to each of its projects and is personally led by its founders and namesakes Ralph Cunningham and Lee Quill, who together bring over five decades of combined experience. Under their leadership, the firm anchors itself on principles of collaboration and social responsibility. It handles every facet of a project and specializes in a variety of skills from master plans to interior renovations. The firm also does its part to improve its home community; it has completed several pro-bono projects, assisting non-profit organizations to meet any specific needs.
The firm is the proud recipient of a multitude of awards from several prestigious organizations including the AIA and Best In American Living Awards. Its skills are best seen in the chosen project above. Dubbed the “Divine House,” this home makes use of a contemporary design and open floor plan inside. Through this, the firm’s team was able to design various indoor and outdoor spaces that seamlessly blend together.
David Jameson Architect
Virginia Society AIA Merit Award,
American Architecture Award,
Residential Architect Magazine Merit Award,
Washington DC AIA Award of Excellence
7800 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814
About David Jameson Architect
Founded in 2001, this small firm is committed to excellence. Formerly based in DC and now in Bethesda, David Jameson Architects has received over 175 design awards and has been featured in over 200 publications, including Architectural Record, Abitare, Architecture, Architectural Digest, and the Architectural Review. In 2011, London-based Wallpaper named the firm as one of the top four US firms to follow. In 2012, The Wall Street Journal listed it as one of the top ten residential architecture firms in the US. The firm’s principal architect and namesake has had the honor of being named one of Architectural Digest’s youngest members on its annual AD100 roster. Jameson also lectures at several universities in the area and has led the firm into becoming known for a diverse set of designs.
Jameson is known for his minimalist designs in the DC metro area. This can be seen in his project, the Barcode house. Working with the original framework of a DC rowhouse, Jameson also designed an addition that was a freestanding structure. A glass window wall is a main feature of the house and reflects the residents’ desire to have a transparent living space. The house won several awards, including the 2013 Virginia Society AIA Merit Award and the 2012 American Architecture Award. Another well-received project was the BlackWhite residence. Again using the original framework, Jameson found inspiration in the Acropolis and incorporated the idea of light coming from a central source and interacting within the space. He renovated the main area, while also adding a second level that had a significantly smaller eco-footprint. The design garnered him several awards: the 2010 International Architecture Award, the 2010 Residential Architect Magazine Merit Award, and the 2007 Washington DC AIA Award of Excellence.
1319 Naylor Court NW, Washington DC 20001
About EL Studio
Elizabeth Emerson, AIA, and Mark Lawrence, AIA, bring well over two decades of design experience to EL Studio, an architectural firm they founded in DC in 2007. The practice specializes in innovative design for challenging projects through collaboration and rethinking the standard techniques and materials. Prior to EL, Emerson worked on a wide range of projects from multi-tenant residential and hospitality projects to institutional and government spaces, such as the Syracuse University School of Architecture and the US Embassies in Rabat, Morocco, and Vienna, Austria. Lawrence has also worked on diverse projects with firms in DC and LA, such as the US Federal Courthouse in San Diego and the UCLA Broad School Art Center.
EL reoriented this three-story row house in Dupont Circle to cater to the needs of a family with two energetic young boys, shifting the living area to be adjacent to the rear garden wall so the parents could keep an eye on them as they play. Vibrant colors liven up the home even as extraneous accents were kept to a minimum to create more space and circulation. The kitchen was also relocated near the street, creating a bay window-seat area for family mealtimes.
Donald Lococo Architects
Washington DC AIA Excellence in Design Award
John Russell Pope Award
Aurora Award Historical Preservation
KDC Global First Place Winner
5109 Wissioming Road, Bethesda, MD 20816
About Donald Lococo Architects
Though Donald Lococo specializes in single-family homes, his firm does not limit itself to modern or traditional and is known for its expertise across the architectural spectrum. Lococo’s background in the arts infuses his designs: he studied piano performance at the Royal Conservatory before earning his undergraduate degree and then completed his Master of Architecture at the University of Michigan. Lococo’s homes have been featured in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful among other publications. He has received Benjamin Moore’s internationally renowned Hue Award, was a Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove First Place Kitchen Design Contest Global Winner, Southern Living’s Best New House, and has been awarded by many American Institute of Architects chapters. He has also served as a judge of architecture for the AIA, national magazines, and the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. The firm is regarded as one of the DC area’s most outstanding, elevating living spaces while never crafting two homes alike.
One of Lococo’s most recognized recent projects is the Complemented Tudor. This traditional home with a modern addition deftly negotiates both modern and traditional styles while clarifying an existing 1940s Tudor. The project received a Washingtonian award, a Luxe RED Award, and was filmed for House Beautiful’s Incredible Kitchens video series. Another exceptionally well-known project is the firm’s craftsman Tree House. The vacation home is only accessible by bridge. Notable features include transparent kitchen cabinets that allow for uninhibited and expansive views and a ceiling that boasts mortise and tenon trusses. The project received a Washingtonian award and was also recognized by the AIA.
Jones and Boer Architects Inc.
Northern Virginia Chapter AIA Award of Excellence,
John Russell Pope Award, Washington Chapter AIA Award in Excellence,
1739 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
About Jones & Boer Architects Inc.
Led by founder and namesake David Jones and Wouter Boer, Jones and Boer Architects operates out of its office in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of DC. Its principals maintain a hands-on approach with each of the firm’s projects and are experienced in the field. Along with his undergraduate and professional degrees from Princeton University, Jones studied at King’s College and Cambridge. He previously worked at Hartman-Cox Architects — another DC firm. Wouter, a native New Zealander, studied at home and earned his professional degree at the University of Notre Dame. He was previously a faculty member at the University of Maryland. The firm has won several awards, including a 2017 Northern Virginia Chapter AIA Award of Excellence for Residential Architecture, a John Russell Pope Award, a Washington Chapter AIA Award in Excellence, and a Palladio Award. Jones and Boer Architects has also been featured in several publications, such as Southern Home, the Washington Post, and Architectural Digest. Diving into its portfolio, you will see a rich gallery of contemporary and waterfront homes, in addition to numerous elegantly styled traditional homes that best showcases the team’s versatility.
An especially noteworthy project is their modern take on a Shaker farmhouse on 68 acres near the West River, south of Annapolis. The design was inspired by Middleburg Plantation, a 1690s wooden house in Charleston, South Carolina. The property contains the beautiful farmhouse, a simple barn, and a smaller outbuilding. Designed as a weekend getaway, the 4,000-square-foot retreat was designed for family living. There are three bedrooms and three bathrooms upstairs and another guest room in the 19th-century guest cottage, close to the main house. Another project is their Chain Bridge Roadhouse, which is a 150k-square-foot mansion with eight bedrooms, 11 full baths, and four half baths. The residence is modeled as an urban villa, based on the historic framework. The mansion also includes a geothermal cooling and heating system.
Custom Builder Award,
AIA-Washingtonian Residential Award,
Residential Architect Merit Award,
Builder’s Choice Grand Award
120 Fourth Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
About Lawlor Architects
Founded in 2003 and based out of the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood in Washington DC, Lawlor Architects specializes in single-family residences. Because of its small size, this boutique firm prides itself on the personalized attention it gives its clients. Stephen Lawlor is the founding principal and graduated from Hobart College and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City. He then earned his Master of Architecture degree at the University of Maryland. Lawlor is involved with the DC chapter of AIA. He is joined by Roberto Ramirez, who is the senior project architect at Lawlor; and Barbara “Bonnie” Burns, project architect and a graduate of Virginia Tech. The firm has won several awards, including the Chrysalis Award, Custom Builder Award, AIA-Washingtonian Residential Award, Residential Architect Merit Award, and Builder’s Choice Grand Award. The firm specializes in a wide range of designs, from some of the most modern themes to the best and most extravagant traditional styles.
One of the firm’s featured projects is Corner Life, a residence on a block that required special attention due to zoning laws, preservation, and engineering issues. Some of the features include a full master suite with a walk-in glass shower with salvaged wood details, enlarged dining, and living area, and a flagstone terrace area in the backyard. There is also a 2,000-square-foot basement with a two-bedroom in-law apartment, wine cellar, and exercise room. Another noteworthy project is their Brooklyn x DC residence. The owners were moving to DC but wanted their new home to contain some Brooklyn design elements. Over 100 years old, the home was renovated again to allow for more light on each level. High-efficiency equipment and fixtures were installed all throughout the home.
Neumann Lewis Buchanan Architects
AIA North Virginia Award of Merit,
Washington Chapter AIA/Washingtonian Residential Design Award,
Dream Homes Greater Washington DC
1350 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 210, Washington, DC 20036
About Neumann Lewis Buchanan Architects
With an office in both DC and Virginia, Neumann Lewis Buchanan Architects designs homes to be a family legacy. David Neumann, a founding partner, was a past president of the DC Chapter of the AIA. He was also elected to the AIA College of Fellows in 2014. His work has been featured and published in Traditional Home, Luxe Interiors + Design, House Beautiful, Southern Accents, Garden Design, Southern Living, and the Washington Post. He is joined by Andy Lewis, who has a special affinity for architectural illustration. A graduate and recipient of a one-year faculty honorarium at Virginia Tech, Lewis’s work has been featured nationwide. The firm’s third partner is Mark Buchanan, who received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Texas at Arlington and studied engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He is especially interested in classical architecture. Under their leadership, the firm has become no stranger to awards and distinctions. As a matter of fact, the firm is the proud recipient of several accolades from the Palladio Awards and the AIA.
One of the firm’s featured projects is Happy Choice Farms. The home is a Federal-style farmhouse situated on over 80 acres of land in Maryland’s Montgomery County. The original property had a farmhouse that was too close to the road, so the new design included moving the house back to get more views. The combination of brick and clapboard give the home a sense of timelessness and helped earn the firm an Award of Merit in 2009 from the Northern Virginia Chapter of AIA. Another favorite project is Vandalia, a residence that overlooks the Potomac River in Jefferson County, West Virginia. While this new limestone house was recently constructed, it was designed to look as if it had been added onto over time. The gorgeous views of the river were captured, and several outbuildings were constructed on the property. It won the firm several awards, including The Palladio Award 2008, Washington Chapter AIA/Washingtonian Residential Design Award 2007, and Dream Homes Greater Washington DC, 2008.
Moore Architects, PC
AIA Northern Virginia’s Juror’s Citation
105 N Maple Avenue, Suite 100, Falls Church, VA 22046
About Moore Architects, PC
Primarily a residential design firm, Moore Architects has completed over 300 projects in the Washington DC area. It was founded in 1989 by Charles Moore, who earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech. Moore Architects, PC has been recognized nationally by the AIA, the Washington Architectural Foundation, and the Arlington County Preservation Design Awards Program. The firm has been in publications such as Home Magazine, Fine Homebuilding Magazine, Architectural Digest, Southern Living Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine, and The Washington Post. It has even had its projects featured on HGTV’s programs Dream Home and What You Get for the Money. The firm provides clients with a hands-on approach throughout the entire process and offers a full range of services. It specializes in both new homes and large-scale renovations, in addition to retail, adaptive reuse, and historic preservation projects.
An excellent design by Moore Architect, PC is the Little Island House. Built on the Cape Cod shore, the house replaced a rundown 1950s rambler. The new design contributed to an expansive, new, unobstructed view through a change in grade, as the old house was built on sunken ground behind trees. The house features its communal living spaces on the second floor to best utilize those views. There is even a fourth floor with a private loft and study. It won a Juror’s Citation from the AIA Northern Virginia. Another notable project is the Lakefront Residence in Falls Church, Virginia. The 4,900-square-foot home still has the original split-level framework. The main feature of the house is the master bedroom, which is surrounded by the forest outside, giving it a treehouse vibe.
Robert M Gurney
Robert M Gurney
National AIA Honor awards,
National AIA Housing awards,
American Architecture Awards,
National AIA Small Project awards
5110 ½ MacArthur Boulevard NW, Washington, DC 20016
About Robert M Gurney
Robert Gurney has expertise in building on both historic and vacant sites. His firm has won over 200 local, state, and national awards, including two National AIA Honor awards, six National AIA Housing Awards, six American Architecture awards, and three national AIA Small Project awards. The studio has been featured in several prominent publications; it is also the subject of the monograph Modern Order: Houses by Robert Gurney. Gurney has also been active in architecture organizations and schools. He served as a member of the AIA Northern Virginia Chapter Board of Directors, Design Committee, and Schools Connection Committee, as well as the Virginia Society State Design Committee. In 2002, Gurney was elevated to the College Fellows of the AIA. His leadership and skill have led the firm into becoming one of the area’s most recognizable firms, noted for its excellent command in modern architecture.
Gurney’s design for the House on Solitude Creek is especially notable. The house, built in 1989, was a Dutch Colonial style home. Because of regulations and zoning codes, it could not be demolished, but the structure had to be updated to reflect new codes. Gurney removed the structure to the foundation and then raised it to a new height, which allowed the renovated home to take advantage of the beautiful views. Gurney also provided plentiful light-filled spaces to accommodate the owner’s modern art collection. Another featured project is his work on the Watergate apartment, a home in one of the most desired complexes in Washington, DC. The apartment had never been renovated since its building in the 1960s, so Gurney gutted the interiors. The design was minimal and crisp and allowed for grand views of the Potomac and the Key Bridge.
5217 Wisconsin Ave. NW Suite #204, Washington DC, 20015
About Saltbox Architecture
Saltbox offers a complete and comprehensive range of architectural and interior design services. At its helm are Kevin Winkler and Alan Field. Winkler is a professional architect and Washington native who has designed and built over a hundred residential remodeling projects in the region. His work has been published in a variety of publications from Remodeling Magazine to the Washingtonian. He is also the proud recipient of numerous awards and ensures that each of the firm’s projects receives the benefit of his years in the industry. Field, on the other hand, has more than 30 years of experience in design and construction. He maintains affiliations with organizations like the American Society of Interior Designers and has won numerous local and national Contractor of The Year, Chrysalis, and Master Design awards. Under their leadership, the firm makes use of a highly collaborative approach that emphasizes the importance of client input. It begins its process by formulating a preliminary scope of work and budget, which it further develops and finalizes. Its initial consultations are free of charge.
Called the “Park Overlook,” the project above best encapsulates the firm’s skill and expertise. For this, the firm was tasked with the interior and exterior renovation of its 1980’s architecture. It features clear straight grain cedar with Ipe decking and paneled siding, while inside it has white counters and wide plank quarter-sawn white oak floors.
Thomson and Cooke
Custom Builder Award,
Designers’ Choice Awards
5155 MacArthur Boulevard NW, Washington, DC 20016
About Thomson and Cooke
Based in DC, Thomson and Cooke is a custom residential architecture firm. Its founders met in college but attended different graduate schools. They later reconnected at the same firm; they formed their own a decade later. Neal Thomson, founder and principal, received his Master of Architecture from the University of Michigan. Co-founder Patrick Cooke, on the other hand, has practiced architecture in the Washington, DC area since 2001. He spent two years at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, where he earned his Master of Architecture from Virginia Tech. The firm has designed residences in both urban and suburban neighborhoods in DC, as well as waterfront properties in the Chesapeake Bay. The firm is a proud recipient of the 2016 Custom Builder Award, in addition to several other noteworthy distinctions. The firm specializes in both new homes and large scale renovation projects. It’s noted for its excellent blending of traditional American residential design with updated aesthetics.
One of the firm’s signature projects was for a Town & Garden residence. The historic Colonial home had its entire rear facade completely redesigned to better connect the eating and living areas to the beautiful surrounding gardens. Similarly, the renovated kitchen and breakfast area had new glass walls put in to allow for more views. A pool changing room and mudroom gave the home another rear entrance. Another exciting design is their American Four Square. The interior was redone to allow for art displayed throughout the home and a redesigned and spacious kitchen. A new covered porch boasts a peaceful sitting area with a gorgeous fireplace. A new staircase and twisting carved handrail was installed to ensure a seamless connection between all four floors in the residence.
William L. Feeney
William L. Feeney
AIA Watermark Award
4519 Chesapeake Street NW, Washington, DC 20016
About William L. Feeney
Led by its founder and namesake, William L. Feeney draws expertise from decades of experience in the industry. This studio offers potential clients a full range of architectural services and makes use of a hands-on approach. It takes pride in its capabilities of taking on projects regardless of scale and has completed both 14,000-square-foot homes and a one-square-inch adornment. Through direct collaboration between the owner, builder, and architect, the firm’s process is always focused on design. Feeney notes that all aspects of the finished product should strive to embody the initial intention. He has designed in both a modern and traditional style. Mostly specializing in residential architecture, the firm has also taken on other unique projects, including an art studio. Noted for its innovative designs, the firm is licensed in DC, Maryland, and Delaware. It is involved with the North Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The firm won a Watermark Award for their work on the Locker Residence.
One of its noted projects is the renovation of a 43rd Street bungalow. The residence has a unique, lower-level family room and library space. A color palette of warm red and yellow was used throughout the house. A spacious custom countertop with plenty of storage space separates the kitchen from the family room. An office space holds plenty of room for bookcases and a unique loft space for extra storage or an extra bed. Another outstanding example of their work is the 4208 Anthony Street residence. The home has a crisp, white color palette. Shining, dark hardwood floors were installed. The home has an expansive master bathroom with a tub, shower, and custom closet space. Ample windows on the lower level in the front of the home, in addition to the entryway, allow for maximum natural lighting.