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The Best Retail Architects in Washington, DC

14 Min Read

Washington DC offers diverse shopping options to choose from and has a variety of shops, boutiques, stores, gift shops, and malls, making high-quality retail architects a hot commodity. The biggest shopping district is found in the neighborhood of 14th street, Georgetown, where one-of-a-kind boutiques and design stores are a common sight.

Some of these stores have been designed by the city’s most notable architects. This list presents the best retail architects in Washington DC, those who have won numerous industry awards and have been featured in publications like Engineering News-Record (ENR), Washington Business Journal, and Architect Magazine. These architects are also associated with industry organizations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and are LEED accredited. 

Balodemas Architects

4301 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite #149, Washington, DC 20008

Balodemas Architects is a design firm with a reputation for guiding challenging projects that exude diversity or a unique brand. That reputation has led to a following of clients from commercial businesses, government agencies, developers, and private homeowners. Its most notable work is Nanette Lepore’s Maryland boutique which has been featured in Architecture DC’s 2008 issue. With a large client base that has witnessed the firm’s expertise, Balodemas Architects gained features in Bethesda Magazine, Washington Post, Curbed DC, and Washingtonian. 

Bonstra | Haresign Architects

1728 Fourteenth St., NW, Suite #300, Washington DC 20009

Founded in 2000, Bonstra | Haresign Architects has a team of 30-highly qualified, creative architects and designers who work on a variety of projects. Those projects range from residential renovations and adaptive use to large scale, mixed-use developments. Over the years, these projects have led to features in over 60 national and regional publications including Engineering News-Record (ENR), Virginia Business Magazine, Washington Business Journal, and BD+C. Alongside such features are also accompanied by a plethora of awards for the various projects it has designed.

The Ten at Clarendon project is one great example of its award-winning projects. Designed for CRC Companies LLC, this 145,000 square foot structure is sited in the prominent corner of Highland street and 10th street N in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington. Aside from featuring affordable yet luxurious eight live/work units, office space, and 3,700 square feet of ground-floor retail space, it received a LEED Platinum certification. By featuring only one bicycle space per unit, the project is able to promote sustainability and a healthy lifestyle that benefits both the residents and the entire neighborhood. In 2018, Ten at Clarendon was honored with several awards including the AIA Northern Virginia Chapter Design Awards’ Juror Citation, the Great American Living Awards for Community of the Year, and the Delta Multi-family Awards for the best Washington/Baltimore Green Community. These are just a few of the awards Bonstra | Haresign Architects has gathered over the years.

CORE Architecture + Design

1010 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite #405, Washington, DC 20007

As a firm with a team known for having an explorative nature, CORE Architecture + Design is a 29-year old firm that does a variety of projects including mixed-use developments, public buildings, large-scale office and residential developments, restaurants, and hotel public spaces for clients throughout the Washington Metropolitan area and across the United States. Its most notable project might be the 10,500-square-foot Potenza Bakery and Winestore. With a restaurant concept, it has two retail concepts that engage the street front and provides for the residential population of the building. A shop that provides n a market-like setting, it has a design that blends vibrant red kitchen fixtures with a delicate Italian marble mosaic floor. 

Alongside an elegant interior, its façade also has a rustic style embodied in a tumbled stone flooring and original pitted plaster alongside brick walls. With projects like these, the firm has been showered by features in Architect Magazine, Washington Business Journal, CNN, and Hemisphere magazine. The firm also won the 2020 Shop! Awards’ Silver Design Award and the Craftsmanship Award from the Washington Building Congress. 

Esoarc Architects

4201 Wilson Blvd., Floor 3, Arlington, VA 22203

From designing 800-square-foot chocolate stores to offering project management services for a 300,000-square-foot retail center, this woman-owned architecture firm is capable of full-service work for various projects. These mostly include retail shops, restaurants, and office spaces. When it comes to retail projects, it has links with brand names like Dessange, Hotel Chocolat, and Uniqlo. Currently, Esoarc Architects is managed by founding principal Pamela Gillen, who also serves on Arlington County’s Lee Highway Alliance board in Virginia and previously served on Arlington’s planning commission and economic development commission. 

GTM Architects

5335 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite #640, Washington, DC 20015

31 years into the industry, GTM Architects is among the firms best known throughout Washington DC and the rest of the nation as well. This firm has been featured in Bisnow, Architect Magazine, Washington Business Journal, and Retail Design World. The firm also has awards like the 2014 AIA Excellence in Design Citation for Commercial Architecture. Such awards are credited to projects like the JenniBick Fine Custom Journals. Known to be the first brick and mortar retail space, it has an organic and natural design aesthetic that includes wood shelves, hardwood flooring, and light-colored walls. 

Projects like these have been expertly crafted by a team of professionals who possess years of knowledge and experience that helped hone their skills across a full spectrum of specialties. 

Hickok Cole

1023 31st St., NW, Washington, DC 20007

Hickok Cole was established in 1988. Since then, the firm has grown to house a 100-person team of architects, project managers, interior designers, graphic/media designers, strategists, and researchers who contribute to the firm’s broad-based design practice. Thanks to these professionals, Hickok Cole has been featured in publications like Bisnow, Architect Magazine, BD+C, and Archinect. Alongside such features, the firm also has honors from industry organizations like the AIA Virginia, AIA Potomac Valley, and NAIOP.

So far, its most notable work is the 3,500-square-foot shop for I. Gorman Jewelers. The shop has many notable features. The entrance includes a custom-designed, dramatic back-lit onyx wall, white resin beverage bar, a carved dark-wood and white resin structure that supports three suspended circular display cases, and a brightly hip and abstract custom carpet filled with hot pink, a variety of reds, and orange linking circles. Alongside projects like I. Gorman Jewelers, the firm’s portfolio also contains work for commercial office, housing, commercial interior design, and lifestyle interiors. Alongside construction and architectural work, Hickok Cole also has a full-service branding and ad agency—Hickok Cole Creative.  

Jacobsen Architecture

2529 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

Listed by Residential Architect Magazine as one of the Top 50 Design firms in the U.S., Jacobsen Architecture is an architecture firm that has been in the industry for 62 years. Known throughout the world, this veteran has over 180 awards for excellence in design and has been featured in publications like Architectural Digest, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and The Columbian. Currently, this award-winning firm is managed by founding partners Hugh Newell Jacobsen and Simon Jacobsen. Hugh Newell Jacobsen is an architect who was inducted into Architectural Digest’s 2017 AD Hall of Fame and received the 2017 portfolio “100 top designers” award from Home & Design Magazine. So far, several of his projects have been built and published worldwide and he possesses over 114 awards for excellence in design. 

These include six National Honor Awards from the AIA—the highest award for architectural design given in the U.S. Simon Jacobsen is also an inductee of Architectural Digest’s AD100. Throughout his career, he has worked in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia with a primary focus on custom residential, commercial and institutional design, interiors, furniture, and lighting design. Combining Simon and Hugh’s expertise, the firm was included on Architectural Digest’s international list of Top 100 architects and designers. With this much recognition and experience, Jacobsen Architecture is able to apply a consistent level of skill to the truly unique and refined modern buildings it designs. 

MV+A Architects

1200 G Street NW, Suite #250, Washington, D.C. 20001

A 37-year old firm, MV+A Architects is known for presenting thoughtful designs as well as its careful planning. Working closely with clients to dramatically transform neighborhoods into vibrant, livable communities, MV+A Architects revitalizes urban commercial corners and reimagines the relationship between retail and residential development. Among its different projects, its most notable work is the Whole Foods Market in Columbia.

An adaptive reuse project of a Frank Gehry-designed building that opened in 1974 and previously functioned as The Rouse Company’s office, a gathering place, and even served as the city hall for the newly developed Columbia, the new iteration was praised for its creative approach to building preservation. The building’s third floor was removed to make room for the 41,000-square-foot Whole Foods Markets. With projects like these, it’s no surprise that the firm has gained awards like the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)’s 2018 Excellence in Construction Award and the Retail Development award.

Nahra Design Group

7059 Blair Road, NW Suite #104, Washington, DC 20012

A 10-year old firm, Nahra Design Group has been in the industry long enough to design aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly projects for various markets. This includes the residential, commercial interiors, restaurant, hospitality, and retail markets where the firm is known for its modern-era style. Among these works, Nahra Design Group has designed several fashion boutique stores in Washington DC and Virginia and is a sought adviser for some urban developments on the East Coast. Due to its stylish projects and experienced team, Nahra Design Group has been featured in various publications including The Washington Post, Boston Restaurants, Bethesda Magazine, and District Source.

Currently, this award-winning firm is managed by owner John Nahra. A professional who has experience in designing and overseeing a variety of projects lends him special insight into constructability and construction procurement. Nahra is also a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards (NCARB), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). 

Shinberg.Levinas Architects

5101 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite #310, Washington, DC 20016

Shinberg.Levinas Architects is a firm with a design approach that has been described as clean, imaginative, responsive, and playful. With over two decades of industry experience, the firm is a veteran recognized by numerous local, regional, national, and international sources including the AIA. Because of this reputation, Shinberg.Levinas Architects’ works have also been featured in publications like Archinect, Home & Design Magazine, Plataforma Arquitectura, Washington Post, and Washingtonian among other internationally distributed books and online magazines about architecture and design. The firm has worked on projects for brands like Cartier and Silhouette Blues. 

The firm is guided by the experience of company principal Salo Levinas. Aside from being a professional who has received numerous awards from the AIA and other organizations, his projects have appeared in a wide variety of publications including The New York Times, Interior Design Magazine, and The Washington Post magazine among many other magazines, international publications, and books. 

Teass \ Warren Architects

515 M Street SE, Suite #200, Washington, DC 20003

Teass\Warren Architects practices architecture and designs interiors for various boutique commercial and residential projects. Since its establishment in 2006, the firm has designed projects like Aesop in Georgetown. A 900 square-foot-space, it gives a nod to tobacco barns by using 100-year old Southern Pine Sticks—a simple and humble material traditionally used to hand cure tobacco leaves. Cut and stacked, 30,000 individual sticks were used to cover the store’s entire eastern side and create a dynamic rippled surface.

This texture is highlighted by a grid of product display cases in powder-coated steel. Projects like these are what helped the firm gain features from various magazines like Dwell, Washington Business Journal, Platforma Arquitectura, and Washington Post. This excellent firm is currently managed by co-founders Will Teass and Charles Warren—two professionals affiliated with the AIA and LEED accredited professionals who carry excellent credentials. While many of Teass’s exemplary designs have been featured in The New York Times, Architecture DC, and The Washington Business Journal, Warren speaks for various organizations and universities where he mentors and inspires young designers by adding his expertise to architecture. 

Travis Price Architects

1028 33rd Street NW, Suite #320, Washington, DC 20007

Crafting architecture informed by ecology, mythology, and technology, Travis Prince Architects is an award-winning architecture firm that has been in the industry for 40 years. During that tenure designed modern, 21st-century architecture driven by its quest for a mythic modern design style. So far, this design approach has brought the firm to places like Asia, Europe, and other American states where it exhibits work on projects that range from residential to large commercial and institutional markets.

Alongside its exceptional projects, Travis Price Architects also works with The Catholic University of America’s School of Architecture and Planning to co-sponsor and coordinate international design-build expeditions for students in its Spirit Of Place program—an architecture program that explores the design and construction of architectural forms that are able to respond to their natural and cultural settings in a modern way.

These projects are guided by principal and founder Travis Price III. He has published The Archaeology of Tomorrow, a book that won an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal in 2007, and another book entitled “The Mythic Modern.”