Whether finding a dream home for their DC Living Real Estate clients or locating the next DC Design House for a cause that stole their hearts, Skip and Debbie Singleton are true believers in the staying power of doing good
By: Sherry Moeller
Skip and Debbie Singleton know how important it is to find a dream home; they’re living in theirs. After admiring a MacArthur Boulevard house from her car while listening to Barry White’s “Staying Power,” Debbie Singleton’s dream became a reality. In 1999, she and her husband Skip purchased Glen Hurst, the 1892 home of J.C. Hurst, a real estate broker like themselves, and embarked on their journey to update the four-story dwelling. While past owners had kept the original moldings and staircases intact, major renovations were needed, especially to the kitchen and bathrooms. The Singletons enjoyed shopping for furnishings and art over the years, but they also initially consulted with interior designer Craig Henson and then more recently with Frank Babb Randolph who helped them “edit” spaces. “The first thing Randolph did was tell us to get rid of about a third of the furniture,” Mrs. Singleton says, adding that he also advised taking down window treatments and
lightening wall colors and removing misaligned storm windows that impeded views. The couple also restored the original floor-to-ceiling “Jefferson” windows. After the 1892 elements were restored, Glen Hurst was placed on the National Historic Register in 2005. After meeting in Florida in 1982 the Singletons married the following year. They moved to Washington in 1997 when Mr. Singleton was studying law. While practicing as a trademark attorney, he decided to join his wife in her successful career by forming DC Living Real Estate in 2001. Celebrating 10 years in business with 12 additional realtors in the company, the couple say they take care of those whom they represent the old fashioned way. “Our percentage of repeat clients is high,” Mr. Singleton says. “We stay in our clients’ lives.” While Mrs. Singleton loves the interior of the Northwest D.C. home, especially the front parlor and dining room, her husband was taken by the expansive hilltop setting. As with everything they tackle, including the yard that was falling into the park, they do their homework. A 150-foot stone retaining wall was added in three sections to secure the lot and they hired artist Chris Shea to add iron fencing around the entire property. They purchased many books to find just the right style of pool and befitting their historic residence. It was during the search for the perfect outdoor furnishings, made by Janus et Cie, that they met Sandy Steele. Days before their meeting with her, the Singletons attended a Children’s National Medical Center benefit at the home of a friend whose child was scheduled to undergo brain surgery. They were so taken by the doctor’s speech that they wanted to do something to help. After talking with Steele about their home and the doctor, the DC Design House was born. Following much organizing and entrepreneurial zeal, the first DC Design House opened in 2008 at a DC Living Real Estate listing on P Street NW in Georgetown. The main goals were to sell the property and raise funds for Children’s National Medical Center. While they did raise a large sum($100,000), the house didn’t sell right away. But the satisfaction gained and the lasting bond between the executive committee – which now includes the Singletons, Steele, Taylor Wells, Susan Hayes-Long (this year’s chairwoman), Terry Castellani, Diana Della Villa, Christina Emmerman, Christi Perez, Stephanie Robinson, Jean Seline, Kim Summerville and Brent Thomas – remains the driving force behind what was initially conceived as a one-time event. “It has evolved so naturally,” Mrs. Singleton says. Everyone involved has a passion to create a wonderful experience, from design advisors including Randolph, Barry Dixon, Michael Roberson and Ann Lambeth, to
this year’s designers Iantha Carley, Nancy Colbert, Barbara Franceski, Samantha Friedman, Jason Hodges, Liz Levin, Lauren Liess, Gary Lovejoy, Cindy McClure, David Mitchell, Erin Paige Pitts, James Rill, Camille Saum, Whitney Stewart, Nadia Subaran, Patrick Sutton and Denise Willard. Even as they ready for the opening of the 4th Annual Design House, owned by the philanthropic Wasserman family – George Wasserman was co-founder of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington – “we’re always looking for the next DC Design House,” Mr. Singleton says. The 2011 DC Design House benefiting Children’s National Medical Center is located at 3134 Ellicott St. NW, Washington, D.C. The 1925 12,000-square-foot English Country Tudor is open from April 9 to May 8. Visit www.dcdesignhouse.com and www.dclivingrealestate.com for more information.