Q&A: Betsy Stires on Designing Her Home

Photography by Gordon Beall

Designer: Betsy Barmat Stires, Interior Designer, Frog Hill Designs LLC, Allied ASID.

Professional Interior Designer, Betsy Barmat Stires is an expert on bringing a fresh perspective to classic style. And her personal home is no exception. We chatted with Betsy on the inspiration and heart behind her own Virginia home and how she uses emotional expectations to guide her designs for clients.

Southern Home (SH): Tell us a quick story behind the home.

Betsy Stires (BS): My husband for 33 years, Mark Stires, and I wanted to live in a more urban setting where we could do more walking than driving. We left our home in bucolic Great Falls, where we had lived for almost 24 years, behind. No more grass to cut and trees to tend or driveways to clear of snow. We settled on Old Town for two main reasons: proximity to a big airport (10 minutes away) and the unique qualities of our condominium. I would not call this move a “downsize” … it has been a lifestyle change for us. The unit has 2,300 square feet, three bedrooms, and three-and-a-half baths. The actual living space here that we use compares very well to the almost 4,000 we left behind in Great Falls. Our children are both nearby in their own places.

Photography by Gordon Beall

SH: What were the project goals?

BS: We had several goals before us when we began transforming the condo. We wanted to improve and revitalize what had been set in place in 1987. A very talented designer had come before me to combine the two units, and I just need to bring it up-to-date. I also wanted to infuse a sense of fresh “surprise” upon entry. The exterior style of the building is Brutalist. When you walk in, I wanted to boldly present my passion for classical style that you might find in an old big city building. I wanted the rooms to feel elegant and inviting, comfortable and personal. Every aspect needed to be considered so that the form of the place allowed all the function we needed.

SH: What is the first question you ask when a client comes to you with a project?

BS: “What do you want to FEEL like when you come into this room (project) when it’s done?” I like to first understand the emotional expectations of clients and then follow with the right aesthetic decisions.

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